Top Chef Recap – Season 13, Episode 7 (and Last Chance Kitchen)

Back In The Day
Screened 21 January 2016

Hollywood beckons and on the way there Karen revels in her recent win. The men around her all look pissed. I’ve sensed a distinct “straight maleness” about the show this season and it will be important for the women (and gay man Jason) to continue to represent to ensure they’re not drowned in bro-ness.  You revel all you want, Karen, you earned it.

Also in transit Kwame continues to profess his love for the show’s host. “What guy wouldn’t be attracted to Padma?” Gay guys, Kwame. Straight guys who don’t find skinny women attractive. Straight guys into blondes. Straight guys who saw her act on Star Trek Enterprise.

PadmanSTE

#neverforget

Quickfire

Hey, it’s Antonia Lofaso, from Top Chef season 4 and All Stars! Hi Antonia! How have you been? Is she a fan favourite? She’s certainly this fan’s favourite. Well, second favourite right behind the currently competing hot hipster bear Chad.

The challenge involves using one of only 10 self-chosen ingredients. One by one they’re each given 20 seconds to choose one item:
Man Bun – Steak
Isaac – Chicken
Chad – Jalapeños
Jeremy – Salt
Sister Wife – Vinegar
Karen – Olive oil
Kwame – Garlic
Amar – Mushrooms
Carl – Tomatoes
Jason – Celery

Karen’s annoyed that Jason chose celery rather than herbs but, as Jason points out, it’s an adaptable vegetable and Antonia later agrees it was a smart choice. Also no one complained when Amar chose mushrooms even though mushrooms are slimy, bland pieces of pure evil that ruin every meal they’re put into. Also what “herb” was Jason supposed to choose – there are like a billion of them and no matter what he picked I bet half the cheftestants would be complaining. By the way, the final count sees celery used in 7 dishes, mushrooms in 5 – which is 5 too many dishes to use mushrooms in.

Mushroom

Stop the insanity.

Bottom: Isaac and Karen.

Top: Jeremy and Amar. It’s Jeremy’s Shaved Beef With Mushroom Crispy Garlic Vinaigrette that gets him the win and immunity. Sidenote: is there always so much vinaigrette on this show? Now that I’m recapping I notice that every second dish has vinaigrette. Remember when every dish had a “foam” of some type on it? Thank gods that trend has gone out of fashion. Foam is almost as bad as mushrooms. Almost…

Elimination Challenge

Top Chef began 10 years ago and Padma tells us that in 2006 MySpace was the top website worldwide. In researching the accuracy of that I came across this article that noted MySpace was the top website in the US that year. Yahoo then wrote to the author to say, in fact, they were number one that year. Yahoo battling with MySpace over who was more popular – it’s like the past was a totally different planet.

After noting that 10 years ago was when Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes (truly, the past is like Mars compared to today) Padma neglects to mention that 10 years ago she wasn’t on Top Chef. Season One was hosted by the Katie Lee Joel who left before Season Two to “pursue other opportunities”, such as starring as the title character in I…Robot.  She had a reputation for being a bit…stiff.

Or maybe she ended up as the mystery ingredient in a Quickfire challenge.

Rumours that she she ended up as the mystery ingredient in a Quickfire challenge are false.

To celebrate Top Chef’s decade on air the cheftestants are tasked with looking back at where they were 10 years ago and reflecting that time in their food.

During the shopping Sister Wife says she was “green” (straight out of culinary school) a decade ago so she’s making a green curry – it’s a smart take on the challenge but she can’t find lemongrass. No worries, she adapts, something she feels she probably couldn’t have done back in the day. Jason says that 10 years ago he realized he was turning into “a crazy raging bitch” and decided to change. It’s a pity he never did. Ha ha, yes I am horrible.

That night everyone is drinking except Chad who quit alcohol a year and a half ago. Being a non-drinker among a lushy crowd can be uncomfortable so he takes himself away and there’s an image of him standing sombrely in the corner by a mirror. Yes, director, we get it – he’s “reflecting” on his past. That kind of on the nose storytelling is why you’re directing reality TV and not Oscar winning features.

That said, I’d happily watch Chad standing alone in a corner for the entire episode.

Sigh.

Sigh.

During the prep the next day Tom appears with former Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio, the most tormented cheftestant they’ve ever had – and there have been people kicked off this show for their crazy.

