‘Top Chef: Charleston’ episode 5 review: Beans and birthday curses

Top Chef -Last week, “Top Chef” cast out BJ from the competition, and as a result of that, we’ve seen three newbie chefs go home in the past four weeks. Would the tradition continue moving into Thursday night’s new episode? Time will tell, but we are starting off with the most unusual quickfire we’ve seen to date.

In the dark – In what was the latest twist to the competition, Padma Lakshmi didn’t show up to the kitchen when the chefs arrived; instead, they were greeted with a timer, and then eventually the pantry opening up to reveal what many chefs likely thought was a biscuit challenge. With the ingredients like flour and buttermilk available, this was not necessarily rocket science to figure it out.

What we were pleasantly surprised to see was how for the most part, the chefs all managed to come up with some really innovative twists here in what was effectively standard breakfast food. Brooke made a very elaborate meal out of them with big flavors and Silvia looked to avoid the “Top Chef” birthday curse with a surprisingly tasty biscuit despite never making them before. Brooke actually won the Quickfire, which got her back on the winning side of things after a rough week.

Now, barbecue – This was a cool idea for a challenge: Grouping up the remaining chefs into quartets, where they had to then properly barbecue and prepare a whole hog using a signature South Carolina sauce that was either mustard-based or vinegar-based. Both looked DELICIOUS, and this was going to be a task all about patience and preparation. If you make a wrong move along the way, such as picking up the wrong ingredient, it’s going to be hard to recover.

The state of Sheldon – While the majority of the other chefs went off to do the challenge, Sheldon booked it over to get an MRI on his ailing back. His fear was that it could boot him from the competition, and it’s a valid one. This sort of pain is no joke. Luckily, he was able to come back to the competition and his team after learning that it was a herniated disc that could be treated.

The Elimination Challenge – It was pretty clear pretty early on with this challenge that the team of Sylva, Katsuji, Silvia, and Amanda was going off the rails pretty quickly. Sylva’s barbecue sauce was an odd concoction that wasn’t either of the two familiar sauced, they may have overcooked their pig, Silvia’s “potato salad” was far from traditional, and Katsuji had something funky that turned up in his beans. Elsewhere, the only major causes for concern seemed to be Emily’s beans (which got a ribbing from Katsuji) and also John’s macaroni and cheese, which caused him some strife when he realized that he didn’t have all-purpose flour like he thought that he did.

Hey, at least during the presentation part of this episode we started to get a better sense as to what exactly happened with the beans! Apparently, there is a gland that if used, can deliver a really odd flavor. Our guess is that Katsuji, being a kosher chef, probably wasn’t altogether familiar with the anatomy of a pig enough to know this when he used part of the head meat for the means. Meanwhile, nobody was a fan of Silvia’s potato salad and Amanda’s side failed to offer any flavor. Add to this barbecue that was sauce and sauce only, and this was a hot mess and an easy last-place finish to call.

Judges’ Table – This was pretty ugly, mostly because this wasn’t one of those cases where there was much distance between the best and the worst dishes. We hated to say it, but it felt pretty obvious that Katsuji was going just because the main critique on the beans was simply that they didn’t taste good. We though Silvia and the whole “birthday curse” stuff was a red herring.

As it turns out, our prediction was wrong and Silvia went home. Admittedly, we enjoy Katsuji as a pot-stirrer and wanting him to say, but after seeing her teary exit it was legitimately sad. You can tell she wanted to do something special tonight, but it just didn’t happen.

Overall – While we will always prefer solo challenges slightly over the group ones, this was still one of our favorite episodes of the season. It had so much drama, and also food that we legitimately wanted to gobble down. You can’t ask for much more. Grade: A-.

For some other news when it comes to “Top Chef,” including our take on “Last Chance Kitchen” and so much more, then be sure to head over to the link here right now! (Photo: Bravo.)

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