Top Chef: This is Top Scallop!

Last week everyone was a disappointment and yet they were rewarded by being allowed to stay another week.  But this morning Eugene is still standing by his disastrous dish and Melissa’s bangs are frayed, now more than ever.  And there we have it, stop watching, both of these two are going home.  And I hope I’m right because they were my picks in this week’s office pool.  But there’s Hosea all smiley about his last win.  Don’t worry, I seriously doubt he’s going home this week.

Quickfire.  Our guest judge is Jean-Christophe Novelli who’s getting a new show on Bravo (Chef’s Academy or something).  We hear Padma praise NYC’s nanny state rules of printing caloric information on every menu but only the menus of places we don’t like.  Somehow this relates to their challenge to create a diet sweet treat without using sugar.  With that Padma and Jean-Christophe head roll a cart of sugar out of the room; it’s very Oompa-Loompish, if the Oompa-Loompas were Colombian drug lords instead of cacao bean addicts.  While I’m having painful memories of Wonka, I forgot to mention that this is a “Diet Dr. Pepper challenge” but they don’t have to use that product.  Stupid, right?

As they cook we see that Carla’s bananas won’t freeze right because people keep opening up the freezer.  I guess Carla already forgot that in the last episode this group already showed it doesn’t know how to close doors.  (Too soon?)

Jean-Christophe makes his rounds and dissects and trashes almost everyone’s dish (at least I think that’s what happened, his accent is very heavy).  Fabio self-rationalizes his criticism because Jean-Christophe is apparently still bitter over Italy beating France in the 2006 World Cup.  Our other European in Residence, Stefan, pretends he’s French so Jean-Christophe will like his food.  I think he thinks he’s being playful. I just think it’s embarrassing.  Speaking of, Carla makes a fatal mistake by first talking about why her original idea did not work.  Bad move.  In the end, he did not like Carla, Jamie, or Ariane’s dishes.  He liked Jeff, Leah, and Radhika’s dishes, with the win and immunity going to Radhika.

Before they leave for the real challenge, Padma explains that Toby Young is taking over for Gail for the rest of the time in New York.  Wedding and all.  But tonight, the chefs have the night off.  Time for a bubble bath?  No, we see Leah drinking a Diet Dr. Pepper–Diet Dr. Pepper “enjoy the surprisingly rich taste that satisfies without compromise.”  And Eugene talks to his family, probably to tell them he’ll be coming home in about, oh, 40 minutes.

The next morning Chef Tom walks in and Fabio is upset that the house is a mess.  I’m liking him more and more each week.  They all gather to talk about the official welcoming ceremony of Toby Young, like he’s the bloody Queen of England or something.  Who is he?  Anyway, the judges will judge the dishes blind, with no limits on what they can make, and two of them will go home.  But Fabio explains that the judges will not actually be blindfolded.  Thank you, Fabio.  They break into two groups.

Group A shops and cooks first.  Fabio laments Jamie’s frequent use of scallops, noting that this is Top Chef not Top Scallops (and everyone on Facebook uses that for their status update the next day).  But his lamb is undercooked so I guess it’s also not Top Lamb tonight.  After Group A serves their food to the judges and the other contestants (surprise!), Group A heads back to the kitchen to watch and listen via closed-circuit television.

They don’t like Radhika’s bisque and Toby Young makes an outdated, dumbass WMD joke about it, except that the last time I checked, jokes are supposed to be funny.  Jamie’s top scallops went over well, and Fabio is upset that they noticed his obviously undercooked lamb was undercooked.  Eugene gets thrown through the wringer, the bland leading the bland or something…  Melissa’s fish tacos were not so hot and per Toby tasted like cat food.  Oh now I know who Toby is!  That pissy British judge that’s supposed to be like Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsay, only neither entertaining nor an expert on food.  I never thought I’d miss Gail so excuse me while I join Carla’s screaming in the wilderness.

Group B shops and we see The Watcher make a cameo walk-by.  But before some weird pattern happens, Group B talks about how glad they are that they now know how critical the judges are going to be.  (Have they never seen the show before?).  As Stefan explains how he resurrects the dead with his food (or words to that effect), Group B serves their dishes to the judges and the other contestants.  Service of B.  Same setup as before.  Jamie thinks her food was better than this round.  Tom loves Stefan’s dish, with mixed reviews from others.  Jeff’s trio was a trio and “not a dish,” per Tom.  I agree, but Toby thinks it was the best, like Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder.  Huh?  He also liked Leah’s fried fish, over everyone else’s dish, and Carla’s flavors were off.  Hootie!

Judges’ Table.  They call in Jamie, Ariane, Stefan.  Will Jamie finally beat Ariane?  Stefan’s dish was unmistakably German and that was a good thing.  Tom loved Jamie’s flavor combination, as did the others.  Ariane’s dish was great, per the picky Jean-Christophe guy.  The winner is Jamie.  “Finally,” I say at the same time Ariane does…

The losers: Melissa, Eugene, and Carla.  Carla is not surprised she’s there but she wants to wow with flavor not pizazz (and jazz hands, I think).  Melissa enjoyed the challenge because she could see her food being critiqued while being eaten.  She would have done something else, which to Tom means it was a “failure of imagination.”  Jean-Christophe digs the knife into her and then Toby turns her upside down and lets the blood drain out.  It, like my description, is not pretty, but then again she made fish tacos as a way to showcase herself.  Come on.  But then we get to Eugene and a debate with Tom about what exactly a “challenge” is.  We never get an answer but according to Merriam-Webster Online a challenge, noun, is ” a stimulating task or problem.”  This is not that.  When asked why they should each stay, Carla throws down the gauntlet and says that without scallops her dish would have been perfect (and boring risotto).  Melissa says she wants to stay because she really wants to stay.  Can’t argue with that.

Deliberations.  Toby wants to give Eugene a second chance, but Tom was bummed out by the challenge.  Tom thinks Melissa’s fish tacos are really who she is, by this I think he means boring and not a female genitalia crack, er, joke.  Toby thinks Carla lacks confidence.  (Did you see that arabesque move, man?!?)  After the break, the viewers think Toby’s way harshest comment was about the cat food.  I think it was about the virgin who couldn’t drive.  Oh wait, never mind.

Results.  Melissa is gone.  Eugene is gone.  And I won my office pool.  Suck it monkeys, I’m going corporate! And not soon enough, this is a painfully boring season between the lame challenges (and corporate tie-ins) and the even lamer contestants.  But since we’re more than halfway through the season, my prediction for the final four is Stefan, Ariane, Fabio, and Hosea with Jamie as the wild card.  And if these predictions are anything like what I did for Project Runway, I hope you’re up for another round of appletinis, Campos.

Next week: Hung, chickens, and change Stefan can’t believe in.

Season 5, Episode 7: Focus Group (originally aired January 7, 2009)

For another take on this episode, check out Who’s Got the Balls? by Jaimie Campos.

Listen to The J Factor with J.B. and Jaimie here or on iTunes.

For more on Top Chef, click here.

Wednesdays at 10/9C, Bravo

Photographs courtesy of Bravo

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