There are no laments from any of the six remaining chefs as things kick off tonight.
It is typical that we’re presented with someone in a diary session who is reinforcing the fact that they know they need to “step things up” and that this will be their week. That is not verbatim, but you get the point.
Instead, we head straight into the first challenge of the week.
Eden uses a pandemic-y segue about being able to connect with people virtually while remaining physically apart to explain that the chefs will be preparing dishes with the help of six kids who are part of the Boys and Girls Club of Canada.
“Take their favourite dish and elevate it to a Top Chef Canada level,” says the host.
Seeing as the second season of Junior Chef Showdown is currently airing, we can assume the show’s main star Anna Olson is the guest judge for this Quickfire. Of course, that is correct!
The six children have been patiently waiting (virtually) on veiled tablets at each chef’s station. All of the chefs seem genuinely excited to chat with their cooking partners.
Kym meets Charlie who loves spaghetti and garlic bread and has a dog named Buddy. We find out that Kym also has a dog, Biscuit, and the two have officially hit it off.
Josh’s partner Aariya says his favourite dish is biryani. Josh seems excited about this and he gets to prepping with some spice-focused guidance from Aariya.
Erica tells her paired chef, Erica, that lasagna is her absolute favourite dish. Knowing full well that she cannot make a baked lasagna within a 40 minute time frame, the chef explains that she will encapsulate the flavours of lasagna within some tortelloni.
Alexa explains a noodle dish to Andrea that does not seem as “staple” as the others. They appear to be vibing well, so the chef follows the kid’s lead.
Alex and Georgia are making ceviche while Emily and Kalen are making fish and chips. If there was a sub-winner for best personality on the kids’ side, it would go to Kalen.
There are a lot of fun conversations happening between the chefs and kids while the dishes are being prepared. A throwback to Josh cooking as a kid reveals is adorable, showing him in all his early 90s glory fashion-wise.
“I used to love cooking when I was younger,” says Kym to Charlie. “And I still love cooking!”
“Top Chef Season 20, Alexa is coming for you,” says Andrea after pointing out how well Alexa knows the details of the dish she’s wanting the chef to create.
It’s unclear how much reimagining the chefs are supposed to do with the dishes they are recreating, but Emily’s spin on fish and chips sounds really clever. She is using smoked trout to create a creamy dip studded with homemade pickles and serving it with freshly-fried kettle chips.
Both Eden and Anna seem to enjoy it, but Anna wishes for more fish. She notes that the addition of more smoked trout in the dip would have made for a better play on fish and chips.
Andrea’s plate of vermicelli with coconut cream sauce, bok choy and shrimp sounds a little odd, for sure, but she was following the lead of her youthful partner and things have worked out well. She receives nothing but compliments.
Likewise, Alex’s ceviche–prawns in a citrus-heavy broth and corn chips–is met with much applause. Anna loves that his choice to include citrus zest in addition to juice was a great one.
“Obviously, I love a chip,” says Eden.
Is that her own subtle nod to being the Miss Vickie’s spokesperson last summer?
Erica’s tortelloni looks like they turned out very well. Stuffed with ground pork, ricotta and parmesan cheese, she serves them with a stewed tomato sauce and parmesan foam.
Both Anna and Eden are impressed with Erica’s ability to create a fresh–and stuffed–pasta in just 40 minutes. Truly a feat!
The chicken biryani Josh presents looks especially stunning. Taking guidance from his partner Aariya, the biryani looks bright and bold, studded with fresh mango on top of basmati rice and topped with spun cucumber.
Anna remarks that the spice blend has a “baker’s cupboard” character to it. This unofficially translates to “when everything but the kitchen sink works out well”.
Kym’s dish is probably the least representative of the spaghetti and garlic bread it was inspired by. Stewed tomatoes with garlic paste and garlic butter infused with guanciale all atop a piece of toasted bread sounds tasty enough, but where’s the pasta?
Out of the six creations, it is Josh’s plate that captures the hearts of Eden and Anna. This means he wins a $5,000 donation in his name to the Boys and Girl Club of Canada.
Love a feel-good moment!
It feels like this Quickfire has helped boost morale for the six chefs, but especially Alex and Emily, who have continued to struggle in the competition as of late.
This is the second time during this Top Chef Canada season that it's had a challenge theme overlap with its American counterpart. It must be partially coincidence and partially the shows making efforts to be more culturally diverse in their episode themes.
Eden explains that this week's Elimination Challenge will be an Indigenous-themed dinner. Each chef will create a dish as part of a six-course menu that pays homage to the “culinary traditions and ancestral foods of Indigenous Peoples”. This is likely a part of the culinary world that most competitors are not familiar with.
All of the chefs look a bit stunned. Not in a bad way, but in a processing-the-information way.
It’s both intimidating and exciting to learn something new,” says Kym.
Christa Bruneau-Guenther of Winnipeg's Feast Cafe Bistro is tonight’s guest judge for the challenge and she is an absolutely perfect presence to have in the TCC Kitchen to further explain Indigenous ingredients and traditions.
It is also fantastic to see another Winnipeg-based guest judge make an appearance on Top Chef Canada. Naturally, Emily is the most excited of the bunch to see Christa.
The chefs draw knives to find out what Indigenous ingredient that they must make the focus of their dish: Josh draws “beans”, Alex “pheasant”, Kym “wild rice”, Andrea “elk”, Emily “artic char” and Erica “tuscarora corn”.
To add further complexity to this dinner assignment, the competitors are not allowed to use non-Indigenous ingredients in their creations. No lemons, no star anise, no saffron...you get the point.
