Top Chef Canada recap, episode 10: puffed up
TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 10
This week’s episode of Top Chef Canada began with Vancouver-based chef François Gagnon mourning the loss of recently eliminated “hockey man” Darryl Crumb. What form did the tribute take? The ritual placement of a hockey stick in what we think was Crumb’s old bunk, of course (somehow it was fitting that the Bruins were already four goals up against the Canucks at that point). Last night also featured what we were primed to believe would be the demise of tough-as-nails Connie DeSousa, who, despite eight seasons of Top Chef history warning against the use of store-bought pastry, used it anyway. The fallout from that cataclysmic decision and a full recap of everything else that went down, after the jump.
When host Thea Andrews introduced that the quickfire challenge was to “design a dish for a busy customer who’s always on the move,” we knew some brilliant product placement was afoot. Cue the team of stewardesses from Porter Airlines in full uniform, to the delight of Dale MacKay, who rather ruefully remarked, “It’s nice to see girls, we don’t see them very often…except the ones we’re cooking with.” (In a feat of skillful editing surely calculated to infuriate female viewers everywhere, he later opined that he was expecting an all-male showdown in the finals because the female contenders, Andrea and Connie, “are running out of ideas.”)
The chefs were asked to create two dishes: morning and afternoon snack–sized meals for Porter passengers. Toronto chefs Dustin Gallagher (Grace) and Andrea Nicholson (Great Cooks on Eight) ended up on the bottom. At the top? MacKay’s breakfast, a pepper-bacon sandwich with apples tossed in cream cheese, and Rossi’s lunch, a grilled chicken club sandwich with Grand Marnier chocolate fondant.
But in the end, it was DeSousa who dug herself out from the rut of episode nine and won the heart of guest judge Lynn Crawford, chef and owner of Riverside’s Ruby Watchco and host of Restaurant Makeover and Pitchin’ In. And she did it with granola and homemade blueberry yogurt. The prize: a round trip for her and a guest for a culinary adventure in Chicago—not to mention the satisfaction of being able to say that female chefs are “sometimes even better than male chefs.” Connie 1, Dale 0.
In what turned out to be a Top Chef version of Pitchin’ In, the chefs were tasked with preparing three dishes that showcased the terroir and food of one of six regions across Canada. Connie drew “La Belle Province,” to some confusion (she turned to Gagnon for clarification); Rossi and MacKay got lucky with their native regions, “Ontario Greenbelt” and “Interior B.C.,” respectively; Francois picked “Maritimes”; Andrea got “Prairies”; and Dustin drew “Alberta” after saying, with his trademark adorable grin, “I hope I don’t get the Northwest Territories or Yukon!”
Joining Crawford as an additional taster at the judge’s table was Jonathan Gushue of Langdon Hall, the Cambridge restaurant lauded for its local and regional cuisine (it was rated the 77th best restaurant in the world in 2010). After the tasting was done, MacKay and Connie, archenemies for an episode, ended up at the top of the heap. MacKay’s Interior B.C. feast started with poached eggs with morel mushrooms and hollandaise, moved on to roasted B.C. salmon and peas cooked three ways, and finished with a venison loin served with bannock, a flatbread borrowed from native cuisine (and one of the more exciting things we’ve seen in this competition so far). DeSousa served a smoked trout and potato salad, a venison and veal tourtière and finally, a homey wild blueberry pie. Despite the producers’ hints that her store-bought pie pastry would be her ultimate downfall, DeSousa walked away with her second win of the night. Connie 2, Dale 0. (To be honest, we were a bit shocked: chef Tom Collicchio, head judge of the U.S. Top Chef, would never have let the store-bought pastry go.)
At the bottom of the pile were Gagnon and Nicholson, who failed in both the concept and the execution of their meals. In the end, Nicholson was eliminated for dishes that head judge Mark McEwan referred to as “cafeteria food” and Gushue said reflected “no skill.” It also probably didn’t help that Nicholson went off on a tirade, blaming the heat in the kitchen for her execution and complaining that if she’d used store-bought pastry like DeSousa, she’d “feel like a douchebag.” Girl power indeed.
Sadly, we totally saw it coming. After several clips of Nicholson talking about wanting to open her own restaurant and the producers slotting in as many of her jokes about MacKay as possible, the whole episode was pointing to her demise.
Next time on Top Chef Canada
With five chefs left, the contestants are confronted with a street food challenge—they have to make and serve their food using a hot dog cart in Nathan Phillips Square (the irony should be obvious to anyone who’s paid attention to the city’s misguided attempts at building a street food program). Expect to see MacKay getting frustrated with street food (maybe he’ll go Hulk!), Connie making sausages despite a lashing from McEwan in episode eight, and the return of judge Shereen Arazm with her giveaway “this tastes yucky” face. It’s the homestretch now, and we’ll be there to take it all in.
Our weekly Top Chef Canada leader board: