It only took eleven episodes to figure out what this "wickedly" boring season of Top Chef has been missing: Eric Ripert! Nothing like a little silver fox to shine things up. He was waiting for the chefs when they returned to San Antonio for last night's Quickfire. (Fun fact, producers: There are more than three cities in Texas. Why not hit, say, Houston?) The Ripper and Padma gave the chefs 30 minutes to make a "sophisticated" dish using at least three ingredients from the conveyor belt behind them, with a fairly reasonable catch (for once): The people running the belt would start off with crappy ingredients and only send out better ones when there was less time to cook. They definitely weren't kidding — the first ingredients out were Pop Rocks and a half-eaten container of Oreos.
"I see a bowl of macadamia nuts and I grab them because this challenge is nutty," Ed informed us, as he then grabbed a jar of sauerkraut. Most chefs tried to wait it out, but in the end everyone ended up with at least one crappy ingredient. We'll be honest here: This was our favorite Quickfire yet. Watching the chefs freak out about having to serve horrible food to Eric Ripert is truly the best, most pleasurable thing we've seen all season. Anyway, Lindsay won immunity for having the least awful food and wasn't too sad-faced about it.
We almost missed what the elimination challenge was because we were too busy wondering what on earth was going on with Padma's jumpsuit, but it turned out the contestants would be making a dish "fit for a queen." Sadly, this did not mean that Kate Middleton was the guest judge. Instead, they had to create a seven-course gothic feast for Charlize Theron, who is playing the evil queen in the upcoming film Snow White and the Product Placement. (Surprisingly, the movie is not called Wicked, despite the number of times they used the word over the course of the episode.)
The shopping montage was boring and pointless as usual. Why do the producers insist on showing everyone continually shouting how much time is left around Whole Foods? Has anyone ever once gotten to the register too late to buy anything and been stuck with no ingredients? No. Next time just skip straight to informing us that Creeper Chris is married. Is that why he always wears scrunchies? Because he misses his wife and they're hers? Eh, doesn't matter; there is no excuse for scrunchies.
The cooking montage mostly involved everyone worrying about cooking for Charlize Theron. We know she's the big name here and that this episode was all about the product placement and being as gimmicky as possible, but we'd personally be a little more concerned about what Eric Ripert thought of our. Either way the cheftestants clearly tried to pull out all the stops. Paul worked on fourteen different components for his dish while Grayson decided to try to cook black chicken for the first time. We get that black chicken is fancy, but when it's raw it looks like a dragon fetus.
Dinner service involved a lot of not-very-funny jokes with unnecessary amounts of laughter in response, but also, for the first time this season, some good food. Ed played on light versus dark in his tuna tartare with black garlic ponzu, pear ginger sauce, and fried fish scales. Paul put a "bloody" handprint (with a glove, thankfully) on each plate of his "forbidden forest" foie gras with bacon, beets, pickled cherries and jalepenos. Beverly cooked a seared halibut with forbidden black rice, and Lindsay followed with seared scallop over a "witch's stew" of braised short rib and dragon beans. Sarah made a red wine risotto with lamb hearts, Grayson served that black chicken with roasted pickled beets and quail egg, and Chris finished off the meal with a "poisoned" apple and cherry pie.
The judges had positive things to say about everything, with Ripert considering it the best meal he's had on Top Chef. Tom Colicchio was finally not disappointed, so congratulations, chefs, on only taking 2/3 of an endless season to get to that point. In the end, the judges decided the dish with the best combination of flavor and presentation was Paul's, who nabbed the win. As he is the least unlikable out of the remaining contestants, we were pleased. Grayson, meanwhile, was shocked to find herself in the bottom alongside Beverly and Sarah, especially after the lovefest over all the dishes. She apparently forgot that someone has to go home every week. Lucky for her the judges found the most to nitpick in Beverly's sauce, and sent her home just as she was hitting her (both cooking and crying) stride.
Next week: A head to head battle! Chris throws chairs! Tom wears a dad shirt! Grayson disses meatballs!