Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Top Canada episode 7: Patrick Wiese pack your knives

Like all new episodes of Top Chef Canada (TCC) the show starts with a recap of last week's events. We only bring this up because last week was the infamous horse meat scandal. Normally the recaps and complete episodes are posted on the show's Official Website but the horse meat episode is noticeably missing. Also M.I.A. is the trailer for episode 6 that started the whole Boycott Top Chef movement. We know that a revised trailer was aired on Food Network. The new trailer featured the Quick Fire Challenge, Chuck Hughes and poutine. This week's recap made zero references to H£%€ meat even though the protein landed Chef Andrea Nicholson, the meat was assigned to her, in the bottom four.
Another missing element, we know it was a horse meat episode exclusive, was the explanation for the sourcing of the food. We are talking about the sustainable fish and the HACCP standards for the proteins used in the show. This week no one knows, or cares, if Todd's cod was caught with hook-and-line or using the trawl method. We never thought we would say this, but a recent piece in the National Post is really worth reading, at least if your are a TCC fan. Chef Todd Perrin makes one of the points that we attempted to communicate last week in our horse meat article. People are more interested in where their food comes from. If this is true we think that people will become more concerned with the ethics surrounding food production and the food the food we eat. At the moment this trend (local foods) and reality (food production) seem to oppose one another. But-enough humour, Chef Perrin’s comments come across as romantic and make us want to run away to Newfoundland.
“I see a growing trend of food as an experience. Not only are people wanting local, fresh, food but they want to experience it close to where it comes from,” Perrin says. “They want to sit amongst the greens and eat a salad; they want to see the plants from whence came the strawberries on their plate.” (National Post, May 24, 2011, "Canada's Top Chefs dish on emerging Food Trends,” by Melissa Leong.)
Based-on Todd's comments we can only conclude one thing. Canadian spring fever is in the air. We also say this because this week’s episode of Top Chef Canada seemed to focus on matters of the heart. Speaking of getting to heart of the matter, let's get on with the show. 
For the Quick Fire Challenge, this week's celebrity judge was none other than Chris Stevens from television's Northern Exposure. Just kidding, we of course mean Chef Michael Smith. We are not sure which came first, the Chris or the Smith, or maybe John Corbett, but  somebody owes someone for stealing their persona. We have never really enjoyed any of Smith's shows or John Corbett. The only real thing we know about Smith as a Chef is that a lot of the secretaries at our offices think he is really cute just like... John Corbett. According to legend Chef Smith’s smile can melt the heart of a woman faster than a stick of butter in a hot frying pan. This week's Quick Fire secret ingredient was All-Bran. How exciting, our hearts are racing but this might be because we were thinking about Michael Smith's dreamy eyes. We told you this episode focused on matters of the heart, bran and Michael Smith. Is this the demographic that Top Chef Canada is looking for? Dieting secretaries with a healthy appetite for Michael Smith and John Corbett.

Can you see a difference?

Poor "Dusty" Gallagher, his pet name from mentor Susur Lee, Judge Smith sure gave you a rough time during the Quick Fire. After one look, Chef Smith's attitude towards you seems to say, "listen kid you might be young with a nice smile but I am cutest in the kitchen. I'm gonna’ wipe that grin off your face." Gallagher's signature smile must be setting a new record in Food Network history. The previous smile-meter record holder is of course Giada De Laurentiis. Chef Gallagher, take warning from us, you are messing with some powerful people in the celebrity food network. As you know, Chefs are a competitive bunch so we are positive that Chef Smith and Giada are both thinking about your smile when sharpening their knives. 
In the Quick Fire we thought that Francois had an interesting idea with his bran gnocchi because it sounded more like falafel. A falafel sandwich made with All-Bran might be an interesting kitchen experiment. 
If it’s Todd then let there be cod. Once-again, Perrin is the only Chef that is really cooking Canadian. No matter what to outcome, Perrin has proven himself as a Canadian Top Chef with his regional cooking style and choice of ingredients. Take note, the Chefs were allowed to bring some ingredients with them to the show as long as it they did not exceed $200 total. This must explain the source of Perrin's signature ingredients. In case you missed the show the Newfoundland terroir-ist won the challenge by serving up an All-Bran Pancake with a Salt Cod Branade. 
Enter our next sponsor and the elimination challenge. Milestones restaurant and a romantic anniversary dinner menu. Once again, the choice of sponsor really has us wondering about this show’s demographics. Do the show's Producers really expect us to believe that any of the judges have ever stepped into a Milestones? Actually, we take it back, they may have gotten drunk at the bar when traveling across Canada after getting stuck in Etobicoke - “I said, FIRE my assistant.” We suppose there is some comfort in knowing that next week's show will feature a VIP business luncheon at Harvey's. We have noticed the Milestone brand during our travels but avoided them like a Swiss Chalet. If you do not believe us then how about this? Milestones, Harvey’s and Swiss Chalet are all owned by Cara that are famous innovators in the field of airplane food. 
We feel sorry for Connie DeSousa who mentioned during the show that she competes with a Milestones across the street from her own restaurant, Charcut, in Calgary. The National Post article also talked to DeSousa. In summarizing DeSousa's comments the paper reports, "big-boy restaurants are here to stay. But small, neighbourhood gems are commanding more attention." We hope this is the case because the notion of a talented Chef-owner, like DeSousa, being put out of business by Milestones is heart breaking. The joke is that Milestones will now offer DeSousa’s pork croquettes with spicy aioli as part of their new Top Chef menu featuring her team's winning dishes. We wonder if DeSousa is legally allowed to offer the same dish on her menu.
The Chefs were challenged in the competition to deliver “familiar food with a twist.” This is what Dustin Gallagher presented with his Strawberry Shortcake, he spiked it with lemon [twist] curd, to win best in the show. During the challenge, Chef Dale MacKay was caught on tape saying that he would not compromise his cooking style for the challenge. This seemed to be the case with most of the Chef’s dishes as their offerings were deemed too fancy, “complicated” or “precious” for the Milestones crowd. We are thinking middle of the road. Chef Dale MacKay’s dish, a deconstructed Pavlova, landed him in the bottom four. It almost looked like the judges sat around with the Producers and said, “ we think it would be funny to put Dale in the bottom four just because it’s really going to piss him off. Good idea and great drama.” We can’t wait for next week’s episode as MacKay will no doubt be cast in the role of tortured genius with judges that just don’t understand him and his cooking. 
The worst dish and this week’s loser was Chef Patrick Wiese who served up Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Leeks and, based on the judges' comments, a potpourri of seasonings. The overkill in Wiese’s dishes was also mentioned in the Quick Fire challenge. In the elimination challenge, Wiese’s dish was described as “cafeteria food” and “slop.” To be honest we have been very surprised with Wiese’s performance during the show. Looking at his resume we thought he might ace the competition. Chef Wiese has worked under Top Chef Master competitor Art Smith who was Oprah’s personal Chef at the time. Wiese’s credentials also include “food stylist” but his dishes were less than dazzling on Top Chef. Ironic that Oprah stepped down the same week that Wiese was eliminated just because he did work as her personal Chef. Wiese’s elimination and food versus his credentials begs the question, if a bear does the talk, can he also do the walk?
Next week, as predicted previously in our blog, our favorite Top Chef competition, Restaurant Wars.

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