Top Chef Recap: Wedding Clashers

By: Kate Nerenberg

Right back at'cha, dude.
We have high hopes for this episode from the first few minutes: First, there is no crying. Then, Jamie tells us that Stefan has a crush on her. “Does the word lesbian mean anything to you?” she quips rhetorically.

When the chefs file into the kitchen, there’s no guest judge, just a scruffy Padma (what’s with the pigtails?) who instructs the contestants to pull knives—yep, this again. Chefs whose knives show matching numbers will go head-to-head in a contest to identify the most ingredients in a dish. Sounds challenging, but not when they win for finding onion, salt, pepper, and oil in a 30-ingredient shrimp-and-lobster bisque. Aren’t those in pretty much every soup?

The winners of each round continue on through NCAA-like brackets, until Carla, Stefan, and Hosea are left to compete for the final round. Carla’s out faster than Ariane can be reduced to tears, and Hosea and Stefan duke it out until Hosea wins by identifying —wait for it — vegetable oil.

Fresh-faced judge Gail Simmons glides in and announces the elimination challenge: Prepare food for her 40-person bridal shower. And she warns, “these are not girls who like their salads with dressing on the side.” The chefs again pull knives (Enough already!) to break up into four teams: Old, New, Borrowed, and Blue. Rhadika says what everyone else is thinking: “I’d rather be on Satan’s team than Stefan’s.” His shiny, bald head is often a deep rosy hue, so maybe she’s onto something. But it’s Hosea and Jeff who get paired with Stefan, and neither one is happy with their uber-bossy, self-designated leader.

While shopping at Whole Foods, Carla gets separated from team New partners Danny and Gene, and starts bizarrely hooting like an owl through the store. Carla and her husband, she tells viewers, use the same “hooty-hoo” call when they lose each other in a crowd.

Back in the kitchen, the chefs are racing to prep in two hours and Tom comes in to survey the scene. From his assessment, it’s clear that the Blue team—Fabio, Melissa, and Leah—will need to harness Fabio’s Italian charm to give their boring Chilean sea bass a chance. Tom’s outright confused by Gene’s interpretation of “new”: a cooked surf-and-turf sushi roll, already marred by over-cooked rice. “It’s out there,” Tom says. “It’ll either be spectacular or horrible.”

Florals? Groundbreaking, gals.
The next morning, Tom decides to hang out in the kitchen while the chefs prepare their meals. “It’s like you’re a priest,” Fabio explains. “And the Pope is in the room.” You can almost see Tom’s ego blowing up like a balloon.

Stefan, Hosea, and Jeff are the first ones to present their dish to a long table of Gail’s colorfully dressed friends, which includes guest judge Dana Cowin, editor-in-chief of Food & Wine. Their trio of tomatoes—especially Jeff’s tomato sorbet that Stefan was skeptical of doing — goes over well.

Meanwhile, the “new” plate of sushi is immediately doomed when Danny decides to add mushrooms to Carla’s salad without telling her, and Gene forgets to explain that he conceived the dish—a mess of tempura shrimp, a peach-barbecue sauce, and a yuzu granita—as a deconstructed sushi roll. One of Gail’s friends tells her that she hopes her marriage is better than the dish, and Gail agrees: “This is not a good start to a new life.”  

Ariane is back in the kitchen, raising Jamie’s blood pressure when her lamb comes out under-cooked and the team is short on time to plate. But the cougar pulls out a victory at the last minute: Cowin announces she’s “so happy” with the meat, set over a carrot puree and topped with a cucumber raita sauce.

Fabio’s adorable accent can’t score his team a win, even though the women practically melt when he says they all look so beautiful. But those same women say his blue-corn-encrusted sea bass looks like old-people’s food.

The tomato trio and the lamb dish are the winners, and once again, underdog Ariane is told that her meat is cooked perfectly. And though Jamie seethes “I want this win,” through clenched teeth, the victor is Ariane, who looks incredulous when Cowin says the “lovely, lingering” flavor of her lamb is the real star of the meal.

Sniffs Jamie: “None of us expected anyone but me to win.” Move over Stefan, your crush just assumed the cocky throne.

When the losers meet on the chopping block, Danny claims he’s “overly happy” with his team’s dish, even though Tom says they’ve failed on both conception and execution, and Cowin calls Gene out on his mushy rice. Team Blue’s dish, Tom says, is a sad one that gives him the blues. But team blue has Fabio, which just about guarantees immunity, and sure enough, he, Melissa, and Leah skate through with a slap on the wrist.

We aren’t surprised when Danny is sent packing, although he continues to grumble that the judges just didn’t get what he was trying to do. He makes some long-winded analogy to football and Barry Sanders, but concedes that it’s the referee who makes the final decision. Sorry Danny, looks like you’ll be watching this one from the sidelines.

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