Top Chef

Top Chef Gets Funky, Hairy

Photo: Courtesy of Top Chef

During last night’s episode of Top Chef, propriety was out the window and Charlie “American Icon” Palmer judged his former employees, the Brothers Voltaggio. How is that fair? Michael was the guy’s exec chef, and Bryan was a partner in Charlie Palmer Steak DC! And the guys have some serious dirt on their old boss: “One day he shot a wild boar outside of his house and he brought it into the kitchen and just left it there.” While you’re at it, why not just have Eric Ripert judge Jen C! (Oh, wait, he probably will).

Anyway, the cheftestants’ first task was to pair a dish with some chips. Not chips in the Toby Young sense, but some actual packaged snacks. Ash found this “incredibly difficult,” like he had never heard of sour cream before. Jen C over cooked her pork chops and was so embarrassed, she couldn’t look Charlie Palmer in the eyeliner. Michael V. (a.k.a. Picasso a.k.a. Babe Ruth) did a tuna tartare with avocado, pickled onions, and jalapeños. His brother Bryan also used pickled onions in a more successful dish — seared rib eye with sautéed mushrooms and chili peppers. But of course Palmer couldn’t choose Bryan (that would look bad) so he surprised even himself by singling out Eli’s potato-clam salad with fennel, celery, and white-truffle sauce for the win.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs drew knives to find out which part of the pig they’d be preparing with a wine of their choice for Charlie Palmer’s Pigs and Pinot benefit. Eli drew belly and Palmer called him a “lucky guy,” and winked at him as if to say, this means you get to sleep with one of my wine angels. Jen got a wild card and was all “me too! me too!” about the pork belly, which clearly irked Eli because later on he douche-bragged that his braised pork belly was more creative and exciting than Jen’s braised pork belly. But guess who got to the top four? Jen, baby! After Toby Young compared her choice of European wine to a hairy armpit and said her sauce captured some “funky, hairy notes,” Colicchio seemed flabbergasted and Padma got a look on her face that was like, “I really hope this guy has never thought about my funky, hairy notes.”

Of course, Eli’s trash talk wasn’t limited to Jen — he also slagged everyone’s “amateur palates,” and tangled with Robin over some dirty dishes. He was totally like, you’re not my [bleep]ing mom, which is a good thing for Robin, because if she were his mom she’d have to pay his rent.

Speaking of Robin, when the editors went to the trouble of splicing together about 50 words to make her say “I. Really. Want. To. Take. It. Today,” it was clear her brined pork chop, stuffed with a sweet-potato apple-fennel roulade, would put her on the chopping block. Indeed, it was too thin and didn’t taste porky enough. Also up for elimination: Laurine, who attempted a rillette using an unorthodox ingredient (pork) and an unorthodox method (braising the butt with chicken stock rather than poaching it in fat). Judge Dana Cowin compared the subsequent hash to cat food, but the decent golden raisin and pearl-onion chutney saved it.

On the other hand, Ash, while making a big to-do about how he was going to cook for himself now, let Jersey Mike talk him into doing a chilled tenderloin. The result was so clammy, oversalted, and lacking in flavor that it got a “Did you taste your dish?” out of Padma (one of the five lines that she’ll speak if there’s ever a Padma pull-string doll). Ash, who had done a pretty good job of fading into the woodwork up until now, was finally sent packing, and promised to cook the dish he originally planned (a roasted pork tenderloin with polenta and a cherry demi glace) for Charlie, Toby, and Tom … but not Padma! Guess that big hat she wore during Pigs and Pinot really annoyed him.

Anyway, after getting into a little brother’s spat over Glad cling-wrap, brothers Michael and Bryan got a lot of love for their root-beer braised pork cheek and braised spare rib, respectively. Much as Michael’s truffle bun impressed, the winner was Kevin, whose maniacal quest for pork fat at Whole Foods clearly made the difference in his pork-leg terrine. When he was yet again crowned winner, he did the trick where he blushes so hard that his pig tattoo actually turns pink.

Next week, it’s restaurant wars! Plus, more sibling rivalry, Jen freaks out (again) but probably ends up in the top three (again), and Rotten Robin finally makes someone’s head explode.

Pigs & Pinot