Top Chef Recap: And Then There Were Four

By: Kate Nerenberg

The crazy in Carla has won us over. You go, Big Bird!
In her monotone, dragging voice, Leah opens this episode by telling us that cooking is the only thing she’s ever been able to do really well. Winning, she says, would be a validation of her hard work. Do we sense a sliver of enthusiasm?

Long-haired chef Wylie Dufresne, known for his quirky molecular gastronomy at Manhattan’s WD-50, is on hand as the guest judge. He’s obsessed with eggs (who knew?), so for the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs have an hour to create an egg dish that “will surprise our egghead,” says Padma, laughing.

Red in the face, Fabio exclaims, “I’m pissed!” when Dufresne puts him in the bottom for his sunny-side-up eggs two ways. He’s joined Hosea, who tried too hard to incorporate eggs into a Japanese-style breakfast, and Leah, whose potato ravioli were too heavy and greasy. Stefan (obviously) lands in the top with a whimsical eggs two ways—a poached eggs Benedict and a panna cotta with a mango “yolk.” But it’s Carla’s green eggs and ham that takes the cake for its playfulness.

This is the last episode in New York—after this, four cheftestants will travel to New Orleans for the semifinals—so Bravo has asked an all-star group of chefs, including Jacques Pépin, Lidia Bastianich, and Marcus Samuelsson, to describe what their last meals would be. For the elimination challenge, each cheftestant will cook one of their desired dishes for a five-course last supper.

While prepping, Fabio mysteriously breaks his pinky finger but refuses to go the hospital: “I will chop it off and sear it on the flattop to stop the bleeding.” Later he declares, “This is Top Chef, not Top Pussy.” Nice. But it’s not until he tries peeling potatoes that he really expresses how he feels: “I got so many kick in my ass that sometimes when I’m in the bathroom, I still pull shoes out.”

Leah’s the first to send her dish—eggs Benedict for Dufresne—out to the long table of chefs. Her whites are a little watery, and the hollandaise is too thin. Does it really matter? We all know as well as she does that she’s going home.

Suck it, Leah.
In a dramatic twist of events, Stefan’s salmon is overcooked. Wait, what? He did something wrong? And, to top it off, Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, says his spinach two ways tastes more like spinach one way. Snap!

Pepin’s disappointed with Hosea’s refined interpretation of tomatoes Provençal and shrimp scampi, saying he’s “not cooking with guts.” We’ll cut him some slack—his lover’s about to leave him.

Fabio’s roast chicken, prepared for Bastianich, is a home run. But Dufresne likens his leafy green salad to “airplane food.” Are the producers trying to make us think that someone other than Leah’s going home? Please.

The judges can’t get enough of Carla’s butter-tarragon peas, served with a crown of roast squab. Pépin, who requested the dish, gushes that he could “die happy” with what she prepared.

All five cheftestants head to the judges’ table, where Fabio is dying to know what Lidia said about his roast chicken. But Tom smacks him for the salad, noting that “the airlines are always looking for good chefs.” The judges tell the cheftestants exactly what they told each other while eating: Leah’s whites were undercooked. Stefan’s salmon was overcooked. Hosea’s tomato Provençal should have been more rustic. Judges, you’re really keeping us on the edge of our seats. Whatever will happen? Toby Young says Hosea’s dish “lacked impact.” Could he be going home?

Fabio is declared the winner, and Carla’s peas give her the green light to go into the semifinals. Finally, Leah is deemed the weakest link—we established that about five episodes ago—and yet she remains thoroughly unemotional. Is there a pulse in there? Meanwhile, Fabio jumps on a chair in the stew room and screams, “Mamma mia!”

And it’s on to the Big Easy.

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