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'Top Chef' recap: Love is in the air

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Top-Chef-Padma

Image Credit: David Giesbrecht/BravoLast night’s Top Chef was all about love, but not the fuzzy, melt-your-heart kind. No, yesterday we saw the less attractive side of love with everything from predator behavior (Angelo) to venereal disease (crabs). The latter may have been just a way to segue to a quickfire about crabs, but when Angelo said, “I had crabs, so it just brought back bad memories,” I couldn’t tell if he was serious. There’s a good chance he was trying to make a joke, which as we all could’ve guessed, means he doesn’t know how to.

We saw Angelo’s crush on Tamesha fleshed out a bit more last night, but he really just looked like a man with a white van, if you catch my drift. Calculated power play? Probably. But this is also the guy who sexually characterizes his food, so anything goes.

Elsewhere, thank god for Tiffany and Ed’s innocent budding romance, a PG alternative to Angelo’s overbearing game. It would be a nice change of pace to see a couple unite on TC in sweet, traditional ways, rather than, say, cheat on their significant others back home (Hosea). TC is no Jersey Shore, so I like to see things kept clean.

Speaking of clean, let’s talk about crabs. The quickfire was all about utilizing Maryland’s treasured sea creature for a quick dish. I really don’t need to see my meat or seafood in its original form, and seeing the chefs chop the little suckers in half and the crabs still wiggling made me think of the amazing episode of The Simpsons in which Lisa becomes a vegetarian. The lamb she’s about to eat and worm she’s about to experiment on squeal, “Please Lisa, what did I ever do to youuuu?”

Back to the task at hand, I just want to let everyone know that Angelo invented Asian cuisine and anyone who does an Asian-flavored dish is clearly stealing. For example, Ed’s Thai-inspired crab dish was misappropriation. Or so Angelo’s twisted mind would like to believe.

For his own dish, Angelo concocted a concept “built on flavor.” Genius! I assume he also thought ingredients would be a novel way to put together his blue crab broth. As a side note, Tamesha mentioned that she was previously allergic to crabs. Take that as a metaphor, Angelo.

And even though Andrea and Amanda’s crab salads were each the real least favorites between Padma and guest judge Patrick O’Connell, I did feel sorry for Maryland-native Tim, who thought he had this quickfire in the bag. But with that smooth and silky voice, I really think he’s more suited to an Isaac Hayes trajectory. He’s like TC‘s calm and cool (and sultry) narrator.

Now a note on Patrick O’Connell. That plaid jacket. That purple shirt. That poetry of food. This guy left a very mixed impression on me. Either he was a totally awkward dork in school â€” like the kid who used big words in middle school and read about nanotechnology in his down time — or a total creepster — like the neighbor on Family Guy. I can’t quite put my finger on what was so strange about him, but let’s just say, Padma’s questionable wardrobe choices took a backseat during this episode.

In the end, Ed’s Asian, apparently-usurped-from-Angelo crab earned him the win and immunity. He then said he was really “coming out of his shell.” Ha! Crabs! Shell! Get it? Okay, maybe that was just me.

The elimination challenge took the chefs to a Virginia Farm to create a meal for 40 local chefs and farmers. By far the best meal I’ve ever had in my life was at San Diego restaurant Georges at the Cove, where everything was seasonal, local and delicious. In my case, though, I got to sit in a gorgeous beachfront restaurant, while Tom, Padma and co. sat in the freezing cold at what looked like the world’s longest table.

With all 12 cheftestants working as a single unit, I’m surprised more of the smokers in the bunch hadn’t busted out their heavy duty cigarette packs for this one. As Andrea succinctly put it, collaborating as a group was a “train wreck.”

Angelo wasn’t afraid to make his voice heard, but now his talking just sounds like the adults blabbing on Charlie Brown. Wa wa wa. It’s all nonsense. Yet, without any tables flipped or weaves ripped out (guess what I watched on my DVR the night before?), the bickering was rather tame. The one amusing moment, though, was when Stephen went all symbolic with his “the fruit platter represents us” idea. Aw, cute. But no.

I do have to say, the only thing scarier than Danielle Staub’s ripped-out weave was the raw meat sitting out at the farm when the cheftestants arrived for the challenge. How long had it been sitting there? I’m sure it wasn’t hours, but after the mass crab execution earlier, this didn’t make me feel better. Yuck.

As far as the cooking went, it was the usual deal: Angelo sexualized his meat, people monopolized what little they were given (last time it was counter space; this time it was hogging vegetables) and Tim was clueless, but the only thing I wanted to know was, didn’t Tamesha knock over Kevin and Kenny’s couscous? Wind couldn’t have possibly knocked down that bowl.

And to add to the crass menagerie, Angelo was ready to serve the couscous that was now mingling in the grass. That is so not sexy! Thank you, Kevin, for being a voice of reason, though, why does someone need to articulate the cons of serving couscous that has fallen on the grass, in a cow pasture no less?

In the end, that couscous was one of the judges’ favorites. I know Kevin has had some misses, but I think the school lunch challenge really proved how smart of a cook he is. He’s good and he can make it work on the fly. I mean, he competed in the Bocuse d’Or for gosh sakes!

Also impressing the judges were Andrea’s garlic and five-spice pork and Kelly’s apples and beet side. I was shocked that Kelly included Andrea when explaining the idea to try to make a dessert even though Kelly was the one who executed it.

Extra credit for Kelly aside, Kenny won for his hot and sour curried eggplant because it really impressed the judges and because Padma is Indian. Well, that’s pretty much what Tom boiled it all down to.

With Tim, Amanda and Stephen on the bottom, I was ready to see Amanda go home for her “amateur,” “grandmotherly” minestrone soup. I thought she would have to pack her knives and ponder Eric’s existential question, “What is a minestrone to you?” Alas, it was Tim’s too bland, too haphazard roasted veggies that made him this week’s loser. Amanda and Stephen clearly looked like they dodged bullets. I guarantee Stephen will never serve salads in a bowl ever again.

Next week the cheftestants judge their peers, so get ready for latent tensions to be dished out at the dining table. And hopefully Eric finds a less Frankenstein-ish look for next week. Those shoulder pads were scary!

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