I don't know about any of you, but to me, it seems like this season, Collichio hasn't been too happy with the quality of the food the chefs have been presenting. He has yet to really rave about anything, and appears downright curmudgeonly just about every time the camera catches him. Taking its cue from the main judge, the show has been uneven in quality. No one has really stepped up and given us something to drool over, and a caterer from Jersey who's afraid to step foot in New York has been consistently winning challenges the past few weeks.
It's enough to make a chef want to say something. And that's exactly what happened last night. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
See more on the flip side...
1 pot cooking! It's something viewers should be able to get behind, since it really limited the chefs from getting too crazy. Of course, it looked like some of the chefs bent the rules slightly (not that I'm accusing anyone of cheating, but I'm not sure you're adhering to the spirit of the competition with the use of a food processor) and prepared some decent looking dishes for guest judge Martha Stewart to sample for the 6 minutes she was there. Seriously, did she wander into the wrong building and simply stick around for a little bit before realizing her mistake? Is that all the Martha Stewart we're going to see this year? Why she's an expert of 1 pot cooking eludes me.
Anyway, Ariane wins with a cauliflower puree and beef thing. I'm sure it was delicious, and Martha was taken aback with the lack of butter in it, but honestly, it didn't give me the 1 pot vibe I thought the show was going for. It looks like a normal dish any cook could create. I'd much rather they rewarded Hosea's paella. But hey, who am I? Ariane wins again, Jamie complains that it wasn't her, and it feels like every other episode of Top Chef.
Martha ducks out to buy a crock pot and figure out what 1 pot cooking really should be, and the rest of the chefs find out about the elimination challenge. In a absolutely perfect you-couldn't-show-the-difference-between-the-races-any-better moment, the Harlem Gospel Choir walks into the kitchen, singing carols. Carla, the lone black contestant is bobbing her head, while the other chefs share looks of confusion, astonishment, and yes, even a little bit of fear. I am glad Top Chef actually addressed it, by having both Carla and Hosea give their accounts of the moment (Carla was psyched and apparently immediately recognized them; Hosea suggested he and some of the other chefs were scared about what the next challenge was.)
Whatever - the choir was there to give the chefs their inspiration for their next dishes - each of the 12 had to cook around one of the days of "The 12 Days of Christmas," for an AIDS benefit being hosted by Natasha Richardson! Inspiring yet probably a little intimidating, it seemed that this threw some (all?) the chefs for a loop.
So now we're left with shopping and prep work and everyone telling us how their dishes relate. Everything seemed decent, but again nothing was crazy or spectacular. I'm not sure what it says about Jeff's cooking when he basically says he thinks everyone is playing safe and that he wants to show the judges he is "cooking circles around everyone" and yet he basically makes a salad. It made the top 3 so it had to be good, but still - anyone think Jeff is a crazy innovative chef based on what he's plated this season?
Day of the big benefit, a fridge apparently is left open, or something. It wasn't really made clear. Maybe no one really knows what happened. Hosea suggests it's not a great idea to put a bunch of steaming stuff into a fridge, but then we never hear about that again, so who knows. What we do know is that Hosea's, Radhika's and Melissa's dishes are affected the most. Radhika comes close to jumping out the window, but in true Christmas spirit al the chefs come together to help them and put something together for the big show. It's a nice moment, and shows some compassion. Not sure if it happens in seasons' past, but whatever. I (and the judges) believe it helps Radhika's dish, which annoys me even more when she's chosen as one of the top 3. Basically a mistake improved her dish. That doesn't bode well for her in the future.
All the dishes go out and the chefs stand over them hawking them to the people at the AIDs benefit. There's a montage of everyone trying them, judges giving opinions, and Colicchio making faces that border on disgust. I think he might have been embarrassed that he was a part of this mess as it seemed everyone was a little disappointed with the quality of food served.
Top 3 - Hosea, Jeff, Radhika and Stefan. There were actually 4. Seemed like it came down to Jeff and Hosea, with Hosea taking the Michelle Bernstein autographed book (anyone else find it silly that the prizes are always autogrpahed copies of chef books? I don't think I have the ego to suggest a copy of my book, autographed is such a prize. Ok, maybe that's not true either).
Bottom 3 - Eugene, Patricia Arquette's stunt double (aka Melissa) and Jamie who has to be hoping she doesn't "win" here. Eugene is indignant, Jamie, only slightly less so, and Melissa is hoping for a sequel to Desperately Seeking Susan with more explosions.
The judges' panel dismisses them, and then pretty much sums up the season so far, stopping just barely of calling the chefs mediocre. Tom says he wants to address all the chefs, and I'll admit I still didn't piece together what was going to happen.
Tom walks in, tells everyone they stink, and that they better step it up, before dropping the Christmas bombshell that no one is being eliminated. It's a true Christmas miracle! Until next week, when six get eliminated. Well I don't know that for sure, but wouldn't it be awesome?
Next week's previews look awesome, with Fabio speaking my thoughts about Jamie's proclivity to use scallops for everything!