Top Chef Canada recap, episode 11: street meet
TOP CHEF CANADA
Season 1 | Episode 11
From the opening moments of last night’s Top Chef Canada, we learned the following: Dale MacKay, the supremely arrogant self-confident Vancouver chef, actually has a soft side (he was missing his young son); Montreal-by-way-of Vancouver chef François Gagnon sleeps without his shirt on; Mercatto executive chef Rob Rossi likes to sleep in; and Connie DeSousa is feeling the pressure to win the competition for all the female chefs out there (about Grace’s Dustin Gallagher, we learned nothing). None of these micro-developments gave away who the winner and loser might be. After the jump, the twists and turns that brought us down to the final four.
As the contestants piled into the GE Monogram kitchen (there, we finally said it), they were introduced to a familiar face for Canadian food TV fans: chef, restaurateur and restaurant consultant Rob Feenie, described—confusingly—by host Thea Andrews as Canada’s Iron Chef (turns out she meant he was the first Canadian to defeat an Iron Chef). The producers decided not to delve into the messy history between Feenie—once chef and co-owner of Vancouver’s Lumière—and MacKay, who succeeded him after his dramatic exit. Likewise, Gagnon’s decidedly tamer tenure under Feenie also went unmentioned (unlike “Dusty” Gallagher and Susur Lee’s back story, which the show played out back in episode 4.)
The challenge seemed strangely straightforward for Top Chef: pick three seafood items from the live, writhing spread on the table and create three memorable dishes to showcase them. Of course, there was a catch. After the chefs had made their selection, Andrews blithely informed them that they’d actually be cooking the seafood chosen by the chef to their right. Cue lots of good-natured grumbling from Rossi, who got stuck with Gallagher’s slimy, oozing and, frankly, phallic geoduck. Amazingly, Rossi, who’d never cooked with the giant clam before, managed to pull out the best trio of dishes: oyster with black pepper and apple, scallop ceviche and geoduck with wasabi, cucumber, ginger and jalapeño. Feenie was effusive in his praise, exclaiming, “Rob, by far what you did was brilliant!” Rossi replied with an impish kid-at-Christmas smile.
After a fairly elevated quickfire, the elimination challenge was down and dirty: the chefs were asked to create street food that melded two world cuisines and serve it from a hot dog cart in Nathan Phillips Square (once again, we’ll note the irony is hard to miss). The chefs drew knives for their two cuisines, with DeSousa drawing Thai and German, MacKay getting Trinidadian and Indian, Gagnon, Chinese and Spanish, Gallagher, French and Italian and Rossi, Canadian and Vietnamese. As winner of the quickfire, Rossi was given the option of swapping one of his cuisines, so he nabbed Gagnon’s Spanish and dumped his Vietnamese on the poor francophone chef, who confessed his experience with Asian cuisine was limited to the eating end of things, not the cooking.
During the manic shopping spree at Loblaws, we were treated to a panicked Gagnon running around searching for won ton wrappers, all set to the tune of accordion music that screamed, “I’m a hapless Frenchie” (never mind that he’s from La Belle Provence, not France). MacKay’s grumbles about the challenge, meanwhile, started early and continued right to the end—apparently he was unable to compromise his lofty dining standards for lowly street food, and he seemed particularly aggrieved that he might be sent home for Trinidadian food, a cuisine he’d never once tasted. Is it us, or has “aggrieved” become his default tone? (In a rare moment of cheffy insight, MacKay did acknowledge that “sometimes I’m a bit of a douchebag, and I just need a sleep and I’m usually better in the morning.”) DeSousa, for her part, confessed that she’d actually worked for a Thai chef in Germany, so she was perfectly suited to her challenge—a realization that gave her the confidence to once again make sausages, despite head judge Mark McEwan’s misgivings about her previous attempts.
At the top for this street food challenge were the two remaining Toronto chefs: Gallagher, who created a French take on pizza with duck confit, emmenthal and béchamel alongside a sort of niçoise salad on a bun with Italian ingredients; and Rossi, who made a grilled cheese sandwich with serrano ham and Canadian cheddar and a sloppy Joe with chorizo, manchego and green onions. Rossi’s down-home cooking netted him the win.
When the three chefs at the bottom faced the judges, McEwan explained they were all there because, “at the end of the day, flavour was lacking in your dishes.” MacKay’s two dishes, a curry soup with some bizarre roti stuffing and a jerk chicken salad, were all heat and no flavour (resident judge Shereen Arazm was appalled when MacKay confessed he’s never tasted roti). DeSousa’s dishes were also insipid, despite their colourful presentation (and her adorable ball cap): her traditional wurst was watery (turns out she’d boiled it), and her pad Thai prompted Andrews to exclaim, “All those Thai ingredients are there… there’s just no flavour!” (to which a thousand home cooks nodded in rueful recognition). Gagnon’s dishes—a lame-looking dumpling floating in a bland faux-pho broth and some allegedly Peking duck wrapped in a Vietnamese spring roll—were as misguided as they were boring. Arazm’s pithy condemnation: “François’s roll was a waste of time—it was like eating water.” Unsurprisingly, he was sent packing back to Vancouver, where he had quit his job to be part of the competition. He bid a fond adieu to his fellow competitors with a wistful “China and Vietnam took me down.”
Next time on Top Chef Canada
U.S. Top Chef resident judge (and former Toronto Life intern) Gail Simmons stops by to kick the remaining five chefs into shape (and show the judges how it’s done, too). Apparently the results are less than stunning—at the tasting, she exclaims, “I’m totally confounded. This is your last chance to wow us!” We can’t wait to see who’s on the receiving end of her smackdown.
