This week’s Top Chef marked the first time in 15 seasons that we lost a competitor before the opening credits had even rolled. That would be Lee Anne Wong, the season one vet and pregnant lady who found her way back into the show through Bravo’s most-plugged web property, Last Chance Kitchen.
Turns out, last week’s episode, which involved camping in the freezing cold at 7,500 feet wasn’t great for the pregnant lady. She landed in the hospital with altitude sickness. She ended up bowing out, presumably to save Top Chef from becoming the first reality show ever to kill a contestant’s baby (citation needed). Bummer, I would’ve liked to see what kind of weird shit a pregnant lady cooks on Top Chef.
But the drama wasn’t over there! The ambulance showing up before the opening credits set the tone, but soon after that, we discovered that Brother Luck’s parents were strippers! Wait, what? This is like two seasons ago when Chef Kwame casually dropped that he sold candy on the subway to become a chef. I know I like to disparage Chopped and rip on Top Chef for their occasional human interest packages, but “my parents met as strippers touring Asia” is one tidbit of backstory that could’ve used more unpacking.
Also, while I’m always hesitant to point out that two black men look alike, is it just me or does Brother’s dad (pictured) kind of look like Cool Chris (below)?
Also, should we assume Brother is packin’? Should we give him extra credit for managing to cook this whole time without tripping over his giant dick? Perhaps, though I’m also pretty sure all black male strippers got called “Mandingo” in the 70s. It was a simpler time.
Speaking of Cool Chris, this week we found out that he’s a recovering alcoholic (a revelation that disappointingly got much more screen time than the stripper thing), thanks to a beer-pairing challenge that sent him down a spiral of depression. Nearly killing an unborn child and driving a competitor back to alcoholism? Man, this episode was really something.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First the competitors competed in Quickfire Challenge, in which they had to take their most complicated dishes from their restaurant menus back home and try to squeeze them into 30 minutes for a Buzzfeed Tasty video. Having them make their own recipes was kind of cool, but as always, the speed cooking! challenges are a little dumb. What are they supposed to do, alter the physical properties of matter? They’re chefs, not alchemists.
Also, again with the social media challenge. They puffed it with the usual cutaways — “Being in a Buzzfeed video would so huge, you’d get five thousand more Instagram followers like instantly!”
WOOF. This might’ve been even worse than the Logan Paul cameo a few episodes ago. Is there anything more asinine than people on television counting followers on social media? Barf. Or maybe I still have a bad taste in my mouth from the time I got ejected from the hot club screaming, “Don’t you know who I am?!?! I have more than 75 friends on Faaaaaceboooooook!”
After that, local Chef Keegan Gerhard showed up to announce the elimination challenge: cooking German food for a German festival along with a radler pairing (radler being a shandy-type beer mixed with something sweet and fruity — kinda like michelada in Mexico or a snakebite in Australia, lots of cultures have a version).
Sheesh, first a camping challenge then German food? Let’s see how the respective chefs reacted to that one…
Chef Chris: Ugh. Chef Carrie: Stoked. Fatima:
I hope the producers are planning something much less white for the next challenge, just to make things fair. TO THE RANKINGS!
10. (+1) ((Eliminated)) Brother Luck — AKA Barbershop, aka Man Down, aka Backstory, aka Boydingo
I don’t know who this outcome was more disappointing for, Brother Luck or we the viewers, who’d only just found out about his parents being strippers. After landing in the top three doing a 30-minute version of paella in the quickfire, B-Luck ended up getting eliminated for making a German egg roll in the elimination challenge. The worst part was, it wasn’t even bad food, it just wasn’t “German enough” (where have we heard that one before, am I right?).
As I’ve said, creativity is your enemy on Top Chef. Don’t go reinventing food, you’ll only catch grief for it. For instance: what would be the most obvious thing to cook in a German food challenge? Schnitzel, right? One chef cooked schnitzel. Guess what happened to her? Yep, top three. Meanwhile Boydingo over here tried to get fancy doing a “German-inspired” egg roll and immediately got booted, even though people liked it, even though he’d just finished top three earlier in the episode.
