Back of the House

Our Favorite Moments From a Very Special Season of ‘Top Chef’

We feel your pain, Dale!
We feel your pain, Dale!

We can’t easily express how sorry we are to see Top Chef go. But at least we can say, as we look back at the most bizarrely enjoyable Top Chef season yet, that it’s had more than its share of memorable moments. Here are five of them that come to mind, as we head toward the twilight, in reverse order:

5. Padma Lakshmi, with the languid gravity that only she can summon, looking Erik in the face and asking, “Did you really think that was a successful corn dog?” The self-described “soul chef” had failed miserably to produce the simplest of crispy fried treats, presenting in its stead a sadly flaccid and soggy sample.
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4. Spike completely flubbing his Quickfire advantage by selecting soggy frozen scallops from the walk-in in Tramonto’s Steak and Seafood, and then calling out the chef at the judges’ table for having them in the refrigerator to begin with. And then, of course, Scallopgate ensued, with Spike’s subsequent eternal banishment from the show. Eventually, it was determined that Top Chef producers had planted the offending scallops — but it was Spike, in his folly, who selected them despite their manifest mediocrity.
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3. Mark prefacing his ejection by telling the judges, in an act of catastrophically ineffective reverse psychology, that “Tom doesn’t like me.” That only works when it’s not true, Mark. But the Kiwi chef from Public had borne the brunt of criticism from the lead judge for several weeks running and thought he could reverse course with a pity-play confrontation. Alas, he too found his way on the Shoe-Leather Express.
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2. Lisa “The Gorgon” Fernandes’s somehow surviving through the elimination of Antonia in last week’s challenge, much to the undisguised horror of her fellow cheftestants. Of course, she then compounded their hatred by demanding to know why they didn’t congratulate her on her hideous, demoralizing victory. Antonia, though guilty of undercooking her pigeon beans, was so obviously a better cook — and, dare we say, person? — than the dreaded Gorgon, as our feisty commenters will attest.
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And our No. 1 Top Chef (by a country mile): The unforgettable duel of blame and hatred played out by Dale and Lisa during the “Restaurant Wars” episode, which, in its almost Beckett-like purity and austerity, destroyed all our better notions of human nature. Seeing the two most hate-filled and emotionally unstable cheftestants paired together in a pressure situation was a recipe for catastrophe, and the resulting bloodbath was a high point in Top Chef drama. Particularly after the Gorgon’s inevitable win and Dale’s subsequent emotional breakdown.
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Our Favorite Moments From a Very Special Season of ‘Top Chef’