Top Chef Episode 10: The Demise Of A Health Nut

À notre santé! This week’s episode was all about health; Padma is dearly concerned about America’s diabesity problem, and everyone’s favorite chunk (chef-hunk, duh) Sam Talbot is, in fact, a diabetic, so it’s important that the cheftestants be fluent in languages other than butterese.

The Quickfire concerns “sexy” salads — Padma’s line about “bringing sexy salads back” made us hackney up our lunch, and besides, when did salads ever go out of fashion, exactly? If anything, they’re more popular than ever.

At any rate, successful “sexy” interpretations of salad included Antonia’s poached egg and bacon salad. First of all, it’s a Top Chef axiom that you can’t lose on bacon, and second, Sam cooed about the indivisible sexiness of breaking into an oozing egg yolk. Woof!

Stephanie’s missing artichoke chip didn’t help matters and Richard’s ceviched fruit had no bite, so it went to Spike’s “sensual beef salad” with mint and pineapple. It was Spike’s first win at anything, which he ultimately handled with a complete lack of grace.

The elimination challenge was to devise a healthy boxed lunch for the Chicago Police Department — not exactly known for its physical fitness — involving a whole grain, a lean protein, and fruit and a vegetable. So then it comes out that the “significant advantage” Spike earned with his Quickfire win is that, whatever ingredient he picks in each category is verboten for the rest of the crew. Since Spike is a little bitch — it’s true, just like Lisa — he chose chicken, bread, lettuce and tomato. Which would have been fine if he intended to use the bread, lettuce or tomato! But he didn’t!

Meanwhile, Andrew got a lot of camera time throughout the show, never a good sign. Andy studied nutrition for a few years, and was superconfident about his ability to make an unconventional healthy meal. But…not a healthy meal for cops, who are not known for their propensity toward raw food diets. He excitedly discussed his plans to make a carb-free sushi roll in the monologues, which were sped up and jump-cutted to make it look like he’s a crazy person. It’s less illegal than subliminal advertising!

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Stephanie is serious eater and knows the CPD is, too, so she made a thick soup. Richard threw together a log of a burrito, but tuna and bok choi? Yes please. Dale did some bison (if it’s delicious enough, we’ll rescue it from extinction) with lemongrass and herbs, prompting Antonia to predict that Dale’s Asian-only limitation would eventually be his downfall. But that’s not even factually correct, so we’ll see. Tom offered his usual mid-episode non-insight, this time remarking “I don’t think any of them want to go home for a boxed lunch.” Really, producers, was that his best pull quote?

Oh, and someone set little Lisa’s brown rice on fire! It could have been any of them at this point, but it was most likely Lisa herself. We all laughed on the inside a little.

The scene at the Police Academy was very nice and antiseptic. Padma said to Sam, “so, your family is cops?” And Sam responded, “yep, my family is cops.” Very thrilling.

Finally, the judging happened. Dale and Stephanie landed on top with their bison and soup, but the bison was sexier. Dale won, get this, a $25 bottle of wine! Also, a trip to the vineyard in California, but come on, that’s pretty sleazy overall.

The loser’s circle was composed of Spike, Andrew and Lisa. Spike was a little bitch (yes, worth repeating) for blocking tomato, lettuce and bread and then NOT USING THEM, plus his apparently strange combination of grapes and olives that we do all the time because it’s delicious. Andrew missed the point of making a healthy meal that people might actually want to eat, and as Lisa slimily pointed out, didn’t use a grain. Lisa’s rice was burnt and undercooked to be sure, but her much larger problems included undercooked shrimp and a poor flavor balance overall.

In the end, they sent Andrew home, but seemingly not for the whole grain lacuna (by the way, when Andrew said he “always goes against the grain” the first time, it was funny, but the second time, it was annoying). Instead, it seems like Andrew doesn’t (yet?) have a sophisticated understanding of how to cook for an audience. He was proud of how far he got, meaning he had a sense of his experience gap with the remaining chefs. Lisa and Spike should be shaking in their toques, because their volatility is no longer serving them well.

Next week, short-order cooking and the triumphant and suspiciously rapid return of Restaurant Wars ought to make for good television.

[Photo: Ted Allen gets better every year, via Bravo]

p.s. The Times today has a piece on the emergence of contextual targeting of TV advertisements, a practice that Bravo excels at already. Did you see those ads for Soy Joy and the diabetes medication at the end? Yeah.


Top Chef Episode 10: The Demise Of A Health Nut