This is a big week because the three chefs remaining at the end of this episode will be in the finale. As if it wasn’t already important in this competition, fine technique and creative skills come into the forefront this week. And what better way to evaluate that than through the lense of French cuisine.
Joining us is Chef Marc Thuet, who really helped to establish French cooking in the Toronto scene. For the Quickfire Challenge, he and his wife and partner, Biana Zorich, entered the GE Monogram kitchen with hot pies and challenged each chef to bake one sweet and one savoury pie.
In the Elimination challenge, another aspect of French cooking was explored: haute cuisine. We had the chefs design a dish to serve at a lunchtime fashion show in the Shops at Don Mills square. In both challenges - whether it was about how quickly they prepared elaborate pies, or how detailed they made the elements on each lunch plate - I spent a lot of time marveling at the chefs’ creations. I also spent a little bit of time gagging. Yes, there were some misses even at this juncture of the competition!
My highlights: I loved seeing the intimidated faces of the competitors as Marc Thuet described the ingredients in his pies. With braised pork belly, smoked speck, boudinoire, chantrelles, foie gras and duck fat all in the mix, he really set the bar high for the chefs’ pies and they knew he’d be a tough critic of what they prepared. Plus, they didn’t have a lot of time to do it, so the anxiety was palpable.
David took the time to whip up a mascarpone ice cream for his peach and wild blueberry pie, but Marc found the seasoning lacking in his cepate pie with two layers of puff pastry and rabbit blanquette.
Jonathan looked to his granny again to inspire an apple with sharp cheddar pastry. Delicious. But Marc found the potato in his savoury pie, with caramelized leek, dill, bacon and more bacon, to be undercooked. I’ll admit that despite Marc’s critique, I still found that pie to be delicious!
While Trevor made a nice caramelized onion, chantrelle and spinach quiche, he scored points with Marc for the mixture of bacon, apple and blue cheese foam on top a walnut crust for this take on a sweet pie. It was such a good pie that it will get special honours at Milestones grill and bar, where it will be on their Top Chef Canada menu!
Carl made a comeback and won the challenge, as well as a custom Ceasarstone countertop for his two offerings: peach and blueberry pie, and especially, a quiche made of ham, cheese, leeks and chantrelles in a very fine pastry shell.
So both Trevor and Carl had a great vote of approval from Marc Thuet, and I wonder how much that boosted their confidence going into the Elimination challenge, because they both aced it there as well.
Carl went all out in testing his own creativity with a triangular piece of crispy Euro bass fish on a triangular plate lightly decorated with zucchini aioli, roasted pepper coulis and baby green salad. We admired it for how it looked, as well as for the fresh, clean flavour. We couldn’t get enough of the taste, so Carl won. This was no small win; a spot in the finale and he also took home $10,000.
A close second was Trevor’s rosti crusted lamb loin. You could see his creation was labour intensive and that’s exactly one of the requirements of haute cuisine; that like a well made dress, substantial time goes into design. Taste is the other factor, and Trevor nailed that too.
Jonathan looked to fashion for direct inspiration with his dish. He made a salad roll that looked like a hat, a prawn dumpling that looked like a skirt and a mussel that approximated a shoe! Very whimsical and fun design! Unfortunately, the flavour was lacking.
And this is where we go down hill. David, too, came up with a great design, but his flavours were shockingly bad this time around. He made a dim sum plate that was very pretty, modern and, again, time intensive. However, there were some elements on the plate, like those awful, chewy chives, that made me want to gag, and literally had Shereen spitting them out. David doesn’t get to go to the finale, and it’s too bad he went out with this dish, since it really doesn’t represent what he can do, flavour-wise.
Now Jonathan, Trevor and Carl are left to battle it out for all the money, the GE Monogram kitchen and the title of Top Chef, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what the chefs do next...