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Top Chef recap: In the Spirit of Things

After coming up with one-pot meals to impress Martha Stewart, the chefs have to come together to overcome disaster as they cater a charity event, and they are later rewarded for their efforts

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Michael Lavine/Bravo

Top Chef

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
Reality TV

Adam filling in for Kate here. There, there — we all miss her. But she’ll be back next week. And in the meantime, allow me to be a meager substitute: the Splenda to her sugar, the spam to her chateaubriand, the MSG to her fleur de sel.

Now, in case you were wondering why stores are crowded and people are stressed and your grocery store is playing Mariah Carey on repeat….Christmastime is here! And Top Chef decided to celebrate with a holiday-themed episode full of surprises and cheer and seven — that’s right, seven — actual Christmas Miracles! So let’s get started:

As the episode began, the chefs were just rolling out of bed. Ariane, who won the last two challenges, had a spring in her step. Eugene, whose lack of formal training was catching up to him, had a chip on his shoulder. And Stefan…well, apparently Stefan had a shoe in his ass. Or so he said rather cryptically before explaining that he’s referring to the butt-kicking he got from the judges last round. He joked a bit with Fabio, and then channeled his anger by carving a likeness of himself in a watermelon. Seemed a little odd, but I’m gonna go ahead and assume that fruit effigies are a considered a perfectly reasonable way of dealing with emotions in Finland.

But there was little time to admire Stefan’s handiwork, because it was time to head over to the Top Chef kitchen, which brings us to….


The Top Chef kitchen was covered in Christmas decorations! The walls were trimmed with garlands, the tables were covered in pine cones, and Padma was wearing…blue. Way to kill the theme, Lakshmi (side note: She still looked hot). As the chefs buzzed with Christmas cheer, Padma explained their challenge: Create a holiday feast using a single pot or pan. And they got a special helper to guide their culinary sleighs last night, who just happened to be….


Martha. As in Martha Stewart, a.k.a. Our Lady of the Copper Cookware, The Duchess of Dutch Ovens, The Jersey Devil. Martha “I’ll-kill-you-then-hand-carve-your-coffin-out-of-legally-harvested-teak” Stewart. Full confession, dear readers: I’m a huge fan. The lady knows her business, and her business — or at least a big part of it — is food.

So anyway, Martha walked in, glowing like a Christmas tree and clutching a copy of her latest magnum opus, Martha’s Cooking School. She quoted Einstein; I swooned. Forgive me if the details here are a bit fuzzy.

Then it was time to get cooking. The chefs had 45 minutes to whip up something that would please Martha (I can just hear her daughter Alexis chiming in: “45 minutes? Please. I’ve spent 43 years trying.”) Jamie grabbed scallops; Hosea picked paella, presumably because it rhymed with his name.

Time was up, and Martha and Padma came back in to taste. Eugene, who made a spicy Korean stew with pork and mushrooms, quickly fell prey to Stewart’s merciless palate. “The broth is thickened,” she hissed, rightly picking out the cornstarch he used as a shortcut. Nice try, Eugene, but you might as well try to slip a poly blend past Michael Kors.

NEXT: All hands on deck