Top Chef

Season 4 Episode 5

The Elements

Aired Wednesday 10:00 PM Apr 09, 2008 on Bravo
out of 10
User Rating
27 votes

By Users

Episode Summary

The dreaded taste test is back to go along with the round's theme: good taste. Once the QuickFire is complete, the chefs apply their palates to executing a perfect dish as part of a charity event. Guest Judge: Ming Tsai QuickFire Challenge: Identify the Higher Quality Ingredients Elimination Challenge: Create a First Course Inspired by One of Nature's Four Elements Round Fivemoreless

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  • One big blowout!

    One of the biggest blowouts in the show's history. But first, they must cater to a Meal on Wheels event. And that we see Antonia get immunity. While Zoey is cooking undercooked mushrooms. While Jennifer, her lover, is worried about her going home. And her greatest fears come true. Despite Richard messing up but he is safe for now. One big argument leads to Spike really starting it. Antonia was trying to stand behind her dish as she says. And that Jennifer flips out on Spike. Then Dale and Lisa, both who would really hate each other as the show progresses. Have it out as well!moreless
  • The challenge, to creat dishes representing the elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth, should have led to some inspired cooking. But it seemed to scare them intstaying in their little comfort zones.moreless

    So much more could have been done with this idea. I am often surprised at the lack of creativity on the part of the contestants. They should know by now, this being the fourth season, that the challenges are meant to test more than just their culinary skills. When I first heard the theme, I was excited because I thought there would be some truly inspired dishes, but nobody seems willing to really stretch his or her imagination very far. Note to Dale: stop with the sour grapes; it wasn't the bacon, it was the innovative technique that won. Watching your face as the judges talked about the trip to Italy, so sure you got it, only to realize that you would not be going, was priceless.moreless
  • Good Show!!

    Well, this week's episode was a surprise because my top picks ended up in the bottom. Antonia wins the quickfire challenge by having the best palette while the groups separate into teams of three for the elimination challenge. The teams have to make dishes in relation to the name of their team which consist of Earth, Fire, and Water. My top picks were basically all in Team Water. Those who have skill but just haven't stood out till now are all in Team Fire while Team Earth consist of Zoi, Spike, and Antonia who has immunity. This is one of the episodes where the bickering did and could've payed off. On Team Fire, which consists of Lisa, Dale, and Stephanie. A pretty strong team skill-wise and the winners of the challenge. On Team Earth, Spike didn't stand his ground while Zoi simply tries to keep the peace which ends up in Zoi being sent home. At tne end, after the elimination various people get into with each other as to who should've went home and Lisa's witchy attitude throughout the challenge. She wins the elimination by cooking great bacon but Dale is upset that wins a trip to Italy just from cooking bacon. Good episode.moreless
  • The Top Chefs bare their fangs in an episode that gets incredibly heated amidst the famous taste test challenge and catering a charity event for Meals on Wheels.

    I always love the taste test challenge on Top Chef. This time, it was made even better by blindfolding the contestants. While I was surprised that one of the better chefs ended up on bottom by misidentifying the better of real crab vs. imitation crab (how the heck can you make that mistake?), it's a challenge that you just can't fake your way through. Immunity was granted to one chef, and then the contestants were split into groups of three to make appetizers for a Meal on Wheels benefit dinner.

    Each team was assigned an element (air, fire, earth, or water) and had to create a dish based around that element. All the ideas were conceptually good, but ultimately it came down to execution. Top Chef 101 reared its ugly head and sent one of the chefs packing for underseasoning their ingredients, which led to what is undoubtedly the most fiery showdown ever in the Top Chef stew room. More words were censored than heard, and even the winning team was at odds. Chairs even got thrown! For me, it was disappointing to see the chefs acting in this way. This competition is about the food, and when everyone gets petty and argues, nothing gets accomplished. Ultimately, the right decision was made, although the other chef on the chopping block certainly skated through on luck. They're all just lucky that this competition isn't based on personality.moreless
  • The tasting challenge is old. This year they tasted different things, but there has to be a better way to judge their palates.

    The elimination challenge had 1 mediocre dish, 2 bad dishes and one that impressed the guest chef with something he had not ever heard about or imagined.

    I thought the immersion cooked salmon was a poor choice from the beginning and the whole dish did not sound appealing to me, and the scales when served is an amateur mistake.

    The duck was less than memorable, and the beef was tasteless.

    The shrimp sounded great and the bacon was incredible. If you can impress the panel with bacon you are doing something right.

    I will have to go to the website and get the recipe and make that dish. As for who should go, my choice was the guy who cooked the fish, but the woman who did should have tasted the dish. Is that the new way to cook, not taste anything, it seems to be the norm on cooking shows.moreless

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (7)

    • First-Run Fan Poll:

      Which contestant deserves a spanking for being difficult?