The dinner will take place inside Six Nations of Grand River’s longhouse–a type of building historically used by Indigenous people for communal living. This means that the six chefs must finish cooking their dishes at outdoor stations while having access to grills.
They get to menu planning and things seem to fall into place–menu progression-wise–fairly seamlessly. Erica notes that corn is really the only ingredient that would be truly suitable for the dessert course, so she “bites the bullet”.
Chefs always seem to have making desserts, don’t they?
We skip over the ingredient “shopping” scene today and head right into prepping. Andrea’s starting off by lightly smoking her cut of elk while Emily is prepping the broth for her dish that involves grilled arct, chaga mushrooms, strawberries, cranberries and cedar.
“It makes sense in my head, so I’m hoping it will turn out very nice,” says Emily.
Kym is preparing a wild rice salad and seems confident as they explain the components of their dish. This is the most out of their element that they’ve been so far in Top Chef Canada Season 9. Leaning on Asian ingredients to help bring many of their dishes to life, they will have to adapt significantly today since all out-of-Canada ingredients are off the table.
I have faith and surely you do too.
There is a bit of drama-rama in the TCC Kitchen as Kym noted that they had won the last Elimination Challenge and Erica seems a bit rattled.
“I don’t care if it’s not me, but it’s not Kym,” says Erica in reference to who she hopes wins this challenge. “I love Kym as a person, but this isn’t ‘Top BFF’, this is Top Chef.”
Fast forward to the chefs arriving at the longhouse and they are greeted by Mohawk seedkeeper, Terrylynn Brant who welcomes them into the territory and offers a glimpse into the beliefs of her people.
After this genuinely touching moment, everyone runs to their respective stations to get things in order for dinner service. Things are looking hella windy today, which may pose some issues for any chef grilling a protein.
Josh explains that he’s making a sous-vide egg with black turtle beans–that are meant to represent Turtle Island–and a squash and bean puree. He’s hoping to amp up the flavour of his beans by braising them in a chicken jus and finishing things off with a pine oil.
Kym’s wild rice salad looks quite striking with wild mushrooms, sumac, creme fraiche and fried wild rice. Textures aplenty!
“A textural tour de force,” exclaims Mark McEwan.
Mijune, Christa, Eden and Chris Nuttall-Smith all equally gush over Kym’s dish. Why does Chris always sound like he’s reading off of a cue card?
Josh’s dish lands on the opposite end of the spectrum. In the judges’ eyes, there are some redeemable elements to it, but overall it appears that it doesn’t allow the beans to shine.
Back outdoors, Alex is having some serious pheasant issues. His roulade is near-raw as the wind has wreaked havoc on his immersion circulator.
He has 5 minutes left to plate his dish and has begun pan searing cuts of the roulade. Everything comes together in the nick of time and he serves a nice-looking plate of the roulade complemented by sunchoke puree, heirloom carrots, grilled lion’s mane mushroom and onion jus.
Poor Emily, her dish looks very bewildering.
Her grilled sumac and kombu-cured trout is served in the fish broth she was concocting earlier in the TCC Kitchen. It looks like there are baby zucchini floating around in there as well, in addition to slices of strawberries.
Alex receives a round of applause–and bonus points for the prevalence of many Indigenous ingredients in his offering–while Emily’s dish seems to leave a fairly bad taste in everyone’s mouths.
Andrea is outside, grilling some sizable racks of elk. Nearby is Erica, who is plating her condensed milk corn cake with burnt honey and sweetgrass ice cream...and it looks very enticing.
Once Andrea’s elk hits the table, it is served with cauliflower puree, pine mushrooms, a sweetgrass and concord grape jus, lightly charred cipollini onions and a fried kale garnish.
This main course is a homerun and from the perfectly cooked elk to the robust sauce, the judges cannot get enough of it.
The reactions to Erica’s dish aren’t as glowing, but it’s generally acknowledged that she had a difficult ingredient to work with. The cake seems too dense, but is given more life thanks to her interesting ice cream resting on top.
No one seems at ease while waiting in the holding room for their final verdicts of the day.
Eden announces that Alex, Andrea and Kym are to see the judges first. Erica looks around disbelief as the three walk in and her, Emily and Josh are left behind.
Indeed it is Alex, Andrea and Kym on top. The trio enter into a group hug and look very relieved. After the judges regale each of the chefs with how and why they loved their dish, Kym is named the top chef of this challenge.
Josh and Emily mush face the judges next, meaning that Erica is safe for a second week in a row. I do think Erica and Josh had the most difficult ingredients to work with during this Elimination Challenge, so it feels like the odds are against Emily right now.
Chris Nuttall-Smith seems shook at Josh's explanation of how he normally cooks beans–a three day process–and snaps at the chef. This is the first time that it doesn't seem like Chris is reading off of a cue card, so he must be very passionate about cooking beans!
Jokes aside, it turns out to be Emily's odd medley of strawberries, arctic char et al. that is the worst dish of the day and she is sent home to Winnipeg. She will be missed.
I loved watching Christa Bruneau-Guenther as a guest judge this week, so poised and insightful. There were many learning moments throughout the episode and I hope the Top Chef Canada viewers absorbed them. Rewatch as needed.
It was a little sad that neither Indigenous competitor of Season 9 (Stephane Levac and Siobhan Detkavich) were still present to compete in this challenge. It would have been interesting to hear their own personal story intertwined with the theme.
There are only two episodes left in this season. Time flies, eh?
Top Chef Canada Season 9 Episode 7 airs Monday, June 1 at 8 p.m MDT / 10 p.m. ET on Food Network Canada.