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Top Chef: Seattle/Alaska – Ep 15 – Midnight Train To Georgia

Quickfire – For this challenge it is the journey, not the destination, which matters. The three drive to Eagle Crest and are met with a helicopter – which Brooke calls the “epitome of all my fears.” Not sure how boats factor into that, but ok. She points out the heights, the tight space, and the lack of control. Jeez, Brooke. You are going to help some LA therapist buy a nice vacation home in Cabo with all of these phobias! She is literally in tears as the three board the chopper and she is gripping OTV’s arm like a security blanket, and burying her face in his shoulder. They tell her to suck it up and look out the window because, man, that’s a view to behold.

They land on a glacier and move to dog sleds, and Brooke has a lot more fun in this portion of the trip. Eventually they reach Tom and Padma, who is wearing a stylish Inuit coat. The challenge is for the chefs to make a meal for the Iditarod sled teams using only the food they have in their camp. They have 30 minutes to get it done. Brooke chooses halibut, and Papa Smurf chooses halibut. OTV is doing breakfast, because he is OTV and if not a piece of pig, then something with eggs will do. Unfortunately, he is forced to scramble them due to time and has ironically chosen to serve mush to a dogsled team.

Brooke rings the bell and somehow resists the urge to yell, “COME AND GET IT!”

Brooke – Pan Roasted Halibut, Panzanella Salad with Red Currant and Beet Vinaigrette – Tom praises the arugula and the crunch.

OTV – Cornmeal Cake with Canadian Bacon, Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon – Padma teases him by “guessing” that he made the eggs. Tom is rather surprised by the choice to scramble eggs.

Papa Smurf – Pan Roasted Halibut with Tomato Sauce, Sesame Bok Choy and Pickled Radish – Tom thinks the fish is good, but there is a salt flavor.

Brooke is the easy winner here, although all she really won was bragging rights for being the best glacier cook on the continent.

Elimination Challenge – Forget the details, Padma goes with them on the chopper and drives the car back to Juneau. I’m sure that car smelled fabulous. She has taken the chefs to lunch. Not just any lunch, but one cooked by Emeril and Roy Choi, who is a well-known LA chef. How well known? He and Brooke are friends and have cooked together before. Brooke tells us that Roy is the mastermind of the Food Truck Revolution. I don’t recall that from the news, I assume there was much less bloodshed and much more crab cakes involved in that upheaval.

Note – my wife used to babysit when she was younger and one of her favorite kids to babysit for was named Roy. She affectionately called him Roy the Boy. How can I possibly not think of that when someone named Roy Choi came strolling into my recaps?

Roy the Boy and Emeril have made a braised short rib and Roy tells them an incredible story. He was a self-proclaimed “scumbag” in the past. One day he was watching TV and “this dude” came on. Emeril guessed, “me?” And that’s right. Emeril made short rib and red wine on that show. Roy the Boy says it “slapped him across the face” and rocked his world. He changed the course of his life. This stuns Emeril – and I can surely understand that reaction. This success story seated next to you just told you it was because you inspired him. That’s got to be some feeling.

This story leads into the challenge – make a dish to represent the moment they wanted to become a chef. The meal will be served to the judges and the Governor and First Lady of Alaska. Brooke is thrown for a loop – she’s wanted to be a chef since she was four! Papa Smurf recalls a Hawaiian TV star as his inspiration, and OTV recalls the first time he had foie gras as what got him. He was a wrestler and was battling to make weight. He was in the sauna and read Food and Wine magazine and noticed foie gras. His first taste of it came from a chef named Alex Roberts – who Tom trained. Amazing. Brooke goes back to mom and cooking with her – she chooses a meal that blends her childhood love of cooking with her professional life – her mom’s braised chicken with a roasted quail.

Judging the challenge are Tom, Gail, Padma, Emeril, Puck, Roy the Boy, Governor Sean Parnell and First Lady of Alaska (FLOA) Sandy. Papa Smurf is first up and he knows he messed up – his sauce reduced too much and is too salty.

Papa Smurf – Pan Roasted Rockfish, Spot Prawns, Baby Vegetables and Dashi – Puck guesses a Japanese flavor, finds it light but not sweet. Tom says the prawn is perfect, and the Gov likes the presentation. Roy the Boy thinks the concept was amazing, but FLOA notices the salt as overpowering. Tom says that kind of mistake could be enough to end him.

Brooke – Braised Chicken, Grilled Quail with Carrot Barley and Pickled Vegetables – Tom thinks it is really good, and Roy the Boy comments that it seems rather simple at first until you take it apart. Puck’s chicken is overcooked, but no one else has any complaints.

OTV – Foie Gras Three Ways: Torchon, Pan-Seared and Profiterole – OTV has trouble with the Torchon and has to hit the freezer right away. The chefs are surprised with his choice of the torchon, as it needs substantial time to set. Gail liked the profiterole and the acid punch. Tom thinks OTV needed to pull it back a bit and not do three ways since torchon was a bad, bad idea. Emeril liked the cornmeal, so OTV has that going for him.

At Judges Table, OTV is up first. Padma was surprised by the foie gras – as it was not a part of a pig, of course. OTV wanted to go “balls to the wall” with the challenge, but Tom said four hours was not enough time to execute his idea. Brooke has Puck’s overcooked bird, but Roy the Boy thinks it was fantastic, and the other chefs tend to agree. Papa’s problem was with Puck telling him that it was confusing to see the fish cooked perfectly and the broth messed up beyond belief.

Brooke wins the challenge and is in the Finals. Watch out, Steph, you may need to clear off that seat next to you. In the choice of bad seasoning vs. bad concept, the chefs chose to keep the bad seasoning. OTV gets knifed and Papa Smurf joins the end game.

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