Top Chef Recap – Season 13, Episode 4 (and Last Chance Kitchen)

It’s a Dry Heat
Screened 17 December 2015

“Lots of gays, lots of old people,” says Jason as they the cheftestants head to Palm Springs. He often weekends there with his friends and describes it as somewhere to “sit in the sun and drink white wine spritzers”.  At least I think he’s describing Palm Springs.  That sounds suspiciously like the 1980s.

I was hoping for gays in the cast but I was hoping to learn the gay was hipster bear Chad. I’m not disappointed that it’s Jason who’s family – he seems very sweet.  But him being gay means Chad likely is not because reality shows have an unwritten rule that there can only be one gay guy.  I think it’s so the homos don’t turn the show into an orgy – which is totally something we’d do if grouped together.  There were at least two lesbians this season but then reality shows can have as many lesbians as they like.  Everybody knows lesbians never have sex.

Note: Obviously Project Runway is an exception to the “one gay guy” rule.  It has to be.  Take out the gays and there’d be like two designers competing every season.

Quickfire Challenge

The cheftestants are brought to the San Andrea fault line.  I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to remind everyone that Palm Springs is a place where the ground can open up and swallow you.  Padma’s already there with guest judge José Andrés of ThinkFoodGroup, a name I’m sure is meant to sound all inspirational and do-goodery but to my ears it’s just Orwellian. There might have even been a Ministry of DoublePlusThinkFoodGroup in George Orwell’s 1984

At first Padma appears to be wearing a man’s shirt with a belt.  Actually it’s more than that, but barely. Who likes short shorts? Padma likes short shorts.

The challenge is to cook using solar cookware – either a stove or oven. The stoves look fairly easy to use, it’s just a pan on top of a concave mirror. The stoves, on the other hand, look like a cross between a fluorescent light tube and a futuristic weapon. The cheftestants draw knives – half to cook on the easy stove and half to cook in the light-sabre-oven-gun.

Giselle is especially daunted by the oven and I don’t blame her.  I remember at school where all the lights were those fluorescent tubes and one day one just exploded during a class.  I mean, this thing just went BANG and suddenly glass was flying everywhere.  Of course, that’s just what happens here, Giselle’s oven blowing up halfway through the allotted time, meaning she has to start over.

During judging Grayson says she couldn’t get a lot of heat from her oven and Padma sneers “Did you not hear when José said to angle the stoves towards the sun.” First, José’s accent is pretty thick so his instructions aren’t exactly clear. I certainly missed it when he said it.  Second, Padma, did you not see Giselle’s oven explode?! I wouldn’t go within 20 meters of that light-sabre-oven-bomb let along constantly angle it towards the sun.

As they’re serving ManBun searches the desert for unusual things to plate on. “There’s rock everywhere so why not eat with your hands off of stone?” he claims.  He’s crazy but not interesting crazy, just annoying crazy. And what does he serve on those steaming hot stones? Oysters. As she walks away Padma describes it “like snot on a rock”.  That’s certainly what it looked like.

Bottom: Grayson, Giselle and Man Bun. Of course, of course and of course.

Top: Jeremy, Wesley and Isaac. It’s Wesley’s Shrimp with Coconut Broth that wins. During the judging Wesley had smartly gushed to José about how much he enjoyed cooking with the solar stove. For his brown-nosing Wesley wins immunity and one of those beloved stoves. Also a $10,000 donation to “World Central Kitchen” on this behalf. That’s like when someone gives you a Christmas present except it turns out they donated a goat to a village in your name. “We can change the world with [these stoves],” says José as they wrap up. Yep, just send Isis a bunch of those exploding oven-timebombs-fluorescent-tubes and the War on Terror will be over in a day.

Elimination Challenge

Padma immediately carves the cheftestants into two teams, based on what the device they had cooked on.  Blue Team – Pink Hair, Jeremy, Sister Wife, Jason, Wesley, Carl and Man Bun.  Orange Team – Kwame, Chad, Dangerous Minds, Grayson, Giselle, Amar and Isaac.

The challenge is to create a four-course progressive meal that is served to the judges while they play golf.

The Orange team immediately try to pair up Dangerous Minds and Giselle, which, given last episode’s battles between them, they are understandably unhappy about. Fortunately, Grayson volunteers to go with Dangerous Minds instead. Unfortunately, given that we’re being shown this that means they’re going to tank.

The cheftestants retire for the night to this beautiful resort with a pool and we get to see Jeremy shirtless. It’s not half bad. We also see Chad shirtless kind of…he’s dive bombing into the main pool at that point.  I hate to say it but dive bombing into a pool shorthand for “I am a douchebag”. Please don’t be a douchebag hot hipster bearded, possible bear, Chad.

