Daniel Boulud has gone two for two on Top Chef Canada: both Dale Mackay and Carl Heinrich, the winners of season one and two respectively, spent time in one of the New York chef’s many outposts before going on to win the title. However, based on the performance of this season’s Daniel Hudson, who worked at Vancouver’s ill-fated db Bistro, we’re not confident Boulud will make the hat trick. The celebrity chef, of course, was the guest star-slash-judge for this week’s elimination challenge—though he was arguably eclipsed by an appearance from Canadian TV’s most eligible vegan.
The best moment from this week’s quickfire challenge: when a grinning George Stroumboulopoulos strolled out and announced to the sort-of star-struck chefs that he’s vegan, and would they please create a totally animal-free dish for him, thank you very much? Faces fell all around—but probably none more so than that of Caity Hall, who despaired for her butter- and cream-laden French food. For the rest of the challenge, the chefs groused about the difficulty of making vegan food taste good, although we award a gold star to Toronto’s Becky Ross for gamely trying to make fresh vegan pasta. During the judging, Strombo took evident pleasure in needling the contestants (“are you one of those chefs that gets morally opposed to the idea of having to change the menu?”) and in the end, he awarded the win to Dan Hudson for his traditional, chili-laced gazpacho. Said Strombo, in cryptic-seducer mode: “good chili, everybody thinks it’s the action; it’s the cuddling. Because when you’re done with the moment, you just want it to linger a little bit. So chili is a cuddle to me.”
This year’s chefs are staying in the penthouse at the Soho Metropolitan, so it kinda-sorta made sense that the elimination challenge involved creating a dish for the hotel’s restaurant, Senses (it made less sense that Boulud judged this challenge—after all, his Café Boulud competes directly with Senses for hotel-meal dollars). Each competitor was tasked with inventing a plate for either the café, the bar or the formal dining room.
The challenge’s central drama saw Matthew Stowe get a bit of kitchen comeuppance. As the café group plated their dishes at Senses, Nicole Gomes fell behind and cried out for a little last-minute help from her brothers-in-arms. Dan Hudson and Jonathan Goodyear both obliged, leaving Stowe, the winner of the first two eliminations, standing sullenly in the corner. “I travelled across the country to be here,” he explained to the confessional cam. “I’m away from my wife and my son—and I’m not here to help other people beat me.” You know what happened next, of course. Nicole beat him and all the other chefs with a plate of fresh pappardelle and mushrooms that the judges couldn’t praise highly enough for its balance and simplicity (even if it wasn’t overly inventive).
The three chefs at the bottom all seemed to misunderstand the challenge. For his café dish, Dan served a slow-cooked chicken and potato hash with a fried duck egg on top—perfect haute-diner food, maybe, not really right for a business hotel’s café menu (his old boss Boulud nailed it: “I could have produced the same for the staff meal”). Kayla Dhaliwall found herself on the bottom again, this time for a badly cooked braised lamb with Israeli couscous that really wasn’t elegant enough for the Senses dinner menu (it also had slices of nearly-raw garlic, which produced a range of disgusted faces from the judges). The only reason Kayla wasn’t sent home: Clement Chan somehow thought that it would be a good idea to serve a fussy plate of pasta (see right) as bar food. His duck-filled and orange-sauced ravioli was pronounced gimmicky and confused, and the polite food trucker was sent back home to his rig in Vancouver.