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Top Chef Kentucky Recap: “It’s a Lake Cumberland Miracle!”

This week on Top Chef: Kentucky, the chefs travel to one of the state’s most beautiful attractions, Lake Cumberland, where we get to see who can throw the best houseboat party. To the recap!

I immediately like this episode because instead of dallying around with a Quickfire Challenge, Padma comes in and tells the group they’re going on a road trip to Lake Cumberland, the houseboat capital of the world. Being the Kentucky girl that she is, Sara points out that Kentucky has more shoreline than Florida, a fact imprinted on all of our brains thanks to that tourism commercial from a few years back. Seriously, that should be the new state motto.

Anyways, the chefs are split into teams of two, with Eddie, the winner of last week’s Elimination Challenge, electing to take an extra person due to the odd numbers. Each team will be tasked with throwing a party for 100 guests on a houseboat. The prize? A trip to the BMW M School in Greenville, South Carolina, which means we get to see the chefs try out the navigation systems on their fleet of BMWs, which will never be as good as Waze.

On the drive, the chefs plan their menus and immediately, you can tell who’s going to do well. The Green Team — Eric, Justin, Kelsey, and Sara — focuses on making the houseboat party a party, with fun food like oysters, shrimp rolls, puppy chow, and Jello shots, while the Blue Team — Adrienne, Brian, David, Eddie, and Michelle, plans a Tiki-themed bash, which could be fun but we know will not be when Michelle suggests trivia as a way to liven things up. This is a boat party, Michelle, not KSBar on Wednesdays.

When the chefs get to the dock, they’re greeted by some true Bravo celebrities: Captain Lee and Captain Sandy from Below Deck and Below Deck: Mediterranean. Seeing the captains take the chefs on a tour of the boats is great because they’re used to working on multi-million dollar yachts, not state dock owned houseboats. Kate and Hannah would have put a way better spin on the kitchen than Captain Lee’s “This is what you’ve got to work with.” I digress.

The chefs get to work, and as the Green Team surges, the Blue Team starts to sink. Not only is Adrienne feeling sick, the power on their boat goes out. Tom drops in for a visit and brings with him…Emeril Lagasse! Tom tries to provoke a little SEC trash talk between Emeril, an Ole Miss fan, and Kelsey, an Alabama fan, but Kelsey wisely doesn’t take the bait. Over at the Blue Boat, the power is still out but they’re making the best of it, cooking via Sternos and chafing dishes while the repairmen try to get them back up and running (I saw your Kentucky hat, sir. Well done).

While the Green Team is getting drunk off jello shots and blowing up balloons, the Blue Team toils away. The power comes back on around 12:30 a.m., which Brian declares a “Lake Cumberland miracle,” which I’m pretty sure is just what most people call finding an empty cove.

The next morning, it’s time to prep and party. Here are the menus:

Green Team

  • Kelsey: Oysters with cocktail sauce, lemon juice, hot sauce, horseradish, and pickled watermelon rind
  • Kelsey: Key Lime “puppy chow” (cereal with white chocolate, coconut, banana, and key lime)
  • Justin: Watermelon salad with tequila-marinated shrimp and basil croutons
  • Sara: Shrimp roll with trinity, herbs, Meyer lemon zest on a brioche roll
  • Eric: Beer battered fried walleye with West Indies escabeche sauce
  • “Jiggle Juice” shots: Maker’s Mark, peach, mint tea, gelatin

Blue Team

  • David: Seafood dumpling with scallops, black bass, caramelized onions, and spiced coconut broth
  • Brian: South Pacific style porchetta with papaya, peanut, and cilantro salad
  • Adrienne: Grilled salmon tacos, corn salad, chipotle aioli and red cabbage slaw with chimichurri
  • Eddie: Poached shrimp with herb aioli, prosciutto, and fresh horseradish
  • Michelle: Potato chip crusted bass with onion dip sauce

In one of her many brilliant moves in this episode, Kelsey puts the oyster shells in the dishwasher to clean off the grime. In a not so brilliant move, Brian decides to serve his porchetta from the hot tub. In sneakers. During the summer. After being awake for 24 hours. Kudos to him for trying to make the Blue Team’s party more fun, but if I saw this, I would just think it’s weird.

Pontoons and ski boats descend upon the houseboats and the party begins. Just as the judges start making their rounds, a potential disaster hits the Green Team: the power upstairs is being tricky and Eric’s fryer for his fish won’t get hot enough. His teammates do an excellent job of stalling for him while he runs downstairs to fry the fish in the kitchen. Despite the hiccup, all of the judges love his dish. Padma DOES NOT love the Jiggle Juice:

While the Green Boat is rocking, the Blue Boat is…well, not rocking. Adrienne is too sick to serve her dish, so everyone scrambles to cover for her, make small talk with the guests, and in Brian’s case, sweat in the hot tub. One guest describes the mood as “subdued and down,” which is not exactly what you want out of a houseboat party.

Judges Table

To no one’s surprise, the Green Team wins because their party was more fun and they cooked a lot of their dishes in front of the guests, making it even more entertaining. The judges praise all of the Green Team’s dishes and Eric for his grace under pressure when his fryer wouldn’t work, but it’s Kelsey who gets the win. Not only were her oysters simple, delicious, and COLD, her Key Lime puppy chow party favor was a nice touch. No wonder she kills it in the catering business.

The Blue Team gets mixed reviews, with the judges rightfully calling out David for his seafood dumpling soup. Who wants to eat soup at a party in the summer? Tom calls Eddie’s shrimp cocktail skewer “rubbery” and complained that Michelle’s fish was cold; however, it’s Brian who goes home for making a porchetta that wasn’t really porchetta. Or good, for that matter. After lashing out at his team for not standing up for him (remember, he’s been awake for over 24 hours and standing in a hot tub in soggy sneakers), Brian boards a pontoon and rides away into the sunset.

Next week: Nashville!

If they don’t make hot chicken for their Quickfire Challenge, why does this show even exist?

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Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.