Sigh.

Sigh.

We also see an uncomfortable Jason sitting in the spa pool surrounded by drunken heterosexual “dudes” and saying that he’s feels like he’s back at high school.  Clearly this is nothing like his usual trips to Palm Springs/the 1980s.  This is meant to make us feel sorry for Jason and it totally works.  It’s also totally understandable.  Boorish, bro-ish, drunken heterosexual men are awful.  Unless they let you blow them and then they’re awesome.

Speaking of sexual escapades, did one of the guys take off their swimming trunks in the spa pool?  There’s a shot of what looks like wet trunks being passed to the side of the spa…

The next day everybody heads to the golf course.  Like last week, one of the judges is Top Chef All Stars winner Richard Blais. He’s wearing a different pair of oversized Sally Jessy Raphael glasses this week. Actually this time they’re more Elton John-esque – comically oversized but not nearly big enough to hide his smug face.

Look, I’d love to recap what happened next but the rest of this episode is an utter snooze.  Short version – everyone cooks some stuff in catering carts on a windy golf course.  It’s something we’ve seen on this programme dozens of times.  By the end we’ve witnessed some terrible golf, Man Bun serves his food from underneath a rug (because Man Bun) and there are some alarmingly similar dishes served by both teams.  At judging the Blues are top and Jeremy is the outright winner.

The winning dish. Apparently it tasted as good as it looked.

The winning dish. Apparently it tasted as good as it looked and it looks beautiful.

Of the losing Orange team it’s determined that Grayson and Dangerous Minds made the bottom ranked food. During the eating their shrimp and corn dish didn’t appear to be any worse than most of the other Orange team’s offerings but, true to Top Chef, even though it all seemed much of a muchness before, now that they’re on the bottom the judges have to slam the hell out of the losers.  That always feels artificial and this time it felt especially forced.  Richard Blais and his giant glasses ask the two women who should be sent home.  It’s a feeble attempt to wring some drama out of this snoozefest of an episode.  If they wanted excitement they should have just brought out those exploding solar ovens again – now THAT was good drama.

It’s Grayson who is sent home and she is not happy about it.  She argues with Tom as she shakes his hand, perfunctorily hugs her teammates and exits swearing and doing either the double finger or a V sign. It’s refreshing to see someone miffed at having been dumped and understandable considering, by all accounts, most of the Orange team didn’t do any better.

Best Line of the Week: “I see some alchohol, that’s always a good sign.” Amen, Padma!

Worst Line of the Week: “Golf reminds me of cooking. There are no mulligans. Every stroke that you take is counted and everything you put on a plate is counted.” Tom, whoever is writing your “witty” send-offs has got to go.  Please tell me it’s Richard Blais.

Last Chance Kitchen

Garret vs Grayson

The challenge consists of cooking two exotic ingredients, except those ingredients are hidden in boxes. Some boxes are small, some are the big enough to hold Gwyneth Paltro’s head. As she carries off a heavy box Grayson randomly says she hopes she didn’t choose coconut.  Garret gets tomatillos, also known as the Mexican husk tomato (thanks Wikipedia) and crisp broad beans. He seems confused by the latter but really, they’re broad beans and they’re crisp – it’s not rocket science.  Grayson got ginkgo nuts, a traditional Chinese food often used in congee (thanks Wikipedia) and…coconut. Because not-set-up-but-totally-was.

Half way through the cooking Tom suddenly appears right behind Grayson – like a white, portly Candyman.  Warning: don’t look in a mirror and say “Colicchio” five times.  Unless you think he’s hot in which case start chanting now.

It comes down to Grayson’s pork tenderloin vs Garret’s branzino. Grayson, red-faced and still fuming from being sent home, has lost none of her spunk.  “They’re two really good dishes,” says Tom. “Did you expect anything less?’ Grayson retorts, only half kidding.  She continues to argue with him during the final judging.  Grayson’s been getting some hate online for her attitude but as far as I’m concerned she’s been easily the most fun to watch.

Despite Grayson’s talking back, she wins.  “You only have to beat 10 chefs to get into the finale,” says Tom, reminding us that Last Chance Kitchen isn’t really exciting until the final cook-off.  But if it’s a waste of time then at least this installment was a very enjoyable waste of time and light years more entertaining than the main episode.  Especially fun was the audience, which at this point was Renee and Frances.  Even Garret, rather dour on earlier episodes, was in great form. As Grayson struggled to break open her coconut Frances said “I wish I can crack your coconut” followed by Garret telling Grayson “Want someone to come and show you how to knock it out?”  Filthy kitchen talk!  I want 45 minutes of that!

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