Previously on Top Chef...
New judge! Goodbye Hillbilly Deluxe AND Eugene! Diet Dr. Pepper got rammed down our throats!
-I still haven't figured out if I like new judge Toby Young yet. I hate it when he farts out his little "oh so clever" bon mots, but then he turns around serves up some trenchant criticism that shows he's actually thinking about the food and the contest and not just how to rework an old saying as a means to his pseudo-witty ends. So I don't know. He's a C+ right now.
-Top Chef producers... pay attention... NOBODY CARES ABOUT THE BURGEONING LOVE BETWEEN HOSEA AND LEAH. Seriously. Two boring people being all boring and cuddly together isn't worthy of camera time. Otherwise 90% of all the couples in America would have their own TV shows.
-However, Top Chef producers, I will say this to you: Thanks for laying off the rampant product placement this week. I'm sure you'll be back to ramming Madison Ave. up our asses in subsequent episodes, but just know that we all appreciate the break.
An improvement. There was an overarching theme this week, which is always appreciated, and the challenges were well thought out and actually related in a meaningful way to the concept of high-quality cooking. SHOCK. It's too bad the contestants pooped all over your rare good intentions, huh?
Hung is back! Aw, I always liked the little spaz. For those of you just joining us, Hung was the winner of Season 3 and it's always fun when the winners from previous seasons come back to pitch in with the judging. Unless it's Ilan. Ilan can just die.
Anyway, so the QC this week is cooking sans ANY fresh ingredients; they can only use stuff out of boxes, cans, bags, etc. I was particularly amused when they revealed the huge pile of pre-packaged products... all of which had tape over the brand names. The thought of Top Chef shying away from product placement made me laugh heartily, then shed a tear for days gone bye.
So of course all the chefs bitch and moan about having to use ingredients that they would NEVER in a MILLION, BILLION YEARS even THINK of using in THEIR kitchen! Heavens to Betsy, canned peas!!! How offensive to my refined palate, and so on and so on. Nerds. Everyone likes, for instance, Chef Boyardee, so don't get all high and mighty.
The chefs get busy, giving the kitchen can opener a grueling workout and in the end we get a wide selection of dishes that... eh... look pretty goddamn unappetizing. Okay, so maybe they have a point about the fresh ingredients, whatever. While I think these kind of challenges are interesting because they totally rattle the chef's cages, they really don't ever end up with particularly good or interesting food. I'm thinking mainly of the infamous "Gas Station Cook-Off" from Season 2....
At any rate, Stefan ends up making the best chicken salad out of chicken shit, so to speak... it was some sort of bean soup and a sandwich... so he gets immunity. Not like he needs it, of course; he's had this season in the bag since Day 1.
The chefs draw knives and are divided up into three groups... Team Chicken, Team Pork, and Team Lamb.
Then... It's off to the farm!!! With real live chickens and pigs and little lambies, awwwww! And veggies grown right in the ground, ripe for the plucking! It's the exact OPPOSITE of the Quickfire Challenge! GET IT!!!
Oh but I kid... making them use nothing but fresh ingredients after using nothing but pre-packaged ingredients is a nice episode theme. The only thing that would have made this EC better would be if the contestants had to slaughter their group-name animals themselves. But, alas, the squares at Bravo aren't DOWN with that! Oh, and that whole human decency thing, too.
So there's a nice montage of the chefs dicking around the farm... messin' with animals, doing some light gardening... uh... walking... in nature... I don't know, nothing particularly interesting. Let's just get to the teams and how they all, to varying degrees, screwed the pooch.
Team Chicken - Stefan, Jamie, Carla
Tons n' tons o' drama on Team Chicken. Yes, Stefan is kind of a know-it-all prick. However, Jamie went into their group already deciding that she hated him and, thus, was a prick right back at him. Nicely done, lady... you made a prickly situation worse! Poor Carla got stuck in the middle of their fussing and fighting and, as you can imagine, this was NOT GOOD for her spirit. But, in the end, they pulled it all together and made a bunch of chicken dishes; some sort of chicken cutlet with a salad, a chicken ravioli soup, and a fruit tarte with thyme and lemon cream, among others.
I'll spare you the suspense... Team Chicken wins.
Team Pork - Fabio, Jeff, Radhika
How do you fuck up pork? By taking all the fat away from it and then taking it off the bone to cook and then magically sapping it of all it's flavor through an elaborate voodoo ceremony (that wasn't technically on the show, but I made it happen in my mind to perk up the proceedings). In addition to their Shame Pork, they made some fried green tomatoes with red tomato jam (yumtastic) and some other crap I don't remember. Oh, and at one point Fabio over-used pesto.
Team Lamb - Ariane, Hosea, Leah ("the last of the red, hot lovers")
Even though the pork sucked, it at least wasn't a train wreck. The lamb was. Poorly butchered, cooked badly, and generally an affront to the animal that lost it's life so we (meaning the judges) could eat, it was the Hindenburg of lamb dishes. And it was all Ariane's fault. BECAUSE HER TEAMMATES DIDN'T DO ANYTHING!!! And they admitted as much during the Judge's Table. Hosea and Leah let Ariane do all the work, knowing full well that she wasn't up to the task, so they could... I assume... go have a quick dry-hump in the pantry.
So, fine, it was clear that Hosea and Leah didn't do squat and left Ariane to twist in the wind. Clearly, one of our lovebirds should get sent packing, right? Nope... see ya later, Mom. Now, look, I think and have thought throughout this entire season that Ariane is kind of a dipshit. I think she's been lucky more than she's actually displayed any real talent and, to boot, I find her personality grating. That being said, she DID NOT deserve to go home tonight. There were three chefs that clearly didn't feel like working during this EC (Rahdika on Team Pork was the third); at least Ariane was TRYING. She sucked, but she put forth the effort, unlike some people.
But that doesn't matter, I guess... it's what is on the plate that counts, and, as Ariane was basically the shitty lamb's sole master, she got the knife. Right in the back, by my estimation.
Next week on Top Chef...
Restaurant Wars!!! Maybe this episode won't be such a let-down!