How do you cook a meal for 300 with no stovetops and a lot of canned ingredients? For a military cook, it's just another day in the kitchen but it put the Top Chef contestants to the test. Read on to find out how they fared.
Note: We reveal the winner and losers below ...
Mark Peel, owner of Campanile restaurant in Los Angeles and recent Top Chef Masters contestant, served as guest judge for this episode, which brought the cheftestants to Nellis Air Force Base to cook a meal for a group of airmen and their families. Some were just returning from tours of duty overseas and others were preparing to leave. Several of the chefs shared stories of family members in the military and, overall, it seemed to be a moving challenge for everyone involved.
The kitchen offered limited ingredients and equipment, challenging the chefs to make the best of what they had and create a special meal for the service men and women and their families. Most of them succeeded, but of course, there were a few stumbles. Here are a few of our thoughts on the episode:
- Potatoes! The quickfire challenge presented the chefs with every kind of potato imaginable and set them loose to make something wonderful. We love to see simple vegetables shine, so we really enjoyed this challenge. According to Peel, it was Jennifer who "found the true essence of the potato" with her Steamed Mussels, Yukon Gold and Blue Potatoes with Lemonrass Potato Sauce. Mmm.
- Risotto is not a rice. It is a style of cooking. OKAY, AMERICA?? Michael I. insisted that risotto can, in fact, be made with potatoes. Unfortunately, his was a disappointment. Or maybe he didn't win because of "favoritism" (from a guest judge who just met everyone). Whatever, whatever.
- O Tournant! My Tournant! In preparation for their Air Force challenge, the chefs decided to pair up in teams. If we heard correctly, they elected Jennifer as their "tournant." We assumed the term meant executive chef, which seemed to be the role she served, but it's actually lower on the kitchen hierarchy and means relief cook, or someone who can work any station. Regardless of her title, she ran the kitchen very well and has emerged as one of the clear front runners.
- Hail to the Pork Brothers. The Michaels paired up to turn slab bacon into a braised pork belly dish. Unfortunately, Michael I. got sidetracked with a Greek shrimp salad dish that landed him in both the top and the bottom groups. Ouch. Michael V. on the other hand, walked away with the big win. Kevin and Eli's Southern-style braised pork with potato salad was also a big hit.
- Pasta salad? Really? Look, we love a good pasta salad. But when we think of Top Chef and a special meal, it's not really what comes to mind. And, as we all know, it tends to get mushier the longer it sits. Preeti and Laurine took a gamble on this dish, and lost. Preeti defended her dish, but ultimately packed her knives and left.
What did you think of the episode?