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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The chefs cook “trash fish” in a challenge that brings out their best and worst qualities

Illustration for article titled The chefs cook “trash fish” in a challenge that brings out their best and worst qualities
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Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • The Quickfire: Mystery box challenges are always money in the bank. It’s why Chopped is the only other cooking show worth a damn. And in true Chopped fashion, each of the chefs’ mystery boxes are filled with the same ingredients: squab, wasabi, tequila, other stuff. The twist is that it also includes tools the chefs must use, including a pressure cooker and a melon baller. Casey wins immunity and an advantage in the elimination challenge with a smoked chili tequila squab soup, but the real story is Shirley’s melon baller ending up on Sheldon’s station and her getting slammed for not using it in her dish. More on that below.
  • The Elimination Challenge: Every season I look forward to challenges where the chefs have to cook with guts or buttholes or wet cardboard or whatever the hell, and this twist on the format is beautiful. Instead of cooking weird meats, the chefs are paired up and tasked with cooking “trash fish,” a hilarious phrase that refers to fish that aren’t gross so much as non-commercial. That includes amberjack, tunny, tilefish, triggerfish, and some others. Part of Casey’s Quickfire advantage is that she gets to cook solo, but she screws up her amberjack regardless; if she didn’t have immunity, she’d be going home. Instead, BJ is sent packing (deservedly so) for serving barrel fish that “tasted like overcooked chicken,” which is making me gag as I type this. Katsuji and John win with their triggerfish dish, and Katsuji, surprisingly, takes top honors for his flavorful chili sauce. Did Katsuji ever even win a challenge on his season?
  • Me? I was pulling for Sylva and Jamie. The rookies need a win, guys. They haven’t won shit.
  • Brooke looked livid at judge’s table. What do you think? Was it sour grapes, or was she seething about Emily not speaking up?
  • This episode marked another one of my favorite Top Chef traditions: pretending it’s Christmas when they’re clearly filming in the summer. Padma describing the losing chefs in the Quickfire as naughty was a nice touch.
  • So. Melon baller. Padma is aghast when she finds out Shirley didn’t use it: “Oh, Shirley!” she cries in this comically melodramatic and un-Padma-like fashion. The whole situation had the potential to be the next pea puree, but Sheldon and Shirley are the nicest people on the planet so, alas, they were besties again in no time. #MelonBallerGate, you could’ve been beautiful.
  • Look, I find him more amusing than most of you (based on the comments, at least), but Katsuji winning this week brought out a dark(er) side to him that I couldn’t get behind. In the stew room, Emily is shaken not only by being on the bottom, but also from cooking for a noted chef (Mike Lata of Charleston’s Fig) that had fired her years before. She’s clearly on the verge of tears and Katsuji needling her in his monotone, dead-eyed way crossed the boundaries of good taste. What do you guys think? Did he take it too far?
  • It was, however, a delight to see Katsuji, a living callus, paired up with John, a dude with wayyyyyyy too many emotions. John’s been a good sport, though, especially after Katsuji told him he couldn’t drink because“I know how you get.” For a guy with as many substance abuse issues as he’s got in his past, that’s gotta cut deep.
  • Serious question: They’ve been doing the table-side feedback thing since Boston and seem to be sticking to it. I hate it. It doesn’t allow the judges to savor the food or debate between dishes. It forces their hand, I think. It also diminishes stew room intrigue (my favorite kind of intrigue). How much fun was it to watch chefs think they were on top, then deflate once they realized they were on the bottom? Anyways, what do you guys think? Am I wrong? Does it allow for greater honesty and bigger stakes?
  • Apparently, winning the Great American Seafood Cook-Off gets you a fancy gold crown. Lookin’ good, Jim, Executive Chef of the State of Alabama.
  • I couldn’t get over everyone casually tossing around the phrase “trash fish.” My favorite was Graham calling Sylva and Jamie’s tunny dish a “good gateway into trash fish.”
  • Hey, Graham’s back! More importantly, Hugh’s back. As always, he brought the zingers. My favorite, also delivered to Sylva and Jamie: “We were all guessing that you’d fail miserably.” Hugh is my favorite culinary misanthrope.
  • Blais was also back! He said nothing. Why? Because Blais is a “trash judge.”
  • Tom made a Snooki reference. Tom.
  • Casey pondered whether or not someone with immunity could just choose not to serve a dish? Should that be an option?
  • Last Chance Kitchen: Sam “Poochie” Talbot goes up against “his boy BJ,” and even Tom seems to think the challenge is lame. In true “holiday” fashion, the chefs are tasked with making something elevated out of traditional leftovers like green beans, potatoes, and ham (which Tom weirdly tries to insinuate is old). Surprise, surprise, Sam comes out on top with his “reconstructed green bean casserole,” though BJ’s fried turkey leg doused in gravy and a fried egg looked delish as well. The best part?
Illustration for article titled The chefs cook “trash fish” in a challenge that brings out their best and worst qualities
  • Next week on Top Chef: Sheldon does a Tim Allen impression, then says he might need to go home for external reasons?

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