For an hour episode, Top Chef sure packed a bunch of things in last night.
As you know, when we last left the chefs, back before the holidays, Collichio had had enough. While he gave them all a respite (no elimination) this gift also came with a warning:
Step up your game.
So, did we get any game stepping up this episode?
Read more on the flip side!
Yes and no. But we'll get to that a bit later. The quickfire challenge had the chefs cooking a dessert with no sugar for clebrated chef Jean-Christophe Novelli, reeking of every French stereotype you could imagine. I think at one point he literally looked down his nose at a contestant. He ran the gamut of descriptions using only one word: "interesting." Good, bad, it mattered not. Everything was "interesting. Thanks for playing JC. Anyway, Radhika won with a bread pudding she put together. I'll be honest, I liked the look of Eugene's dish - a playful dessert made to look like a burger and fries, but I obviously didn't taste any of them (putting to rest the rumors I'm actually Padma writing this blog). I did love JC's refusal to even touch Ariane's cream in her dessert - the quick glimpse of it from the camera seemed to reinforce JC's decision.
I also found Stefan's flirting? nervousness? with JC over what nationality he was to be a little bizarre. Finnish? Really? What the hell was going on there?
After the quickfire, the chefs were told they had the night off. Now, I immediately thought that meant they would be rustled from their beds unexpectedly later that night to cook a 14 course dinner at a soup kitchen using nothing but cans of tuna and Hunt's tomato ketchup (Heinz being too high class), but that wasn't the case. They actually got the night off. Was Top Chef slipping?
No. Because they really stepped up the elimination challenge, and pulled a cool little switcheroo on the contestants. Kudos to you if you saw it coming too, because I didn't.
Basically, the chefs were told to simply cook whatever they wanted for the new judge, who was replacing Gail, as well as a panel of other "food critics." This panel would also be trying everything blind, which mean they wouldn't know who cooked what, though by this point in the show if Tom and Padma couldn't figure it out, I'd be shocked. And Collichio insinuated as much in his blog. And since no one left in the last episode, two were going in this one. I mentally marked down Melissa and Eugene and contemplated going to bed, but stayed up.
Because the kitchen they would be in was small, the chefs were broken up into two groups. The first group went, cooked their dishes, and then found out the other group of chefs would be judging them. Pretty neat to get the opinion of the people you're up against.
Anyway, Melissa went with fish tacos which... really? Fish tacos? The new judge, Toby Young (who Fabio apparently knew a little about and warned everyone he was kind of tough) said it smelled like cat food. That might be the harshest thing someone could say about food at that point. Melissa took it surprisingly well, perhaps only later calling sister Rosanna to bitch about it.
I will say I wasn't fond of Young's WMD quip about Radhika's soup. Kind of wasy and a little dated. I guess a Mumbai reference would have been a little harsh and a little soon, but there has to be something in the middle. Or stay away from war references all together. Just saying.
Fabio's lamb was undercooked, but his pasta was fantastic. Not sure why he sent the lamb out, unless he feared it wasn't enough. Or why he couldn't quick throw them on the grill for 3 minutes - I'm not a chef so I'm not sure if that would have fucked everything up, but the undercookedness of them sure didn't do him any favors.
Eugene's dish was just weird. Daikon noodles for anything seems silly. Plating them with tomato basil - I mean radish is a strong flavor. It's going to overtake a lot of flavors. I know his argument was he was being "really creative" but it seemed like a cop out. I liken it to me trying to be like Jackson Pollack by throwing some paint on a canvas.
Jamie went the scallop route, leading to possibly the best line on Top Chef from Fabio ("this is Top Chef, not Top Scallop"), but she cooked it well enough to win, so she's got that going for her. Maybe this win will get her to stop whining about not winning. Jebus, give it a rest. Not being eliminated is what you should be worried about.
The rest of the chefs? Whatever. It didn't seem any one dish stood out as a masterpiece or a huge, giant risk, which has been the criticism of this season so far. We'll see if that changes, but right now Jeff feels like the only chef that at least understands the judges want something to dazzle them. Of course he also seems completely schizophrenic in the kitchen, a c-hair away from ruining his dish. We'll see where that leads him.
Anyway, bottom three - Eugene with his bad radish and overcooked fish. Melissa with her fish tacos, and Carla, who made a vegetable risotto and pretty much threw a scallop on top. Judges really wished she hadn't.
And so here comes the anticlimactic part. I mean, I know they tried to build a little suspense, with cutting to Young supporting Eugene's "creative" approach, but no. I'm guessing with cameras off Tom simply mentioned some of the other dishes Eugene tried and Young deferred. We all knew the two chefs leaving.
Eugene and Melissa packed up, said their goodbyes and walked off into the sunset, off to get more tattoos and prey Medium gets picked back up.
Next week looks like they ramp up Stefan's assholeishness and it comes to a critical mass!