Hosea and Leah's attraction bubbles over, despite their respective partners, and leads to recriminations, but the restaurant war challenge comes down to leadership issues

By Kate Ward
Updated January 22, 2009 at 01:33 PM EST
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Top Chef

S5 E9
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Do food and sex mix? If we take a look at the results of last night’s salacious Top Chefepisode, it’s safe to say…kinda. Yep, it looks like season 5’s lovebirds — Leah and Hosea — finally lured each other into their he- and she-traps and officially earned themselves a place alongside Top Model‘s Shandi and the cast ofTemptation Island in reality television’s cheater hall of fame. And though their spit-swapping incident definitely hurt their game — a distracted Leah sent undercooked fish to the judges’ table during the infamous restaurant wars — the two managed to (barely) eek by, thanks to good ol’ dessert master Stefan.

Or should we say Bravo’s producers? Sure, Radhika’s management skills were dubious, but should a good chef who forgot to replace a spoon be sent home over a poor leader who delivered an inedible — and unhealthy — dish? Apparently so, especially when the alternate option involves sending home a quarter of a juicy love square. Oh, Bravo. How you disappoint me.

Because, I don’t know about you, fellow Top Chef fans, but I can’t stand cheaters. Especially ones like Leah, someone who not only acts questionably but also cooks questionably and isn’t fully reprimanded for it. And our chef — who, as we saw last week, is always quick to play the blame game — managed to fault her indiscretions for her bad food. As soon as Leah encountered problems during dinner service, she complained that she just wasn’t happy. Well, well, well. That’s what happens when you shoot yourself in the foot, Plaxico!

Let’s rewind here. This week’s challenge began at the quickfire, where Padma instructed the chefs to create one dish that showed off their concept for a restaurant. The resulting two winners would be team leaders for…drum roll, please…restaurant wars! Some of our chefs didn’t deliver: Dr. Jeff made the mistake of trying to sell a restaurant through salmon, and Fabio’s three-meals-in-one concept wasn’t quite clear enough for our guest judge, Stephen Starr. Our two winners? Radhika, whose globally-infused pan-seared cod dish impressed the guest judge, and Leah, who might not be thinking ahead when it comes to her love life but was forward-thinking enough for Stephen with her tempura poussin with dashi.

Following their win, our two chefs chose their teams. Radhika handpicked Jamie, Carla and Jeff for her restaurant, which they named Sahana. Leah, on the other hand, went for Hosea (surprise!) and Fabio for the Asian-inspired Sunset Lounge. The last man standing? Strangely enough, the fat kid in gym class this week wasn’t a fat kid at all: It was multiple challenge-winner Stefan, who, though difficult to work with, seems far too talented not to snatch up.

But before they could embark on their pricey shopping trips to Whole Foods, Restaurant Depot, and Pier 1, the teams had to decide which member would play host, while three would man the kitchen. Curiously, Dr. Jeff refused to handle the front of the house, even though just minutes before he had stated that he would ”be able to sell anything.” Of course, Dr. Jeff is essentially a lawn rake with abs, so maybe there are worse decisions. Not that Radhika’s personality is much better. But c’mon. You have to choose between an amateur magician and an anxious, stressed-out team leader, and you go with the latter? Very strange choice.

NEXT: Stefan, the problem child turned savior

Team Sunset, on the other hand, at least pinpointed their host easily: That responsibility would go to, of course, our dear, charming Fabio, who bragged about his communication skills by proclaiming, ”We can serve monkey ass in empty clam shell. We gonna win this one.” (Looking back at Leah’s dish, Fabio was essentially right). Not that the team didn’t have its problems — Stefan continually judged the choices of his teammates, and yet he refused to disclose what he planned to make for dessert (this incident, apparently, served as foreplay for our lovebirds). Plus, once the team got in the kitchen, Hosea questioned why Leah would choose to portion her fish before she boned it — a mistake that forced Leah to carefully pluck the bones from her cod — but then again, based on their couch rendezvous, Hosea might seem way too quick to bone before he thinks, so who knows which process works better?

Team Sahana’s kitchen experience wasn’t much better. The refrigerator was problematic for Carla, who was having difficulty freezing her frozen yogurt. And while she needed help from her team leader, Radhika managed to…do absolutely nothing. Well, except drink on the job (but since I have a drink in hand, what kind of pot am I calling the kettle black?). And her skills in the front of the house weren’t much better — she came off as cold to her diners, and barely even made a presence in the kitchen. But then again, it’s safe to say you’ll fail to make an impression when the host you’re competing against is Team Sunset’s Tony Manero Fabio.

Let’s check in with the judges though, shall we? How did they think the teams performed? Did Toby mention his desire to share a post-coital cigarette with a lamb shank? Not quite, but the judges were impressed with most of Sahana’s menu. The highlights? Jamie’s curried carrot soup and Jeff’s grilled scallop with chickpea cake. In fact, the team’s entire service was a win — if you omit Carla’s dessert. Thanks to that wonky refrigerator, Carla ended up serving a dessert that was more yogurt soup than frozen yogurt, and the diners as a whole seemed to vehemently dislike her spiced chocolate cake. In fact, the dish was so bad, it forced Toby to whip out his pre-written zinger of the week: ”It reminded me of the career of Elvis Presley.” A little less conversation like that would be nice, Toby.

As for Team Sunset? The meal got a collective ”meh” from the judges, who called Fabio’s egg roll ”second-rate,” Leah’s coconut curry bisque ”okay,” and Hosea’s sashimi bland. Plus, Leah’s seared cod was so undercooked, the judges sent it back and refused to get a new one. But it was dessert that eventually bagged the team the win. Stefan cooked two well-received dishes — a chocolate rice parfait and lemongrass and ginger panna cotta — and, as far as I’m concerned, the most creative dish of the season: a frozen mango, bitter chocolate, and mint lollipop.

And Leah can thank her lucky stars that she got Stefan as a last pick — the eventual winner saved the team from an epic loss, and ushered Radhika and Carla into the hotseat when it came time for panel. While Padma & Co., scolded the team leader for her poor decision-making skills, it was Carla who bore the brunt of their ire: The judges collectively scoffed at Carla for telling them that she hoped her love would transfer to her dishes (”This is my belief, Tom!”). Oh, Tom. I never knew how truly cynical you were. Yes, it’s a bit cuckoo to expect feelings of love to bleed into one’s food, but come on, Tom. Get on the Carla Crazy Train! We all did weeks ago (Can I get a hootie-hoo?)! But it looks like that crazy train is running express right on to next week’s episode, as the talented, if a bit dull, Radhika, was sent packing.

Your turn: What did you think of the episode? Do you think Leah deserved to go home? Do you finally believe my prediction a few weeks back that Leah would be tapped as this season’s baddie? If you were Leah or Hosea’s significant other, how quickly would you dump them? And how excited are you for next week’s Top Chef all-stars? It’s about time we got some personality in the kitchen!

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Top Chef

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