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Apr 17, 2012 10:24 AM

Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 6 (spoilers)

So before we get to Restaurant Wars, let's start thing off with a high stakes Quickfire.
Make a soup and sandwich. The worst soup and sandwich gets you sent home.

On the top: Ryan with a Lobster club on a homemade Old Bay biscuit with a poblano, basil and zucchini soup; Carl with a tomato gazpacho with a bacon, cucumber and tomato sandwich; Jonathan with a Chinese bbq chicken consomme and Vietnamese sandwich.
On the bottom: Trista's Chilled smoked tomato soup with a tuna, avocado sandwich with black garlic aioli; Curtis' fried oyster po' boy and charred tomato shallot gazpacho; Gabriell's butter toasted bread with rosemary soup and prosciutto and truffle sandwich.
The winner: Jonathan, who wins an advantage in the Elimination round. Runner-up Carl gets $3,000 and his dish on the menu at Milestones.

For restaurant wars, Jonathan is the captain of the first team. He has to pick the captain of the second team and he chooses Elizabeth. Jonathan's team consists of Carl, Curtis, Trevor and David - Restaurant Fable - Farm to Table. Liz's team consists of Jimmy (who kept saying Not me! Not me! in his head), Xavier, Ryan and Trista - Restaurant True North - Modern Canadian. They are cooking at Lee and Lee Lounge, with Susur Lee as their guest judge and his sons as guest diners.

For True North, Liz is expediting and Ryan is front of house. The menu: Ryan's Ontario corn soup with marinated fennel; Jimmy's "into the vegetable garden" salad; Liz's Braised and grilled octopus with yogurt mint sauce; Xavier's roasted duck breast with white beans and sherry jus; Trista's sockeye salmon with olive oil crushed potatoes; Liz's pork loin with crispy pig's ears and maple roasted apples. Vegetarian option from Jimmy is added last minute - potato risotto-style. For dessert, dark chocolate torte with raspberry sorbet and cocoa nib tuile from Xavier and plum financier with peach compote and sour cream ice cream from Trista.
Judges are waiting. Things are behind because Liz is not expediting well. Jimmy and Ryan take over.

For Fable, Jonathan is running the kitchen and Trevor is front of house. Here's the menu.
Jon's tomato cucumber salad with buffalo mozzarella, tomato water vinaigrette; Dave's quail, duck and foie gras terrine; Carl's roasted striploin with brown butter hollandaise and crushed potatoes; Carl's sage gnocchi with butternut puree, chanterelles, corn and cauliflower; Curtis' sockeye salmon with carrot puree and peas. For dessert, roasted peach crumble panna cotta from Trevor and flourless chocolate cake with sour cherry sorbet from
Dave and Curtis.
Things are going well in the kitchen, Jon is running things smoothly until Curtis' ice cream fails and they have to send out barely frozen, soupy ice cream.

On the bottom, Team True North. Ryan's soup is too sweet, Xavier's duck was undercooked and chewy, Liz's pork is too casual, Trista's plum totally overwhelmed by peach, Jimmy's potato risotto is terrible. Liz tries to deny responsibility for everything at first, Jimmy calls her out for her bad job expediting, everyone else backs him up. Liz says she will take the "credit" for her team's failures.

On the top for Team Fable, not everything was perfect but most things are pretty good up until the desserts. Trevor was better at front of house than Ryan. Jon did a much better job of expediting. Carl's striploin and brown butter hollandaise received accolades from everyone. Susur loved the hollandaise. And Carl is the winner. And Jonathan's bandana is from his old notebook when he worked for Susur.

Now, I don't think our "Magical Elves" are as inventive with their editing as their counterparts in the US, so unless there was some crazy editing going on, Liz did insist on running the pass and then tried to say that the others told her to do it. And again, unless the editing was very creative, it appears that she was majorly fumbling it. So then she tried to blame Jimmy for throwing her under the bus? It seemed pretty obvious to me that she wanted to be in control and then couldn't handle it.

Sorry Gabriell had to go but he wasn't hacking it, as evidenced by his performance in the last few challenges. Carl seems to be the one to watch out for. He's on a roll.

Is it just me or is Lisa Ray great? She's so real, unlike Padma. And I have to say, I didn't like Shereen much in Season 1 but I'm really loving her this season.

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  1. Thanks for doing the summary every week. I haven't seen much of the US series but my impression is that this Restaurant War food wasn't as ... polished? The best dish was basically something a good home cook can make.

    1 Reply
    1. re: ElizabethS

      Both teams chose dishes which I thought really reflect current Canadian food trends. I would say unpretentious as opposed to unpolished. I'd be happy to see the majority of those dishes on a menu. There's no real food "wizard" like Blais or Marcel though.

