Micah_topchefmiami_240_2Before entering into discussion of Wednesday (June 27) night’s Top Chef, I have a quick question: In 2007, are there still families out there eating Chicken a la King on a regular basis?

Wednesday’s Elimination Challenge required contestants to prepare low cholesterol, updated versions of popular family standards for several generations of families (I only saw one generation, really) at Miami’s Elks Club. Now I ate my share of meatloaf and franks-n-beans and tacos in my youth and just because my mother didn’t make fried chicken or chicken-n-dumplings doesn’t mean that I don’t have a good sense of what goes into those dishes. But if I were forced to update Chicken a la King, I’d probably do something just as unconnected to the original as Sara M turned in and she was nearly eliminated for her troubles.

Sara M may not have made Chicken a la King, but at least she didn’t make a meatloaf with a weird aftertaste and a very unmeatloavian crunch. And at least she didn’t sneer about the American love for ketchup and treat an entire genre of comfort food with total contempt. For those crimes, Micah was sent home, capping off an up-and-down Top Chef run that saw her only finish outside of the top or bottom group on one occasion, winning one Quickfire and one Elimination challenge along the way. Granted that Micah’s cooking skills were superior to anything demonstrated on Hell’s Kitchen this season, but wouldn’t you love to see Chef Ramsay tear into the stern South African for a few minutes? That would make for good TV.

Howie_topchefmiami_240In addition to Micah’s fall-from-grace, the biggest story of Wednesday’s episode was the redemption of glabrous pated Howie, who graced the bottom two with his sweaty visage the previous episodes. One week he couldn’t get his dish well enough timed and it came out half-prepared. The next week he turned jerked pork into sawdust. This week, though, working once again with the other white meat (recreating pork chops and apple sauce — another dish my mom didn’t make, but which I comprehend), he took top honors, letting out a big ghoulish grin. That win followed a Top Three performance in the shellfish-based Quickfire.

Other thoughts from this week:

  • Where’d Hung go? He didn’t finish in the Top Three for either challenge, though I think he was right to be ticked off at guest judge Alfred Portale’s dismissal of his curry dish because the croutons were too big. And I was amused by his choice to offer a sliver of fried chicken skin for diners who like that part of the fried chicken best. Even without excelling, he still got off the line of the night regarding all of the chefs doing shellfish in white wine — "Yeah, it’s simple, but my monkey can do that."  I love the idea that Hung has a monkey.
  • How do we feel about Brian’s audacity? He won the Quickfire, giving him immunity. As a result of that freedom, he decided to skip the low cholesterol part of the challenge to turn in lobster-stuffed cabbage rolls. First of all, I’d like to eat some lobster-stuffed cabbage rolls right now. Second of all, the judges were right to whack him on the knuckles with a ruler (or a measuring cup).
  • The teasers for the episode suggested that the hot tub might be the source of some risque behavior. Instead, people just sat around talking about food. That’s the sort of false advertising I expect from FOX’s promo department.
  • Am I the only one who really dislikes C.J.? He seems to think he’s the kitchen police. He took issue with Lia’s lentils and with Dale’s use of instant mashed potatoes. He was a stickler for the theme and then he turned in green, oozing gloop and called it tuna casserole. Chef, cook thyself.

    What’d you think? Did Howie impress you? Would you have kept Micah around despite the crunchy meatloaf?

  • Posted by:Daniel Fienberg