Is Hertz hitting his stride?

Even when he’s on top, Jamie Hertz can’t seem to catch a break.

  • May. 5, 2011 5:00 p.m.
This week's Top Chef Canada episode featured guest judge Susur Lee (right) who wasn't crazy about Nelson chef Jamie Hertz's dish.

This week's Top Chef Canada episode featured guest judge Susur Lee (right) who wasn't crazy about Nelson chef Jamie Hertz's dish.

Even when he’s on top, Jamie Hertz can’t seem to catch a break.

Nelson’s most famous chef had his best week yet on Top Chef Canada, both results and characterization-wise, but you wouldn’t have known it from the judge’s comments or snarky barbs from other chefs heaped on him in episode four.

Not that Hertz is the only chef whose actual performance in the kitchen didn’t match the usual storyline.

Toronto’s Andrea Nicholson and Rob (or, as I’ve come to think of him, Bland) Rossi — normally the competition hot shots — both tumbled into the bottom four with warm sushi and mushy noodles. And perpetual smiler Dustin Gallagher was praised repeatedly for “stepping his game up,” even as judges told him he was lucky to have immunity for the week after tasting his latest dish.

Staying in step with last week’s ethnic theme, this week chefs explored Food From Around the World. In keeping with one of Top Chef’s other obsessions, chefs once again paired up by drawing knives marked with different ethnic cuisines out of a block.

While Bland and Nicholson high-fived over their Japanese team up, chef Dale MacKay’s reaction to drawing the knife that matched Hertz’s was… a little different.

Okay, so maybe there was a double take and a look of horror. And what sounded like a gong crashing in the background. And a quick cut to Hertz’s nemesis Darryl Crumb giggling with malicious glee in a private interview.

Still, MacKay remained optimistic.

“He hasn’t done overly well and he’s had some conflict with other people and stuff,” he admitted. “But at the end of the day he’s my partner for this round.”

As the two set out to prepare a hot and cold dish in the Portuguese style, his open mind actually seemed to pay off. Where past cooking montages have been filled with squabbles, this week featured Hertz sharing his sink when asked and calling his partner “buddy.”

But as the two whisked their dishes off to the judge’s table, Hertz seemed nervous about his offering of poached squid and prawns.

“I haven’t had any positive reinforcement yet,” he admitted privately, “so I don’t know.”

He wasn’t about to get any this week, either. Instead, judges said the dish was “not very well thought through” and went so far as to suggest Hertz “got caught up in Dale’s draft.”

Which made it all the more odd when Team Portugal was called into the winners’ circle over several more balanced teams with fewer complaints. Should we assume that the judges secretly liked it, but are just having too much fun riding the Jamie-bashing train? Was MacKay’s dish just that good?

More answers may be forthcoming next week when — based on the preview, at least — Hertz once again features heavily. Also on the horizon is a challenge that involves whole pigs and looks an awful lot like a Kaslo May Days logger sports competition.

Who knows, maybe this time the Kootenay advantage will finally pay off.