    2. Well I ate at the "True North" side of resto wars and i quite liked the corn soup! But the wait for the food was indeed too long and now i know why! We were starving by the time our mains came but unfortunately for me, the potato risotto was miniscule in portion. At least it was tasty, with a nice smoky flavour. It would have been good as a component of a main, but it was definitely not an entree dish on its own.
      Agree with you OP on Lisa Ray...I think she's doing a really good job. Irks me when I hear people call her a "padma clone" as they really aren't similar at all.

      3 Replies
      1. re: chicapea

        Out of curiosity, how'd you get to be part of the taping?

        1. re: piccola

          lucky for me, my spouse works on the show so I've got an in.

          1. re: chicapea

            Aaaaah understood. Well, that's unlikely to happen to me anytime soon, :)

      2. We were all waiting for the double elimination to come and it finally came. Frankly, I knew quickfires weren't my strongest point so I was in survival mode pretty much from the get go (most of us were probably feeling that way as well). I first had my sights set on making some sort of pork arepa-like sandwich but the dough I was making didn't seem to have the right consistency so fifteen minutes in I backpedaled and started over again. Unfortunately the only bread that was left was this dryish corn-based bread and I found some oysters in the fridge so I decided to go along with it. I tried some of the other soups and I personally thought mine compared relatively well so chances are it's what saved me.

        As for our menu concept we had an extended discussion about it. There was certainly some temptation to do a more east asian take but there were concerns that some of us weren't as comfortable with east asian flavours/techniques as others and since Susur was judging he'd have more to pick on, so ultimately we all decided on the concept that everybody had at least some comfort in.

        Ultimately we were all pretty convinced we lost, especially since we didn't really see how they did (though I did see some of their plates and I thought they looked better than ours). Between that nearly-raw terrine to the complaints we received about the tomato salad to the 'sherbet' (none of the freezers got cold enough to freeze the mixture solid, which means I probably put a little too much glucose into it and as a result the pacojet shaved it into a milkshake as opposed to an ice cream) we couldn't imagine the other team doing worse.

        Ultimately we heard the full story of what happened with the other team and all I can say is that the editing was for the most part pretty accurate as to what happened in the True North kitchen. She tried to take on way too much by herself and failed to delegate the duties in a reasonable way. That and I don't think any of them were thrilled to have Liz as the leader of their team.

        I feel that our menu generally captured the spirit of our restaurant concept. It's very important that everyone's on the same page or you have dishes that seem oddly out of place and the menu looks and reads like a mess. The above point is particularly important because unlike an actual kitchen you're working with a bunch of chefs and ultimately you can't shut everybody else out to execute your particular vision or nobody will follow you. Let's just say I put on my "What would they do at Marben" cap on when I was thinking of what to make.

        On the other hand I do feel that we were a little hamstrung by the relative lack of variety we found at our shopping venue and the crowds of people we had to weave through to get even the most basic items. I wanted to do a lake fish but the only fish all of the venders had in any appreciable quantity/quantity and sustainability (we weren't going to serve chilean sea bass) was sockeye, so that's what both teams ended up doing. Also, I would've really killed to have gotten my hands on some liquid nitrogen. I haven't made ice creams/sorbets in the past three years using anything else and it's a tool I'm deeply attached to. It doesn't undo the mistake I made but if I had liquid nitrogen that ice cream would've been fine.

        Finally regards to modern techniques I'd say at least Jimmy, Gabe, Liz, and myself have a decent understanding of the usage of the ingredients and techniques used in molecular cooking, but between my watching Jimmy get raked over the coals and us knowing Mark's personal preferences we ended up toning it down (except for Jimmy, whose courage I absolutely admire).

        11 Replies
        1. re: Blueicus

          Interesting note on the editing. From my outsider's perspective, the episode made Elizabeth look pretty incompetent, with lots of shots of her appearing lost or just gazing into nothing. It seems like it would hurt her reputation as a chef in the real world to be perceived as hard to work with and bad at running the pass.

          1. re: cellophane_star

            and chewing! i realize that it is likely that all chefs were tasting their work on the fly, but everytime Liz was on camera, she was nibbling! The edit on the last few shows made her really unlikeable, but she was one of my favourites at the end of the first episode. And I really like Lisa Ray - her opinions are well-expressed and seem to be well-founded - more integral to the show than last year's blonde, imo.

            1. re: cellophane_star

              I suspect it could but ultimately as contestants we all have a hand in determining the actions we take. Certainly editing can take away some of the context behind what's shown (like that egg spilling incident), but we have to live with those consequences, whatever they may be

            2. re: Blueicus

              I was so worried for you during the Quickfire! I was freaking out. Glad you made it through. Lots of gazpacho going on.

