Top Chef – Recap & Review – Battle before the War

photo: bravo

photo: bravo

Top Chef
Battle before the War

Original Air Date: Jan 9, 2013

Ryan O – Associate Staff Writer

Remember that time when John was eliminated? Last week? I do. Some of the cheftestants share my fondness over the memory, like Josh and Stefan (one of whom shouldn’t still be here and one of whom shouldn’t have been here in the first place).


The chefs have create a dish highlighting ginger in just 15 minutes. The winner gets immunity. Also, Wolfgang Puck is the guest judge.

Kristen has an interesting technique. She puts some ingredients into a whipped-cream canister, which gets pressurized, along with some ginger. She fires it off several times and that forces the ginger flavor into the other ingredients. I’m not explaining this very well but it’s quite clever. This is exactly the sort of thinking that typifies a Top Chef. For Kristen, there is no box. I’m saying right now that if Kristen doesn’t win, this season has been a waste (unless something weird happens and Brooke wins).

Here’s what they made.

Josh: White chocolate and ginger soup with peaches and tarragon (which both looks and sounds lovely)

Josie: Seared scallop with ginger-honey yogurt and miso-ginger sauce

Brooke: Ginger-caramel squid with fresh lime and chili powder

Lizzie: Watermelon and ginger soup with fresh mint

Micah: Ginger shrimp salad with radish, plum, ponzu vinaigrette and fried crispy ginger

Kristen: Shaved ginger salad with brie and tomatoes

Sheldon: Wok fried ginger skirt steak with ginger and oranges

Stefan: Ahi tuna with lemongrass and ginger vinaigrette


Sheldon: tasted like pedestrian Chinese take-out

Josh: the dessert lacked flavor, it was underwhelming

Top 3

Brooke: it was inventive and creative

Stefan: Nice, simple California-style dish

Lizzie: Beautiful, simple but well-balanced

Brooke wins! She has immunity in the Elimination Challenge. (Lizzie’s body language after not winning is really bad. She’s really crestfallen and defeated.)

Elimination Challenge

Danny Meyer, restaurateur superstar, is the guest judge.

Each chef has to come up with a restaurant concept and one dish that encapsulates that concept and present it to the judges. They have to prepare 200 plates. Two people will win and become the executive chefs for Restaurant Wars. Interesting. I like it.

And the two winners get $10,000.

Whoa. Micah is doing a raw food concept.

Brooke’s idea, as she explains to Tom, is un-kosher. Challah ham sandwiches-type of thing (but not that for her dish). I think it’s a clever idea and I hope it goes over well. (Tom says it’s like his mother-in-law’s seder. Ha!)

Judges are Gail (yay!), Padma, Tom, and Danny Meyers.

Here’s the chef’s concepts and what they made.

Josh’s concept is a neighborhood bistro. He made: Seared eye of rib eye with a cauliflower puree and mushroom red wine sauce

Lizzie’s concept is Northern Italian farmhouse kitchen. She made: mustard green canederli (a dumpling) with fonduta (which is the Italian way to spell fondue) and crispy speck (juniper-flavored ham from the Tyrol-region in Italy).

Danny thinks Josh’s mushrooms are seasoned well but his steak? No, there’s a distinct lack of seasoning on the steak.

Tom says Lizzie’s flavors are great but it’s a little heavy. Not great news.

Sheldon is doing modern Filipino. He made: Sour tamarind soup with pork belly, shrimp, and snapper.

Stefan’s concept is German-Thai food. He made Thai lobster bisque with shrimp dumplings, potatoes, and radishes. He also made Bavarian cream mango lollipop.

Gail likes the broth of Stefan’s dish but she wishes there were some herbs in it. Yeah, that’s a good point. No cilantro or lemongrass? Danny says the lollipop doesn’t hold up to the soup.

Everyone’s impressed with how good Sheldon’s soup looks. Padma praises it for its authentic but elegant flavors.

Micah’s concept is raw food. He made: Salmon, snapper, himachi, squid, scallop and mackerel with raw vegetables. (He makes a misstep when telling Gail that he’s thought about this concept because in Beverly Hills, you have to please the women who are watching their figure.

