Top Chef Canada recap, episode 2: friendly fire
Let’s skip straight to the moral of last night’s episode of Top Chef Canada: in a reality cooking show, hell is other chefs. The somewhat terrifying Caity Hall set the tone right from the top, complaining to the confessional cam about being forced to live “in a house with 16 [sic] other people that I don’t give a shit about” (she later revealed her plan to first knock off all the other female chefs, since she prefers working with men). Over the next 40-odd minutes, the show played out the consequences of that outlook. Spoiler: the nice guys and gals finish last. Find out how, in our recap below.
Fittingly for this no-holds-barred episode, the judge of the quickfire challenge was Survivorman Les Stroud. The daunting task: using at least two of the vacuum-sealed dishes from an army MRE (“meal ready to eat”), create something delicious. Caity used her “disgusting slop coming out of a tube” (i.e. Mexican rice) to make a surprisingly serviceable looking black bean and beef chili with Spanish rice. Chris Shafeten saw his allotment of oatmeal as a chance to cement his self-appointed status as the season’s playa, opining, “I hate oatmeal as much as I love women” (groan!). And Toronto’s Mr. Luxury (a.k.a. Jonathan Goodyear) used his nasty-looking hash browns and cheese sauce to win the challenge. He blended those two inauspicious ingredients with rosemary to make a sauce, which he served with wild sockeye; he also served the judges a quick cocktail before their meal—a canny move that had the other chefs looking on in disbelief and envy. This not only won him immunity, but also the right to skip out of the elimination challenge altogether (cue comic shots of him working out back in the loft and changing into his suit to join the judges for dinner).
The chefs were put in pairs for this “high stakes” elimination challenge, with two of them up for the chopping block. Before they could start cooking, they had to take part in a scavenger hunt for their ingredients at Riverdale Farm: one chef followed a map to find a cooler filled with their protein, at which point the other got two minutes to scrounge for ingredients in the “Top Chef Canada mobile pantry” (i.e. the back of a white truck). This went well for some, like the peppy team of Dan Hudson and Dennis Tay, who exchanged much chef-bro love over their walkie talkies while gathering lobster and corn. It went poorly for others, like Caity and her poor teammate Ruth Eddolls; due to a miscommunication, they wound up with a vat of woodland mushroom without a lick of butter to fry them in (also: a lot of eggs).
Tasting the dishes this week was Restaurant: Impossible host Robert Irvine, who makes a living tackling gimmick cooking challenges like this one, and the three farmers who supplied the ingredients, identified only as Jim, Omar and Betsey. (Note to the producers: when chefs brag about the farmers who supply their local/seasonal/organic product, they usually include the last names too.) The winning dish this week came from “Team Gavlan,” named after the baby sons of Matthew Stowe and Chris Chafe (Gavin and Declan, respectively). They had a weird dynamic, with Matthew bossing Chris around (“fill up this with water!,” “can you clean up my mess?”) and Chris pretty much taking it. It worked: their pulled quail confit with pan-roasted quail breast and yellow plum jus had Irvine wanting to lick his plate.
Things at the bottom were not so pretty. After messing up their scavenger hunt, Ruth and Caity were at each other’s throats all throughout the cooking, and ended up presenting two dishes instead of one, since they couldn’t work together (both Ruth’s mushroom soup and Caity’s egg yolk ravioli were panned by the judges). The buddy act of Dan and Dennis didn’t fare much better. Hopped up on cheffy confidence, they burdened their butter-poached lobster and corn succotash with too much tarragon, making their dish almost inedible. Quoth head judge Mark McEwan: “the more you eat the less you like it.” In the end, the judges decided to pick off one chef from each team, sending Ruth and Dennis home and in one fell swoop reducing the Toronto contingent by 40 per cent.
Next time on Top Chef Canada
Daniel Boulud inspires terror as guest judge, and Caity declares of one of the other female chefs: “I’m gonna kill her.” Yikes.