Top Chef 3 Miami: Episode 5 - Lia Gets A Licking
Episode 305: “Latin Lunch”
Quickfire Challenge: Joey
QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE: YOU BRING OUT THE TART IN ME
Maria Frumkin, Chef and Owner of the French Bakery Café and Duo Restaurant in Miami, served as guest judge for this week’s episode, which was all about timing. After last week’s dessert debacle, 11 remaining chefs had to dish out nothing short of a miracle with the greatest thing since sliced bread: frozen pie crust! Naturally, Dale had only one reaction: “After being raked over the coals for choosing to do pastry ... my immediate response was f**k you!”
During a frenzied 90 minutes, the chefs prepared a variety of savory and sweet tarts. Dale tried to compensate for his previous failure with a strawberry and saffron tart, which I thought could be a very tasty if unusual combination, but Frumkin voted Dale’s dish one of her least favorite. Tre got all girly, Hello Kitty style. His Apple Tartine was decorated with stars and triangles, which Padma thought was so pretty! Sarah M’s cheese tart was exceptional, according to Frumkin, and it should’ve been, the girl knows her cheese. Joey’s dish won with a trio of tarts: cherry and balsamic, roasted mango purée with rum and warm apple compote.
Is Joey a big fat liar or a sneaky strategist? Earlier in the episode he told the camera he had a little experience with pastry and that he didn’t want to let anyone know because he feared sabotage. Yet he told Frumkin: “I’m not a pastry chef. I know very little about desserts. So I tried my best.” Oh, please. This aint the race track! Cut the handicap crap.
ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: ARROZ CON QUE?
Padma told the chefs they would be cooking for “time is money” people—the cast of Telemundo’s soap opera Dame Chocolate (Give Me Chocolate) and other local Telemundo celebrities, including José Diaz-Balart and Maria Celeste. The chefs were promised three hours to cook, but Tom Colicchio threw them a major curve ball by cutting prep and cooking time in half! The kitchen became bedlam! “I never ran so much in my life,” Sarah M said. Somehow, the chefs managed to adapt, improvise and pack their Gladware for an outdoor buffet, but you could tell how annoyed they were with Colicchio when he did his rounds in the kitchen.
Do you remember when Dan Quayle said Latin was spoken in Latin America? I couldn’t help thinking about Dan’s foot-in-mouth moment when Texan chef Casey started talking about how she knew Latin flavor because she lived closed to the border. Hello? How many countries and even more regional cultures make up the Caribbean, Central and South America? Mole is typically Mexican and Central American, but there are places in the continent that have never heard of mole. I blame Top Chef for taking an Epcot-style approach and not being specific enough about what kind of Latin food they expected; they surely wouldn’t have lump Europe together and call it European, would they?
Lunch was served buffet-style on location at the set of the telenovela on Star Island. You’d think that the cast members of an over-the-top drama based on lust and intrigue could’ve come up with a few choice words, but their comments were about as thrilling as tap water.
In the loser’s corner this week stood Hung who could sweet talk in Spanish but couldn’t fool the judges with his dry arroz con pollo (rice with chicken—for real). The fact that he nearly stabbed Casey to death and that he acted like an arrogant brat also failed to impress the judges. Sarah N’s “chips and dip” avocado ceviche was too much guacamole and not enough seafood; Casey’s rice turned out like mush, her chicken was too dry and her coffee and molasses glaze tasted like cough syrup; and finally, poor Lia, whose Smoked Trout and Polenta Cake was so badly prepared and off the mark, it was painful to even look at—which is a shame, because even though polenta isn’t Latin, polenta-style dishes made from cornmeal are common in Cuba! She could’ve made a tamal en cazuela (cornmeal casserole) with ham and chorizo and hit a bull’s eye, sí señor!
“I’m sad to leave. I mean, I’m embarrased to be leaving this early because I know I’m a much better cook than that,” Lia said. “So, I’m frustrated with myself.” Carry on, Lia! You will be missed on the show, but now you can do what you love most in real life. Click here to watch Lia’s exit interview.
Only two finalists left judge’s table smiling. Unanimous praise was bestowed on Joey’s Bean Stew with Lobster, Shrimp, Chicken and Chorizo, which clearly harkens to a Spanish tradition—basically a paella without the rice. Yum!
Howie broke a real sweat over his dish but was rewarded with some love from Latin food lovers with his classic Cuban dish, Braised Roast Pork with Yucca and Sour Orange Mojo. Congratulations, Howie!
SIDE DISH: DON’T BE SO CORNY
Today’s Italian polenta is made from corn, which Christopher Columbus introduced to the Old World when he returned from his first exploratory voyage in 1492. Polenta used to be considered a poor man’s meal, much like the Cuban or Mexican tamale. Other foodstuffs that we associate with Italy, such as the tomato, also came from native America.
Bonus: check out my previously published mojo recipe (scroll down to the end of the post). Howie’s red onions aren’t a bad idea; they add flavor and color. I would sautée them until caramelized.
NEXT COURSE: Don’t miss the hour-long special on Bravo Wednesday, July 25. Pundit Andy Cohen hosts a reunion of past and present chefs, including winners Harold Dieterle and Ilan Hall. Regular Top Chef competition episodes return the following week.
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