Top Chef Season 16 has left Kentucky. Can these Macau ingredients bring great culinary inspiration to the Top Chef finalists or are they overwhelmed by the exotic?
As Kentucky fades into a food memory, Top Chef Season 16 heads to the Far East. With a myriad of Macau ingredients at their fingertips, the five Top Chef finalists need to find the right balance in these final challenges. Did the chefs do their homework before getting on the plane?
Choosing Macau as the backdrop for the Top Chef Season 16 finale is quite interesting. While some people might be unfamiliar with Macau and its varied cuisine, the area is a bustling foodie paradise. The mixture of cultures makes a robust food scene that is thriving. From traditional Chinese foods to Portuguese influenced foods, foodies might want to book a trip now. (or, visit Fat Rice in Chicago, which is one of the best examples of Macau food in the U.S.).
To kick off this Top Chef episode, the chefs tour the market with Graham Elliot. Chef Graham has a restaurant in Macau and knows his way around the market. While some of the stops were for the “show” factor, the clips were quite telling.
Chefs don’t have a fear of food. From petrified eggs to usual proteins, they are willing to try, taste and sample everything. Watch how they start to pick ingredients. They smell and taste. Being a food fan is about expanding your food adventure. Anyone watching this episode should use this market trip as an example for their own cooking and food adventure.
TOP CHEF — “Holy Macau!” Episode 1613 — Pictured: (l-r) Adrienne Wright, Sara Bradley, Graham Elliot, Kelsey Barnard, Michelle Minori — (Photo by: Carmo Correia/Bravo)
In the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs had to use some of the proteins that the group purchased at the market. From traditional (scallops) to more untraditional (the scale-less fish), the chefs needed to choose their dishes wisely. Additionally, they needed to add a nod to the local cuisines while still incorporating their own culinary point of view.
Shopping in the market was interesting. It was clear that a couple of chefs did their homework. Sara learned a few words. Kelsey researched flavors. Being knowledgeable about ingredients will only help a chef to succeed.
During the Quickfire, two chefs adapted well. Kelsey and Michelle had top dishes. Both dishes were bold on flavors and textures.
Michelle won the Quickfire because she understood her ingredients and had a creative approach. The cuttlefish noodle was really smart.
Although it was a riff off of a dish that she knew, it incorporated local ingredients well. For winning the Quickfire, Michelle got first choice of theme/ingredients for the Elimination Challenge.
TOP CHEF — “Holy Macau!” Episode 1613 — Pictured: (l-r) Brandon Rosen, Brian Young, David Viana, Eddie Konrad, Justin Sutherland, Michelle Minori, Eric Adjepong, Kelsey Barnard, Sara Bradley, Adrienne Wright — (Photo by: Carmo Correia/Bravo)
In the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to create 200 tasting plates for a Chinese New Year celebration. Each chef had to select ingredients that represented a theme from Chinese New Year. Additionally, those ingredients were only available to the chef with that theme. Lastly, the chefs each got a sous chef, a former contestant who returned to help.
It was curious how the chefs chose the theme/ingredients. Some chefs picked by ingredients and others picked based on sous chef. It remains to be seen which direction was more beneficial.
Looking at the various ingredients and themes, only two chefs really understood the challenge. Even though everyone was in Macau, the chefs needed to add their own spin on these plates. If a chef doesn’t normally cook Chinese forward dishes, the finale isn’t the time to try.
By the same token, the chefs need to embrace the locale. Incorporating some of the local ingredients and spices is key to being successful in the Top Chef finale. Finding the right blend of local and their own style is key to getting into next week.
Even though the Elimination Challenge was a little disjointed, the food seemed quite good. One dish was clearly a winner. The competition wasn’t even close.
Kelsey did an amazing job of blending a dish from her own New Year’s celebrations with Chinese New Year. The reference to black eyed peas and greens, while still incorporating local flavors, was genius. That potlicker sounded divine. She played the game extremely well. Also, Michelle had a nice dish, but Kelsey was clearly the top choice.
TOP CHEF — “Holy Macau!” Episode 1613 — Pictured: (l-r) Adrienne Wright, Kelsey Barnard, Sara Bradley, Michelle Minori, Eric Adjepong — (Photo by: Carmo Correia/Bravo)
The bottom three chefs were Sara, Justin and Adrienne. Sara’s dish had a nod to Southern favorites as well. Her play on cauliflower grits was creative, but it needed more (maybe two extra pounds of butter). Still, she smartly played the game. Showing that Southern food can be influenced by Asian flavors is key to moving forward.
Justin’s dish was a little concerning. There are a millions ways to make curry. Unfortunately, he choose to make one that was less spicy and didn’t have as many layers of flavors. While not necessarily a horrible dish, it needed more development.
The more concerning aspect to Justin’s dish was how he tried to defend himself at Judges’ Table. Granted some aspects might be editing, the “respectfully disagree” statement could have gone terribly wrong. Sometimes it is best to take those statements as constructive feedback.
Adrienne’s dish was problematic from the start. While the dish had many, many components, she didn’t have the right size. Instead of a dish, she served more of a canape. That concept seemed to have missed the mark.
By serving just a bite, no one could really get the concept of pork fried rice. It was missing umami, texture and something to push it forward.
Basically the judges needed to pick between Justin and Adrienne. While an all female chef finale would be awesome, it seemed unlikely that scenario would happen in this episode. Plus. Adrienne hadn’t won a single elimination challenge.
Given all these factors, Adrienne was sent home. It seemed like the best choice given the current circumstances.
Could the final three women push Justin to the side in these remaining episodes? Maybe this year another women Top Chef earns the crown.