Top Chef recap: Where's the Beef?
The chefs don't really know what a beefsteak is — and neither do we
We started out the episode with a shellshocked Kwame, who was dazed after coming so close to elimination after being a frontrunner for so long. He then dropped the bombshell that 10 years ago, he was a drug dealer. Whoaaaaa. I thought his whole 10-years-ago story was that his dad kind of didn’t like him that much for a while. But the Kwame of today could not be more of a docile nerd (in the best sense). Let’s hope he can get back on track.
The Quickfire Challenge this week would involve no fire at all. Themed after Instagram star Chef Jacques La Merde — remember that week in middle school when all the kids who took French learned what “merde” meant? — the challenge had the chefs creating beautiful-looking plates out of nasty junk food to take photos of and post on Instagram. Whoever got the most “likes” would win. I thought Phillip, the most stereotypical L.A. bro of the bunch, would do the best, and he certainly got touchy about Amar knocking over his formation made out of Bugles. This challenge reminds me of the time in sixth grade I made a model of a cell using peanut butter as the cytoplasm, a Jawbreaker as the nucleus, pools of liquid Jolly Ranchers as the Golgi bodies, and Pull ‘n’ Peel Twizzlers as the endoplasmic reticulum. It did not taste good.
The real Chef La Merde — who outed herself as Chef Christine Flynn — showed up to taste the creations. Carl made something hilariously elaborate out of stinky lunchmeat and the can it came in. I laughed out loud when Carl said, tongue in cheek, that it was “a dish but it’s also social commentary.” Phillip took up everyone’s time taking multiple photos of his dish as if it were a bloody footprint at a crime scene. Of course.
We would not be learning who won the Quickfire until the Instagramming public had a chance to exercise their democratic rights, so we moved right onto the Elimination Challenge. Neal Fraser arrived to explain what a beefsteak is. I must profess my ignorance — I’d never heard of a beefsteak banquet, but it sounded like a meeting of the Water Buffalo Lodge from The Flintstones only more barbaric. Something to do with politics, misogyny, bones, bibs, and eating with hands. All-around unappealing!
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Clearly the chefs didn’t truly understand what the judges were looking for, either. They scrambled to buy huge quantities of thick foods that people could eat by the fistful. Maybe I’m in a terrible mood, but I thought everyone in the beefsteak hall, including and especially the judges, suddenly became completely insufferable as soon as they strapped on their bibs. So much hemming and hawing about foods not being macho enough for them — this coming from the likes of Padma Lakshmi and Colin Hanks. And Hugh Acheson, who threw a bone at a stranger’s head for no reason.
No one lived up to the judges’ expectations, probably because the chefs weren’t given a good explanation. On the Red Team, Carl and Karen’s roast loin with romesco was cooked well but looked small and puny on the platter. Kwame’s peel-and-eat shrimp was overcooked, salty, and mealy — another misfire from Kwame. Phillip, Amar, and Jeremy won the challenge, and Phillip took the individual win for preparing a dish that had a bone in it so Tom could feel sufficiently like a caveman while he ate it. The win immediately went to Phillip’s head; he proclaimed that all of his competition missed the mark because “the judges expected Metallica but got Weezer instead.” Yeah, that’s EXACTLY what it’s like. Oh, and Karen won the Quickfire for what was basically Oreo dirt.
Marjorie, Chad, and Isaac placed last because Isaac made dry chicken sausage, Marjorie made good milkbread, and Chad used micro-greens. I was sad to see Chad go just for using micro-greens, which was apparently a huge mistake in the stupid world of beefsteaks, but I guess this is the point in the competition when people start getting eliminated based on Tom’s weird whims. I’ll miss Chad and what he called his “fiery bush of hell,” a.k.a. his beard.