Man Bun tells the visitors he’s struggled to “cook food that makes the judges happy”. Of course Tom and Voltaggio claim all they’re looking for is good food. But that’s not entirely true. Like us mortals, the judges do have a way they prefer things done – they have food preferences. For example, on the previous Last Chance Kitchen Tom said he likes his hamburger medium rare. If you think medium or more is “right” you’re stuffed. In the Quickfire just twenty minutes earlier Padma was telling Chad his dish didn’t have enough jalapeno – because she likes things really hot. Man Bun is loopier than a box of springs but still, he kind of has a point.

Kwame hasn’t spoken to his dad in 10 years but is still using his father as inspiration – he’s making Jerk Broccoli with Corn Bread Pudding and Smokey Blue Cheese. “Jerk” broccoli? Tell us how you really feel, Kwame. He’s hoping his bad memories will result in something good. He then proceeds to slice his finger open. Outlook: cloudy.

Richard Blais arrives wearing a jacket that is so horrible it somehow makes you overlook his purple-framed glasses that are so gaudy Dame Edna Everage would reject for being too outlandish. Hey, there’s Mei Lin, last season’s winner, Voltaggio sidekick. Fun fact: She is physically unable to smile. That’s a lie, but it felt true, didn’t it?

The dining footage indicate that Sister Wife, Chad and Jason are all safe to sound as their feedback is unanimously terrific. It’s also clear that Jason is in trouble for under-seasoned trout. And in my mind Isaac should be in trouble for his duck gumbo, which looks like a plate of diarrhea.

I wasn't exaggerating.

I wasn’t exaggerating.

Jeremy made Lobster Ravioli With Shellfish Sauce and King Salmon. He’s told the salmon was “unnecessary” even though it’s well cooked. “What does lobster have to do with salmon?” asks Tom. They both live in water, Tom.  Or do I need to draw you a picture?  Of water. “It’s a good think you have immunity” says Padma even though, apart from making an additional piece of fish, they’ve got NOTHING bad to say about Jeremy’s dish. As far as trying to create drama goes this feels awfully contrived.

But it’s Kwame who gets the worst critique – he doesn’t need the judges to tell him how bad his dish is but they do it anyway. If you asked me what “sadness on a plate” looks like it would look exactly what Kwame made.

TC7Kwame

If you asked me what “sadness on a plate” looks like it would look exactly like this.

Judging

Oh gods, Voltaggio and Blais are both on the judging panel – ugly tattoos and douchebag glasses everywhere. Ugh.

Top: Sister Wife, Chad and Carl. It’s so refreshing to see some different faces standing there. And it’s Sister Wife’s green curry that hands her the win, her second! Great stuff, Sister Wife!

Bottom: Kwame, Man Bun and Jason. And it’s Jason who is sent home for his under-seasoned poached trout dish. For long time viewers this is not surprising – seasoning is a basic and when you stuff up the basics, you’re toast. Sorry to see you go, Jason, but you spent the whole show telling us how you didn’t fit in so it’s hard to think that this isn’t really for the best.

Best Line of the Week: Man Bun – “Ten years ago I was eating a Peruvian girl.” Man Bun actually says he was “dating a Peruvian girl” but it sounded like the former, which is hilarious.

Worst Line of the Week: Tom to Jason – “You seem to be really tight.” Tom, telling a gay man he’s “tight” comes with an implied promise to loosen him up…

Last Chance Kitchen

Jason vs Angelina

The opening credits indicate that this episode of LCK has Soy Vay Veri Very Teriyaki Sauce as a sponsor. Anyone want to bet what ingredient the cheftestants will have to use? Hint: It starts with “Soy Vay Veri Very Teriyaki Sauce”.

The challenge is to take “everyday staples”, “bland and boring ingredients” and make something great – using Soy Vay Veri Very Teriyaki Sauce™, of course.

In fact the range of ingredients includes salmon, shrimp, pork, celery (!), broccoli, sweet potato, eggs, spring onions, lemons, and bacon. That may be the first time the world will ever see bacon being labelled “bland”.

Angelina produces Teriyaki Shrimp With Potato and Onion Hash, Celery and Orange Salad.
Jason makes Teriyaki Salmon, Soft Cooked Egg, Broccoli and Sweet Potato Salad.

The winner is Jason – Angelina’s shrimp was overcooked for Tom. After last week she should know Tom likes his food practically raw.

There’s a sweet moment at the end when Jason, who constantly seems to be one missed Valium away from a nervous breakdown, does a little victory dance. We haven’t seen him this this comfortable all season. Let’s see how long that lasts.

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