Top Chef

Season 1 Episode 5

Blind Confusion

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Apr 05, 2006 on Bravo

Episode Recap

Eight chefs remain in the competition. They arrive at the Top Chef Kitchen and are introduced to their Guest Judge Mike Yakura, Executive Chef at Le Colonial, an Asian/French fusion restaurant in San Francisco. They are told that this round's QuickFire Challenge will be the toughest they've faced so far, and when the chefs hear what it is, they can't help but agree. They are to identify 20 mystery ingredients in five minutes while blindfolded. Lee Anne is the first to attempt this, and she gets a total of three correct. Harold also identifies three, as do Lisa and Stephen. Dave recognizes two, and both Miguel and Tiffani bring up the rear with only one ingredient correctly identified. The winner is Andrea, who knew four items, and she gains immunity for the Elimination Challenge.

Once they finish the QuickFire the contestants move on to the Elimination Challenge. They are told their task is to fuse two of San Francisco's culinary cultures to make a harmonious dish. They will create their dish in the Top Chef kitchen, and then they will have to sell it to the real world out of a pushcart. Each of them will fuse Latin American cuisine with a second nationality, to be determined by drawing knives. They all do so, and discover that there are only four different countries, meaning each chef has a partner! Lee Anne and Stephen both draw Chinese, Tiffani and Dave pair up on Moroccan, Andrea and Miguel are doing Indian, and Harold and Lisa get Japanese. The teams will go to the Mission District, the oldest Hispanic community in San Francisco, and there they will give their food to the public for free. They will be judged on the success of their dishes by Tom, Gail, Katie, and Mike, who will determine how well each pair fuses its two cuisines and how well it works as street food. They are given a budget of $200 and one hour each at two specialty food markets. The next day they will have 2 hours to prepare their ingredients for the challenge.

Back at the house, the chefs unwind with a "Snackmaster" challenge between Miguel and Dave. It's a close competition, but there can be only one winner, and Miguel is crowned the Snackmaster.

The day of the Elimination arrives, and the chefs assemble at the Kenmore Pro Kitchen to begin their preparations. Lee Anne and Stephen have created a Chinese/Latin menu of Char Siu Pork, pickled Asian slaw, avocado cream and a sope tart shell, as well as a virgin mojito with lychee juice to give it an Asian twist. Dave and Tiffani make a Moroccan/Latin offering of Curry Pork, stone fruit chutney, flour gorditas, and pickled carrots and red onions. Lisa and Harold combine their Japanese/Latin dishes of seared tuna, daikon sprouts, jicama and avocado salad. Miguel and Andrea prepare an Indian/Latin selection of Masala Chicken, spiced lentils, flour tortilla and Spanish rice, and add a tamarind punch as well. Tom arrives in the kitchen with 30 minutes of prep time to go and is bemused by Andrea's rice, which is still hard, and Miguel's decision to allow someone who has immunity to take over creative control of his team. Then he questions Harold and Lisa's decision to serve their tuna rare. But he likes the teamwork shown by the other two teams.

Out on the street, each team sets up its cart. While in the process of setting up, Harold and Lisa realize that they left their jicama, a major component of their salad, back at the kitchen. But the competition must go on without it. They all start serving their patrons. Miguel uses his fluency in Spanish to win customers over to his team's cart. Dave also has no trouble winning people, though Stephen has a few trying moments. In the end his food is appreciated even if his salesmanship is not, and they do well. Lisa does her best to attract patrons to her team's cart but has the most difficult time getting a positive response.

The judges approach Lee Anne and Stephen's cart first. They love the food offered them, particularly the char siu pork and the slaw. Then they move on to Miguel and Andrea. The judges don't like the rice, which they find too bland, and they criticize their planning, since they were supposed to create food for the street and yet they expect their patrons to hold a plate, a fork, and a drink, not to mention a knife, all while they are walking down the street! Next up are Dave and Tiffani, and the judges are too busy devouring their cuisine to make many comments. Last are Harold and Lisa. Tom looks at their dish and says they've made some pretty fancy street food. He also realizes that they are missing something– the infamous jicama! Lisa admits they forgot it, and when asked both say they are to blame. The other judges regret the oversight, since jicama would have complemented their salad nicely.

The Judges' Table takes place at the Mission Cultural Center. The judges reiterate that the goal was to produce a fusion dish for the street for the inhabitants of the Mission District. Overall, the judges were pleased with the dishes offered them, but two of the teams were more successful than the other two. Mike liked the flavors of Andrea and Miguel's food but he felt they lacked creativity in their choices. Dave and Tiffani's food is declared perfect for the street. Harold and Lisa missed the "street food" aspect of the challenge. And Stephen and Lee Anne's dishes were the best as far as the fusion part of the challenge was concerned.

The judges call in Stephen, Lee Anne, Tiffani and Dave. The judges tell them that not only were they the top two teams, they created the two strongest dishes of the competition so far. They liked Dave and Tiffani's flavors, they liked the contrast of hot and cold in their sandwich, and they get points for making something perfect for the street. Lee Anne and Stephen are complimented on their teamwork and their wonderful flavors. Mike even says that he plans to steal their drink for his restaurant since it is so good! They were all great, but the victory this week goes to Dave and Tiffani.

The judges then call in the other four chefs. Katie asks Lisa and Harold how they thought they did, and Lisa says they shot themselves in the foot by forgetting the jicama. Tom says the last person to have it while they were packing up was Lisa, and she accepts responsibility for leaving it behind. Tom asks if they really thought their food was street food, and Harold says he felt it was more important to create a quality dish from the best possible ingredients. But Gail points out that their dish was supposed to be tailored to their market, and to cap it all Mike says the comments he heard from their patrons described their food as forgettable. When Tom asks who should go home if their team loses, Lisa immediately says "me," since she has been a poor performer in the past. Harold says that she is selling herself short, but doesn't press for his own dismissal.

The judges move on to the other team, and Tom questions why they made their dish in a way that required their patrons to use a fork, when all they had to do was roll it up like a burrito. Miguel says Andrea wanted to leave it up to the individual patron. Tom quickly points out the folly of leaving his fate in the hands of someone who not only has immunity, but has also been voted off the show once before. Miguel's response is that he did most of the cooking. When Tom criticizes the rice that Miguel admitted preparing, Miguel says it wasn't the cooking, but the choice of ingredients which failed them, and that was Andrea's purview. Andrea speaks up, saying that if she has ruined Miguel's chance of staying in the competition then she wants to give her immunity to him. But Tom doesn't take her up on it, saying it was Miguel's choice, to bow to her cooking philosophy instead of being more forceful with his own ideas, that got him in trouble.

The judges send the chefs away so that they can deliberate. Harold went with a bad concept and missed out as far as the fusion aspect of the challenge as well. Lisa is declared to be too noncompetitive, making her almost ask to go home. Miguel and Andrea lacked a real Latin side to their dish, and Miguel should have had more creative input into their food, since he was the only one at risk. In the end, the judges decide to send Lisa home. She says she achieved her goal and that she's proud of what she accomplished, and she leaves richer than any prize she might have won could have made her.
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