Week two of Top Chef Canada celebrated that most essential of Canadian values: moderate ambition. Last night’s episode—brought to us by the Dairy Farmers of Canada and featuring two cheese-themed challenges—consistently rewarded those not-too-tall poppies who found the sweet spot between being flat-out bores and overexerting flame-outs. Thankfully, episode two turned out to be way cheekier than the somewhat polite premiere—there were plenty of chefs shooting their mouths off and clowning around in their underwear (sweet abs, Patrick Wiese). Here, our recap of the dizzying highs, the grotty lows and the creamy centres that turned out just right.
The contestants were given 30 minutes and a spread of sponsor-tastic Canadian cheeses to prepare the least ambitious meal of the day: breakfast. Hotshots Dale MacKay and François Gagnon both got too fancy and didn’t manage to actually cook their eggs (host Thea Andrews looked nervously at MacKay’s plate before saying, “I don’t wanna try the raw egg”). Whistler’s Clayton Beadle, on the other hand, only managed to put out a plate with some warmed cheese and sliced fruit. Bed-and-breakfast owner Todd Perrin turned out to be the the Goldilocks of the group. His elegant crêpe with Le Guillaume Tell cheese and a soft poached egg was just right, earning him the win.
After congratulating Perrin, Andrews uttered a sentence so cheesy (yes, we went there) that we’re sure she’s cringing retrospectively: “Let this be a lesson that breakfast is, actually, the most important meal of the day.” The axiom was particularly true this day: the bottom three in the quick-fire (MacKay, Gagnon and Beadle) were given 20 minutes to prepare a knockout amuse-bouche, with the loser eliminated. Beadle’s uninspired offering was a single piece of seared Wagyu beef with a tomato garnish, so it was no surprise to see the 26-year-old sent packing. We were far more amused by Andrea Nicholson’s bouche. The Great Cooks on Eight chef delivered some classic Top Chef smack talk about MacKay’s humbling: “He talks a big talk, but Dale just had a little bit of a reality check.”
Like in a grown-up version of home ec, the remaining chefs pulled numbered knives out of a block to form teams of two. (After pairing up with Wiese, MacKay told the camera, “I pulled Patrick, who’s a great guy to pull. That sounded really bad.” Later scenes back at the condo featured a remarkably buff and hairy Wiese doing the human worm in his boxers, with the rest of the chefs cheering on their resident “sugar bear.”). Each chef was asked to prepare a dish that represented their partner (naturally, using one of the featured cheeses), to be served to 50 guests at a cocktail party at a local gallery.
Toronto boys Dustin Gallagher (Grace) and Steve Gonzalez (Origin) starting mugging for the camera from the get-go, with Gonzalez making a grilled cheese sandwich (“I’m gonna get some straight-up white bread for my white brother”) and Gallagher preparing some kind of tostada because, well, Gonzalez is Latino (which the producers saw fit to remind us every 10 minutes or so). The new BFFs paid dearly for their levity, with the ever-stern Mark McEwan skewering both Gonzalez (“he has a great story; it all sounds good, and you put it in your mouth and it’s flat”) and Gallagher (“you had a good pedigree, I had really high expectations, and I haven’t seen any of it”).
The nightmare team of Darryl Crumb and Jamie Hertz, on the other hand, slipped into a Kenny vs. Spenny–like dichotomy pretty quickly. Crumb, bizarrely, felt inspired by the fact that Hertz was “always farting in the house.” He made a stinky blue cheese risotto. Meanwhile, when Hertz wound up in the bottom four for a difficult-to-eat beef rouladen, he joined legions of past Top Chef contestants by throwing his partner under the bus, claiming Crumb concentrated on his own dish and left him to serve the guests (“I’m. Feeling. So. Abandoned”). Crumb’s response to the camera? “I wanted to turn him around, jersey him, and feed him right hands.” Oh, Canada.
This week’s winner was Nicholson, who served aged cheddar with apple butter on a walnut-infused cracker (in other words: cheese and crackers with apple). Runners-up Rob Rossi and Connie DeSousa served a cobb salad wrapped in a lettuce leaf, and cheese-filled ravioli with salt and pepper, respectively. Like we said: moderate ambitions (and not even a single upscale poutine dish).
This week’s loser, Rebekah Pearse, seemed to suffer from too many ideas: she made a veal stew with cranberries, mustard and Le Guillaume Tell cheese, and then served it on a potato and buckwheat blini. Guest judge Julia Rogers complimented Pearse for her cheese selection, but McEwan was characteristically blunt: “I had a hard time swallowing it, to be perfectly honest.” To add insult to injury, the show’s editors revealed at the beginning of the episode that Pearse’s restaurant had shut down a week before the show was taped. For Pearse, it was Top Chef Canada champion or nothing, and she got nothing.
Next week on the show: the chefs prepare traditional Russian zakuski (yes, we had to look that up) and are judged by guest Dan Aykroyd. We’re betting Aykroyd’s skull vodka will also be making an appearance. Let’s just hope a little more ambition will emerge from the skulls of the chefs as well.
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