Top Chef: Episode 4.6 Recap
Last week on Top Chef 4, the team challenge caused the tensions between the chefs to erupt and now, they all have to deal with the aftermath. Spike Mendelsohn says he hears the other chefs grumbling that he should have gone home and says, classic reality show style, that they want him to leave because they know he's a “talented dude.”

It's easy to mock those reality contestants who are able to filter out the possibility that everyone just finds them annoying and abrasive, and who, instead, decide that the real problem is that everyone just thinks they're so great, and that's why they want them to leave. It's easy to mock, but let's face it: it's kind of a great trait to have in a competitive environment to ensure that you aren't bogged down by self-doubt. Lucky for Spike, self-doubt does not seem to be a personal issue for him.

Jennifer Biesty, whose partner Zoi Antonitsas was sent home last week after landing in the bottom with Spike, is still feeling fired up about her girl's elimination, and is determined to win.

Lisa Fernandes and Dale Talde had their own confrontation last week, and Dale pulls Lisa aside to apologize. Unfortunately, his apology consists of, it seems, essentially saying, “I'm sorry I wasn't able to control my temper in the face of your extremely irritating negative personality.”

As you might expect, Lisa is unmoved by this.

The chefs head to the Top Chef kitchen where they see sixteen pitchers of beer lined up. Padma Lakshmi introduces Koren, a local big name Chicago chef and explains the challenge. Each of the cheftestants will each get to taste three of the beers, and pick one to pair with their Quickfire offering.

Richard Blais decides that – for once – he's not going to gussy it up too much. He has wisely chosen the strategy of pulling out a key phrase from the directions for each challenge, and in this case, it's “simple pleasures.” Antonia Lofaso agrees. Dale decides to do a miso-caramel pork dish (um, sound familiar? Like maybe kind of what just won with Lisa's miso-glazed bacon? That he took such issue with?) but his pulverized pretzels don't work in practice.

Guest judge Koren has a good “poker face” as Richard puts it, but she had to make some picks once she is through tasting. Spike, Nikki Cascone and Dale wind up in the bottom, and Richard, Stephanie and Jennifer are in the top. Jennifer's shrimp is the ultimate winner, and she's thrilled to have been able to successfully channeled the negative feelings she had into a winning dish. She, of course, now has immunity.

Now Padma tells them their Elimination Challenge: they will be serving up tailgate food to a bunch of Chicago Bears fans before a game. Dale is excited – he's a big sports fan and Chicago native – but Mark Simmons, the New Zealander, isn't quite as thrilled. Padma also tells them that the fans will pick the top and bottom, and then the judges will make the final call.

The cheftestants head out to shop. Spike makes a beeline to the meat case and snatches up 350 wings. The other chefs have to reconsider their options. Richard decides to make a “pate melt”, which, he admits, is him being a “wiseass” and riffing on the concept of a patty melt. It's also wiseass-y considering that Chicago has notoriously outlawed the king of pate, foie gras.

Nikki decides to do sausage and peppers, but also selects shrimp in case anyone doesn't eat sausage. Mark is frustrated that others picked shrimp; after all, “shrimp on the barbie” is a famous concept from his part of the world, and now he doesn't feel he can do it. He picks chicken skewers instead.

Back at the Top Chef kitchen, the chefs prep. Ryan Scott, who admits he's more metrosexual than sports fan, is planning to do quite a few dishes, including a poached pear dessert and some hot cocoa, and wonders if he maybe bit off more than he can chew. At the end of the prep, the fridges are so stuffed full, the chefs have to tape them shut to make sure they don't pop open during the night.

The chefs return to the house, and without the pressure of a team challenge, the chefs feel like relaxing and having fun for an evening. Mark and Spike decide to use the big bathtub, and there's a lot of ribbing about what their bath means. It's kind of a weird choice for a super gay-friendly network to air a bunch of footage that essentially people trying to make it seem like two guys doing something that could be construed as “gay” is worthy of mockery.

The next day, the chefs head to Solider Field and set up their grills. Most go for the gar option, but Mark, who says he's the only one with the “testicular fortitude,” decides to kick it old skool and use a charcoal grill.

The judges arrive, with special guest judge Paul Kahn from Chicago eateries Blackbird and Avec joining in.

There are some real-live Chicago Bears players in the mix, including William “Refrigerator” Perry, and when lifelong Bears fan Dale sees them, he plotzes with excitement.

The service starts and the fans make the rounds. My gal Stephanie gets good feedback for her grilled pork tenderloin. Dale also gets positive notes for his ribs with North African/Middle Eastern flavors. Antonia's jerk chicken and Spike's wings also seem to find some fans. Once again, it would appear that when the chefs work on their own, they have greater success than in teams.

Ryan pulls in some help from the fans in order to get his dishes served, and this leads to a first: Stephanie actually does some trash talking! She bags on Ryan in interview for relying on charm! I didn't know Stephanie had it in her. I normally am not a fan of the trash talk, but it's so unexpected from her I kind of like it.

Andrew D'Ambrosi is wearing a helmet and being a total goofball, but his food seems to please most everyone, although his parsnip and potato puree appears to annoy Tom Colicchio. His ears get stuck when he takes off the helmet. It's pretty adorable.

Nikki has some portion control issues, and runs out of her peppers and onions before the judges get to her. Mark is very disorganized (which leads Stephanie to her trash talking episode #2! OMG!) and Tom is not impressed. Mark admits it's not his best.

The other chefs all seem to do fairly well. The fans fill out comment cards, and every heads back to the judging.

Padma calls back Antonia, Dale and Stephanie. They are the fans' favorites, but Stephanie could have stepped up the seasoning, and Antonia should have served the fruit in her sandwich instead of alongside. Dale is the winner! He wins a jersey and the fancy grill. He's really adorably thrilled, and looks almost like a different person with joy on his face. I still like him despite his bad attitude, and hope that maybe his win will help him relax.

The worst-rated? Nikki, Mark and Ryan. Mark is criticized for poor organization and hygiene; Nikki, for not making her sausage and for poor portion control; and Ryan for his overambitious menu that didn't fit the venue. Tom also pointed out that even if his concept had worked, Ryan's actual food didn't taste good enough.

And it's Ryan who is actually going home.  Wow...although based on the fans and judges reactions, it's not entirely surprising, I am still somewhat amazed that Nikki continues to cling to the competition, despite coming in the bottom so often in Eliminations or Quickfires. 

We'll be talking to Ryan tomorrow, so head back to BuddyTV for the interview.

- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist

(Image courtesy of Bravo)