As our latest episode opens, we get a glimpse of the cheftestants’ Brooklyn digs: sleek wood tables, modern couches—what is this, The Real World? Actually, it’s more like the Fabio show: The cameras stay so focused on him, we almost forget there are other contestants.
Fabio, who incidentally is William Shatner’s private chef, and Stefan immediately start talking about one another when each is alone in front of the camera, but we love the Italian’s quote: “It’s not how many dragons you kill; it’s who takes home the princess—and I go for princess.”
Fabio’s in luck: The guest judge is flouncy-haired New York restaurateur Donatella Arpaia, an Italian who seems to have an affinity for her countrymen. But will Fabio’s background be a handicap in the quick-fire challenge? The cheftestants have 45 minutes to make a hot dog that’ll be judged against one from the beloved Domenick’s Hot Dogs in Queens. The pint-size Angelina D’Angelo wheels in her street cart, waves hello, and is silent for the rest of her ten minutes on the show. We want to know why Arpaia and her blond mane get to judge the wieners when D’Angelo is the real expert.
Which brings us to another priceless Fabio quote: “I love hot dog. Do I know how to make hot dog? I know how to make sausage.” Apparently, that’s all anyone knows how to make, except Jill, who uses a store-bought hot dog and wraps it in rice paper. Huh? Even Ariane makes something from scratch—and she didn’t even read about it in a book!—though she admits she “hasn’t made a sawwwsage since cha-cooterie class in, like, 1989.” We see the tears welling already.
Everyone gets all ethnic and fancy with their creations. Rhadika’s Indian-inspired lamb kebab wins Donatella over, and of course golden boy Fabio’s goat-cheese-stuffed dog is in the top three. Jill (obviously) and Stefan, with his everything-but-the-kitchen-sink “world dog” end up in the bottom. If only the competition were for the best imitation of D’Angelo’s accent (“Bwyyye, you guuuys”). Danny would’ve blown the rest of them away and Fabio wouldn’t have had a chance.
The elimination challenge—create a three-course New American lunch menu—sounds as if it should be a snap for someone who has a title like executive chef. The 15 chefs break into three groups to make appetizers, entrées, and desserts. During their two-hour prep session, Tom comes in to tell them they’ll be cooking at his restaurant, Craft, and that the judges will be 50 rejected (read: hypercritical) Top Chef applicants. Fabio gets so fired up, he tells Stefan to his face that he’ll be taking home the princess. Aw, shoot! But it’s Hosea who’s really getting the girl: He and Leah cuddle up on the couch in a cooking-free, drama-full moment. Wait, maybe this is The Real World.
After a shopping trip to Whole Foods, the chefs descend on the Craft kitchen. Even though Hosea can find only canned crab during the excursion, he’s über-confident about his crab salad. Jill is positive that her decision to use melon-size ostrich eggs will win her major originality points, then can’t figure out how to crack them open as Jamie sneers, “That’s just playing it ridiculous.” Jamie, however, is sure her corn soup will land her in the top three, and—surprise, surprise—Ariane is freaking out and can’t decide if her lemon-meringue “martini” is too sweet or too tart. When Carla tells her it’s definitely too sugary but Rhadika says it fine, she just gives up. With glazed-over eyes, she tells the camera: “This is what I made.”
Donatella, Padma, and Gail are the catty mean girls at the lunch table. Padma calls Leah’s presentation a throwback to the ’80s, and Donatella says Carla’s apple tart looks like a sweaty deli-counter pastry. Gail hates Rhadika’s avocado mousse, which she likens to sweet guacamole. Padma’s too busy spitting Ariane’s dessert into her napkin even to comment. Of course, though, Donatella swoons over Fabio’s “beautiful” olives and perfect dish.
Meanwhile, Papa Tom’s not happy with anyone’s sad attempts at nouveau comfort food. He tells the chefs they’ve “sent American cuisine back 20 years.” But he does have kind words for Carla’s “excellent” pastry crust, Jamie’s smooth corn purée, and Fabio’s beef carpaccio. As the guest judge, Donatella gets to announce the winner, her Italian stallion. Now go ride off into the sunset.
Hosea’s “muddy”-tasting crab salad, Jill’s overambitious ostrich-egg quiche, and Ariane’s sugar-packed dessert land them on the chopping block. Even though Gail tells Hosea his crab “just didn’t taste good” and his seasoning was way off, we clearly know that Ariane is going home, right? Padma couldn’t even swallow her dish—it’s all over. But no, it’s Jill who packs her knives after a stumbling explanation of her use of ostrich eggs, which Gail says is “the lamest defense we’ve had in five seasons of Top Chef.” So Ariane lives to see another day, albeit through eyes blurred by buckets of tears. Couldn’t Bravo just repeat what they did last week and cut two of them?
What did you think of Wednesday night's episode? Let us know in the comments!
Want more Top Chef? Read last week's recap here.