Top Chef's Erik Serves Up Tuna Tartare
They were supposed to be cooking for a block party — but the contestants on Wednesday’s Top Chef looked anything but ready to party after a severe dressing down from the judges. While (almost) everybody took some heat, it was Erik who was sent packing for producing — ugh — soggy corndogs. The moral: Some dishes just can’t sit around after they’re prepared. (Didn’t we learn that well enough from Valerie last week?) But back to that in a minute.
Despite the elimination and judging drama, how much fun was it to watch the chefs scramble around, collecting food from residents of one Chicago neighborhood and then attempt to turn their bounty into an upscale feast for that neighborhood’s block party? Split into two teams — red and blue — the chefs cooked up festive food (pasta salads, mini-burgers and mac and cheese) before contestants began mingling with their guests and throwing back beers. It was all light-hearted enough until it was time for judge’s table. And when Erik’s name was announced, he didn’t seem all too surprised. Maybe it was because the chef also ran into some trouble during the Quickfire Challenge. His tacos were less than appetizing to guest judge (and upscale Mexican culinary guru Rick Bayless) — though he didn’t seem to care. Erik even dismissed the very idea of upscale Mexican food altogether.
After the jump, look for a quick, easy recipe for tuna tartare that Erik has prepared exclusively for PEOPLE.com readers. Then hear more from Erik about the recipe, his reactions to being booted and what happened to his corndogs.
Erik’s Tuna Tartarechopped ahi tuna, 2.5 oz. fresh ginger, 1/8 oz. toasted black sesame seeds, 1/16 oz. toasted white sesame seeds, 2/16 oz. ponzu, 0.25 oz. Sriracha, 1/8 oz. wasabi aioli, 0.75 oz. green onions, 0.75 oz. diced avocado, 1 oz. salt and pepper, to taste baked wonton chips, 10 diced mango, 1 oz.
1. Bind together tuna with seasonings and onion in a large bowl.
2. Layer tuna, avocado and mango in a ring mold and then remove and stack on plate.
3. Serve with baked wonton chips.
Talk about the tartare recipe you’ve given us. Is that one of your favorite dishes?My tartare has followed me from four or five different restaurants … It’s just one of my signature dishes, so that’s why I shared with you guys. We layer the tuna, then layer the avocado and then another layer of mangos.
The tension was really high at the judges’ table. Did you guys really think you were going to win? Did you agree with the judges?We did the best with what we had to work with. And as far as feedback from all the that we were there to cater for, they totally clearly choose us over them. They’re not the judges … I definitely had a strong say in most of this — and I’m fine with getting eliminated. Basically I said, “We should cater to the kids.” There are 70 kids, 40 adults. If the kids aren’t happy, the adults aren’t going to be happy. It was geared toward the kids having a good time.
Do you regret making your corndogs?I have corn dogs on my menu at the restaurant. I don’t serve soggy corndogs. But what were we going to take them out and just have three things? No. In retrospect, I wouldn’t change a damn thing. Literally, I couldn’t think of anything else fun to do with hot dogs. What am I going to serve just regular hot dogs? I did the best with what I had.
You didn’t seem to take Rick Bayless’s opinion seriously in the Quickfire Challenge. Is that the case?I don’t have any respect for him. I hate his shows and his books. I think he’s a white guy trying to do Mexican food. I pretty much live and work with Mexicans my whole life. And gourmet Mexican is an oxymoron as far as I’m concerned. Chuck Hodes/Bravo