That being said, if he would’ve only taken that egg roll concept and wrapped it in cabbage he’d probably be in the top three. And honestly, come on, man, you know that if anyone’s going to be sticklers for the rules and purity of concept it’s zee Germans.
I hope Brother wins Last Chance Kitchen because I’m dying to hear more about his stripper parents.
9. (-1) Adrienne Cheatham — AKA Fish, aka Halle Bearnaise, aka Le Bernadin, aka Salt
Adrienne landed in the bottom three in both challenges this week and only got to mention Le Bernadin once, which had to hurt. She got dinged both times for lack of salt (specifically seven grains, according to Padma in the quickfire). It seems like she probably should’ve gone home for her pattern of reckless under seasoning, but she had the good fortune to have a bad night at the same time as the guy who failed a German purity test (is this, uh… too many Nazi jokes?).
She admitted to Tom that the reason she’s been underseasoning is that she had an old boss (name names, Adrienne! You’ve worked for Eric Ripert and Marcus Samuelsson!) who told her “if it tastes good to you, it’s probably too salty for the guest.”
Tom Colicchio rightly identified this as the worst food advice ever and the other judges had to calm him down after he broke a bottle of Perrier over the judges table and vowed to “get” the guy.
Basically, I can see this going one of two ways: 1. Adrienne continues to underperform and gets kicked off in the next few shows. Or 2., Adrienne turns over a new leaf of proper seasoning and uses this Tom Pep Talk as part of her founding myth, a la Bruce. This show loves that.
Yer changin’ that chef’s lahfe!
Nope. She’s changin’ mahne.
8. (+2) Joseph Flamm — AKA Joey Cheeks, aka C-Pap, aka Chicago Beef, aka Bob’s Big Boy, aka Flamm Bae, aka InFlammable, aka Cliff Clavin
Chicago Beef is quickly overtaking Chef Tanya’s role of least screen time. This week he landed in neither the top nor the bottom three of both challenges, which is almost an impressive feat in itself. His most memorable moment was trying to convince Tanya that “pumpernickel” was actually German slang for “Satan’s butthole” or something. Hey cool fact, Cliff Clavin.
Padma described his quickfire dish as “almost bitter,” and in the elimination challenge he was virtually invisible. For a guy who’s rarely in danger of going home, it’s been a long time since Joey Cheeks was on the top in any challenge. I may have to rename Joey Cheeks “The Queef” for his ability to just squeak through (I’m sorry).
7. (-1) Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins — AKA Frames, aka Young Susan Feniger, aka Pepper Pot
Claudette managed to blow the quickfire completely, only getting some salsa on the plate before time was up and ending with a devastating DNF. Bummer, I bet that octopus al pastor was going to be really good (are octopi too smart to eat without feeling bad? discuss). But then she roared back into the top three by taking to heart one of the central truths of Top Chef: never been too creative. She cooked a bomb schnitzel imbued with her chiles, including a serrano pepper sauce and a garnish of habanero ash. I’ll be honest, for all the peppers I’ve cooked I never thought of using the singed outside part of a charred pepper as a spice, that’s pretty cool. I’m going to steal that.
Anyway, who the hell knows where to put Claudette in this list. She’s up, she’s down, she’s out, she’s back. The only thing we can say for certain is that she’s mercurial and streaky. Claudette is like the John Starks of this competition. I guess what I’m saying is that it’d be great if she eventually got sent home for headbutting Reggie Miller.
6. (-1) Carrie Baird — AKA Tots, aka Chee-eese
Tots continues to be a lovable dork. Seriously the dorkiest. She can’t resist a dorky dad joke and you have to love that about her. For the German challenge, she cooked “David Hasselhoff Potatoes” (because “Germans love David Hasselhoff, get it? Get it?? …Guys???), which involved cheese and duck fat. In fact, with all the cheese and potatoes, this week’s challenge should’ve played to all Carrie’s strengths. But she landed outside the top three, presumably on account of her jalapeño radler, which the judges didn’t seem to love.
