It’s getting down to the wire on season two of Top Chef Canada.
But before we examine what transpired on this, our penultimate episode, I’d like to turn your attention all the way back to recap of show number one.
Now, perhaps I didn’t make a firm prediction at the time, but you’ll nonetheless note that I pegged both Carl and Jonathan as favourites to the later rounds. And guess who’s still in the running? Oh, why it’s Carl and Jonathan!
Let’s find out which of them, along with David and Trevor, were able to make it to the final three.
If it wasn’t already apparent that there’s no more time for fooling around, badass chef Marc Thuet and his partner Biana Zorich showed up to judge this week’s quickfire.
The test? Craft two pies—one sweet and one savoury—to please the palate of one of Canada’s most renowned pastry makers.
Almost uniformly, and somewhat disappointingly, our cheftestants stuck to the basics for their sweet pies, basically putting some fruit in a pastry as you might expect. Trevor was the exception, plating an apple bacon tart with walnut crust and blue cheese cream.
That combination was praised by the judges, but was beat out in the overall contest by Carl’s savoury cheddar, ham and chanterelle quiche with duck fat pastry. He went straight for Marc Thuet’s heart with that duck fat, literally and figuratively, and earned the quickfire win for his efforts.
Technique and plating were paramount in our next-to-last elimination challenge, as our chefs were tasked with creating a lunch for a highly fashionable crowd. I’d say this test was right in Jonathan’s wheelhouse—he’s been offering up haute cuisine in the majority of his challenges, and he seemed confident going into this one, too.
He got a further boost when Lisa announced that the chefs would each be assisted by a competitor from Top Chef Canada’s first season—one of either Rob Rossi, Connie DeSousa, Francois Gagnon and Dustin Gallagher. Jonathan got lucky and managed to select Dustin, whom he once worked with at Susur.
Actually, all the chefs looked pretty pleased with their partners: David and Connie were acquainted with each other as they’re both chefs for Hotel le Germain properties (he in Toronto, she in Alberta); Carl and Rob share the rustic-is-better cooking philosophy; and Trevor seemed glad to have workhorse Francois to help him with whatever grand schemes he had in mind.
The prep period really hammered home the fact that being a chef is quite like being in an exclusive club—the camaraderie was really refreshing and everyone appeared to be having a great time in the kitchen, even though the stakes were very high.
We found out just how high, of course, once dishes were served and the judges vented their collective spleen. Maybe they were just being ultra-picky, but Mark, Lisa, Shereen and guest Jennifer McLagan had a lot of negative things to say about Jonathan, Trevor and David’s offerings.
They didn’t, however, find any fault with Carl’s dish, a “Euro bass” salad with colourful flourishes of zucchini aioli and roasted red pepper coulis. In fact, according to Mark, “the only thing negative about the dish was that it wasn’t large enough.”
And so the younger of our two remaining Toronto chefs—and one of my early favourites, you’ll recall—won his second challenge of the episode and took his place amongst the final three!
Who would be joining him? We found out quickly enough. Despite the fact that the only “high fashion” factor of his dish was that it was labour-intensive, B.C. chef Trevor managed to pull through to the endgame. The flavour of his lamb must have been spot on, because his plating was as rugged as the Rocky Mountains.
Strangely, the bottom two dishes were both Asian-inspired. Drawing on his experience working under Susur Lee, Jonathan offered a trio of dim sum offerings that had none of the bold, exciting flavours one expects from the best Chinese cuisine. “Bad cocktail party food,” is how Jennifer put it. Jonathan was also penalized for his plating. Though delicate, it was not particularly artful.
David’s dish—a sushi-style beef wellington with a series of miniature Japanese-fusion accompaniments—looked beautiful, but based on the judges’ reactions, it was perhaps his worst tasting of the entire competition. Most egregious, apparently, was a chive puree that Mark compared to eating grass.
I’m thinking it was probably that little mistake which cost David a spot in the finale. Of course it must be difficult to come so far only to lose out at (almost) the last possible moment, but I feel as though the veteran chef had the right attitude about it. He’d entered the competition hoping to reinvigorate his passion for cooking; based on what we’ve seen over the past twelve weeks, he clearly accomplished that goal. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that he also won $20,000 along the way.
And so that, faithful readers, gives us three young and hungry chefs for the final: Jonathan, Trevor and Carl. Place your bets for next week!
Who was hot (and who was not) in episode 12?
Hot: Carl. First he impressed Marc effing Thuet with a rustic quiche. Then he did a U-turn and gave Shereen the outside-the-box, “non-mechanical” dish that she’d been urging him to create for the past number of weeks. Win both challenges in an episode of Top Chef? I’d say you’re hot. Win both challenges in the second-to-last episode of Top Chef? I’d say you’re the favourite to win the final.
Not: David. The mad man of the Top Chef kitchen finally overreached with yet another culinary experiment he’d never previously attempted. Given the judges’ comments, one has to wonder if David, too, knew that he’d erred in the flavour department. He must’ve tasted everything before he sent it out, right?
Craig Moy is an editor at a Toronto-based city magazine. He also writes about all manner of cultural topics, including food culture.