Top Chef: Pitch Perfect
May 2, 2020 8:30 PM - Season 17, Episode 7 - Subscribe

A Last Chance Kitchen winner re-enters the competition, Danny Trejo drops by, and the chefs must pitch a concept for the upcoming Restaurant Wars.

Tough loss. Eric seems to have these occasional surprising breakdowns under pressure. But honestly surprised that Lee Anne (of whom I'm a fan) continues to skate by--I guess her occasional flashes of top-ness in the Quickfire are saving her.

Can someone sedate Malarkey, please?
posted by praemunire (13 comments total)
Man I'm sad Eric left, his food looks so amazing. I can see why he left though in this challenge, but it's tough.
posted by Carillon at 8:43 PM on May 2, 2020 [1 favorite]

I think it'd be great to have more African diaspora restaurants, and Eric's food generally looks appealing, but I have to admit I would hesitate to eat at a restaurant named "Middle Passage." That's a hell of a depressing concept to invoke as a backdrop to a fun night out.
posted by praemunire at 12:06 AM on May 3, 2020 [5 favorites]

I went through 3/4ths of the episode thinking they weren't sending anyone home. I thought they were just using this to select the restaurant concepts. That made me all the sadder when Eric went home. He has made some of the top dishes this season. It was never clear to me HOW he got so far into the weeds either.
posted by tofu_crouton at 6:54 AM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

Really, truly wanted to see Eric make it to the end--and was desperate to have seen his finale meal last year--but woo boy did I feel he took the wrong approach with his concept here. A color which evokes shackles? Pretty heavy for casual dining, and this is coming from someone who deeply appreciates the broadening of cuisine that he has brought to the show (c'mon fufu representation!). Haven't been keeping up with LCK but hoping he pops back up on the show proper.

Malarkey!!!!!! Sedation indeed. Oh my god YES kanata that whole Millennial thing was incredibly annoying! Very try-hard and outdated to boot; reminded me of the kind of place a basic Tinder bro who thinks himself an in-the-know "foodie" would take you. Bleh. All too slick, but I suppose that was the challenge.

I'm guessing Kevin and Gregory will each be head chefs: running the kitchen but the others will still create their own dish which align with the winning concepts?
posted by youarenothere at 9:37 AM on May 3, 2020 [3 favorites]

I got the concept of fine dining in a casual setting.

I'd go so far as to say that it's one of the major trends of twenty-first-century dining, starting with, e.g., restaurants like Momofuku Ssam, to the point that even the average "formal" restaurant opened nowadays is considerably more casual than it would've been in 1995. But then you still do have to find a way to pitch it, in the music-analogy rather than the marketing sense. How does your restaurant differ in tone from what we would now call a fast-casual place, such that people are willing to spend more than fast-casual money on it? Ssam, for instance, sold itself as a "cooks after work" place, with a casually sophisticated intensity and unconventionality. Eric didn't seem to have fully worked that out, and unfortunately drew attention to that with that "casual...yet formal" line that gave the judges something to focus on.
posted by praemunire at 1:25 PM on May 3, 2020

(I'm puzzled about who's cooking what next week, too. If the chefs are all assigned dishes, as opposed to working out their own proposal that fits with the pitch with the "executive chef," that really seems to limit their scope in an unfair way.)
posted by praemunire at 1:27 PM on May 3, 2020

I have to admit I would hesitate to eat at a restaurant named "Middle Passage."

Same. But the kind of food he wants to serve and the story he wants to tell are very worthy ideas I would love to see executed. At the end of last season we were talking about if Eric's food can be judged fairly by the mostly white judges on this show. Then too he was struggling with execution.

As soon as they explained the pitch concept I knew we would be stuck with fuckin Malarkey for another episode. UGH.

