Top Chef: Episode 4.2 Recap
Tonight on Top Chef 4, we have both the first team challenge and the first of the some of the usual team challenge shenanigans, e.g, throwing a team member under bus, etc. All in all, the cheftestants kept it on the civil side, but they are, after all, just starting to get to know one another. There's still time.

The cheftestants start out with a fun but mildly nerve-wracking Quickfire Challenge: Padma meets the chefs at a Chicago farmer's market. They will have to shop at the market for a Quickfire dish that will use only five ingredients, plus salt, pepper, sugar and oil.

The chefs make their mad dash to buy ingredients – well, most of them do. Spike decides he wants to take a leisurely pace, and I have to say I do actually think this is a good idea in some ways. Being frantic and harried can impede clear thinking on Top Chef, so this could be a good way to keep your head straight.

Faux hawk Richard decides to go for some eucalyptus, which is mainly known for its use in cough drops. New Zealander Mark is running around rather harried, and winds up leaving his bag of greens behind.

Back at the kitchen, Richard is stoked to see that the guest chef is fellow molecular gastronomy dude Wylie Dufresne. Spike, however, is not so stoked to realize he got some crappy meat from the farmer's market. Okay, so maybe maxing and relaxing is not the way to master a Quickfire.

The chefs battle for spots on the few burners, and Valerie notes that her own cooking style is more laid back that this frenzied pace. Andrew accidentally disqualifies himself by using balsamic, thinking it was one of the “free” ingredients.

Wylie makes the rounds, and decides that Spike, Richard and Erik are in the bottom. Spike, Wylie thinks, should have recovered better from the issue with the meat. Richard's dish was creative by not successful, and Erik's…well, as my friend who was watching it with me noted, it was “Plop-plop-plop.” Three elements on the dish just kind of dropped there.

In the top are conveniently all people I noted in my predictions column could potentially be going home: Ryan, Valerie and Mark. Mark is the ultimate winner and has immunity.

The Elimination Challenge is a team one, so the chefs have to match up. They draw knives and get some interesting teams…vulture, bear, gorilla and penguin. No, they're not cooking the meat OF these animals, but they are creating a set of cocktail party bites based on the food eating BY the animals.

Team Vulture is Manuel, Zoi and Mark; Team Bear is Richard, Ryan and Erik; Team Gorilla is Antonia, Stephanie and Valerie; and Team Penguin is Andrew, Jennifer and Lisa.

Most of the teams get along fairly well, with the exceptions that Antonia seems pretty scornful in interviews of Valerie's abilities, especially as Valerie encounters some challenges with creating the blinis for their menu; and Nikki's “turd”-like mushrooms have made Spike and Dale seem to feel a little less team-spirit about working with her.

At the event, Andrew seems set to wow the judges with an edible “glacier” he's created out of a thickening agent. But it's not all tricks for him; his squid dish is actually tasty and the fish dishes his Penguin teammates create are also well-received.

The Lion team (Richard, Erik and Ryan) seems to do well enough with their dishes, and guest judge Wylie seems pleased.

The Vulture team surpasses what you might have expected from the cuisine of a scavenger animal. Mark's anchovy on a quinoa cake goes over well, as does Zoi's lamb meatball.

Things start to go south when we get to the Gorilla team. As expected, Valerie's blinis are a failure, and so is Stephanie's crab salad. Stephanie does have a nice banana bread dessert that seems to redeem her slightly.

Team Bear is also having some issues. Nikki's turd mushrooms were taken off the menu, but when pressed, she decides to offer some to the judges anyway. Dale had put some pecorino cheese on them to help improve the look, but no one tasted them and it didn't help in that arena.

Back at judges' table, Vulture and Penguin receive the best marks from the judges, and Andrew is deemed the winner. He then sends back Gorilla and Bear. Bear is called to task for the mushroom dish, with some confusion on the part of the judges as to who was truly responsible. Valerie's blinis are called out as bad, in concept and execution, while Stephanie's crab salad is also dinged for being prepared too far in advance. Teammate Antonia doesn't help things for Valerie when she says that she would hire Stephanie over Valerie. Valerie finds this unfair since Antonia didn't taste her dish.

No matter, it's Valerie who's headed home this week. While Stephanie's dish was also bad, she did have the banana bread to redeem her.

We'll be talking with Valerie on her ousting tomorrow, so come back here for her perspective on her time with Top Chef 4!

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)