Carrie could be the dark horse of this competition (despite being painfully white). Just keep the food like your jokes, Carrie: Not too spicy.
5. (+2) Bruce Kalman — AKA Arthouse Guy Fieri, aka Gnocchis, aka The Dungeon Master, aka Bruce Bruce, aka Peter Pander, aka Captain Cavatelli’s Mandolin*
Bruce Bruce continues to climb the rankings after his “just make some polenta, bro” pep talk from Tom. He landed in the top three in this week’s elimination challenge with his pork belly and cherry mostarda. His bolt of inspiration was to treat the German food like Italian food, whatever the hell that means. I will say: after growing up being indoctrinated that German food was bad and inferior like any good Italian-American, I grew up to discover that German food is actually pretty awesome.
I’m a sucker for any food that includes a gravy. But I digress…
Bruce was pitched as an early favorite and has strung together a few strong weeks now, but I’m not quite a believer just yet. I’m hoping for Bruce that one of the next few challenges involves shreddin’ tasty licks on the double-necked axe. Zero chance this dude doesn’t know at least three Rush songs.
4. (+5) Tanya Holland — AKA The Professor, aka Waffles
Tanya seems like she’s had just about enough of these white people’s bullshit, and can you blame her? First camping and then German food? Despite that, Tanya ending up winning herself a challenge, cooking up a clove-flavored radler and a pumpernickel-crusted croquette that was truly inspired. Yes, that sounds great, I will order two.
That being said, Tanya is almost as streaky as Claudette. She could win this, she could go home next week, who knows.
3. (-1) Fatima Ali — AKA Chokers, aka Ally Shadidi, aka Reaction Shot
I’ve been called a Fatima Stan in the comments, and yeah, there’s some truth to that. I can’t deny my pro-Fatima bias.
This wee, she had to serve Padma subpar biryani in the quickfire challenge, which Padma frankly got a little dramatic about, acting like Fatima was a traitor to her entire ethnicity or something.
Of course, serving Padma Lakshmi subpar South Asian food is basically Fatima’s version of a going-to-school-naked dream and it crushed her soul. I thought she was going to chop off a pinky right there. Despite that, she bounced back enough in the elimination challenge that Padma all but offered to give her pinky back. That seems to… bode well?
2. (-1) Joe Sasto — AKA Mustache Joey, aka Rollie Fingerlings, aka Freddy Mercurioli, aka Joey Sauce
Joe Sauce opened this week’s episode offering to kick anyone’s ass who ordered a fruity radler in his presence. Whoa, settle down, Joe, that’s-a too spicy! Joe Sauce was in the top three after the quickfire, but then he got a little too cocky. He ended up in the weeds, trying to grind his own sausage, then braise it, then deep fry it, and landed in the bottom for his dry sausage balls and almost went home. Come on, Joe Sauce, no one likes dry balls.
Eh, Joey, malissima! You make-a the meat a-too dry! You make-a you mama cry!
I still think Mustache Joe looks like a favorite, he just blew this challenge wasting all his time on the meat and not enough on the sauce. Dance with the one that brung ya, Joe Sauce. I like to imagine that his grandmother (also with a big mustache) will come to him in a flashback dream during the next challenge. “Eh Joey, skifozo, donna forgetta da sauce!” and chase him around the kitchen with a big rolling pin.
1. (+3) Chris Scott — AKA Silky, aka Good Damone, aka Amish Soul Food
I’m throwing out the elimination challenge and putting Cool Chris number one. Chris won the quickfire going away, and managed to not land in the bottom three during the elimination challenge even while battling his demons! Thanks for that, Top Chef! If you ruin Cool Chris, the coolest contestant ever to compete on Top Chef, I will never forgive you.
Also, Chris stayed out of the bottom three even while cooking store-bought sausage on store-bought buns. Let’s see anyone else achieve that.
*Thanks to commenter Jennyweez for that one.