Top Chef: Give it a Rest, Hector
Wednesday’s Top Chef was all about classical French cuisine, starting with an escargot Quick Fire with a twist and ending with an Elimination Challenge featuring a six course menu of standard French protein and sauce pairings for the Chef of the Century, Joel Robuchon.
Having no interest in putting anything in my mouth that leaves a slime trail path behind it, the escargot challenge did nothing for my appetite. This week’s Quick Fire, however, had high stakes, in that the loser was immediately sent home. Jessie’s “ELT,” that’s escargot, lettuce and tomato, landed her in the bottom three, and in a Sudden Death amuse bouche showdown between herself, Ashley and Robin, her tuna tartare couldn’t save her.
Following Jessie’s departure, the contestants learned that their Elimination Challenge would require cooking a meal for a man “that needs no introduction”, Joel Robuchon. Though I was not familiar with Robuchon, the contestants’ reactions told me that had they been cooking for President Obama, the Pope, Ghandi and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln it would have been less pressure than cooking for the Chef of the Century.
Not a French food fan, I was not exactly drooling over the young chicken with bacon gravy, the frog legs with butter sauce or the trout with egg yolks. Still, I appreciated the ingenuity in challenge winner Brian’s deconstructed sauce, wherein he plated perfectly cooked fish on beautiful tiny pools of each element of a classic bernaise. As a “prize,” Brian won the obligation of an unpaid week of cooking at Robuchan’s Vegas restaurant. I’m pretty sure that if the New York Times wanted me to write for them for a week, I’d still want them to kick down.
The losing teams came down to Hector and Ash’s steak with peppercorn sauce, and ironically, FRENCHMAN Mateen and teammate Ashley’s chicken with bacon cream sauce. While I felt Ashley should have gone home simply for the poor fashion choice of wearing a tuxedo t-shirt in her post-challenge interview, Hector’s ill prepared steak sealed the deal. As Hector’s meat pooled blood all over the plates, drowning out Ash’s delicately made pepper sauce, I remembered not only the reason why I am vegan, but also the cooking rule of letting your meat rest before cutting it.
Au revoir, Hector.