By Archana Ram
Updated July 22, 2010 at 12:53 PM EDT

Top Chef

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Image Credit: David Giesbrecht/BravoThings got positively nasty on last night’s Top Chef, and I’m not just talking about the lying, strategizing, and former foes showing up.

To kick things off, the episode opened with duck testicles – and Angelo in a backwards hat that looked more like a surgery cap. And then it dawned on me that Angelo bears somewhat of a resemblance to Dr. Robert Rey from E!’s Dr. 90210, and we all know that if Angelo was any kind of doctor, he’d be a plastic surgeon.

Back in Quickfire land came the aforementioned testicles along with other “exotic” proteins to make a dish out of. Those animals might not be endangered (yet), but after last week’s crab massacre, shouldn’t an upcoming episode address sustainable food? Must we endure another politically themed, horribly punned episode?

With the meats, they were obviously going for an ick factor, but the cheftestants seemed far more grossed out than I was. Luckily (?), it made room for a favorite TC pastime: genitalia jokes. You may remember that awkward Penn & Teller conversation about Padma’s love for bull testicles or Natalie Portman’s saucy dinner table chatter (both last season), so it was only natural to squeeze in yet another. This time, Ed tells us he used to make “cock and ball soup” when he worked for Todd English. First Angelo’s sexy adjectives then Alex’s pork butt and now this. Are chefs total pervs?

Yet somehow, even with super funky meat and the halfway switch of dishes, this Quickfire was a total snoozefest for me. The saving grace was bringing on guest judge Michelle Bernstein, a Miami chef who looks like the lovechild of Donatella Arpaia and cheftestant Andrea. Oh, and the two also happen to be bitter rivals, but Michelle became a whole lot more famous because she gave up having a family for her stupid career…or that’s how Andrea wanted to explain it.

With her scarily maniacal smile, Bernstein really seemed to love it up there, judging people who probably have more experience than she does. She naturally relished the opportunity to diss Andrea’s wild boar and risotto. If she could’ve, she probably would’ve also told her her hair is so 1990. Or maybe that’s just me.

On the other hand, judge Michelle loved Tamesha’s soup and Amanda’s llama but was bowled over by Kelly’s emu-egg omelet. Kelly then celebrated her first Quickfire win by throwing up a little in her mouth. Cheers!

Things got even uglier when it came time for the elimination. The gang was split into two teams and each team served the judges and the other team. Call it Intrigue on the High Seas if you will because lies were told, strategies were made, and enemy lines were written in stone.

With the title of this episode being “Cold War,” the cheftestants went on the famous U.S.S. Sequoia (that’s the “High Seas” part) to plan their elimination challenge. No, they didn’t cook on the ship and they didn’t frolic on the ship. They just went on a ship, planned their meal, and left. Not even an “I’m on a Boat” riff. Lame.

But on the boat, Angelo was back to mentoring manipulating Tamesha. Poor, impressionable Tamesha. Funny that when Angelo talks about strategy, he refers to his cooking strategy. This is the man who wanted to make testicle marshmallow, so, yeah.

Doubt popped up left (Kenny) and right (Amanda) but of course only Kenny had reason to feel threatened. Did Amanda really think she’d be chosen as a loser in her group because she’s a threat to everyone else? Aw, honey, no.

Speaking of Amanda, I am loving the collective dislike for her. She’s abrasive and makes me jittery. And if you want to get more culinary about it, she served kids alcohol-infused food, can’t make minestrone, and failed to remove cartilage from her chicken galantine. I’m thinking an upcoming drug-, jail- or alcohol-themed challenge is the only reason she has stayed on.

But the whole cartilage moment, or cartilage-gate if you will, speaks to my big issue with this season. The game has become totally underhanded and downright mean. It’s looking more and more like Hell’s Kitchen these days. What happened to just cooking good food? I think they used up all the talent last season and we got the leftovers this time around.

When it came time to judge their peers, it was no big shocker that Angelo, armed with his game face, hated on every dish, especially Kenny’s lamb duo. (Kenny loves those pairings!) But everyone in Group B was pretty harsh on the dishes, enough to make Tom say, “Cut the crap” – not in so many words of course.

They said Kevin’s surf ‘n turf lacked acidity and it had tomatoes. They said it needed lemon and it had lemon. It was almost as though they’d say, “It needs salt! Oh, it has salt? Well, there’s too much salt!”

Later, Angelo said Ed’s pumpernickel was like a sponge, but why should Ed care, since he “banged” Angelo’s girlfriend in college? I guess that makes Ed kind of sleezy too, but I also kind of love him for the comment.

After all was said and done, in this round, Kevin was the winner and Kenny was the loser, which was totally whack and just goes to show you how everyone was playing.

When the tables were turned and B cooked for A, the A team was a whole lot nicer, not immediately trying to eliminate Angelo. Sweet Kevin even liked Angelo’s sockeye salmon. To top it off, Kenny didn’t even vote Angelo’s as the worst. I guess there is a ray of hope for playing nice this season. Tiffany was the winner and Tamesha, the loser.

At judges’ table, it was down to Kevin and Tiffany for the win and it was the textural perfection of Kevin’s tuna and veal that got him the win and a Hawaiian vacation. His reaction alone was cute enough to deserve a prize. He’s also from my hometown area, and we Jerseyians look out for one another. Except for the Jersey Shore cast.

Tamesha and Kenny’s moment in the bottom was interesting because I never thought I’d see Kenny in that position. At the same time, it was also pretty silly. If anyone thought Kenny would be sent home, you are as gullible as Tamesha.

I know his lamb dish was complicated, but the judges seemed to be stretching to find fault with his food. Well, that is, except for Michelle who got on her high horse to ride out her last few minutes as a judge. “I really didn’t enjoy the flavors of the dish,” she told Kenny. “If I could actually sit here and talk about each piece that was on the dish, it would take me through until the end of the show.” Petty is so not a good color on you, Michelle.

Obviously, Tamesha got the boot, which now raises the question, who will Angelo leech onto next? My bets are on Stephen. Poor, clueless Stephen.

Next week seems absolutely bonkers with the pea purée stealing. And Tiffany has a fiancé? Is nothing on TC sacred anymore?!

What did you guys think of the episode? Does anyone else think this season is particularly seedy?

Episode Recaps

Top Chef

Tom, Padma, and Gail tell the cheftestants to pack their knives and go.
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