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Top Chef Canada, Season 2, Episode 7 (spoilers)

So I'd like to start off by saying - I, along with Jimmy - love, love, love Richard Blais. I'd follow him around with a goofy grin if I lived in his town (Don't worry Richard, I'm not a real stalker!)

So the Quickfire finds the chefs choosing unlabelled cans of food which they have to transform into a delicious dish. They have to use at least 3 different canned items. Some of the items are pretty common - tomato sauce, sardines, broth, coconut milk, sausages - but there are some items that the chefs can't identify. Curtis cuts himself and bleeds like crazy.
On the top: Curtis' carrot pakora, olive oil poached salmon and cranberry foam; Ryan's grilled mackerel with Romesco; Trevor's slow baked salmon with curry broth.
On the bottom: Carl's eggs on cocotte with mystery sauce; David's Phiily-style rib eye chowder; Jonathan's curried fish noodles with black garlic-stuffed eggs.
The winner is Ryan and he gets immunity.

For the Elimination challenge, the chefs spin the wheel of deconstruction to select the classic dish they must re-interpret in a deconstructed manner.
Ryan - eggs Florentine, Curtis - tuna casserole, Trevor - spaghetti and meatballs, Xavier - quiche Lorraine, Jimmy - chicken pot pie, Trista - meatloaf, David - chicken noodle soup, Jonathan - strawberry cheesecake, Carl - chili.

Guests for this challenge, Johnny Reid and executive chef of Toca, Tom Brodi, and of course Richard Blais. Jimmy makes confit chicken and biscuit with mushroom froth and wasabi pea and regular pea ice cream. Ryan makes fried duck egg yolk with spinach sponge cake and hot sauce zabaglione. Jonathan makes cream cheese ice cream with reconstructed graham cracker. Carl makes a pork chili terrine, bean salad and cheese bread. David makes a redemption terrine so it's a chicken confit and vegetable terrine with pearl pasta. Trista makes a beef tartare with garlic chips. Curtis makes tuna canelloni and hot tuna salad with milk crouton. Xavier makes shortbread and bacon cylinders filled with scrambled egg mousse. Trevor makes duck meatball stuffed with tomato sauce and tagliatelle.

On the top: David, Xavier and Trevor.
On the bottom: Curtis, Jonathan and Jimmy.
The winner is Xavier and Curtis goes home.

Nooooooo!!!!! Curtis, you will be missed. Too bad you didn't get the cheesecake. You probably would have killed that one.
Jimmy's hero worship almost did him in. Hard to think clearly when you're in love. And what is that tattoo on his chest - flames? At first it looks like strange-looking chest hair peeping out of the top of his t-shirt.
Congratulations to Xavier for his first win and a special congratulations to David on his terrine redemption and for living up to his potential.

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  1. Damn Curtis... I knew they were going to cut you from the beginning of the episode. The interview where you said "I've never been to culinary school..." seemed like foreshadowing. Keep smiling!

    I was nervous Jimmy would get a surprise cut. I felt so bad for him. He cooked for his idol but Blais totally ripped it apart.

    I couldn't figure out Xavier's dish but good for him for winning!

    And I literally gasped at David's terrine. It looked like art.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cellophane_star

      I felt bad for Jimmy but I also think he did it to himself. He was so fixated on impressing Blais with his cool tricks that he completely forgot it has to taste good. I mean, why would you ever put wasabi peas in something that's supposed to taste like chicken pot pie?

      That said, I'm surprised there weren't more disasters. Deconstructing dishes is really tricky to do well and a lot of people are tempted to do weird for weird's sake.

    2. Curtis! So sorry and not the right choice IMHO! Hope you'll stick around here though! All the best to you in your career - which will be long and successful!

      1. I was sorry to see Curtis go as well as I grew to be a fan as the episodes progressed. Personally I don't think the right decision was made. Curtis, I'll definitely be stopping by your restaurant the next time I'm in Ottawa.

        1. I also thought the Jimmy / Richard infatuation thing was pretty funny - I was halfway expecting him to leave his room key on the plate when serves dishes to Richard.

