Top Chef 3 Miami: Episode 1 - No Southern Comfort For Clay
Episode 301: “First Impressions”
Quickfire Challenge: Micah
BEST OF EPISODE 301
Best Ego Trip
Best Padma Lakshmi “Oh Really?” Line
Best Miami Out-Take
Best Potty Mouth With The Most Bleeps
Best Thing That Makes You Go Hmm?
QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE: THE HAM WINS
Top Chef 3: Miami Episode 301 opened with cliché beach scenes that included one too many butts in bikinis. When will people realize Miami is not all butts in bikinis? Isn’t this a cooking show? Bravo producers, call me!
The gang of 15 arrived full of smiles at Versace’s Casa Casuarina for a meet-and-greet where they were treated to a sumptuous spread of appetizers and flowing champagne. Much to everyone’s “act surprised while the camera is rolling” amazement, host Padma Lakshmi and judge Tom Colicchio joined the party to present them with their first quickfire challenge: 10 minutes to prepare and plate an amuse-bouche with ingredients from the spread. The catch: each dainty morsel had to represent each chef’s personality.
Sandee struggled while slicing a kumquat with a plastic knife and Howie wondered how the women would manage since they were wearing high heels. Things did not bode well for Clay, who prepared a supersize me fruit gazpacho—a mac truck in a world of Lexus sensibilities. “Hell, I’m from Mississippi! Pick it up and eat that son of a bitch,” he later boasted. That kind of Southern bravado didn’t work for judge Colicchio. Instead, he awarded Micah for her Tuscan Sushi Revisited—Italian Ham with Figs and Balsamic Dressing. Her expertise in catering gave her a strategic advantage: she knew everyone would go for the oysters, so she went for the ham. Good call, Micah!
ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: BOURDAIN’S DISDAIN
The elimination challenge consisted of an exotic proteins surf and turf cook-off, which featured weird meats such as sea urchin, rattlesnake, black chicken, wild boar, abalone, eel, alligator, kangaroo, geoduck, frog and if I remembered what else I’d really have to gulp an alka-seltzer! But the weirdest meat of all was the guest judge Anthony Bourdain—chef, author and gastronomic thrill seeker whose gut has probably stomached the strangest edibles on the planet—even live monkey brains—according to Howie.
Chef on a Hot Tin Stove
Luckily monkey brains weren’t on the menu but Bourdain sure did chew up po’ boy Clay. Clay’s performance had all the elements of a Southern drama. The self-proclaimed “dark horse” of Southern cooking is the son of a chef who had taken his life because the business got the better of him. Clay nervously sweated his way through an elimination challenge only to produce “inedible” wild boar chops. Bourdain had no mercy for Clay’s dish: “It’s kind of like a home-cooking thing but a home I wouldn’t want to live in.” Ouch!
Adding to the kitchen drama was Howie’s “frog leg malfunction,” which involved a split-second delay from the fryer to the plate. Howie was saved by a sea urchin and chatarelle risotto, as well as a heaping portion of butt-kissing. After Bourdain complained about Howie’s inefficiency, the former referred to the latter’s book, The Nasty Bits. Bourdain had praised Ecuadorian line cooks “who give it to you when it’s right” and so he had to eat his words. Touché Howie! Hearing the words “you son of a bitch!” from Bourdain must’ve felt like a pat on the back.
So who would leave? Inedible wild boar chop or missing frog leg?
On his blog, Colicchio explained why Clay had to pack his knives and go: “The challenge included an odd bunch of ingredients; however, it was about cooking, not how bizarre the food is. The choice of who to eliminate came down to Howie and Clay. Before we made our decision we checked the challenge rules, which showed us that we had enough latitude to keep Howie. Let’s be honest, the food he gave us was still much better than the dish Clay served despite Clay’s using both ingredients.”
We wish you the best of luck Clay! Keep on cooking. Surely, you’ve already made your daddy proud. Click here to hear his parting words.
Love Your Food, Bro!
Far less dramatic was the battle of equals between top challenge finalists Tre and Hung; both were strong contenders. Hung came close with a tasty yet colorless Black Chicken and Geoduck, but Tre’s Ostrich and Abalone combination won on all counts of color, flavor, balance and texture. In a never-before-seen moment at judge’s table, the winner actually praised the runner-up; Tre seemed to swoon over Hung’s sauce! Let’s see if such polite, professional admiration continues through the rest of the competition!
Congratulations to Tre for an ostrich medium-rare and a job well done. Click here to learn how to cook his winning recipe from Lee Anne Wong, just in case Anthony Bourdain should stop by your house for dinner. And if he does, let me know when. I’ll bring a salad and won’t utter a word. Cook’s tip: give your risotto some love!
SIDE DISH - GATOR BITES
Alligator is actually not quite such an “exotic protein” in Florida since the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission lifted the ban on hunting in 1989, a year after the reptiles were taken off the endangered species list. Just last week, on Tuesday, June 14, the Commission put 4,500 hunting licenses up for sale. An estimated 2 million alligators roam the State of Florida to date, not including those raised in farms that harvest the animal for meat and hide.
Sources: AP via Sun-Sentinel and The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The only time I’ve ever tried alligator was as fried appetizer at Billy’s Stone Crabs in Hollywood, Florida. The meat was juicy, tender and surprisingly, it didn’t taste like chicken. Micheal Pancier, a dedicated avian photographer who has spent much time in the wilds of Florida capturing birds, flowers and other wildlife on film, concurs on taste but not texture. The gator nuggets he had at Joanie’s Blue Crab Café in Everglades City tasted “simply like fried something ... perhaps fried sole and I don’t mean the fish, I mean the shoe. It was tasty though, especially with a cold beer.”
What were your thoughts about the first episode? Did you agree with who the judges eliminated? What’s the weirdest meat you’ve ever eaten? Share with us in the comments below.
NEXT COURSE: With one down and 14 more to go, who will pack up their knives in round two?
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