home Archive Top Chef: Chicago, Episode 4 – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Wasabi Sauce

Top Chef: Chicago, Episode 4 – Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Wasabi Sauce

Andrew then goes into a ridiculous Oompa Loompa tangent that I choose to ignore, except to quote Dale as saying that dressing up like an “Oompa Loompa midget” is a bit kitschy.

They go to Gallery 37 to cook. There is much preparation and Richard (I think) asks if someone is “on the fish.” Richard then says that taking a leadership role here is scary, “if it’s good it’s me, if not, it’s me.” Nikki calls pasta making her forte. Andrew thinks they will be a hard act to follow. Zoi/Antonia discuss adding more color. Antonia says that if they added more saffron then it would be bright yellow, but taste like saffron. Of course, no one can do well on Top Chef by cooking lots of saffron. Right, Ilan?

Someone has peppers directly on the burner which surprised me. My wife informs me that it is the proper way of roasting a pepper. Something about the skin coming off easier. It still looks strange, but I believe her.

Antonia thinks their flavor is spot on. Richard’s smoker thingy breaks down. Uh oh!

Commercials – a bunch of kids think that grownups have it made. This is from AARP, so, I guess aging means having it made. I would rather have a life where play was my focus rather than work. But that’s just me.

We come back and the judges and guests file in and I must mention that Padma is showing quite a bit of cleavage in that blue dress. Thumbs up!

Andrew says they came up with a new fangled way for the smoke, actually burning a piece of wood to give it the smoky flavor. They manage it right before the timer hits, according to Dale.

Course 1. Richard describes the Willy Wonka theme as “pure imagination.” And they even add a play on the Fizzy Lifting Drink and that if you do float, that burping is the way down. Obviously, Richard is a Grandpa Joe fan.

Despite the odd combination of fish, chocolate and tapioca, the judges love it. Tom says it was surprisingly good. Ted says they did it and made it appropriately delicate as a starter course. Roeper likes how they explained the film connection, especially the drink.

Course 2. Spike thinks they made world class cuisine and is confident, but knows the leader often takes the fall. Ted is surprised that with their budget that they didn’t use lobster in the spring roll. Padma doesn’t see much connection to the film. I hope not because the restaurant gets blown up in that film, Padma. Tom can’t figure out what to do with the Swiss Chard. Padma adds that they wanted to do Vietnamese food and just chose the movie to fit.

Course 3. Nikki wants to transport them to the hillsides of Italy. Tom says it is good, but not great. I think it looks awesome! Ted prefers handmade pasta because of its imperfections. Roeper thinks it fits the film and is better than the experts are giving it credit. Ted clarifies that they are nitpicky for a reason, and I would hope that a film critic would understand that. Some random woman liked it too.

Course 4. Frodo is worried that the spring roll dried up and he and Ryan are adding sauce on the elevator. And other common sentences…

Ryan explains the scene from the film and Frodo adds that “tis the season to be jolly.” No Fa Ra Ra Ra Ras, though. Padma thinks it was delicious. Ted says he has a new favorite dish. Roeper likes how it incorporated a specific scene from one of his favorite films. Padma loves the carrot puree and Aisha tried to get it all off of her plate.

Course 5. Zoi says they are passionate women and this film is about strong females. Antonia talks about the vibrant colors, the reds and greens. And as we see the dish… there is none of that. Daniel points that very thing out. Tom would have preferred a single chop and the cut is too thin. Aisha sees nothing transcendent in this dish.

Course 6. Steph wants to show a balanced dish. Lisa thinks the cow scene was hilarious and can’t think of a cow without thinking of the film. Daniel thought it was very Asian and very well seasoned. Aisha thought it was original and above and beyond what was expected. Another random woman says this is something she couldn’t make at home. Ted jokes that he doesn’t know what this has to do with Val Kilmer in a cow suit.

The judges confer. They do a quick bit on each one. Tom thinks the Wonka team had whimsical fun. Daniel loved it. Ted was impressed that they were able to pull everything off and had the subtlety of a first course. None cared for the Vietnam team. They liked Il Postino, but Tom thought the pasta had too much flour. The Christmas Story team did a nice job bringing the story into the dish and Tom liked the seasoning on the bird. Tom wonders why the Talk To Her team talked about the colors and vibrancy and they didn’t see it. Daniel thought the Top Secret team did a good job and Tom thought they were flawless.

Manuel fears that their dish was too simple and Zoi says everyone loved their dish and said it was delicious, beautiful and simple.

Commercials – I love the Kingsford giant BBQ on the highway. Who needs rest stops!

