‘Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen’ January 31 recap: Fun with UFOs — unidentified food objects

The latest chef to get cut from the 16th season of “Top Chef” was David Viand of Asbury Park, N.J., during a music-inspired challenge in the city of Nashville. Scroll down for our recap of the January 31 episode of the web-only after-show “Last Chance Kitchen.”

Viand, the so-called “Quick Challenge king” who owns Heirloom Kitchen in Oak Ridge, New Jersey, wanted to pay homage to his Portuguese heritage but ran into trouble trying to find octopus for his dish. He had to settle for oversized clams that were chewy, over-salted and definitely off-key. Now he gets to go head to head with Brandon Rosen of San Mateo, California, who has survived two rounds of “Last Chance Kitchen.”

David greets host and judge Tom Colicchio with a smile, proclaiming himself to be one of the fiercest competitors on this planet. He isn’t surprised to see Brandon — aka “the wonder boy”—whom he compares to Ivan Drago from the “Rocky” movies. “He was born and bred to be a chef,” he says of his blond pompadoured rival, ”but he’s going down.” Love that boyish trash talk.

David reflects on how “Top Chef” can be a grind and how he wasn’t cooking confidently. His music inspiration for his dish was the album “Morning View” by Incubus, which he listened to  when he lived near a beach in Portugal.  But the beach must have been close to salt water, since Padma Lakshmi thought he went overboard with salt. Now Tom can’t help but pour salt on David’s  wounds, as he teases him about doing a bad version of a well-known Portuguese dish.

SEE Why ‘Top Chef’ in its 16th season is still the creme de la creme of U.S. food shows

Tom says that he cut up the clams so much that he couldn’t tell what they were. Which leads to the theme of this week’s LCK.  “It’s probably even more difficult when you don’t know the ingredients you are working with, either.”  Out comes a table filled with UFO’s – unidentified food objects. Or, as Tom calls the array “alien ingredients.” David and Brandon can each choose three items from the display – one mystery meat and two other ingredients.

Both chefs try to go by taste. David easily identifies scallops. He isn’t quite sure of his other choices but he thinks they are piquillo peppers and some kind of nut. Kevin Scharpf, part of the peanut gallery of no longer competing chefs, asks Brandon what ingredients he thinks he picked? He says, “I’ve got mango.” As for his protein, it might be ground deli meat. And there are sunchokes in a sundae glass. Oops, actually, they are artichokes. David is making scallops with romesco, cauliflower puree and apples. Brandon is concocting empanadas with his mystery meat, curry, mango puree and kale chimichurri while deflecting teasing comments about his perfect hair.

Brian Young, who blew his chance on “Last Chance Kitchen” last week, says observing the two chefs rush through the challenge is like “watching a car crash in slow motion,” especially since Brandon is falling behind on his empanadas. Tom calls five minutes. With one minute to go, he pulls his empanadas out of the fryer, declaring crispy and golden brown.

Tom tastes David’s dish and tells him what he thought were nuts were, in fact, sugar cookies ground up. Tom then tastes the mystery meat empanada and reveals the protein is spiced ham, otherwise known as Spam. The verdict: Tom found both plates to be tasty and well done. But David ultimately worked with his mystery elements in a better way. He must now win two more times before getting back into the main competition on “Top Chef.”

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