After the leakage of Restaurant Wars into the “Top Chef” after-party, aka “Last Chance Kitchen,” and the five eliminated chefs from the current season competing last week, it was pleasantly less hectic with just two cooks in the kitchen for this edition. Here is what went on with the web-only cooking series on January 17:
Last week’s “LCK” victor, Pablo Lamon of Miami Beach, found himself facing off with Brandon Rosen of San Mateo, California. Brandon had to say ta-ta to the main contest after serving slimy tartare. But it is somewhat of compliment that his flaw inspired the challenge on an episode titled “Slime Time.” As judge Tom Colicchio made abundantly clear when tasting Brandon’s ooey-gooey beef that got him kicked off “Top Chef,” he hates slime.
To their credit, both chefs fully embraced their ingredients and de-slimed them in clever ways in just 30 minutes. A table of slime-forward ingredients is rolled in. They must choose ingredients from mountain yam noodles, snails, seaweed, jellyfish, nameko mushrooms and natto. Oh, and okra. And Tom notoriously despises okra.
So what does Pablo do? He picks okra along with jellyfish. His reasoning? Everyone knows Tom hates okra and the first chance that he got to cook okra for him, he would take it. Pablo decides to use tempura batter on the okra (note: is it just me or is a lot of tempura batter is being used this season) and freeze-dries the jellyfish, which is super salty. He chooses to sear skirt steak and serve it with black garlic aioli. Brandon picks the mountain noodles, which Tom also hates, snails and seaweed and serves it in a spicy dashi broth with sauteed snails.
Caitlin Steininger, an eliminated chef who is now relegated to the peanut gallery, asks Tom if he is excited to eat the dishes. His reply: Not at all. Still, he seems to be in the mood for some joking around. He goes up to where Pablo is preparing his food and fake sneezes while a rubbery green disc shoots out. You don’t see many booger jokes on other food contest shows.
It is judging time and it comes down to this: Which chef made him like something that the really, really hates. That is Brandon with his use of the mountain noodles. While Pablum is out, Tom is happy at how Brandon redeemed himself.