We are back in the Meat Locker of Worry and they all seem really, really tired and Zoi confirms that. Padma comes in looking wow and calls for the Willy Wonka and Top Secret teams. Spike gives a serious evil eye to that. Padma tells them they are the top teams and Lisa genuinely seems surprised. Steph adds an “awesome dudes” to the Willy Wonka team. Daniel asks who decided to take the huge risk by adding chocolate to salmon. That was Richard. Tom says that it was a strange combination and they were looking for ways not to like it, but couldn’t. They also ask who did the faux caviar. Andrew sheepishly raises his hand. He used tapioca pearls. They loved it. Steph says that it was Lisa’s idea to use the caramel sauce. Ted said it was harmonious and he was worried because the reduction sauce was so delicious, he was afraid it would muck things up. Tom thought the dish was perfect – so we can tell who he voted for! Dan gives the win to the Wonka folks and Richard gets the individual win. His hair almost reminds me of Wonka’s hat. I look forward to his snozberry pudding next week. Richard thinks Willy Wonka would be proud of what they did despite being a fictional character.

Meanwhile in the Locker, Spike breaks out the earmuffs. Nikki thinks that Richard is lightyears from the way she cooks. This makes me sad for her, because he is really good. Spike guarantees that those flavors didn’t go together and Jen agrees. Zoi bitches that she is certain they didn’t taste good. Richard comes in and announces the win and Zoi gives such an unattractive bitchface that I lose most affection for her.

My wife gives a great story to explain the real dislike for Richard among his fellow Chefs. She remembered a story about how comedians never laugh at a really funny comedians’ routine because of sheer and utter envy and jealousy that translates into hatred. That is how this room feels about Richard.

Richard informs the Talk To Her and Good Morning, Vietnam teams that they are facing the music. When inside, Antonia expresses surprise for being there as the lamb was perfect. Tom tells them it is because they sold it badly. They talked about vibrant colors, and sadly, not so vibrant. Zoi is in tears. She gets a bit snippy and says that was as they imagined it, and Tom reminds her that was how they sold it too. Zoi admits that they didn’t express things properly. She then explains that the two chops represented the two of them as strong women and Antonia describes their style as part of the inspiration. Padma rightfully says they should have said this in the first place.

Spike says that he cooks Vietnamese food and that is why they picked this film. Tom criticizes Manuel’s Swiss Chard for not having any connection to the dish. Tom asks them if they spent their entire budget. Spike says they did and Tom rolls his eyes. Tom tells them that it seemed that all the other teams had a different budget and that you can get what they served at a local Vietnamese restaurant for $8 per appetizer. Tom criticizes them, especially Manuel, for not weaving their two styles together. Manuel claims this was an opportunity to learn from Spike. When asked who should go home, Spike (to his credit) doesn’t take the bait, “I don’t blow that way.” I can live a long life without knowing which way Spike blows.

Back in the Meat Locker, Zoi is pissed. She uncorks this beauty, “I can’t compete with smoked salmon and white chocolate and tapioca-filled caviar. If that’s what the winner is, that’s not me.” Great, I hope her dishes are less bitter. Jen is surprised Zoi did so badly because the dish was spot on.

Final judge review. Spike and Manuel chose the dish before the movie, thus completely missing the point of the challenge. Spike drove the dish, but Manuel just followed. We are clear that Zoi and Antoina saved themselves with their explanation earlier.

Commercials – Target is using a Beatles tune to solicit customers. Somehow that makes me sad… and I like Target.

Tom reviews the crappiness of the bottom teams and informs Zoi and Antonia that they are in fact safe. He calls the final decision a difficult one. Padma knifes Manuel who gives a very, very classy exit speech.

Next week – Ming Tsai guests and my wife has already circled the date. Dale loses his temper, and Jen goes off on Spike. Yay, Jen!


Quickfire Top 3
Winner: Dale – Diakon Marinated in Tobanjan, Tournee of Avocado and Cucumber.
Richard – Blanched Mushrooms, Pickled Beets, Sliced Radishes with Lime Juice & Scallions
Zoi – Shaved Asparagus, Poached Egg, Batons of Green Beans, Chiffonade of Radicchio & Frisee

Bottom 3
Manuel – Blanched Asparagus, Brunois of Yellow Pepper, Supremes of Lemon & Endive Fennel Frond.
Lisa – Poached egg, Blanched Asparagus, Batonettes of Bell Pepper & Grilled Zucchini
Nikki – Blanched Green Beans & Asparagus Quenelle, Shaved Fennel and Radish Salad.

Winner: Richard, Dale & Andrew
– Smoked Salmon with Faux Caviar & White Chocolate Wasabi Sauce
Runner-up: Lisa and Steph – NY Strip Steak, Braised Short Rib, Apple Pot Sticker with Caramel Sauce
Loser: Manuel and Spike – Summer Roll with black Vermicelli, Green Apple, Chilean Sea Bass and Swiss Chard.
Second-Last: Zoi and Antonia – Rack of Lamb with Saffron Cauliflower Puree, Romesco & Gramalata

Send your comments to Jeremy at jeremy@realityshack.com. But please hold the flambes.