By Archana Ram
Updated September 30, 2010 at 04:59 AM EDT

Top Chef

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Image Credit: Kelsey McNeal/BravoIs it just me or has this competition gotten intense fairly early into the season? Usually at this point in a regular Top Chef season, I can’t remember anyone’s names (though Eric’s is still a troublesome one) let alone feel like I intimately know anyone’s skills or talents.

But last week, Seth spiraled out of control into Red Hot oblivion and this week (episode 3, mind you) the Quickfire demanded our hopefuls tackle one of the pastry’s world’s most difficult, time-consuming tasks—making a wedding cake—in 1.5 hours. That’s sheer genius madness.

They were being judged by Mrs. Wedding Cake herself, Sylvia Weinstock, a mixture of your everyday adorable grandmother and the late fashion editor-turned-Old Navy ad woman Carrie Donovan (R.I.P.).

Making something that normally takes days, if not weeks, in less than two hours prompted Zac to ask, “Have they been snorting buttercream?” And his sentiments were echoed elsewhere in the kitchen. But while most were worried about time, Malika and Seth were just plain worried. Neither had made wedding cakes before, so Seth thought it’d be a good idea to just make up his own Quickfire, because you know, as long as you top your concoction with some wedding terminology, it’s cool. (Note to Seth: It’s one thing to admit your dish wasn’t up to par after making it, but it’s another to decide you’re not up to the task beforehand, then go off and make up your own rules. I’ve had more experience eating dessert than making it, but even I’ve made a tiered cake—hello!)

At least Malika made the cake. Well, she tried. Kind of. Name a problem and girl had it: The cake was too soft, the icing was too warm, and worst of all, when she realized her second tier wasn’t centered, she pulled it out, wrecking the whole darn thing in the process. What a sad development, because coconut custard infused with cardamom and vanilla sounded delectable. Break me off a slice of that!

Malika cried, but not just for the botched cake; she started to wonder if she was really cut out for this competition. It didn’t help that Morgan called her “shaky” (how many times have we seen that in the promos? Finally!). Morgan is really rubbing me the wrong way and it’s not just because he tries to charm high school girls.

Any ounce of hesitation almost always translates to poor performance, so obviously she ended up in the bottom, alongside Seth and Eric’s unevenly layered pistachio buttercream cake. What was that he was saying about this competition not being about presentation?

It was a funny dichotomy because while some were D.O.A. on the wedding cake challenge, others were full steam ahead. Sylvia, being the most precious judge we’ve ever had on Top Chef (or a close second to Seto), is the type of woman who uses words like “lovely,” and that was just how she described Morgan’s Italian cream cake and Heather H.’s lemon and orange zest buttercream. But ultimately, Erika took home immunity for her mocha explosion. Though if we’re going to call anything an explosion, it would be Zac’s hot mess of a toasted meringue.

For the Elimination challenge, the contestants were split into teams (chosen by cookies!) to raise money for one of two teams—the glee club and cheerleading squad—of St. Monica’s Catholic School. Each contestant would bake one item for a high school sale.

Here we got the requisite, “When I was in high school…” stories that revealed Heather C. was a jock, Heather H. was a loser, and, most earth-shattering of all, Zac was picked on. It was fitting that he, a former glee-club member, wound up on the team raising funds for his former peeps.

By the way, bake sales are supposed to be fun, right?

Well, Heather C. pouted because her glee teammates wouldn’t let her make a whoopie pie. It made me wonder, why did Yigit get to claim marshmallow territory? Who made him marshmallow king?

The most mature way to handle it was for Heather C. to take all of the peanut butter, which left none for Eric the Baker (my memory device for his name) and his Krispie bar. The even more mature thing to do, then, was for Morgan, Eric’s pep teammate, to steal all the butter. It was a half-joke, but further solidified Morgan’s role as big baby.

Thankfully, Eric is a normal human being and knew to roll with the punches. He took whatever peanut butter was left over and combined it with nutella (Johnny approved!) for his bars.

When all was said and done, the pep team went traditional, while the glee-ers went more elegant. How elegant? Financier elegant. Nothing says fun bake sale like a dessert made for businessmen in Paris. And nothing says fun and youthful like turning service into a military drill. Cheers to Seth for both.

In the end, the pep team earned $250 for their treats—$10 more than the glee team—and took home the win. So the glee team were the losers, negating any progress a tiny show on Fox has made about the correlation between singing and levels of coolness.

Pep-er Erika was a top pick once again for producing what Gail called the “ultimate chocolate chip cookie.” Even cute old Sylvia wanted the recipe. She asked twice! Malika did a complete 180 from the beginning of the show, landing in the top for her toffee fudge brownie, using Eric’s brownie recipe (aww, see? we can all get along!) and incorporating her famous toffee flavor.

But it was only fitting that Eric the Baker took home the big win for his Krispie bar. How ironic then that glee-er Heather C., who hoarded all of the peanut butter for her cookie, was the one who got the boot this week. You get greedy and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, my friends.

Heather C. tried to defend herself, but it only aggravated the team’s painful-to-watch appearance at judges’ table. Danielle threw Seth under the bus, Zac put on his goody two-shoes act, and Heather C. looked like the sad puppy who didn’t get her whoopie pie. But the best line had to be when Johnny hated on Seth/praised his dish: “I think you have to get it out of your mind that it’s not your role to educate people…. That being said, your financier was perfect.”

But because it’d be just cruel to leave the real glee-team losers hanging, Bravo donated $5,000 to the school and added a zero to each of the total sums. Bravo, Bravo! Now the cheerleaders could cheer, the glee kids could go to New York, and everyone was happy again—well, everyone except Heather C.

What did you guys think of Heather C.’s exit? Did she deserve it? And anyone else worried that this is turning into the weekly Seth tantrum show?

Photo: Kelsey McNeal/Bravo

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Top Chef

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