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Top Chef recap: Judge Dread

The chefs get a new lease on life with a tough new judge and the opportunity to cook whatever they want, but this time two contestants go home

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Jamie Top Chef
Heidi Gutman/Bravo

Top Chef

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

Okay, folks, let’s get serious here. Last night’sTop Chef was a crucial night for our cheftestants: After a rosy, happy, elimination-free holiday episode, this week’s show boasted a double elimination, a chance for redemption, and a new judge so strict you’d be hard-pressed to find him cracking a smile (but then again, we all know what happens when Brits bare their teeth, so that might be for the best).

Yep, with a new judge filling in for Gail and a chance to prepare a dish with absolutely no limitations, our chefs were eager to redeem themselves and…didn’t. Seriously, our judges give the chefs zero limitations, and they still managed to deliver unimpressive dishes. True, this week’s two ousters were fairly obvious: Eugene took a bizarre risk with his snapper with tomato and basil, and Melissa tried to impress with fish tacos (the food equivalent of New Jersey — smelly and wrong), but it’s obvious that Bravo was grasping at straws to find this season’s crop of contestants when the winner of such a challenge is Jamie, who week in and week out has insisted on making scallop dish after scallop dish. Where is the creativity? If, say, last season’s contestants were given the same challenge, Richard would have pulled out some sort of beef carpaccio that came alive and danced every time Padma ”Mmm”-ed oh-so-seductively or awkwardly juggled knives.

But more on the elimination challenge later. Let’s start from the beginning. Even though all of our chefs escaped elimination in the last episode, they still weren’t in the best of moods: Eugene was upset about being in the bottom three, Melissa began to feel the pressure of the competition, and Jamie McGrumperson was still upset about never winning a game of Pretty Pretty Princess a challenge. But girl must have downed a can of Diet Dr. Pepper, because she got herself together quickly for the Diet Dr. Pepper quickfire challenge! Since many chefs are now forced to attach caloric counts to their food (Thank you, Starbucks, for recently informing me just how much fat I’ve added to my body throughout the past few years while eating your 400-calorie sugar cookies), our chefs were instructed to cook a sweet treat, like Diet Dr. Pepper, without using any sugar. Did I mention the quickfire was sponsored by Diet Dr. Pepper? Seriously, with the way Ariane was namedropping Diet Dr. Pepper, I could have sworn she was trying to get an entire truck full of soda delivered her way so she could trade in the cans for Bruce Springsteen tickets.

NEXT: The ”interesting” guest judge eats the chefs for dessert