Top Chef 3 Miami: Episode 10 - Howie Heads Home
Episode 310: “Chef Overboard”
Quickfire Challenge: Brian
Disclaimer: the author of this article has taken great license on the captions.
This week’s quickfire challenge featured local chef and restaurant owner Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink, located in Miami’s trendy design district.
“Looking good and making the most of what you have is what Miami is really all about.” Oh really, Padma? Is that why you’re wearing someone’s high school band uniform?
Padma continued this line of serious intellectual inquiry when she asked chef Schwartz: “What are things to consider about this town when your serving food here?” To which Michael gave a profound reply: “I think it’s gotta be fabulous. It’s gotta look great and it’s gotta taste great.” Wow! Miami is so special!
The rules of this quickfire challenge were simple. The chefs needed to use all their skills and creativity to make the most of what they had, which was barely nothing! Each chef had 10 minutes and $10 to shop for items from one supermarket aisle followed by 20 minutes cooking time using a limited number of additional ingredients from the pantry. Adding to the challenge was the fact that they shopped at a run-of-the-mill grocery instead of Fresh Market.
Hung was like a kid at a candy store with his weird crushed fruit-loops creation. CJ tried to make a curried potato risotto but added too much salt instead of sugar. Oops!
The real shocker was Howie’s decision to dump his mandarin orange sauce and present an empty plate. He had nothing to show and everyone, including judge Schwartz, seemed to think it was a cop-out. Howie was the first chef in the show’s history to completely fail a quickfire challenge.
Brian did good with his down-home Spam dish considering that chef Schwartz had never used or eaten this classic canned meat product. Schwartz claimed: “I’m a SPAM believer!” He told Brian the dish could’ve been served at any Miami restaurant. Oh really? How about a greasy spoon on South Beach? Actually, Brian’s sautéed spam, corned beef hash, fried eggs and onions would definitely hit the spot after a night of clubbing!
This episode’s elimination challenge involved catering a frou-frou chi-chi party with Miami fashion designer Esteban Cortazar and 60 of Miami’s supposedly most beautiful people. (Hey, I wasn’t invited, make that 59 of Miami’s hotties!) The chefs had to impress guests with fabulous hors d’oeuvres relying on a relatively frugal budget of $350 ($50 per chef).
That night at the Top Chef residence, the chefs gathered to decide what they’d cook. Brian’s quickfire win had given him the advantage of choosing an executive chef, so he picked himself. The leader delegated but also listened to everyone’s opinion.
Everyone, including Brian, was individually responsible for at least one dish, except for Howie, who decided he wanted to prepare two since he had failed miserably in the quickfire challenge. In addition, Sara and Casey formed a team to prepare a sweet canapé; Hung and Dale joined forces for a savory offering.
Just as Brian predicted, shopping on such a slim budget was tough. Howie went way over-budget. Also, Dale had to substitute his goat cheese for yogurt just to save $11.
After shopping, the chefs headed to the party, which much to their surprise, was taking place aboard a yacht docked at Miami’s Bayside Marina. Padma—master of stating the obvious— told them they’d be working in tight quarters. ORLLY? Well, CJ wondered if he’d even fit in the galley. And Brian was hoping everyone would keep their lunch down in a rocking boat.
Here’s a breakdown of the cocktail party menu:
Dale – profiteroles stuffed with yogurt
Everything seemed to flow well in the galley with Brian at the helm. CJ said Brian was giving everyone room to shine. Even Howie was making an extra effort to be a team player.
Before service, the chefs were introduced to another guest judge, Dana Corwin, editor in chief of Food and Wine Magazine, whom Dale described as one of the most powerful and influential women in food writing today.
First mistake: Brian announced that food was served early on while guests were arriving and grabbing cocktails. All those beautiful Miami people swarmed down on the appetizers like turkey vultures on a fresh carcass! Before Howie could even wipe his sweaty head, they needed another round of hors d’oeuvres topside.
Casey’s carpaccio was a big hit! Esteban loved it and judge Corwin thought she succeeded with five different elements in such a tiny spoonful: beef carpaccio with watercress, lemon aioli and fried caper in a shitake broth. Sara’s savory tomato bread pudding and CJ’s scallop and shrimp sausage also got points for taste and looks.