Kristen’s concept is classic French with a little bit of a spin. She made: Onsen egg (a hot spring egg, which, I think, is similar to soft-cooking, but I’m not positive and I’d love to be corrected) with camembert-mustard sauce and buttered radishes.

Gail says the egg is perfect. Danny loves the poached radish. Tom admires the egg and the risk in cooking the eggs this way for so many people.

Tom thinks Micah’s presentation is poor. He should’ve cut the fish to order. Gail liked the egg yolk vinaigrette but she didn’t get enough of it. Danny points out that all of them have a context for really good raw fish — sushi. He says if it doesn’t add to “the dialogue,” what’s the point?

Brooke is doing a modern Jewish restaurant. She made: Matzo ball soup with duck confit and toasted black rye bread.

Josie’s concept is Miami-Cuban. She made: Puero asado (roast pork), black chorizo, croquette, pickles, and mojo sauce (no, it does not look appetizing). The judges are waiting and waiting for her to get her food ready. Gail is not amused by Josie’s patter. Do not not-amuse Gail!

Gail likes the broth and mushrooms in Brooke’s soup but says that the matzo ball is “offensive to my people.” She does like that Brooke baked her own dark rye bread. Tom says she should’ve made the matzo out of the rye bread she baked.

Gail says Josie’s pork is both completely dried out and flavorless. Tom says the black bean cake is soggy.

The judges agree that the contenders to go home: Stefan, Micah, and Josie.

Judges Table

Top 3

Kristen, Sheldon, and Josh. I’m afraid that Josh and Lizzie have exchanged momentums.

Gail thinks that Josh’s restaurant could be a really great neighborhood restaurant. Tom thought the meat was nicely seared. Padma loved Kristen’s dish. Gail loved Kristen’s sauce. Danny loved Sheldon’s soup, the flavor just makes you want to keep eating it.

The winners: Kristen and Sheldon. They both win $10,000 and get to have their concepts be executed for Restaurant Wars. The winner of Restaurant Wars will get a new car.

They have to go staff their restaurants now without knowing who will be eliminated. 1

Kristen takes Brooke. Sheldon takes Josh. Kristen takes Lizzie. Sheldon takes Stefan (this yields a bleeped word from Kristen). Kristen takes Josie (Nooo!). Sheldon is left with Micah.

It’s men versus women. Sheldon wonder how it happened “naturally.” It happened because you didn’t pick the best chef remaining in Lizzie and went with Josh (also because Kristen made a mistake and took Josie instead of Micah).

The women are definite favorites.

Bottom 3

Micah, Josie, and Lizzie. Ouch. She and Josh really have exchanged momentums.

Micah was happy with his dish. Gail thought it was a problem that you couldn’t differentiate one fish from another because there were so many.

Lizzie gets a little defensive in saying she might not have explained her concept as well as she could have while they were at her station. She looks exhausted. Tom says the dumpling wasn’t cooked enough. Danny says the dish was heavy. Gail says if she’s going to get that specific, God is in the details.

Josie says she had some good feedback. Danny says the pork fought back. Gail says the pork was so bland that all she tasted was grease. Tom says that Josie gave them a crispy bean cake but topped with so much stuff and then made them wait for so long that the cake turned mushy.

Micah is out. Whoa. I was positive Josie was out. How does she keep hanging on?

Lizzie has GOT to get back in a good groove.

So, it’s Kristen, Brooke, Lizzie, and Josie vs. Sheldon, Josh, and Stefan. As long as Josie doesn’t bring them down, the women should do very well.

Last Chance Kitchen

Micah vs. CJ.

Make a tartare. There’s beef, duck, lamb, and beef heart.

CJ: Beef heart tartare with chili, pickled duck skin, and tomato water

Micah: Bison carpaccio and duck tartare with quail egg yolk, pickled carrots, chilis, and arugula

Tom says the pickled duck skin and far was interesting in a good way. The rest of the dish was very flavorful. Micah’s dish was also full of flavor.

CJ wins again! On! A! Roll!

Tom says it was probably CJ’s best dish he’s made in Last Chance Kitchen.

What did you find to be tasty in this episode? Did you think anything was overdone? Give us your Two Cents below!

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2 Responses to Top Chef – Recap & Review – Battle before the War

  1. Louis Vig says:

    This season stinks as the judges make it about themselves instead of the cooks.

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