Strangely enough, after watching this week’s episode of Top Chef, we feel compelled to go out and purchase Top Chef: The Cookbook, some Gladware plastic products, and . . . oh, hell, we might as well throw in a bottle of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing. We’ll just head on over to our local Whole Foods and start shopping. . . .
But we digress. As another episode begins, not much has changed in the Top Chef house. Sure, pretty boy Ryan has packed his knives, but Andrew’s still wacky, Spike and Mark are still flirtatious, and Jenn’s still “doing this for Zoi.” Padma introduces the guest judge, award-winning Jean-Georges pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini, and reveals the Quickfire challenge: the chefs will have 30 minutes to create an original dessert. She then adds ominously, “If you don’t have one, improvise.”
A uniquely Top Chef combination of panic and complaining ensues as the chefs scramble about while bemoaning their lack of pastry skills. A whirl of sweet confections follows, and modest-but-not-really Richard wins immunity—and scores a recipe spot in the Top Chef cookbook—with his self-proclaimed “witty” banana scallops. Don’t they sound droll? Not really to us either, but we’ll let it slide because truthfully we still can’t get past Mark’s wattleseed pavlovas. Really, Mark? Wattleseed? A seed traditionally used by Australian Aborigines to make bush bread? Admittedly, we had to Google it—but does that really sound like a delicious ingredient to sprinkle on meringues?
Anyway, Padma announces that the chefs will soon discover the Elimination Challenge, but first they’ll enjoy a night on the town watching improv at Chicago’s Second City. The chefs all primp for their night—cue shot of Mark in tighty blue briefs, AHHHH!—and look excited about their night off from cooking. Um, hello? Did you guys not watch this show before signing up? Everyone knows that when Padma says “night off” she really means “I will deviously announce a surprise challenge when you least expect it, mua ah ah ah ah!”
Sure enough, a funny thing happens at the improv: The comedians suddenly ask the audience for words: colors, emotions, and ingredients. Could it be . . . the challenge?! In what may be the show’s most convoluted Elimination Challenge to date, the chefs must pair off and create a dish from disjointed strings of words like “purple, depressed bacon” or “yellow, vanilla love.” Confused? At least you’re not cooking. As Little Miss Sunshine, Lisa, declares, “My immediate thought is that we are f—ed!”
Spike and Andrew create a delicious “yellow, vanilla love” squash soup, remaining unfazed when all of the blenders disappear and they’re forced to improvise with food mills. Then, about an hour before service, judge Tom Colicchio drops another bombshell—the contestants need to pack up their meal and transport it to the Top Chef house, where they’ll serve it. (This sounds as if it would create tension, but it’s really just an opportunity for some more Gladware product placement.) Meanwhile, in a decision that leaves vegetarians everywhere shuddering, the smug duo of Dale and Richard—saddled with “green, perplexed tofu”—infuse their block of soy with beef fat, combining it with green curry. It doesn’t sound good (and we swear we felt our arteries constrict when the camera panned over the dripping beef fat), but the judges love it, and the pair wins the challenge as well as some Calphalon cookware. Dale’s huge smile is genuine this time, and it’s almost scarier than his usual belligerent expression.
Who’s on the bottom? Well, there’s Antonia and Lisa, who bizarrely interpret “magenta, drunken Polish sausage” as . . . Chilean sea bass and chorizo. And Jenn and Stephanie present their phallic ménage à trois of “orange, turned-on asparagus” with some semi-comedic moans that leave the table of judges shifting uncomfortably in their seats.
Alas, Jenn and Stephanie’s dish is decreed the least favorite, with judge Ted Allen declaring: “This is not a ménage à trios. This is more of an orgy.” Jenn takes the fall for overly oily goat cheese and too-tough grilled bread. She packs her knives leaving us with one question: Who’s going to win it for Zoi now?
Top Chef airs Wednesday nights at 10 on Bravo.
For more a recap of last week's episode, click here.