This week's Top Chef kicks off with what might be one of my favorite quickfire challenges ever. Twitter followers of @BravoTopChef get to tweet suggestions for what the chefs cook, as well as ways to make the cooking more challenging.
Tom and Padma stand by in the kitchen, iPhone in hand, watching the tweets roll in and deciding what they think the chefs should make. It's first decided that the chefs will have to cook bacon; a few minutes later a hash is the thrown into the mix. The final stipulation is a good one: Each chef is to pick a random ingredient, hand it to the person next to them, and then that chef is required to cook with it. There seems to be a lot of sriracha being thrown around, as well as some maple syrup, but the chefs more or less seem to make it work and don't throw anyone under the bus with an awful ingredient.
Paul ends up winning the quickfire and then it's off to Austin, where Paul is from. In Austin, the chefs are told to just kick back and drink cocktails in a swanky (or rather "swanky") lounge when all of a sudden, cookbook author, diva, and the all-around Ms. Fabulous Patti LaBelle shows up to serenade the chefs with "Lady Marmalade."
I am either A) Incredibly literal, or B) Very wishful, because I was really hoping the challenge was going to be Cook With Marmalade! You see, I bought a bunch to give away to my daughter's daycare teachers, along with some homemade bread, except then I got lazy and never made the bread and now I've scrapped the idea entirely and am left with a ton of marmalade and I have no idea what to do with it.
Anyway! The elimination challenge is unfortunately for me not marmalade-centric; instead, chefs are told to cook a meal inspired by the person who first taught them to cook. There are a lot of grandmas and moms in the mix. In a not-really-surprisingly-but-kind-of-surprising turn, Ty-Lor Umlaut is inspired by his ... Japanese nanny ... and cooks a panko-crusted chicken tender cooked in duck fat. I would eat about ten of those in one sitting, just saying.
Beverly, who used a pressure-cooker for the first time in the quickfire challenge, decides to use it again for this challenge, and makes short ribs. (Side-note: I made the Pioneer Woman's braised short ribs and creamy polenta this past weekend and they were delicious. If you're looking to make some yourself, these are easy and so, so good. Highly recommend!)
Heather cooks up rib-eye for a sort of deconstructed shepherd's pie thing and it looks awful and she knows it. Malibu Chris makes fish, inspired by his uncle, but cooks it too fast and too hot and some of that white stuff starts to seep out (this is sounding kind of gross, sorry.) Anyhow! Chris tries to just wipe it off and hopes aloud that the judges won't notice. Umm, I've been watching Top Chef for 9 seasons now ... The judges notice everything. Grayson cooks a honker of a steak and, upon seeing the other chefs' delicately-plated dishes, tries to play it off like that's what she meant to do. "I'm from Wisconsin! We eat big steaks! Ha. Ha. Ha..."
It should be no surprise these three end up in the bottom. Meanwhile, in the top are Sarah, with a take on stuffed-cabbage, as well as Edward who made the only vegetarian dish of the night. I can't remember who the other person in the top is, but it doesn't matter, because Sarah wins! This makes me happy. This makes Sarah happy. Sarahs around the world are happy and that's all that matters.
Back to the bottom three, Heather is ultimately sent home, but not before Tom makes a snarky remark about how Beverly used a pressure-cooker twice this episode and yet when Heather used it last week, she ended up in the bottom. Whatever, Thomas.
Stand-out this week: Edward. I thought it was ballsy to make a dish out of rice and egg, but I think it's one of those dishes so steeped in culture, you knew it had to be good. P.S. Did anyone notice that totally weird conversation before they left for the elimination challenge where Edward was eating dry cereal and Ty-Lor had a glass of wine in front of him? Something tells me someone was nursing a hangover. Hey, no judgment!
As for the others, I'd like to see Grayson redeem herself because I really like her. She just needs a little refining, is all. Also, Lindsay needs to step it up. She's hanging out in the middle recently and I don't think that's going to do her any favors.
I'm off next week for the Christmas and New Years holidays, but I'll be back in 2012 with more Top Chef!
Happy eating, everyone!