“Top Chef: California” recap (13.6): Fish Tacos

Previously on Top Chef: I pretended I was Chrissy Teigen while Padma flirted with her/me, got emotional when Padma married 25 same-sex couples (while wearing an amazingly gorgeous suit), hoped really hard for Bunhead’s elimination, was terrified Karen was going to get sent home, and relieved when she didn’t. It was a wild ride, y’all.

This week’s episode picks up immediately post-elimination. Karen admits that she dodged a bullet, and everyone tells Bunhead he’s an idiot. Quality content, basically. The next day, the chefs head to San Diego! It turns out Beardy is from San Diego, so he’s nervous about letting his city down. The chefs meet Padma and Chef Javier Plascencia down by the water for their Quickfire Challenge.

The chefs have 20 minutes to create the best damn fish taco they can because this is a Sudden Death Quickfire, and the worst taco will be up for elimination. (Insert obligatory fish taco joke.) At the end of 20 minutes, Angelina just barely finishes plating… on her cutting board. She has nothing on her plates. Oh, honey.

The top tacos (hah) belong to Karen, Beardy, and Kwame. Beardy wins, so he feels pretty validated right now. Bunhead gets super meow-y about not being in the top. I am 1000% percent done with him. Dear Bravo, please make it stop. Anyway, Angelina is obviously up for elimination because the judges couldn’t taste her food. She chooses Wesley to cook against.

Angelina and Wesley have 20 minutes to create a dish using only the ingredients from a Caesar salad. There is a lot of heckling in this battle, I’ve got to say. Wesley looks super unfocused, so there’s a chance Angelina will slip through again. The judges taste both dishes – Wesley wins, so Angelina is eliminated. It’s sad because she seemed sweet, but it was probably her time to go.

After the chefs say goodbye to Angelina, Padma welcomes Tom and some of the other usual suspects—Blaze and Emeril. Padma congratulates the chefs on making it to the halfway point of the competition, and Emeril passes out beers! Looks like a fun day on the pier, right? But Karen (and probably everyone watching because we’ve all seen Top Chef before) has a feeling this beer represents more than a celebration.

She’s right! It turns out that the judges collaborated on these particular beers with Stone and Ballast Point Brewing Companies, and the chefs’ Elimination Challenge is to create a dish that captures the flavors in their judge’s specialty beer.

Honestly, he makes it too easy.

The judges describe the flavors they used to brew their specialty beers.

Padma’s beer: jalapeno, ginger, and tamarind

Blaze’s beer: beets, chocolate, and ras el hanout (North African spice blend)

Emeril’s beer: coffee, cayenne, and tangerine

Tom’s beer: lemon, coriander, and banana

10/10 I think I would prefer Padma’s beer over all the others.

Anyway, the chefs will shop today and then have two hours of prep/cook time at Blaze’s restaurant before serving the judges tomorrow. Whole Foods goes the same as it usually does—EXCEPT there’s a very cute girl working at the seafood counter.

Oh hai!

That evening, Emeril visits the chefs. He brings a lot of wine, so I’m not sure if he wants to hear their deepest, darkest secrets or give them wine-hangovers in an attempt to sabotage the challenge. Could go either way. He asks them about how the competition is going, and the overall consensus is: hard.

The next day the chefs get to Blaze’s restaurant and start cooking. Wesley is knocking shit over, as per usual. He’s nervous because he’s at Blaze’s spot and he’s pairing food with Blaze’s beer (which is full of flavors he doesn’t usually use) and he just became Executive Chef at Blaze’s restaurant in Atlanta. Seems like it could be a recipe for disaster.

The judges arrive at the restaurant along with a couple of other guys—one from each of the breweries—ready to taste the food. The dishes inspired by Padma’s beer are up first. The judges all really like both Beardy’s roasted opah and Amar’s sous-vide chicken (with jalapeno popper).

Next up is Blaze’s beer. Karen’s duck is totally a hit (woo!), but Wesley’s lamb is dry, and his beet puree is just kind of meh. Baldy’s duck is good, but it sounds like Karen’s was better.

Emeril’s beer is the next course. Marjorie’s dish is really delicious, but the judges aren’t getting the beer flavor out of it. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Boston Carl’s short rib matches the beer a little too closely. Bunhead’s dish is, unfortunately, pretty good.

Last but not least, the chefs with Tom’s beer serve their dishes. Cajun’s dish is okay, but there are few simple things that would’ve made it better. The judges are really impressed by Kwame’s chicken mojo but do not like Jason’s squid meatballs very much.

At Judges’ Table, Karen, Amar, and Kwame come out on top. The judges loved the assertive flavors of Amar’s dish, could not get enough of Karen’s beet sauce, and appreciated how Kwame showcased banana. Karen is the winner! Yeah, girl—get it!

Go Karen! (Also, this screenshot looks like a Renaissance painting, and I love it.)

On the bottom for this challenge: Jason, Cajun, and Wesley. Cajun’s dish felt disconnected and also, he didn’t execute his velouté well. Wesley’s plate was messy, and his lamb was overcooked. Jason’s dish was just plain bizarre, and the squid tentacles were slimy. In the end, the judges send Wesley home, which means he’s up against Angelina again in Last Chance Kitchen.

Next week on Top Chef: Did I spy Chef Mei?! I sure hope so!