Top Chef

Top Chef Recap: Too Many Tennis Analogies

Photo: Barbara Nitke/Bravo

Last night’s Top Chef started off with the chefs deciding to go to a bar to unwind after the tough elimination. Apparently they have a different idea of unwinding than we do, because all they seemed to be doing was drinking coffee and munching on plates of fruits and vegetables. Don’t get too crazy with the apples there, Angelo! You don’t want to be too full of fiber for the Quickfire!

Tony Mantuano from Spiaggia in Chicago helped give the chefs their Quickfire, which was to settle the debate of who has the best product-placement stuffing, a challenge that would have made a lot more sense about a month ago. Oh, and no knives or kitchen tools were allowed, but Padma explained that it was totes worth it because the winner would get immunity and $20,000. We cook without basic kitchen tools in our teensy kitchen all the time! Where’s our $20K?

Fabio completely flipped out about not being able to use tools and likened the challenge to asking a surgeon to perform surgery with just his fingers. Not quite the same sense of doom there, Fabs. It seemed that Padma had a loose definition of kitchen tools, though, because Tre quickly busted out the liquid nitrogen. Carla’s “un dente” quinoa and Thai-inspired vegetable stuffing, Tiffani’s soy-maple stuffing with quail and grilled mushrooms, and Casey’s mushrooms with crispy chicken liver and miso cake all made the bottom, supposedly owing to flavor but probably because of none of those things really being stuffing. The judges debated between Tre’s southwest stuffing with bacon, Cheddar, and chile powder, and Marcel’s whole squab and stuffing with raisin brioche, but gave Tre the win, probably because bacon makes everything better.

The chefs were split into two teams for the complicated elimination challenge. They each had to cook a healthy, high-energy dish and then serve them one at a time, head-to-head, with the first team who hit four points getting the win. All the chefs from the winning team with winning dishes would be up for the win, while all the chefs who lost a point would be up for elimination (as soon as Padma stopped talking, our roommate asked, “Wait, what was the challenge?”).

Anyway, Carla, Fabio, Mike I, Asian Dale, Richard, Marcel, and Antonia ended up on the orange team, while Tre, Spike, Tiffany, Tiffani, Jamie, Casey, and Angelo made up the yellow team. We immediately began cheering for team orange, because our love for Carla is undying and also Richard is the best. A number of chefs took the interview time during prep work to explain that they were or are athletes and thus knew exactly what to make, but Antonia brilliantly stated, “I never played sports in high school. I smoked a lot of pot and did nothing else.” For that, Antonia, you win this episode, and also life. Meanwhile, team yellow decided that they needed a strategy for this challenge and agreed to send out their worst dish first, assuming orange would send out their best first. They tried to act smug and quiet about it, but Tom would have none of that when he came in to check in and got team gossips Angelo and Spike to tell him the secret.

However, out on the court (where Angelo felt like he was “in a fighter jet”), the yellow team could not get worst dish-maker Jamie, whose chickpeas wouldn’t cook, to go first, and Casey was forced to take one for the team. She proceeded to lose round one to Fabio’s whole-wheat gnocchi. Yellow was able to take round two, with Tiffani’s black-bass sashimi beating out Dale’s edamame dumpling with spicy-carrot froth, and round three with Angelo’s smoked tuna and yuzu gelée winning over Marcel’s cauliflower couscous, but orange tied it up again in round four when Antonia’s sea scallop with Indian lentil puree beat Tiffany’s spiced tuna with lentil salad. At this point, yellow started to get worried, and Jamie started hiding as Angelo started working on the remaining dishes. Mr. Asia’s influence backfired, as Richard’s Thai-bouleh with lamb beat Spike’s tomato-tamarind soup with shrimp and Carla’s African groundnut soup with sweet potatoes beat Tre’s salmon with parsnip puree, giving orange the win for the challenge and causing the entire team to dance and jump around like little kids. Meanwhile, Jamie was happy that now she wouldn’t be up for elimination, claiming, “it just happened that way.” Is anyone else liking her less and less each week?

At judges’ table, Richard explained that he, Carla, Fabio, and Antonia were there because they didn’t have a strategy. The judges raved over everything, but gave the win — including a trip to Italy and a giant bottle of wine — to our girl Carla (who kept competing even after slicing her finger off *cough Jamie cough*). Hooty hoo! Casey, Tiffany, Spike, and Tre went into the bottom, where the chefs pointed out that their strategy didn’t work at all. Tom, who apparently enjoyed stirring up drama this episode, asked Tiffany if she thought Angelo was sabotaging other chefs (like they all thought last season), but she managed to give a politician answer. Gail then called her salad flaccid, but it wasn’t enough to send her home, and Spike and his pink shoelaces got the boot instead.

In two weeks: Cooking against Tom! Going to Chinatown! Fabio is screwed! Diners are pissed! Tom is pissed! Caucasian dim sum! Hopefully Jamie goes home!

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