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14 thoughts on “Top Chef Canada recap, episode 11: street meet”
It must be a pretty small, incestuous industry in Canada when it seems so many contestants have worked for/taken over for chefs who sit in judgement. Odd, I seem to remember something about this being verboten when I looked over the application last year…
That aside I just want to be sure that I’m right in saying that the last two winners’ dishes were:
Tourtiere (made with diced meat)
Blueberry Pie (store bought crust)
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
Thank god for at least a modicum of creativity with the seafood. Simplicity is one thing, banality and cliche is quite another.
I’m sure students will now be flocking to our culinary schools to learn of this cutting edge cuisine…Yeah right (go to NECI instead). Please remember this show when people start lamenting why Canada (Toronto especially) is left out of major culinary awards and promotions. Congratulations Top Chef Canada for making our country a laughing stock. The best was Rob Feenie asking for the Sloppy Joe recipe. Seriously? Maybe that’s why you’re just another TV personality now (albeit one that pops up maybe once a year). I don’t think the chefs themselves are totally to blame here though. As much as it pains me to agree with Dale MacKay, stop with the damn gimmicks and let’s see if these people can actually COOK!!!!! I really hope they can.
PS I realize I’m ranting about a show that stopped taping months ago, but Season 2 (oh god…) take heed.
this is why good street food will never strive in Toronto. People are too single minded and think that soup or food that requires cutlery are too messy to be street food while in many parts of the world this is actually quite normal.
Once again the judges were not able to keep an open mind and accept things foreign to them. Geoduck is weird? Really?
It makes me sad how much this show pales in comparison to the American version. The cooking is less creative, the judging is simply horrible. This show makes it look like Canadians have lower standards when it comes to cuisine than Americans!
This episode was pathetic. From the host not knowing how to pronounce pho, even after the contestant says it correctly to her. To everyone contestants, hosts, and judges, repeating over and over that Trinidad and India is a tough combination even though Trinidadian food is a fusion involving mostly indian flavors. Do they not realize that the Trinidadian dish “roti” is made with an Indian bread called, in India, “roti”? Or that jerk chicken is a Jamaican dish. Dale should have been kicked off for not knowing anything about his cuisine, and then cooking the cuisine of a nearby country instead. The hosts should be replaced with people who know something about food.
DALE MACKAY SUCKS!!! I just got back from a business trip to Vancouver and ate at his new resto. It was so so sad, nothing to it. VERY very Weak on flavour, actually bland. (This was the consensus of 5 people at the table)
How do you not know about Trinidadian Food….really? Caribbean? Indian? And to fuse indian with it!?? So easy. He really needs to go home.
He is arrogant and the biggest CRY BABY ever. GO HOME BUDDY.
The kid card is not winning you any points.
P.S – DALE MACKAY you owe me $194.75 for the shit dinner I had to pay for.
While I think the average quality of the cooking has improved the last few episodes, I’m still surprised at how little some of these chefs know about international cuisine. How can you be a chef in a large city and not have sampled all the styles of food your city has to offer?
I guess chefs just get pigeonholed, and become experts in one area and neglect all others.
Honestly from working in this industry, the challenges that they do in this show are not stuff that chefs would normally do on a daily basis.Like francois says in the episode, he eats chinese food just doesn’t know how to cook it.
@Jessica: Some are pigeonholed….many are not.
Pigeon…is the perfect name for Dale Mackay. Whats up with his mouth always open? He looks like he is dead!! lol
I have friends who live in Vancouver ate at his restaurant and said it was nothing to write home about.
Here are my thoughts,
Great show and very entertaining I am slightly addicted, however:
Connie is very cute but very repetitious. Sausage again??? It really shows here lack of versatility.
3.French guy francoise coasted for too long, I think they kept him for the french connection.
4.Dale Mackay, he comes off as this arrogant kid. I too agree, funny looking with his mouth open! almost like he has no teeth!!! I really hope he does not win, he has not been consistent and can not take criticism. Trinidad & India, really?? lollol very similar flavours!!!!!
Can’t wait for the finale, I really hope Dale does not win. Does not deserve it based on his attitude (and skill)
5. Dustin???? NO
6.They should bring back that hockey dude just for entertainment purposes.
Some cuisines are just more difficult to achieve successfully – especially if you don’t have the right cooking equipment or ingredients. I’m sure if you asked the chefs on the “expert” panel to produce an authentic asian dish, it would be nothing compared to real thing – that doesn’t mean they’re incompetent.
Rob Rossi definitely took the easy way out though. Does it always seem that the judges just gush over him a little too much?!
I believe that the critisism was largely regarding a lack of flavour in the dishes. There is no excuse for that regardless of whether you have a clear idea of what the cuisine is about or not. It’s just sloppy cooking and it was clear at least to me that Dale, for one simply didn’t care at all.
Fan of the Show and for the most part I love all the contestants, but I hate Dale Mackay, what a sore loser and a suck.
A solid chef takes criticism and does not ignore it. His food will never get better because he is to proud to change.
Eat a piece of humble pie dude, if there are 3 judges saying for food is lame IT PROBABLY IS.
I am curious to hear what the other cheftestants really think of mackay food.
I to agree about his mouth! that was funny! LOL
Rob Rossi is leaving Mercatto…..
Apparently he’s taking his sloppy joe/grilled cheese talents to a diner near you.
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