Oprah and Maya Angelou. Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Harry Potter and Professor Dumbledore. Those mentor relationships have nothing on the mentors we saw this week on Top Chef Canada: All-Stars, as the Top 5 received an inspirational video from those “who shall always be named” heading into their next Quickfire challenge.
For Dusty, Trevor and Dennis they drew inspiration from their professional relationships. That meant messages from Susur Lee, Ron MacGillivray (the owner of Fable) and Nick Liu (the chef and owner of Dailo), respectively, to pump the chefs up and remind them of how far they’ve come. It was a little more personal for Nicole and Jesse though, who received messages from their mom and step-dad mentors back home. Cue the collective “awwwws.”
It was a nice Survivor-esque locker room moment that even had us a little teary eyed, so naturally it was immediately trumped by the challenge itself. The chefs dried their eyes pretty quickly when they learned that even their mentors may actually be out to get them, in the form of a personalized box of mentor-approved ingredients. Eden and guest judge Antonio Park then took off while the chefs sweated out dishes from their random boxes and the clock ticked down, forcing the likes of Nicole to figure out how to quick-cook pork belly and Dustin to make due with a haphazard box that included quail, miso, shallots, fingerling potatoes and… whiskey. Maybe the whiskey was for the nerves?
“White boy meets Asian,” Dusty told to the cameras while flashing that million-dollar smile and telling Antonio that after today he was no longer so sure who his mentor is.
“Don’t be a psycho in the kitchen,” was what Trevor took away from Ron MacGillivray’s video. Apparently our cool, calm and collected nice-guy Trevor lets the pressure get to him every once in a while too… who knew?
Apparently Trevor should have been slightly crazier with his dish though, since his halibut landed him at the bottom of the pack alongside Nicole’s pork belly. But we mean… how do you compare those two meats in terms of cooking time? One takes minutes while the other takes hours. Luckily for both the chefs it was just the Quickfire, and the only thing on the line was their pride.
As for Dustin and his quail? Well it was hailed as one of the best dishes alongside Jesse’s venison. But it was Dennis’s Asian-inspired pork tenderloin that finally landed him a win following a few weeks of stumbles, and it seriously looked like the beginning of a massive comeback for the chef.
And then the Elimination Challenge was announced and everything Dennis thought he knew was a lie.
You want us to do what?!?
Want to know how to seriously trip a chef up? Ask him or her to create food that looks like one thing and tastes like another. And do it twice, times 75, for a cocktail party. We can just imagine the curse words that were going through these guys’ heads when they heard about that one.
But, that’s why this battle is called Top Chef Canada: All-Stars. The whole point of doing the show is to make the possible out of the impossible, and to make sure it tastes delicious along the way.
And in this case that meant watermelon. Glorious, juicy, red watermelon. Three out of five Top Chef Canada chefs recommend it when it comes to tricking the taste buds and deceiving the eye. It’s no wonder guest judge Derek Dammann asked Mark McEwan if his store had any watermelon left; it popped up on more than one plate. But only Dustin executed it well enough with his Tuna Poke, which was actually compressed watermelon with wasabi avocado, nori and coconut cream. That, along with his Tomato Salad (tomato foam and confit with balsamic and basil) landed him on the top. And here we were worried that his shaky-handed server would launch watermelon and tomato foam all over those precarious stairs.
Also on top? Our calm, cool and collected Trevor, who killed the night with two vegetarian dishes that were supposed to taste like meat. We weren’t sure about his tactics at first, but as it turns out his mushroom-based Spaghetti Bolognese and his white beet Scallops and Orange completely wowed the judges, and landed him five grand as the night’s big winner. Enjoy that family vacay, Trevor. Way to not be a psycho in the kitchen and finally — finally, win an Elimination Challenge after all of these episodes of Top Chef Canada.
With Trevor and Dustin on top that left a pretty upset Dennis, Nicole and Jesse on the bottom. Dennis was so sure that his “Pistachio Bonbon” (which was basically steelhead trout) and his “Moss on a Shell” (Tom Yum Mussels) were gambles that would pay off; nobody else took the extra step of making two hot dishes. But while the taste may have been there neither dish really deceived the eye, and the judges were just confused.
Then there was Nicole, whose Cherry Tomato (feta-stuffed watermelon) wasn’t just boring to judge Janet Zuccarini, but the entire table felt that it was an awkward and slimy presentation — no one wants watermelon fingers at party, Nicole. Geesh. The judges didn’t exactly dig her Garden Carrot (duck confit with sous-vide carrot puree) either, despite the pretty presentation.
But in the end it was poor Jesse, whose inedible Carrot (chicken with buffalo sauce) and Beet Negroni (compressed watermelon with negroni and beet juice) that really missed the mark. While the latter dish may have been passable, it was the carrot that really threw the judges and put Jesse in hot water. Eden admitted she didn’t like eating it in the slightest. So it seemed obvious when Jesse was unceremoniously sent home, knocking the fun facial expression factor on this show down several notches.
“What hurts the most is not making it to that finale. I had it in my head that I wanted to be there so there’s a bit of pain, but in the long run I had a good run. I slipped up a couple of times, I was trying to do a dish that I’d never done before and I missed a couple of steps. There was no going back,” Jesse said afterwards. “A chef is not just a cook, a chef is a leader of cooks and a lot of times when you’re a leader you have to be positive. That’s something I excel in. I’m a leader in my field and I’m proud of that. I can roll with the punches, I can take punches and I can keep f—ing fighting. I want to be remembered as the guy from New Brunswick who came and kicked ass.”
“Jesse is Mr. Smile. He’s a great guy. He sort of has that real outdoorsy, let’s go forage for berries and we’ll cook a duck [vibe],” Mark McEwan told us. “His food is very much from that category and I like his style. If Jesse could be a little more refined around the edges, he would have had better success. At the heart of it, he’s a good, straight-ahead cook.”
And now excuse us while we look straight-ahead to next week’s second-to-last episode. How are we here already? Who will go home next? And what kind of crazy challenge will the powers that be dole out this time? Until then, these are the questions that will keep us up at night.
Watch a bonus scene from Episode 8:
The Trouble with Watermelon