Top Chef Recap: Episode 12

Gourdet narrowly slips into the finale; Adams in limbo.

By Benjamin Tepler January 22, 2015

Each week we bring you a recap of Top Chef: Boston, where our hometown heroes, Gregory Gourdet and Doug Adams, are facing off against 14 other challengers from around the country. (Click here for a quick primer.)

This is it—the last episode in Boston before the finalists head to Mexico. In recent weeks, our hometown hero Gregory Gourdet has been slipping, whether from the pressure or his reliance on Asian flavors, it’s hard to tell. Meanwhile, Adams is fighting his way back in Last Chance Kitchen, inches from re-entering the competition.

The final Quickfire Challenge in Boston: create a bean dish worthy of Beantown. The judge this week is a heavy hitter, Wylie Dufresne, widely considered one of the most prolific molecular gastronomists in the world.

Amidst fart jokes from George Pagonis, the sweaty, Greek-cooking late bloomer of Top Chef, the contestants display their legume offerings. Gourdet seems adrift with his navy beans, which he cooks with sake, ham, avocado, and carrot chips. “Too mushy,” says Dufresne. He’s a total perfectionist; you do not overcook beans for this man.

The Elimination Challenge, an open-ended “create an innovative dish,” asks that the cheftestants step outside of their comfort zone.  Still, Gourdet leans heavily on his reliable Thai flavors, cooking perfect pan-roasted salmon in tom khao broth with crispy chicken skin and salmon skin. The judges love it, but ask, like rabbinical scholars: “where is the innovation in this dish?” Gourdet, in his defense, explains that his playfulness with textures (the chicken and salmon skin) is innovation enough. The judges are not impressed, but send Pagonis home instead for his circus-act of a dish. "I admit my dish wasn't technically innovative, but I know the judges judge on taste and execution first," Gourdet tells Eat Beat.

“You can’t win Top Chef just making curries,” says Melissa King, one of Top Chef’s current frontrunners. I’m inclined to agree. If Gourdet wants to take the crown in Mexico he’ll have to show the judges he’s still a player without the coconut milk and Thai basil—no small task for someone who has spent the majority of his career cooking Asian-fusion.

Down in Mexico, the battle has already begun for Doug Adams, who was eliminated in Episode 10 for undercooked foie gras, but has since dominated the competition on Last Chance Kitchen. He goes up against Pagonis for the chance to rejoin Gourdet, Lin, and King in the final round. Their task: To create a Mexican-inspired clam dish (the irony here is that Pagonis was eliminated in episode 1 for his inability to shuck clams). Adams cooks up clams with charred pineapple butter, tomatillo, and pickled red onion. The episode ends on a cliffhanger. It’s anyone’s game, but my money is on our boy Doug.

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