              Also glad your team decided against the Asian thing. Cooking Asian for Susur would be asking for trouble.

              As for the lack of variety in the ingredients available, I thought the same thing last season too. The ingredients available at Loblaws were just not specialized enough for Top Chef. When I go shopping at Loblaws, it's for "regular" things. I have to go to the St. Lawrence Market or some other more "specialized" market to get the proteins and other somewhat exotic vegetables and spices. How can the contestants be able to cook dishes that are on par with their American counterparts when they don't have access to the same quality and variety of ingredients?

              Same for the equipment. If I recall correctly, the contestants in the US had access to liquid nitrogen etc. in the Top Chef kitchen, with the exception of the most recent TC and I believe that was because they were constantly moving from city to city in Texas.

              1. re: Blueicus

                Thanks for your perspective on this episode. I must confess, I DVR'd it to see who was eliminated and was quite frankly happy to see that Liz was gone. I'm sure all people under the gun like that have less than stellar moments, but she certainly seemed to have not only her share of them, but created a large number of them herself through her actions. Such is the fun of having a camera on you 24/7.
                SO glad you made it through the quick fire.
                I personally found it odd that while Jonathan won the quickfire, the runner-up is the one who won the money. Did you feel that what Jonathan "won" aka the advantage was better than the 3K prize? Any insight as to why this was done -- as in, was it clear beforehand that there was a prize at stake and the quickfire winner may not win the prize?

                1. re: freia

                  Given the choice I would've taken the money, definitely. As for the other stuff it sorta came out of nowhere and Carl just made a dish more suited for a Milestones menu, I suppose.

                  1. re: Blueicus

                    your facial expressions so make me smile! hope your hand is ok.

                2. re: Blueicus

                  Not the biggest fan of Top Chef Canada but I still watch it.

                  I would like them to make changes to the show, primarily in the area of diversity - I find it too conservative. I want more chefs that have a more diverse repertoire.

                  Changes that I would like made to the show:

                  1. No chef can cook food from the same cuisine two episodes in a row, which I think would also work into restaurant wars since a restaurant has to have a theme and it will play into the selection of the theme by the captain and the choice of who is on the team. It would also force more diversity in the competition.

                  2. I prefer shows that are not just strictly rat races, but also include a bit of learning etc. I think that could be fit into the current format in the manner of requiring each chef to be responsible for "mentoring" the other chefs in areas that he is stronger but the other contestants are not - which could be formatted for TV broadcast as a learning moment episode in-between the competitive episodes.

                  3. I know that they are having chefs shop at certain stores because of product placement (i.e. McEwen Grocer). I would prefer the chefs shop like they would if they would if they were actually running a restaurant -- i.e. be able to shop at their favour fish monger, butcher, market, farm. This would also translate into support of local small operators - and not the large supermarkets. (it would also be more interesting to see). I would also like to see them explain why they chose certain products and not others - i.e. technically why they thought the fish was not a good choice because of x, y, z indicated that it was not fresh sort of thing.

                  4. The kitchen should be fully stocked with professional equipment that the contestants would have access to if they were operating their own kitchen (flash freezer, liquid nitrogen, water bath, etc,)

                  5. Judge McEwen should be replaced. Sorry, but I am still irate about season one street food episode - never been so annoyed with any judge as much as what I was with judges on that episode. Canadian (and American) cities are pretty devoid of good street food, they lack any diversity and thus are pretty bland.... when McEwen was saying certain dishes just don't work as street food - I was livid..... I can go out and walk down my soi and less than a 5 minute walk find vendors selling street food that was close to the contestants that he was so casually was saying -- not good for street food. He just sounded like a closed-minded idiot to me.

                  Just one viewers very opinionated opinion :o

                  1. re: cacruden

                    I disagree with the first two, which I think are just not plausible in a TV cooking competition. But the other suggestions work, esp. the one about getting rid of McEwen, who is the dullest judge.

                    1. re: piccola

                      #2 Works in the amateur type competition (i.e. Masterchef Australia) - and it generally maintains the viewership of a couple million viewers for those episodes as well (It takes the form of masterclasses which use cooking demonstration as the foundation; it of course would have to be altered for professional chefs). Mentoring is an important function of a senior chef.

                      1. re: cacruden

                        Yeah, but my point is that Top Chef isn't the same premise as Masterchef -- these are professional chefs already. And to be honest, there's little incentive to air a masterclass-type of episode because then it's basically just another instructional cooking show. (And personally, I always skip the masterclass episodes.)