Ladies, you’ll have noted that Marcus Samuelsson made an appearance on Top Chef Canada’s tenth episode. I’ll try not to delay your gratification for too many paragraphs.
But first we got reacquainted with last season’s winner, Dale MacKay, as well as his son, Ayden. Our remaining six chefs had the honour of cooking a dish for the little guy—using a pair of decidedly kid-unfriendly ingredients. Jonathan, for example, drew lamb and artichokes; Carl had liver and asparagus; David had radishes and mussels.
Like the smart cookies they are, the chefs generally tried to disguise the original ingredients in different ways, while still showing off their chef-y techniques.
Trista made some nice-looking “rabbit fingers” based on Ayden’s noted preference for breaded chicken, and I think any young’un would’ve fallen for Carl’s take on a jam sandwich (using a lusciously pink liver parfait) with asparagus fries.
But it was Trevor that took the win with an offering of fried squid rings and shredded brussel sprout slaw. I know some adults who detest squid, but even they would’ve at least given Trevor’s dish a shot, so beautiful was its presentation.
With that bit of business out of the way, we got down to the real action: oohing and awing as Marcus Samuelsson glided into the Top Chef kitchen. I’m not kidding! Jonathan looked giddy as a schoolgirl as the Ethiopia-born, Sweden-raised New York chef helped explain the parameters of the elimination challenge.
Our cheftestants’ task? Come together to create a six-course “soul food” tasting menu. The catch? Soul food didn’t mean just fried chicken and grits. No, each chef had to contribute a truly refined dish that was not only flavourful and comforting, but which told a personal story.
You really had to feel for our competitors with this challenge. One way or another, every good chef puts his or her personality on the plate (and on the line) at every meal, but the emotional stakes are that much higher when you’re trying to honour your role models and formative experiences.
Xavier got the service started by stepping out of his duck-and-cream comfort zone; the French chef’s vegetable terrine was meant as a tribute to his adopted home—Canada, duh—and our natural bounty.
Jonathan followed with a scampi consommé, inspired by fishing with his dad, which Marcus deemed a “masterpiece.” And to top it with a pierogi that not only tasted good but used his grandmother’s own dough recipe? Well, let’s just say it was clear who our elimination winner would be.
On the other hand, Carl got a bit of chastisement for his salmon dish. The judges liked it, but it didn’t connect on an emotional level. Trista had the same problem, but in reverse: her offering did seem to represent Toronto’s “melting pot” of ethnicities and cuisines (though aren’t we Canadians supposed to live in more of a “salad bowl”?), but the execution left a bad taste in the judges mouths, as did the piece of plastic wrap that found its way onto Marcus Samuelsson’s plate.
Remember how I was saying that Jonathan was the runaway favourite to win the day? David came along and wowed everyone with three separate bites of Ukrainian fare—grilled flank steak, a cabbage roll, and beet horseradish roulade. The roulade was apparently so good that Marcus wanted the recipe to take back to New York!
Wonder of wonders, it actually did turn out to be David who won the elimination challenge, as well as a whopping $5,000 cash, and the honour of throwing my snap judgment back in my face! (Well, he probably doesn’t know he earned that last reward, but still.)
Unfortunately, while our Top Chef judges giveth, they also taketh away. This week it was Trista’s turn to have her kitchen privileges revoked. Was it the saran wrap surprise that proved her fatal error? If so, it really is too bad, but perhaps our panel took it as a sign that the young chef still had a few things to learn before stepping up to the elite level.
Who was hot (and who was not) in episode 10?
Hot: David. He was mid-pack for the quickfire, but really stepped up when it counted. The personal story of his dish might not have been as affecting as Jonathan’s but his cooking proved just a pinch more accomplished.
Not: Trista. You’ve gotta feel for her, but I know from experience that finding anything inorganic in a dish will almost invariably kill the diner’s appetite. Top Chef‘s judges are probably a thousand times more merciless about the sort of miscue Trista had in this episode, so it’s no surprise she ended up on the bottom.
Craig is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.
by Craig Moy