Top Chef Episode 13: Hillary’s Last Stand

Disclosure: we spent much of last night in an ill-conceived attempt to fly from New York to Chicago during a summer afternoon; and instead of La Guardia to Midway like reasonable people, we picked Kennedy to O’Hare. Even bracketing the weather-related delays and hour-long wait in the take-off queue, we spent more time on blue-colored subway lines (the A train in New York, the Blue line in Chicago) than airborne. Since we were on JetBlue, we had the distinct displeasure of being subjected to a Top Chef marathon while knowing full well we’d miss a good fraction of even the second airing of last night’s episode.

Nevertheless, we still have opinions and observations worth sharing! They mostly revolve around message T’s. What would possess both Lisa and Stephanie to don that fashion faux pas of 2003-2006? Stephanie’s lack of style (remember the teddy bear backpack from her audition tape?) comes off as charming, because she’s a fabulous person and an even better chef. As for Lisa, all her affectations are indelibly coded as sinister.

Steph’s “I ♥ Tahoe Boys” is quirky — and perhaps there’s a deep camp interpretation that escapes us — but Lisa’s “Kosher” is a direct assault on everything we hold near and dear. Because, okay, fine, so Lisa is Jewish and there’s no turning back from that, but…how could the Kosher tee not have been a plant? The entire episode revolved around slaughtering and eating pig! Talk about a pat ironic “coincidence.” And girl is not kosher on any level, sorry.

You know what we admire about Lisa, though? Obviously not her cooking; she’s been second-to-last in every contest far back as we’d care to recall. It’s the stone-faced death stare she’s able to conjure in the moments before the judges decide her fate. The physiognomological structure is different from the one she deploys to receive/not receive criticism, which is more of a sour, twisting grimace of disgust; what we’re talking about is the final few seconds, right before her co-loser is dismissed, where she goes slack and inscrutable like an Easter Island moai. That’s how we want to play poker! We bet she’s really good at poker.

Otherwise, the episode played out like these episodes play out. Everyone is in it to win it, and the two best remaining cheftestants both scored a victory: Stephanie’s one-biteable tostones pucks with seared tuna clinched her first Quickfire victory, and Richard once again slightly outclassed his competition for a win in the elimination challenge. That Price-is-Right-style car he won (or least its mainland cousin) will doubtless be drafted into baby hauling duty.

Antonia got kicked off for…what, her al dente pigeon peas? Kind of ridiculous. Lisa may be a bigger ratings draw, but Antonia is a really clever lady; the funniest Top Chef contestant yet? Discuss.

Anyway, tragedies of injustice and all that. Next week, barring an utter catastrophe, Lisa will be at the bottom of the pile; her best can barely compete with her competitors’ worst! And she’s never at her best anyway, even though she keeps promising to “bring it this time” at the beginning of every episode.

Between Richard and Stephanie…they are both very good at making very good food, even if Richard’s technical abilities surpass Stephanie’s. There’s the whole lady-must-win conspiracy, but we’ll have to just wait and see, won’t we.

[Photo: pigs are smarter than dogs, via Bravo]


Top Chef Episode 13: Hillary’s Last Stand