      A. Antonia 17%
      B. Dale 56%
      C. Lisa 27%

      (all percentages are as of the end of the episode.)

    • Elimination Challenge Dishes

      Team Water - Richard, Mark, and Andrew
      Poached Salmon with Faux Caviar, Parsnip Puree & Watercress Salad

      Team Fire - Stephanie, Dale, and Lisa
      Grilled Shrimp with Pickled Chili Salad, Deviled Aïoli & Miso Smoked Bacon

      Team Air - Nikki, Ryan, and Jen
      Duck Breast with Citrus Salad and Pomegranate Prosecco Apéritif

      Team Earth - Antonia, Spike, and Zoi
      Beef Carpaccio with Mushroom Salad and Sunchoke Aioli

    • Team Air were criticized for not rendering the fat of their duck properly. Duck fat is heavy and dense, like that of pork. To render it properly, one should score the skin of the duck while cooking, since that helps the fat to run off through the cuts in the skin.

    • In the heated argument between Antonia and Spike, Spike says Antonia said that she would not do a soup, no matter what the others thought, and Antonia denied it vehemently. For the record, Antonia told the others that if they insisted on making the squash soup, she would do her best to make it work, but Zoi sided with her on the carpaccio. But in a private interview for the camera, Antonia said she'd never do it, since a soup would not get them the win, in her opinion.

    • Taste Test Ingredients
      Imitation Breakfast Syrup vs. Real Maple Syrup
      Generic Sliced Bacon vs. Double Applewood Smoked Berkshire Slab Bacon
      Farmed Salmon vs. Wild Atlantic Salmon
      Imitation Crab Pieces vs. Jumbo Lump Crab Meat
      Hershey Bar vs. Valrhona Chocolate
      Generic Supermarket Unsalted Butter vs. Plugra
      Deli Cheddar vs. English Cheddar
      Generic Soy Sauce vs. Small Batch Artisan Soy Sauce
      Boxed Sake vs. Junmai Daiginjo Sake
      Lumpfish Roe vs. American Sturgeon Caviar
      Generic Commercial Pork Chop vs. Organic Kurobuta Pork Chop
      Generic Commercial Chicken Breast vs. Organic, Free Range Chicken Breast
      Cheap Parmesan Cheese vs. Parmigiano Reggiano
      Supermarket Pate vs. Country Pate with Black Truffles
      Generic Olive Oil vs. Small Batch Artisan Olive Oil

    • Antonia won the QuickFire Challenge and safety from elimination.

    • Lisa was declared the winner of the Elimination Challenge; Zoi was told to pack her knives and go.

  • QUOTES (3)

  • NOTES (10)

    • Ted Allen, who did not Judge in this episode, pointed out in his blog that the salmon of Team Water looked like it had a strange grid-like imprint on the surface of the fish, probably from the texture of the plastic bag used for the sous vide being pressed into it during cooking.

    • According to Antonia, only a few of the plates of carpaccio were unseasoned, because Spike was plating them haphazardly, and while he and Antonia argued about it, the servers took the first plates out, most likely straight to the judges.

    • Since the wait staff had to walk about 1,000 feet just to get to the dining room, there were a number accidents with the shot glasses of Team Air's pomerini tipping over and spilling on the plates or falling and breaking as they walked.

    • According to Lee Anne, one of the things that wasn't mentioned about Team Fire's winning dish was that it was something that worked just as well cold as hot, making service hassles less of a worry for them.

    • Ming Tsai was particularly appropriate for this Challenge because he is a member of the Macy's Culinary Council, which staged the Meals on Wheels gala.

    • Ming Tsai and Executive Producer Shauna Minoprio were both dubious about the taste test being too easy, but Lee Anne had Shauna do it, and her results convinced her that it was harder than she thought, and Ming agreed.

    • It took three hours to get through all the taste testing. Lee Anne developed a list of 25 ingredients for comparison, but she and the producers narrowed it down to the final fifteen in order to get the test accomplished in a reasonable amount of time.

    • The Judges weren't the only ones who were impressed by Lisa's cooking bacon with maple syrup and miso. According to his blog, Harold Dieterle, the winner of season one, was so intrigued with the new combination that he's strongly considering utilizing it in a dish at his restaurant Perilla.

    • Also Featured: Nancy Silverton – Founder, La Brea Bakery & Co-owner, Pizeria Mozza

    • According to Tom's blog at the Bravo website, the salmon wasn't the only part of Team Water's dish that had scales in it. He mentions that they didn't work "clean" as a possible explanation for the distribution of scales throughout.