Here's a common Top Chef dilemma: When a contestant conceptualizes a plan of action and, with the clock ticking, suddenly discovers a key component is missing, say, a level pot for risotto or a vital ingredient, does he tear up the plan or just keep going? This week, Micah Fields was hoping to showcase his concept for a raw-foods restaurant, imagining delicate slices of carpaccio, even hard-to-find edible uncooked pork and chicken sashimi. None were found at the market, which led him to go with fish. But as guest judge and famed restaurateur Danny Meyer put it, "We all have a context for raw fish called 'really good sushi,' and if this is not adding something to the dialogue, who needs it?"
Micah, an executive chef at L.A.'s Standard Hotel, wishes he went to the store across the street from the Asian market. But with little time left, he improvised with the fish and was ultimately sent packing. On the phone this afternoon, Micah says he knew what he was getting into but he wouldn't change his raw concept if given the chance. Much less cocky on the phone, the chef says he was "happily surprised" to get as far as he did in the competition, though "there are chefs I will not name" (like Josie Smith-Malave) who should've gone before him but have somehow survived.
While proper seasoning is a recurring theme in the series, contestants like Eliza Gavin consider some of the judges to have overseasoned (salty) palates. Micah says the challenge is pleasing the very different palates of judges Tom Colicchio (who notices dishes with one grain of salt too few or too many), Gail Simmons (who tends to like things overseasoned), and Padma Lakshmi (who leans toward underseasoned food).
And behind the scenes, the chefs actually consume a fair amount of bad food such as chips and candy bars. According to Micah, C.J. Jacobson was reknown for his "drunk junk food" including "shitty quesadillas with grapes in it." And Stefan Richter's favorite sandwich consisted of onions and mayonnaise.
It's nice knowing these chefs have their guilty pleasure foods like the rest of us and that it's not all hamachi and dashi and elk all the time.