This week on Top Chef Masters, the flaxen-haired Busy Philipps (Kim Kelly to all you Freaks and Geeks fans), appears among the chefs, heavy with child. And this unborn spawn is in no mood to make vapid chitchat with Curtis Stone. He is hungry, you see—dangerously hungry.
“Give him your dishes,” stammers Philipps, the mighty force within her womb causing her to shake and spin about the soundstage. “He wants LA-inspired food, and no, I’m not talking about Wolfgang Puck sh*t. He wants tacos and brownie sundaes and beef and broccoli and OH, MY GOD, this child must be sated or we shall all perish.”
And with that, Restaurant Wars is declared.
“They don’t make small condoms at Restaurant Depot.”
Sue Zemanick spends the episode getting battered about by the male members of team 72 and Sunny—a pretty clever name for a California restaurant, though the mood in the kitchen would better be described as Two Below Zero and Pissy. Doug Keane and Sang Yoon boss around Zemanick like she’s some beer wench at Medieval Times rather than the lady in the American Express commercials—her only solace comes when Yoon sets her up nicely to crack on his minimal manhood.
Things between Keane and Yoon start off pretty good. When the two friends get together, “it’s like Beavis and Butthead” chortles Keane, but then, tout d’un coup, Butthead is screaming at the rented waitstaff who are probably—this is a sad thought—aspiring reality TV people who spend their days loitering around Walmarts until Andy Cohen’s third cousin shows up in a pickup truck and drives them to the last remaining Barnes & Noble where Teresa Giudice is crayoning her name in the pages of a book about gluten-free cupcakes that she didn’t really write. Not even steely Keane can stand by and watch his buddy lob F-bombs at these broken people. These people who pretend to attend book signings for the Real Housewives of New Jersey. These people who dream of getting their untoned arms critiqued on Millionaire Matchmaker. Who could yell at these poor people about not wiggling the plates? Has Yoon no mercy?
In the end, David Burke is the only one who manages to make it through unscathed, working the front of the room like some famous Irish poet pre-blackout at the pub. Women want to date him. Men wonder if they might serve as Bert to his Ernie. Gail Simmons is putty in his little red fingers. To top it all off, Francis Lam compares Burke’s panna cotta to a hot French kiss. It’s all adding up to a big victory for old Burke, but in the end, the judges go with Yoon and his curs’d beef and broccoli. What gives, man? It seems Butthead just can’t lose.
“My dish is a little more avant garde.”
Meanwhile on team Artisan—I know, the name is not good—Voltaggio finally drops the Lancelot routine. Faced with the full force of Restaurant Wars, and a total lack of cooperation from his muggle teammates Lynn Crawford, Jennifer Jasinski, and Puss in Boots (Neal Fraser), the ’Tagg finally summons his metaphorical dark army. While the other Artisans bumble about, fussing over brownie sundaes and topping citrus salads with mushrooms like first-year students at the Olive Garden culinary school, BV travels down the winding stone stairs of his mental sorcerer’s lair, where he and a team of invisible minions concoct a magical potion that looks to the average Modernist Cuisine reader like a conceptual take on cobb salad with salmon but has powers far more mysterious than any Nathan Myhrvold purports to possess. We watch as Ruth Reichl takes a bite of this supernatural dish, swoons audibly, and then suddenly is lifted airborn. For a moment Reichl disappears from view, but then there she is! A winged raven darting among the rafters—recognizable only by the sideswept bangs that remain tilted just so across her bird brow. Released from the shackles of the gravitational pull, she hovers for a moment on Voltaggio’s solid shoulder as if to thank him, then disappears into the night sky—spry and small and finally, finally free.
“I really wanted to win and make Canada proud.”
You know what, Lynn Crawford? Your week has been tough enough. Go home, get some rest, and live to cook another day, oh emotive loser of this week’s competition. I’ll save the Canada jokes for another time.
“I recognize that this is the year of quinoa.”
Dana Cowin, queen of the Food & Wine kingdom, recognizes that this is the year of quinoa. Do you see? I mean, do you really see? She’s not insinuating that this is the year of millet or the year of freekeh, or the year of spelt, kamut, or farro. As it is written in the ancient druid texts, lost to history during the Storm of the Seven Seas and rumored to be stowed in one of the four stomachs of the great dragon that guards the Cave of Wisdom on the furthermost outskirts of the Land of the Blue Cloud, each ancient grain must have its time. Its moment. And to fiddle with the order of the Great Grain Timeline is to fiddle with the universe, the Gods, and all that lies within their realm.
That said, she could take or leave Sue’s salad, and Jennifer’s soup has the consistency of a cat’s tongue, and basically, the world is a disappointing place, when you really think about it. We orbit the sun on a 365-day cycle, celebrating sorghum this revolution, wheat berries the next. What does it all add up to? What does it really mean? Why do we exist at all? Still, Cowin sits there, an elegant elf with a moonlike glow haloing her small face, recognizing—really recognizing—that this is the year of quinoa.