One of the cool things about watching old episodes of “Top Chef” is the ability to see emerging food trends get their start. Case in point: pickles. Pickled elements on dishes have become huge in the last few years. Of course, that didn’t help Season 10 chefs CJ and Tyler much: they were recently eliminated for a clumsy dish that consisted of a pork “crumpet” burger with fried dill pickles.
Beyond just the humble pickle chips you’d find on a restaurant cheeseburger, today’s restaurants are experimenting with creative pickles. They’re making pickled items the star of the dish, and not just a backup singer. Watching old episodes of “Top Chef,” it’s clear to see that the contestants were focusing on great pickles long before many restaurants in America. Pucker up: the following “Top Chef” contestants used some creative pickles in their dishes to secure top honors.
A delicious game dinner
Not so long ago, the Season 9 (Texas) contestants were asked to cater a game dinner, with the chefs preparing meats like venison, duck, and elk. The winning dish of the night was prepared by Edward and Ty-Lör, and consisted of quail, creatively paired with pickled cherries. It was a unique dish: most people wouldn’t think to pickle a fruit, let along pair pickled fruit with game meat.
Carla pays tribute to a New York bagel
In the All Stars season, Carla Hall used some fresh-caught bluefish to create a playful take on a New York classic: a bagel with smoked salmon. Using smoked bluefish instead of salmon, Carla made lettuce wraps stuffed with the fish, and topped with radishes and pumpernickel “bagel croutons.” But what really tied the whole thing together was the pickle: in this case, Carla made pickled watermelon rinds. The dish was so good, she won a trip to Amsterdam!
A peach of a dish
Way, way back in Season 2, the chefs faced a Quickfire sponsored by Kraft. Tasked with making a snack using Kraft mayo, BBQ sauce, or Italian dressing, Sam took high honors after making a sandwich with tempura shrimp, BBQ aioli, and pickled peaches. How good does that sound?
In Season 4, the chefs were tasked with creating an Elemental dinner, with each chef assigned to either Earth, Air, Fire, or Water. The winning menu item was a pungent pickled dish inspired by the element of fire. Lisa prepared grilled shrimp with miso-smoked bacon, served with a salad of pickled chili peppers. If you ever wondered what that nursery rhyme about Peter Piper was all about, this challenge gave viewers an idea of how “picked peppers” could be used.