'Top Chef' Recap: Wicked!
'Top Chef' Recap: Wicked!
First order of business this week: Tom Coliccio announces that the cheftestants are shipped back to San Antonio. In the product-placed cars, the girls are nursing some weird resentment towards Beverly because she was last week's winner of the best dish.

And for some reason, her cooking skills are called into question and her personality is viewed with suspicion. Or as Grayson calls it: "That girl is a bulldog. She might be tiny, but she crazyyy!"

Don't Let It Pass You By ...

The quick challenge is a good one: the cheftestants have 30 minutes to create a "sophisticated dish." The catch? They have to choose three key ingredients that pass them by on a conveyer belt. At first, lollipops and bitter melons come out but the longer they wait, the better the ingredients might become, which, in turn, shortens their cooking time.

So some of them wait in front of the conveyer belt hoping for the big catch, others start cooking something hoping to get the right key ingredient later, and some just grab something at random and end up with a disconcerting array of disconnected ingredients, like Ed, who randomly grabbed sauerkraut and macadamia nuts.

Chris, dead set on grabbing lobster, misses it twice and finally leaps to grab one lobster at the very last second.

The Best Doesn't Win ...

The editors, not trusting that we pick up on the brewing rivalry between Beverly and Lindsay by ourselves, always cut away to a reaction shot of the latter when we get to see the former do something.

That's especially the case when she forgets to put her curried rice krispies on the plate. (Ed's advice: "I would have just tossed them in the air and hoped that some land on the plate.") The rest of the dish, salmon and tofu, enchant Padma and guest judge Eric Rupert. So much are they impressed that they demand to try the rice krispies. "Had you plated the rice krispies," laments Padma later, "you would have won the challenge by a long stretch."

Cut away to an annoyed looking Lindsay. And the irony of it all? Lindsay wins the challenge with her play on bouillabaisse. So not only does she not have the best dish, but she was bested, once again, by Beverly. A bittersweet victory at best.

Something Wicked this Way Comes ...

For the elimination challenge, some heavy product placement was to be endured. Charlize Theron apparently stars in an upcoming reimagining of Snow White as the Evil Queen. The cheftestants' task is to create a dinner for the queen. Something wicked, a gothic feast for a dark queen demanding indulgence and risk taking.

Theron's wise words before the challenge kicks off: "Think like an evil queen and take down your competition!" Later, she tells Tom how she would do that: "I would cook anything and put poison in it." Laughs all around.

The contestants, on the other hand, dish up what seems like a perfect dinner, soliciting overwhelming oohs and aahs from the judges and little to no complaints. Ed does a play on evil vs. good with his dark and light sauces with a tuna tartar. Paul wows everyone with an "enchanted forest" comprised of foie gras, bacon, beets, strawberries and pickled jalapenos, complete with a bloody handprint on the middle of the plate. Grayson dishes up a veritable slaughterhouse with her black chicken with roasted beets, quail egg and foie gras. Sarah plays up the theme of the queen's black heart with her red wine risotto with spiced lamb heart. Chris's desert seemed to please everyone but was way too gimmicky for me again. (Liquid nitrogen as a symbol for a spell? Doesn't convince me.) And Lindsay's scallops and stew was thematically a little off.

And Someone has to Go Home ...

Since the response to the queen's dinner is overwhelmingly positive, Tom has to nitpick in order to determine the bottom three. And they are Sarah, whose risotto was overcooked, Grayson, whose greens where oversalted and whose foie gras was disconnected from the rest of the dish, and Beverly who's sauce was too sticky for the judges. Lo and behold, after causing such a ruckus at the beginning of the episode, Beverly is sent home.

With the emphasis put on her from the very beginning of the episode it was almost to be expected, although she also showcased a tremendous amount of talent in the kitchen from the very first episode on. Paul's enchanted forest and bloody handprint secures him the win in what was one of the most competitive and expertly executed elimination challenge I have ever seen on the show. Kudos, Top Chef, for being the rare reality show that is about true talent and not just about who can the most effectively bully themselves in front of the camera.

Jan Cee
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of Bravo)


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