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Top Chef Recap: Snuggle Up
Top Chef goes farm fresh. By Kate Nerenberg
Comments () | Published January 15, 2009
Old McDonald had a farm, and on this farm he had several Top Chef contestants. That's how it goes, right?
As the episode opens, we see that Hosea (wearing an “I [heart] Padma” T-shirt) has taken Fabio’s place as Stefan’s rival. Meanwhile, the other contestants refer to the Europeans as boyfriends.

In the kitchen, the chefs find season-three winner Hung Huynh, who looks rather petite next to Padma and her flowing hair. From under a white cloth, Padma unveils a slew of canned foods, such as Spam, peas, and beans. For this Quickfire Challenge, the contestants have to pull something together from, as Jeff describes it, this “pile of garbage.” In honor of Huynh, “the fastest chef in Top Chef history,” they have 15 minutes to work.

Stefan comes out on top with his Spam grilled cheese and baked-bean-and-ham soup. “Dammit,” utters Hosea under his breath. If only he hadn’t given Stefan that extra can of Spam.

For the elimination challenge, the nine chefs are separated into three groups: lamb, chicken, and pig. They’ll create a family-style lunch for 16 based around their protein. Ariane is worried about her lovebird partners, Hosea and Leah, while Carla knows she’ll have to mediate between Cocky and Feisty, also known as Stefan and Jamie.

The next day, as he heads out of the city to get food, Fabio notes, “All of a sudden, there are booshes. This is not the Whole Food Market.” They arrive at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, where farm-to-table guru and chef Dan Barber awaits with his three head farmers. The chefs will do their “grocery shopping” on the farm, and their lunches will be served to the farmers’ families.

Ariane is at it again with the lamb, which she cooked perfectly in a microwave earlier this season. This time, she’s butchering it and pounding it out, and we smell doom when Leah offers to tie up the roasts, then admits she did it hastily. At the judges’ table, it shows: the reviews are harsh—Ariane’s herbed rub is a “mess,” says Barber. A summer-berry trifle is equally not impressive. Still, Padma praises the team’s roasted potatoes.

Team Pork loses points for Fabio’s ravioli, which are overwhelmed by pesto. Sharp-tongued new judge Toby Young declares that the green sauce is the “big bad wolf which has blown this plate’s home down.” At least Jeff’s fried green tomatoes get the thumbs up.

Everyone remarks that chicken soup is a faux pas on a hot day, but the flavor is just too darn good to write it off. Along with Jamie’s chicken cutlets and Carla’s fruit dessert—named the best dish of the day—Team Chicken pulls off the win.

Both of the other teams are on the chopping block, and Tom scolds them for taking the lamb off the bone and the fat off the pork. Toby describes it best: “When faced with a well-reared piece of meat, I want to have full-blown, unprotected sex. I didn’t even get to first base with the pork.” Talk about food porn.

It’s the lamb team that gets the most heat: Ariane needlessly tenderized already-tender baby lamb, and Hosea and Leah did nothing to stop her from tearing the poor animal apart. Padma tells Ariane to get packing, but we know it was the producers, not the judges, who decided to keep Leah on for drama. In the trailer for next week, she gets even more than cuddly with Hosea. Wonder what Toby would have to say about that.

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Posted at 11:56 AM/ET, 01/15/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Blogs