Happy Thanksgiving, TV Watchers, and welcome back to another EW-branded Top Chef recap. Why did I decide to brand this TV Watch? Well, because last night’s episode was chock full o’ product placement. Swanson. Butterball. Top Chef The Cookbook. Last night’s lackluster episode was seemingly stuffed (heh) with more advertising than cooking, which is why it mostly failed to impress this recapper. (Maybe the producers were banking on low ratings for the holiday?) Either way, perhaps more disappointing than a boring episode is seeing a favorite contestant get ousted during a boring episode, but I’ll make sure to stuff enough turkey and mashed potatoes in my mouth today to get over my post-Richard sadness.
But let’s start at the beginning. I felt like I had a bit of déjà vu last night, because the episode began just like last week’s: There was another European love fest between Fabio and Stefan, and Ariane — who many of you rightly nicknamed Debbie Downer — once again began talking about how her nerves are bringing her down (wah, wah, wah). But, my friends, we’re not the only ones assigning nicknames: according to Richard, the chefs call Fabio Kid Italian, Dr. Chase Don Johnson — obviously Richard avoids Fox while channel surfing — and Leah, well, apparently Boobs McGee isn’t flattering enough, so they just simply compliment her rack when she’s not around.
Onto the quickfire challenge, which was judged this week by chef extraordinaire Ethan Hawke. Oops, I mean the Chicago-based Grant Achatz, a pioneer in molecular gastronomy in cooking. For the challenge, our contestants were instructed to pull knives that sported various numbers: 168, 188, 72, etc. No, the numbers didn’t refer to how many times Dr. Chase brushed his locks Marcia Brady-style that day. Instead, the numbers corresponded to a page number featuring a recipe in the Top Chef Cookbook (Product Placement No. 1!). The chefs were told to put their own spin on the recipe, but the producers wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to gain some extra cash through product placement let our chefs off that easy. After they had already begun to cook their dishes, Padma and Grant told them they had to make a soup from the ingredients in their recipes — but, of course, they would provide the Swanson broth (Product Placement No. 2!).
The result? Not all that bad. Our top three were Jamie, who turned deconstructed falafel from season 1’s Miguel into a chickpea soup; Leah, who managed to cook a balanced dish out of a difficult-to-work-with ingredient, white asparagus; and Daniel, whose ham and egg soup — created from the ingredients for black forest ham and egg bundle by Season 2’s Betty — was so tasty, Padma interrupted Grant’s praise to say ”I like ham and egg soup!” It was kind of like a kindergartener doing show-and-tell (or maybe we can credit her sudden bout of voice immodulation to overexcitement at the ability to make a Seuss-ian reference?). In the end, Leah came out the victor. But all our chefs’ dishes must have been fairly well-made — or perhaps Grant was feeling the holiday spirit? — because our guest chef neglected to name a bottom three.
NEXT PAGE: Melissa rocks out