SO happy to see Melissa doing so well! Wow. It makes me want to see her season again. I remember her being right at the top with Mei and Gregory but I don't think I was surprised that she was not in the top 2. Either I don't remember or she has grown a lot. Also, she is just always smiling and working away with quiet confidence. That doesn't make great TV I guess but I appreciate seeing it.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:18 PM on May 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

I really like that they split Restaurant Wars into more than one episode. It's always the highlight of Top Chef, the chance for folks to really execute from beginning to end. Just too much to do! Splitting planning and execution is great.

Sad about Eric too but can't disagree with the decision this time.

That Danny Trejo appearance was.. oof. I guess the fact he's got a taco business legitimizes him being there but boy it was awkward.
posted by Nelson at 7:14 AM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

I loved the idea of a pitch challenge (with food) for pre-Restaurant Wars, but it's going to be very interesting next episode. Usually it seems like RW themes tend to be like "Modern American" or "Vaguely Asian" or maybe "Approximately Mediterranean" because that's all the common ground the chefs can come to. These have two very specific points of view, which will be on one hand more interesting but on the other hand, Gregory is now in charge of leading three others in cooking wood fired Haitian food, while Kevin has the much easier task of family style Southern, which is a lot closer to the average chef's wheelhouse.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:10 PM on May 4, 2020

I'm expecting a lot more opportunities for finger pointing. "Well how am I supposed to execute Haitian food? whaaaaaaaa"
posted by tofu_crouton at 8:53 AM on May 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

This post has inspired me to make my own Haitian dinner this week. Because I don't know a better Haitian source I'm planning to use the NYT's recipe for griot and for pikliz. May take a second pass looking for Haitian sources; I look at "one scotch bonnet" for three pounds of meat with suspicion.
posted by Nelson at 10:36 AM on May 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Nelson, please update us after the fact!!
posted by youarenothere at 2:46 PM on May 8, 2020

Well, since you asked blush. The griot and pickliz worked out great! If you're curious to try, the recipes I linked above are pretty simple. Humble even, far removed from the fine dining menus that Gregory has been making. But with complex spices and a nice mix of flavors. Totally achievable for a home cook.

I'm always reticent to cook something I've never tasted before. But the griot is kind of like carnitas and the pickliz are a variant of a vinegar coleslaw, so with that as a guide it wasn't too hard to stumble through. I ended up looking at about 10 different griot recipes online, concerned about the NYT's authenticity. There's a lot of variety. Particularly in whether you add water to the pot before braising the meat (NYT doesn't). Whether you use the braising liquid as a sauce (NYT does). And the NYT's decision to broil instead of fry, which drew criticism in the NYT comments (other recipes broil too). We ended up adding just a little water, and making a sauce, and frying instead of broiling.

The meat came out great. Glad we fried; the key here is you want very crisp tasty little bits on the corners of the meat. (One thing another recipe pointed out; this thing where you cook the meat first, then brown it, is apparently a common technique in Caribbean food). We made a mistake trimming too much fat from the pork before cooking; you definitely want some fat in the meat, fried bits of fat for the crunch and richness.

The marinade flavor comes through loud and strong, particularly the orange. I learned in my reading that Haitian cuisine often features sour oranges; the NYT recipe substitutes a mix of orange, lime, and lemon. Lots of good flavors in the marinade, and just a whisper of heat. I'm glad we turned it into a sauce at the end.

The pickliz were fantastic. I love all things pickled but usually don't make this kind of vinegar pickle. So glad I did! Crunchy, slightly sweet from the carrots. And a very pleasant heat that is carried entirely in the vinegar, a slow burn. Took forever to chop everything but I'm glad I made a giant jar because I'm gonna eat the hell out of it this next week. Great compliment to a fatty pork dish, too.

Anyway now I have a new appreciation for Haitian cuisine and I'm grateful to Gregory Gourdet, his mom, and Top Chef for inspiring me to try making a bit. I'm really interested to try his food now, to see these flavors applied to a fine dining setting with more refined food. Imagine something handled delicately with French sauce techniques but using thyme, cloves, sour orange juice, and habanero chiles as flavors. I want to go that restaurant.
posted by Nelson at 7:38 AM on May 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

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