'Top Chef': The wonderfully retro food challenges

Yahoo Contributor Network

On "Top Chef," contestants are usually penalized if their dish isn't modern enough. But from time to time, the chefs are tasked with going back in time and celebrating a decidedly retro food, such as deviled eggs or Veal Oscar. If you love retro-tastic menus, these episodes from the "Top Chef" are worth a second look.

'50s Food

In a recent Season 10 episode, the remaining chefs were challenged to recreate the menu from Canlis, a Seattle restaurant that opened in 1950 and shaped the development of Pacific Northwest cuisine. Not only did the chefs have to cook the menu from Canlis's opening night, but they had to do so under 1950s cooking conditions.

Most notably, Canlis used an old-fashioned "grill room," where only two people could fit in at one time. This "grill room" proved to be Carla's downfall, since she wasn't in control of cooking her own squab. She was eliminated, along with Chrissy, who made a salad. The winner was Kristen, who made a simple dish of dry-roasted mushrooms with crispy fried shallots -- though Tyler's crab cocktail was also quite good.

'60s food, "Mad Men"-style

In an episode of "Top Chef Masters" Season 3, the chefs were asked to update classic foods of the 1960s in honor of "Mad Men" star Christina Hendricks. It turns out that she hates food from this era, since she is constantly served it at "Mad Men" parties and asks for the dishes to be updated.

Mary Sue wins with her updated version of deviled eggs: a Japanese-style poached egg with pickled plums and mustard-miso mayo. Sue's Duck á l'Orange with spicy blood orange gastrique was sub-par and got her sent home. Other dishes from the era that got modernized included Veal Oscar, Oysters Rockefeller, Beef Wellington, and Floyd's unique take on ambrosia.

19th century food

Does it get more retro than the 19th century? In the Season 6 episode "Vivre Las Vegas," the chefs had to create a six-course meal that used each of the five French "mother sauces" outlined by famous 19th century chef Auguste Escoffier. With guest judge Chef Daniel Bolud overseeing the competition, the winner was Bryan. He prepared a warm cured trout with a "deconstructed" sauce Bearnaise. Sadly, Hector's saucy contribution of chateaubriand steak with sauce au poivre was a failure.
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