          1. Bummed! Curtis was/is my favorite! So sorry about that!
            Great episode...seems like the presence of Richard Blais and the thought of deconstruction freaked out a few of the chefs...

            1. I found a lot of episodes tough to watch and this one was no exception. In a sense it felt like I was watching my own eulogy... sorta morbid but also somewhat appropriate, given the situation.

              First of all, being a Top Chef fan I too was thrilled to see Richard Blais on the show. I probably geeked out nearly as hard as Jimmy, though I'm really too old to faux-hawk. He always seemed like a decent person and from what little I saw and heard from him in the short time we had to interact I think he is.

              One thing I learned about my cooking and how it rated with the judges was that they either loved it or they hated it, very rarely was there any middle ground. This schizophrenic performance really got me concerned about my long term chances on the show, no matter how many challenges I managed to win or come out on top. This episode pretty much exemplified my fears pretty well.

              The quickfire challenge was both refreshing and fun, the items I chose certainly weren't ones I particularly wanted, but I guess I did a decent job of it considering I felt like I got a lump of coal for christmas. I thought it was pretty rude to laugh at a judge when they're praising your dish so I tried very hard (albeit not successfully) to hold myself back. As for the cut, it wasn't particularly deep but it took off a lot of flesh, which meant it wouldn't stop bleeding (probably kept bleeding for a good 6 hours). The paramedic splinted my finger then proceeded to turn my finger into a white corndog so I wasn't particularly thrilled when I had to prep with it on but it beat opening the wound up constantly while I tried to work.

              You're right, I (and probably a few others) wanted strawberry cheesecake. Due to the nature of desserts they're usually a little easier to deconstruct since the flavours and textures are already quite manipulated from the original products, it's only a little work to manipulate them in a different form. Also, diners are more wiling to allow the chef to play around with textures and temperatures in a dessert course... it's certainly more acceptable to put vanilla ice cream on a hot apple pie than it is to put a scoop of wasabi pea sorbet on a hot plate of deconstructed chicken pot pie.

              As for my dish concept it ended up being a frankendish of two different ideas I had, the composed vegetable/seared tuna/crouton dish and the cannelloni. The first idea was the only idea I had until the cannelloni came to me just as we were pulling up to McEwan's. Unfortunately I didn't really have a strong concept at the time for putting the pasta as the focal point of the plate and we had to start shopping so I decided to do sort of a duo instead. Having had months to contemplate the dish and to relive the elimination over in my head I think I finally have a concept that would've been pretty good that utilizes the cannelloni as the central focus, unfortunately I don't have a time machine to go back and test it out.

              Despite the judges' comments I thought a lot, if not all of the plates looked great and felt we presented some of the strongest dishes so far in the competition (and I think in Top Chef Canada history). That chicken noodle terrine looked great and of course congratulations are in order for Xavier and the really elegant take on quiche lorraine.

              Judges' table was strange, I tried Johnny's ice cream and I thought it tasted great... their criticisms of his dessert seemed almost to be nitpicking. For that reason I was pretty sure either Jimmy or myself would go home, Jimmy was pretty positive he was going but I suspected the odds were more even given my past performances.

              One thing I was somewhat hung up about was the judges' constant use of the word bland as a criticism of a dish. Bland can have so many meanings... does it mean the dish is underseasoned? Does it mean it lacks any defining flavour from ingredients? (such as the need for a fresh punch of herbs or the spicy kick of chili?) Is salt water bland? Is unseasoned arugula bland? Is plain arugula seasoned with salt bland? I probed the judges pretty hard on what about my dish they thought was bland but I didn't get overly much, and for that I was a little disappointed.

              I feel bad for Jimmy because he dropped the ball both times Richard was judge, I can only hope he took as much from his experience as I did.

