Top Chef
Kings of Alaska

Episode Report Card
Kim: B- | Grade It Now!
Don't Be Crabby
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

After Stefan's elimination, the final four lament his loss. Brooke gives him a backhanded compliment by saying she didn't realize how good-hearted and decent he was. Thanks, I guess? Sheldon can't believe how close he came to elimination. Josh reminds us that his wife is pregnant and due any day.

The boat arrives in Alaska and the cheftestants disembark. Sheldon tells us that he's going to wear a few extra pair of underwear to "keep the package warm." Now I'm thinking about Sheldon's bait and tackle, and I never wanted to think about that, ever.

The cheftestants find Padma waiting for them at a small food stand called Tracy's King Crab Shack. She is joined by Sean Brock, who's a big time Southern chef, and Josh's hero. Padma explains the Quickfire Challenge: Create a dish highlighting king crab. Sean says that his favorite dish is crab with butter, but that might be a little too simple for this challenge. They have thirty minutes, and the winner gets five grand.

Time starts and they all get busy stripping down layers of clothing and grabbing some crab. Lizzie loves that they're in this tiny shack in the shadow of this beautiful Alaskan mountain landscape, and she decides to make something rustic and filling. Brooke wants to make something delicate that highlights the buttery, briny flavors of the crab. She jokes that she won't have any crab to use in her dish because she keeps eating it. Josh wants to tip his hat to Sean's food by making succotash with, of course, bacon. Sheldon is still stinging from his near elimination, so he's trying to be creative and make something he's never done before. He's making miso soup from crab innards (ohhh...kay) and he's smoking some asparagus on pine needles. Won't that taste like a burnt Christmas tree? Josh runs into trouble because his butter sauce is breaking and he doesn't have time to fix it.

Time is up! Time to eat. Lizzie made crab frittata with cherry tomato, garlic oil and fried capers. Padma asks if she soaked the capers and Lizzie says she drained them. I don't use capers enough to know why that matters. Sheldon made King crab, Dungeness crab "miso", pine-smoked asparagus and charred corn. Sean wants to know about smoking with the pine and Sheldon says that he's seen it done before but never tried it himself. Padma says she likes the broth but it's a little thick.

Brooke made King crab, sweet corn and leek salad on toast with Dungeness crab butter. That sounds amazing. I would eat a million of those. Sean asks about the butter and Brooke says that she used the shells and meat of the Dungeness crab; Sean jokes that it's an expensive butter. Josh made butter poached King crab with succotash and bacon. Sean laughs that Josh had the balls to serve him succotash.

Sean is ready to give his impressions. He thought they did well, considering that they're cooking in a shack. The less successful dishes belonged to Lizzie, whose dish was slightly overcooked and had too many flavors overall, and Josh, whose bacon was unnecessary (thank you) and had a broken sauce. So glad that someone finally called out that you don't need to add bacon to everything. Sean liked Sheldon's dish, especially the creativity, and Brooke's dish which was easy but "flat-out delicious." And the winner is...Sheldon. That has to help with his confidence after the last elimination.

Padma moves right on to discuss the Elimination Challenge, which will highlight two of the biggest culinary attributes of Alaska. They have to create a dish using salmon and sourdough for the people of Juneau. Lizzie is a little panicked, because she doesn't make much bread, and has never really made sourdough. Padma reminds them that their diners will be really familiar with the ingredients, so the dishes had better be good and also unique.

The cheftestants head off to their new home, a beautiful bed and breakfast. As they explore, Sheldon pops out of a closet and scares the shit out of Brooke, which was hilarious. They enter the kitchen and find their sourdough starter, which is thirty years old (that's a good thing in sourdough terms). They all start baking in the bed and breakfast kitchen. Lizzie points out that there are so many things that can affect bread, and they have to mix their dough tonight and let it rise and proof overnight. They're all fascinated by how Sheldon kneads his bread. Josh is making two different breads. Lizzie is making rolls and she keeps asking everyone if she should make more dough, like anyone is going to give her an answer. Once the dough is mixed, they all have to sit around and wait for it to rise. They all just kind of sit and stare into space. I guess they've run out of things to talk about.

The next morning, Sheldon plays the ukulele for everyone. I can't decide if that would be annoying or refreshing. Sheldon interviews that he started as a dishwasher and he can't believe he's nearly in the finals. Josh still hasn't heard from his wife, and she's two or three days past her due date, so obviously he has that on his mind.

Finally, the cheftestants get to take some action: they head to the docks to meet their boat and go get some salmon. They all don rain gear and wait as the salmon is hoisted out of the boat and onto the dock. They have to choose which type of salmon they want. Then they have to clean the fish right there on the docks. I don't know that I needed to see salmon innards in closeup, but thanks editors. Josh says this was the best part of his experience on the show so far. Lizzie is reminded again of her late father, because he used to take her fishing. I can't snark on her; when my mom died (and frankly still, now, many years later), everything reminds me of my mom. Lizzie gets emotional in an interview when she talks about how much her dad would have loved to see her on the show, and how much she misses him.

Now that the salmon have been procured, the cheftestants have three hours to prep and cook their food. Sheldon is using seafood broth as the base for his pea soup, even though he's never made pea soup before and it's not his style of food. That seems risky, but sometimes risks are rewarded on this show. Josh and Brooke comment on how fresh the fish is, and Josh doesn't think he's ever worked with fish this fresh. Meanwhile, Lizzie is working on a dish that combines many flavors. She thinks it will be amazing, but she's gotten in trouble before for having too many flavors in one dish so we'll see.

Tom visits the kitchen and hits up Josh first, who says his bread is in the oven. Tom asks if there's any news on the baby and Josh says his wife is dilated and having contractions, so Tom thinks the birth is imminent. Mmm, not really. I mean, it depends on how dilated and how frequent the contractions, but you can be dilated a few centimeters and having infrequent contractions for weeks before giving birth. Sheldon tells Tom he's going to make a pea soup, and Tom chuckles because that's the exact dish he said he'd make if he were in the competition.

Lizzie explains her dish to Tom, and he's happy to hear she's roasting the salmon whole. Tom wants to know if Brooke is surprised to make it this far, and Brooke says she knew she could compete. She's going to poach her salmon, and Tom wants to know why. Brooke doesn't really have a reason, and she's planning to do it to order instead of cooking it ahead of time. She doesn't have time to change her plan. They set up a lot of things in this episode that don't really come to fruition: Lizzie's anxiety about her bread, Brooke's potential salmon troubles. Sheldon is running into time constraints, but then he does just fine.

Time's up and the crowds arrive. Each cheftestant serves up a dish. Josh notes that this is the Alaskan version of a fish fry, and the setting is beautiful. There are actual bears in a nearby tree. Tom points it out to the other judges and then jokes that bears are his fanbase. It's funny because it's true.

The judges stop by Brooke's table first and Padma introduces them: Hugh Acheson, Tom Collichio, Ga

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