Top Chef: Episode 4.5 Gourmet or No Way?
I realize, with twelve chefs still in the competition on Top Chef 4, that it's difficult to create individual challenges that will work within the constraints of time and resources. Ergo, we kind of have to have several team challenges. And, of course, there's nothing to stir up some drama and resentment faster than being forced to work with someone you don't like or respect.

Nevertheless, I am the kind of weirdo reality watcher who is generally more curious about the task the show is about than a whole bunch of extraneous drama, so I hope that the chefs can do a few individual elimination challenges again soon so that the judging is more about the actual dish than assigning blame for individual components or concepts. But that's just me.

So – focusing on the dish – which offering on this episode of Top Chef 4 looked the tastiest (Gourmet!) and which looked less than appealing (No Way!)?



I have to agree with the judges on the Gourmet pick. Stephanie Izard, Dale Talde and Lisa Fernandes rose above the intra-team friction to create a delicious-sounding Grilled Shrimp with Pickled Chili Salad. The spicy shrimp; refreshing, tangy, yet also-spicy chili salad and Lisa's miso-glazed bacon all sound delicious on their own, but also sound like they must have combined well into a dish that hit all the sweet spots of Asian flavor profiles. The “deviled” aioli play on a deviled egg was a cute nod to the element of fire.

(If you think the idea of miso-glazed pig product sounds delicious, head back here on Monday when I'll have my chat with professional chef Dana Cree and her idea for transforming the winning element into the centerpiece of a family meal.)


While Zoi Antonitsas was sent home for her lack of seasoning, when I look at the components of Team Earth's dish, it still sounds like it would have been richer and more satisfying had that one technique issue (albeit it a crucial and elementary one) been fixed. I know the customers didn't like it based on the comment cards, but I still think I'd rather throw some salt on the plate myself afterwards than eat Team Water's dish.

I agree with the opinion of the judges that sous vide salmon is a tough sell. The watercress salad had some radish in it, but otherwise, this dish seemed to be a bit unexciting from a texture perspective. All that mushiness needed more crisp somewhere to add more contrast.  Add to that the issue with scales, and it just isn't very appealing to me.

I have been a Richard Blais booster all along, despite the aggravating haircut, but I have another issue with this dish. For one, while the flavor profile and preparation are very different from last week, I can't help but think there are too many repeated elements: salmon, faux caviar and a smear of a similarly-colored creamy-textured item. We're only five episodes in, and we've also seen him repeat the smoke-under-plastic wrap concept. Someone so creative certainly must have more tricks up his sleeve and not need to repeat things so soon in the competition.

Of course, it's easier to see repetition when it's something unusual. Last season of Top Chef, some of the other cheftestants complained about how often Hung Huynh used the sous vide technique. In response, he pointed out that it's just a technique, and probably the other chefs sautéed just as often as he sous vide, so weren't they being just as repetitive? Probably, but because his method isn't generally used as much, it has more obvious when he reused a technique.

Nevertheless, it did seem like Richard's success had just maybe given him a smidge of a swelled faux hawk. I hope this brush with the bottom straightens him out as I am interested to see what he can do and hopes he stays in the competition for a while.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Images courtesy of Bravo)