Top Chef Episode 12- Culinary Olympics

top_chef_tvThis was the final week in Las Vegas for the chefs before they head off to Napa for the finals of Top Chef. They had one of their toughest challenges creating Bocuse d’Or presentation platters for Thomas Keller and an impressive panel of guest judges. Dishes, details, and results after the jump.


Create a riff on Gavin Kaysen’s Ballotine from the 2007 Bocuse d’Or. (A protein inside a protein, inside a protein)

Guest Judge – Gavin Kaysen

Prize – 30 additional minutes in the Elimination Challenge

  • This week’s episode began with the chef’s reflecting back on their time in Vegas with all the sentimentality and schmaltz of a high school graduation.
  • Bocuse d’Or is perhaps the most prestigious culinary contest in the world. ( Aside from Iron Chef, of course) And the chefs were challenged to create their version of Chef Kaysen’s entry in the 2007 contest.
  • Bryan’s ballotine consisted of a Rack of Lamb and Merguez Wrapped in Caul Fat. Kaysen acknowledged the risk in cooking a rack of lamb in such little time, and thought it was a successful risk.
  • Mike wasn’t as much of a hit as his brother with his “Poultry Terrine”-Chicken with Turkey and Bacon Mousseline. Kaysen thought it was a terrine and not a ballotine (which it was) and Mike claimed that the challenge was not to cook a ballotine (technically it wasn’t).
  • Kevin tried to stick to his homey roots as much as possible with Cornmeal Fried Filet of Catfish with Scallop and Shrimp. Kaysen thought it was a bit dry, while Kevin respectfully disagreed.
  • Eli came through with a brunch-ready Bacon Crusted Breakfast Sausage with a Six-Minute Egg Center.
  • Jennifer Carroll has been disappearing in recent weeks, but she was back in all her seafood glory for this challenge. She won with a Calamari Steak, Scallops, Salmon, Shiitake, with Rice Noodle Salad. She was awarded a very valuable half hour added to her cooking time in the elimination challenge.


Top Chef Bocuse d’Or

Guest Judges: Thomas Keller, Jerome Bocuse, Daniel Boulud, Gavin Kaysen, Timothy Hollingsworth, Alex Stratta, and Traci Des Jardins.

Prize: $30,000 and a spot on the 2011 USA Bocuse d’Or team.

  • Culinary demigod Thomas Keller came in to scare/inform the chefs about their next challenge of participating in a Top Chef version of Bocuse d’Or.
  • They must create one protein, either lamb or Atlantic salmon, with two intricate, detailed, and well executed garnishes to be served on the fancy Bocuse d’Or mirrored platters.
  • The Dishes
    • Bryan- Crusted Lamb Loin, Lamb Shank Crepinette and Orzo Au Gratin. The lamb was undercooked, but the judges believed the concept of the dish would work very well if given more time to prepare.
    • Mike-Salmon with Cauliflower Chickpea Tart and Zucchini Tzatziki. The judges jumped on Mike for labeling the dish “Mediterranean”. Mike also commits a cardinal sin of Bocuse d’Or by missing a bone in of his salmon filets. This was probably his worst showing of the season.
    • Jenn- Salmon and Caviar, Shrimp Flan and Truffle, Celery Root and Shiitake. The judges didn’t connect with Jenn’s unilateral salmon. She cooked it on one side to create escalating degrees of temperature. Despite the uneven cooking, the judges noted that the dish had great flavor.
    • Winner: Kevin- Kevin continues to excel with a very unKevin-like Poached Lamb Loin, Sherry Glazed Beet and Asparagus in Sunchoke Cream. They did say it was a bit safe, but very flavorful.
    • Missing the Superfecta: Eli- His Sausage Wrapped Lamb Loin, Carrot Puree, and Tomato-Piquillo Canape was undercooked to the point of near inedibility. It was a very noble run for the youngest chef this season.


-A lot of Iron Chef ties in this episode of Top Chef. Gavin Kaysen and Traci Des Jardins were contestants on the first Next Iron Chef. Alex Stratta was Iron Chef Italian on the unwatchable Iron Chef USA on UPN.

-Gavin Kaysen came in 14th in the 2007 Bocuse d’Or, behind that culinary powerhouse-Iceland. A dishwasher ate two chicken wings he had saved for his garnishes. Seriously.

-How does food stay warm on those mirrors?

– The eliminations up to this point have been predictable. We have one elimination left and Kevin and Bryan look like a lock for the meal-of-your-life dinner. Hopefully this week’s win and the break from taping will refresh Jenn enough to join them.

Burning Questions

-Is Thomas Keller still the best “pound for pound” chef in America? Is he being challenged by the likes of David Chang and Grant Achatz? Dan Barber? Great debate material for food nerds.

-Which Volt brother will go home first, Mike or Bryan?

-Can anyone top Kevin?