Howie’s performance was disastrous. Judge Schwartz said his prosciutto and asparagus cigars were “really f**king ugly and greasy.” And according to Hung, Howie’s mushroom tartlettes looked like “dog diarrhea.” Also, Sara and Casey’s dessert didn’t even make it past the galley. They brought chocolate mousse mix but it turned out like watery pudding. Brian and the chefs made a unanimous decision to toss it overboard. And finally, Dale’s yogurt puffs were runny instead of creamy.
At judge’s table, Schwartz was underwhelmed; most of the food was “flat” and lacked “pop.” (I just love that this judge either curses like a sailor or talks like a three-year old with one-syllable words!)
Hung got the third degree from Colicchio for putting out a dated canapé. Apparently, salmon mousse on cucumber is very 80s. Corwin literally cringed at Hung’s decision to serve an old, tacky appetizer. She was also disappointed that so many hors d’oeuvres came out on bread.
As for Brian, Colicchio was wondering why he didn’t “edit” the whole process a lot better. He told Brian he couldn’t have it both ways. Leaders can’t flounder and stand by a decision that goes well while walking away from one that doesn’t.
The Biggest Loser
Guess who? Howie got slammed thrice: Colicchio thought it was ridiculous to call food cigars and Corwin concluded his mushroom duxelle tasted like mud. Schwartz just laid it out on the table: “At the quickfire challenge it was all about integrity and not putting out food you aren’t proud of and yet today you put out that crap.”
In a real twist, Howie rose to the occasion, offering to put his head on chopping block instead of seeing Brian go home, which seems very honorable and gracious, doesn’t it? But I think this decision was Howie’s way of saving face knowing he was going to fall flat on his ass and not just some altruistic gesture toward Brian.
(It’s not the first time someone asked for the boot on Top Chef. Remember season two, when Mia offered to pack her knives for Elia’s sake? That drama seemed a lot more genuine.)
Howie failed to produce anything in the quickfire challenge and then offered to walk away from the heat during the elimination round. Back in the holding pen, he told the chefs he wanted to take control of his own destiny.
For pete’s sake, Howie! Seems to me like you were avoiding confrontation with destiny. Besides, it’s just a competition, not your career. Roll with the punches!
Well, it was too late. Even though chefs can’t withdraw themselves from competition, Howie still got the boot!
I met Howie at the Miami Top Chef opening party on Miami Beach. He seemed sincere in his integrity about his craft, which we’ve all witnessed on the show. I’ve no doubt Howie’s going to keep cooking hard and well, just obviously not in this competition!
So let that be a lesson to all of us: what you see on Top Chef is completely irrelevant to the day-to-day life of chefs. It’s just a SHOW, people. Competition is the driving force here. None of the chefs should EVER take the judge’s decisions personally as a reflection of their life’s work.
Here’s what Howie had to say at the end of the episode:
“I think I let this competition put me in the mindset of making everybody my enemy but the reality of being a chef is that cooking is a team sport. Today for the first time I felt like we really were a team. I don’t have any regrets. I stand by my decision. No matter what happens, I am a good chef and all anybody has to do to know that is to come and taste my food.”
Howie, we’d love to taste your food. Where exactly are you cooking these days? When I spoke to you last June, you were still a chef without a home. I hope you found one! Click here to see Howie’s exit interview.
The Smallest Winner
Look at that! I almost forgot to mention the winner. Doesn’t it seem like Top Chef always focuses more on why someone lost rather than why someone won?
Anyway, this time it was Casey’s turn to smile, thanks to her universally appealing hors d’oeuvre, budget savvy and the decision to 86 the dessert.
She had the same amount of money as everyone else and made no excuses. I’ve enjoyed Casey’s no-nonsense approach to the cooking so far; actually, both Sara and Casey are strong contenders in the “just shut up and cook” department. I hope these two make it to the finals!
This lucky chef also won a 17” Apple Mac Book pro – now there’s a blatant corporate plug I don’t mind! Way to go, Casey!
NEXT COURSE: EPISODE 11: The chefs roll out of bed and into their quickfire challenge in the 11th episode of “Top Chef 3 Miami.” Blenders are required for that competitive edge. Then, the chefs “take-off” and join the mile-high meal club. Joining the judges’ table is Jimmy Canora (Continental Congress of Chefs, Chef to the Stars).
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