Before talking about this week, let’s reflect for a moment about last week, as all of the chefs are doing as the episode opens.
Kristen was robbed, plain and simple, and the producers should be charged for cruel and unusual punishment for subjecting television audiences to Josie’s soul-piercing laugh for another week. Seriously, while “the man” was busy waterboarding terrorist suspects in Abu Gharib, Josie’s laugh track was probably blaring into their skulls on repeat.
Brooke is kicking herself for not speaking up when Kristen wouldn’t, Josie is racked with guilt over what she knows was a horrible decision by the judges, and Stefan is left eyeballing Lizzie and Brooke’s feet as the next on his sniff-list.
This week’s episode is all about simplicity.
For the Quickfire, Padma brings in Katsuya Uechi, Master sushi chef ninja out of L.A. His task for the remaining 6 chefs is straightforward: Make a simple, clean, not-too-fussy sushi dish in 30 minutes. Now that immunity is no longer an option, the winning chef gets $5K.
Brooke is all aflutter because she eats sushi three times a week and fancies herself a contender in this challenge. Turns out she was right, with her super clean (and mouthwatering, to us sushi fans) octopus with yuzu and grated wasabi, earning her a spot in the top two. Josh, on the other hand, isn’t all that pumped about this one and apparently decides to throw the challenge since the only thing he can eat, cook, wear, or talk about is bacon. So much so in fact, what do you think he puts onto his breakfast sandwich sushi that he was JUST TOLD should be simple and clean? A nice, thick slice of bacon.
*Note – I’m a huge bacon fan, I talk about it a lot, I have bacon-themed t-shirts, and I put it in my wedding cake. But even I have my limits….Josh, you didn’t have to pack ONLY bacon clothes. We get it. Give it a rest.
Stefan is freaking out with “writer’s block” and can’t figure out what to do. He finally settles on a yellowtail and grilled shitake, as well as raw lobster, seaweed, and freshwater eel.
Lizzie’s fishy warm broth over cold fish puts her in the bottom, along with Josh, but his abomination of a breakfast “sushi” probably would have sent him packing had this been an elimination challenge.
It comes down to a dead heat between Stefan and Brooke, and he winds up walking away $5,000 richer. And it only took him 27 challenges to get there.
So who better to continue the Asian theme into the Elimination challenge? If you said David Chang, you were almost right. Because this week is all about fried chicken.
Tom informs the chefs that he is hosting a dinner parts, entirely attended by restaurant industry heavyweights like Chang, Wolfgang, Emeril, and Michelle Bernstein. And Tom was pretty clear about what they wanted: Fried chicken, crispy and delicious, no matter how they do it.
The only thing more intimidating that cooking for that group has got to be cooking for that group when they are good and wine drunk. ‘Cause that definitely happened.
Stefan leads off with an obligatory breast/thigh joke. Yawn.
Josie does something that turns my stomach – starts saying things like, “this is how we do it down south” and claims a Georgia connection. Well, I don’t want anything thinking that we all make super-greasy chicken served on a banana leaf down here. Michelle took one bite and pushed her plate away, so (shocker) Josie sees the bottom three once again.
Brooke wastes the majority of her whole bird and uses only the breasts…skinless. Ugh. That decision was made that much more awkward when she is reminded of the fact that two of the judges, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Animal, once interviewed with her as line cooks. And didn’t get hired. After tasting her dry, skinless chicken breasts, Vinny declares that he is “glad he didn’t take the job.” Ouch.
Even though there seemed to be an expectation that he would dominate the sushi challenge (he didn’t), Sheldon seems a lot more comfortable with the fried chicken challenge. He opts to make it two ways –umami drumsticks and thighs, and Momafuku style with grapeseed oil, Usukuchi soy sauce, and vinegar. Unfortunately, his oil is up way too high at first, and he has to dump some of his wings, leaving him a few servings short.
Lizzie has no clue what she is doing, playing the “Oh, I’m from South Africa” card, putting together a crunchy breading of brown sugar, black pepper, and ground coriander rub. Despite all conventional wisdom, it actually turns out well, landing her in the top three.
Somewhere between making breast jokes, Stefan came up with the worst concept of the group, which was to make chicken cordon bleu, because…that is the only fried chicken they have in Europe? On top of the fact that his version of Chicken Cordon Bleu wasn’t a good one, the judges eviscerate him for deciding to go with that airplane-food dish in the first place. LOVED Padma’s comments after his weak explanation at judges table, but I can’t write them here. My editors will get emails.
Josh seems like an obvious favorite for this one from early on…not only does he seem to actually know what he is doing, he is doing it in the most purist form of all of the chefs. In some ways, he is taking the biggest risk, for, as David Change says, fried chicken is “deliciously simple and deceptively complex.” But it was when I saw Josh throw a little smoke on his chicken that I knew he was taking this one home. (Ahem…I’ve been doing that for years…recipe can be found here…).
Everyone else loved Josh’s smoky chicken as well, giving him the win and a year’s supply of Terlato wine.
And, now for my absolute FAVORITE part of the night (and also the most hypocritical) – JOSIE IS GONE!
Now, I’m obviously pleased that the universe is right again and Josie got the boot, but the judges need to pick a philosophy and stick with it. Brooke’s fried chicken was clearly the worst individual dish of this week, but they’d had enough of Josie’s poor time management and constant underperformance. WHERE WAS THAT LAST WEEK?! What, all of a sudden it isn’t just the last dish you cooked, but you held Kristen to that standard?
Come on guys….
Now I’m following Last Chance Kitchen so I can watch Kristen’s scripted rise back to the finale. Not even a spoiler…she beats Josie in LCK.
- By Jon Watson, Food & More