Top Chef Recap: Pee-wee! Pee-wee!

Hey, Pee-wee, if you love those pancakes so much ...
Hey, Pee-wee, if you love those pancakes so much … Photo: Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

Hi! You may have noticed from the byline that I’m not Alie Martell, the recapper who has been dutifully slogging through this near-endless season of Top Chef. Don’t worry. She’s fine. But she’s sitting this week out so she can take a “trip” to see her “family.” I have my suspicions. Anyway, this is actually the first full episode of Top Chef that I’ve watched this year, but I think I get the gist of it. They set this season in Texas so they can execute the losing contestant each week, right?

Okay, so we have five contestants left. At this point, how high are the stakes, really? When you’re in the final five, you’re going to get backers for a restaurant no matter what. Isn’t that what it’s all about? The prize money is just the cherry on top. The remaining chefs must feel this way, too, because back at the ranch, everyone is just joking around, chillin’. Lindsay and Paul are writing in their notebooks, apparently doing their homework.

Quckfire time: pancakes! Grayson sees the pile of flapjacks and thinks the guest judge will be a kid. Little does she know she’s sort of close, since the guest judge does have a somewhat troubling history with kiddie porn. It’s Pee-wee Herman! Which makes sense. This is a guy, after all, who has a breakfast machine in his house. I mean, yeah, sure, he’s really an actor, playing a character, with “credentials” based on a fictional movie, judging what is ostensibly a reality show. But I’ll go with it. I just hope this means they get that guy from Oldboy to judge an octopus challenge for the finale.

The contestants get twenty minutes to make pancakes, and Padma instructs them to let their imaginations go wild. These are actually the best kinds of Top Chef challenges: Instead of handicapping the contestants by giving them some gross-out ingredient or making them cook with one arm, the producers just say make the best version of this thing basically anyone can make.

Grayson makes a pancake in the shape of Minnie Mouse, proving she is exactly as creative as every mom in the Midwest. Pee-wee says it’s the best pancake he’s ever had. Sarah makes confetti pancakes, which I can’t believe she didn’t call Funfetti pancakes. Nevertheless, Pee-wee says it’s the best pancake he’s ever had. Paul makes a rolled pancake with Champagne Dippin’ Dots, which, sure. Pee-wee says it’s the best pancake he’s ever had. (See what’s happening?) Lindsay makes a ricotta pancake with whipped crème fraîche. Pee-wee says it’s the best blah blah blah. One to Edward, who likes the crispy bits on the edges of pancakes. So, he did all crispy bits with berries and bacon. Pee-wee says it’s total shit. Ah, not really. Ed wins.

The Elimination Challenge is based on Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, a movie made in 1985, proving yet again that the Magical Elves producing team has its fingers on the pulse of contemporary pop culture. The chefs have to ride around San Antonio, find their food, and find a restaurant to cook lunch in. So it’s like foraging. Stay away from any mushrooms you find, chefs! How great would it be if one of the chefs just biked over to the nearest Chik-fil-A and bought $100 worth of chicken sandwiches?

The chefs head over to the farmers’ market to start buying food, then all just sort of simultaneously feel like they’ll be able to ask the various restaurants for help with any missing ingredients.

The chefs are all playing up how awkward it is to just walk into a restaurant and ask the owners to use their kitchens, as if they aren’t actually walking into pre-determined restaurants with an entire camera crew following them around. Everyone in San Antonio is so nice and welcoming! As long as they get a little national-TV exposure on a cooking show.

All of the chefs eventually find a restaurant to cook in, and all the kitchens sort of have the same tiny, stainless-steel vibe, except Ed’s; he apparently finds a Pottery Barn show room to cook in. Oh! Not really. It’s a B&B; it just looks like a Pottery Barn.

At the appointed hour, the chefs bike on over to the Alamo, which manages to have the only kitchen in San Antonio that looks more domestic than the one in the Pottery Barn B&B.; Some historians believe Davy Crockett’s dying words were “Don’t let them get to the Viking ranges.”

Sarah makes soft-boiled eggs with chicken-skin vinaigrette. Grayson whips up some stuffed chicken breast with spinach, gorgonzola, egg yolk, and bacon vinaigrette. (Bacon! Fuck your stupid chicken vinaigrette, Sarah.) Lindsay’s got zucchini stuffed with braised beef cheeks, rice, and goat cheese. Ed did his “version of chicken and grits,” which is a weird way to describe it since “chicken and grits” isn’t a well-known dish the way, say, shrimp and grits is, so there’s no versioning to be done here, pal. But points to Ed for using red-eye gravy, easily one of the most delicious things known to man. And Paul’s bringing up the rear with roasted chicken, red-curry gastrique, basil-blossom oil, and pickles that he just will not shut up about.

Side note: Do you think Paul Reubens — noted connoisseur of erotica that he is — has seen those cock shots of Ty-lör Boring? I bet he’s seen them.

On to the stew room and judges’ table. The chefs all loved the zany challenge! And, for the most part, the judges don’t have anything too bad to say about any of the dishes. In the end, Pee-wee declares Lindsay the winner, even though earlier he said he thought her beef cheeks tasted like chicken.

Ed, Grayson, and Sarah are in the bottom three, and now the music’s getting dramatic. Oh man, the tension is building. I hope they let Pee-wee administer the lethal injection to the losing chef. Or maybe Pee-wee will execute the loser in an Electric Chairy? The loser ends up being Grayson, but she’s apparently granted a stay of execution from Rick Perry and instead walks away from the show, still alive.

And so concludes another episode of … Oh shit! Just when you thought it was over, Padma comes back into the stew room and calls the chefs back out. What’s happening?! Tom reveals that this whole time, Bravo has also been doing that weird Internet show where the losing chefs cook against each other, and this week whoever wins that Internet competition is coming back. That means next week won’t be the Final Four after all. Alie’s going to be so happy when she finds out that this probably means the producers just extended this season by another whole episode.

Next week: The Final Four Five! Paul cries! Alie’s back! (Probably!)

Top Chef Recap: Pee-wee! Pee-wee!