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Top Chef 3.11 - Snacks on a Plane Recap

Well folks, we are down to the final six cheftestants, and I must say I was slightly shocked by last night's episode. Shocked by who was eliminated, shocked by how mean guest judge Anthony Bourdain was — although I should have been expecting it — and shocked by how many folks overcooked fish. I could go on and on about my shock, but let's just start at the beginning for now.

The episode starts with Padma sneaking into the dorms and rousing the chefs from their slumber. And naturally, she has a surprise! They stagger into the (super swanky) kitchen area and are told they have 20 minutes to make her breakfast with ingredients in the kitchen. No time to change, no time to think, just make. Oh and they're endorsed by Breville's blender, so they might want to use that too.

To find out what happens next, read more

Once the challenge starts, the cheftestants (as Hung said) "scatter like roaches." Truffle oil is falling off the counter, bell peppers are lying on the floor and burners are barely burning. All of the chefs decide to play it a little safe — crepes, French toast, eggs in a nest, etc — and Hung wins the challenge with a well prepared take on steak and eggs and a papaya smoothie. Did I mention that his papaya smoothie was spiked with Grand Marnier? I'm sure it gave him an edge, but the simple combo of blended papaya with milk is fantastic, so I'm sure his would have been fantastic with or without the added bonus.

As winner of the elimination challenge, Hung is presented a copy of Padma's upcoming cookbook and will be able to pick his protein first. However, before they can begin, it's time to pack their bags and head West to Aspen! But oh wait, there's a slight detour and they're going to New York first!

When the cheftestants arrive at the Newark airport, they're ready to head to New York, but are told to check in to their airport hotel and prepare for an elimination challenge the next day. The challenge takes place — hair caps and all — in the kitchen for Continental airlines. They have two hours to prepare business class appropriate meals that will be reheated and served to the judges — including guest judges Anthony Bourdain and Jimmy Canora of Continental's Congress of Chefs — and a fleet of elite flight attendants.

Four of the six chefs opt for fish, Hung takes the fatty Chilean Sea Bass, Brian takes lobster (to go with this gigantic steak), CJ takes halibut and Sara opts for salmon. Casey and Dale take meats, veal and steak respectively. The fishes — except for Hung's — are overcooked and rubbery. Bourdain says he didn't even know what Brian's lobster was and Sara's salmon is awful and inconsistent. In the end Casey walked away the winner with grilled veal medallions and cauliflower gratin.

However it isn't the fish, but side dishes that send folks home. Sara's couscous is considered an afterthought — which she agrees with — and CJ's burnt broccolini is according to Tom, the "worst dish that they've had in three years of the competition." Bourdain backs it up by saying that it looked like they were cleaning Bob Marley's house and found it in the closet. Ouch, harsh words for some sad broccolini.

Unfortunately, it isn't just harsh words that are given to CJ. He is also given the boot. I must say, I was a bit shocked. I honestly thought he would be in the final four. It looks like it must have been a tough decision, I mean Padma is practically in tears as she tells him to go home.

Things to ponder...

  • Did you think the beginning was staged? Something about it seemed like they re-enacted the scene.
  • This is probably some sort of sin to ponder, but is Bourdain's mean guy schtick too predictable? Oh and If you haven't read his thoughts on the evening, you really should.
  • Were you as touched by how sad Padma was, as I was?
  • Who are you rooting for? I think I'm rooting for Hung, but with my track record that must mean he's going home next week.
  • Oh and, I don't know about you, but I have to figure out how to fly business class from now on...


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