              Anyways, it's great to know you folks liked my presence on this show. I can only hope we put on a good show (figuratively, of course)

              12 Replies
              1. re: Blueicus

                Thanks so much for your insights on the show. I was disappointed to see that you got the ole chop...
                You're right about "bland" -- they keep saying that without defining it. Is it unseasoned? No flavor but seasoned? And the judges seem unusually harsh this season, I'm not sure why they are but they are.
                Are you still going to watch? Or do you know the outcome (no spoilers please!)...

                1. re: Blueicus

                  Great post.
                  It seems like "Bland" and "Disjointed" are Mark MacEwan's favourite words.

                  1. re: Blueicus

                    The commentary has been one of my biggest peeves all along. I know I keep saying it but I'll say it again: the judges' comments are so lame compared to the judges in the US.

                    Mark McEwan just keeps saying stilted, non-constructive things. The dish is "pleasant". A "pleasant flavour profile". "bland" and "disjointed". These comments are not helpful. Tom, Gail, Hugh et al. provide insightful commentary. Their notes are helpful and thoughtful. "Pleasant" doesn't help anybody. I remember when Mark was a guest judge in the Top Chef Texas finale. His comments were the most meaningless. They were generic and lame. Ok, enough of my rant. I don't have any problems with McEwan's restaurants in general. I just think he needs to work on providing useful feedback instead of stilted, generic comments.

                    Blueicus, I'll miss seeing you on the show. I hope you'll continue to provide us with your wonderful thoughts and insights on this thread.

                    1. re: chefhound

                      There must be a better Canadian "celebrity" chef out there that wants to host this show!

                      maybe Curtis will be back in the finale... they usually have former contestants helping in the finalists in the last dinner service.

                      1. re: cellophane_star

                        David Adjey!
                        I hope we see Curtis again, and I'd love to know where he is cooking now. I'd make a special trip to have some of his cuisine!

                        1. re: freia

                          I'm moving out west to Vancouver to help Trevor open his restaurant Fable in early May. My last dinner at the Courtyard in Ottawa is tomorrow night. Special event, 6 courses.

                          1. re: Blueicus

                            Well poop! I'm in Kingston and won't be able to make it tomorrow. BUT Fable...hmmm...sounds like a trip to Vancouver is in order, perhaps this summer! Keep us updated as to where you are! And you'll LOVE Vancouver (I'm originally from out west!).

                            1. re: Blueicus

                              Curtis, I'm looking forward to eating your & Trevor's food in Vancouver! You'll love it here, I know. I'll miss you on Top Chef Canada!

                              1. re: Blueicus

                                Good luck - will be in Vancouver in September so will try the restaurant then. There's speculation in a Vancouver website today that Trevor may have won given his investment in a new restaurant


                                Curtis something I've wondered about with TC - the chefs all stop cooking at the same time yet it could be quite some time before the food is presented to the judges (say if you're the last chef presenting). Keeping food warm for 30-40 minutes doesn't help a dish obviously - what happens?

                                1. re: ElizabethS

                                  Although that's not the case for the quickfires, all the food presented at the elimination challenges are to be presented at their prime and freshest.

                                2. re: Blueicus

                                  Oh hooray! Fable is in my 'hood - very much looking forward to the opening!

                        2. Thought of one more change I would like to make with the show, and that is for the judges to taste in isolation and score in isolation - even if they are filmed together later in criticism for TV production purposes. Always get this sneaking suspicion that insecurities within judges will lead them to follow the lead when judging as opposed to being more honest.

                          1. So long, Curtis. You went out with grace and goodwill. You'll be missed.

                            One more brain fart like that and Jimmy will be next to go. I'm not so confident of Ryan or Jonathan's chances either.

                            1. a few random thoughts -

                              Sad to see Curtis go, but I think it was the right choice. Very gracious in his exit speech. I'll definitely try and get to his restaurant at some point.

                              Nice to see Xavier figure things out after his slow start this season. He's kind of growing on me.

                              Speaking of growing on me, I swear Lisa Ray is getting prettier with each episode. Which is pretty amazing considering she's a knock-out to begin with. I agree with an earlier TCC thread comment praising her and her warmth on the show.