Let’s fast forward through the Quickfire Challenge, where the 6 contestants have to cook eggs in a greasy spoon for the early morning breakfast rush. The only thing notable about this challenge was Tom entering the Top Chef house before 6 am(!!!), while the chefs are all sleeping. That was a bit weird. I guess he had to get some face time, because he was off at a “charity event” and wasn’t going to be judging the Elimination Challenge this week.
The Quickfire ends with Dale and Antonia as the best two. Antonia is pronounced the overall winner at mastering the art of fast egg cooking.
The chefs are directed to a big empty space and Padma tells them it’s…Restaurant Wars! Because Antonia is the winner, she gets to pick two other chefs for her team. She chooses Stephanie and Richard. Uh-oh, that leaves Dale with Lisa. I don’t like that, but I guess it makes for drama.
The menus are decided and after what looks like an all too quick trip to Whole Foods for $1500 in groceries and Pier One for $5000 for dishes and décor, they begin to cook.
During the prep time, Tony strides into the kitchen, saying he’ll be replacing Tom this week and “bringing his warmer, sunnier disposition to the challenge.” He wanders around asking each team what they’re doing.
Let’s cut to the chase. The restaurant is open. They get started. The judges enter and Padma introduces guest judge Chef José Andrés. Oh, I like him.
Antonia, Stephanie and Richard (Mr. Ras el Hanout)
Beet Salad with Goat Cheese & Ras el Hanout Spices (again!!!)
Linguine & Clams with Sausage & Horseradish Crème Fraiche
Tony tasting the pasta: “This is better than what I would expect.” José: “I love the texture of the linguine. Stephanie pipes in “I made the pasta myself.” Ted says the Goat Cheese Salad (or is he just talking about the goat cheese?) is really delicious.
Trout with Cauliflower
Lamb Loin & Braised Lamb Shank
Ted: “This is a nice presentation.” Tony: “I was thinking exactly the same thing.”
Whoa, slow down a second, guys…EVERYTHING can’t really have been so good thus far. It’s obvious that this team will be the winning team and that Dale’s team will have some failed dishes.
Okay, this is my prediction: the two losers will be Dale and Lisa and LISA will be going home, because if they send Dale home, I ain’t watching this show anymore, because there is no one else I want to win.
I mean it. I WILL hold a grudge. I will be unreasonable and mean and I’ll spend my Top Chef evenings watching House Hunters instead. Where was I?
Tony repeats how much he loves the lamb. José is really impressed by the level of cooking and Padma says “We’re not joking around here on Top Chef.”
It is so evident that all this praise is just a set-up for how disappointing the other team’s menu will be. I almost don’t want to watch it…AND I bet something horrible will go wrong with Spike’s décor, like a giant mirror will fall off a wall or something…I SWEAR I’m writing this as I’m watching, so if that really does happen, I am absolutely psychic…
Gorgonzola Cheesecake with Sweet Potato Puree & Concord Grape Sauce (Gag me!)
Banana “Scallops” with Banana Guacamole & Chocolate ice Cream
The desserts didn’t go over QUITE as well, but they liked their innovativeness and, luckily for them, the judges didn’t actually hate anything.
Dale, Lisa and Spike
Spicy Coconut Shrimp Laksa…Padma: OOH, isn’t that beautiful?
Pork & Pickled Plum Pot Stickers
Tony on the laksa: “It was just too damn smoky,” WHICH IS EXACTLY what Dale said back in the kitchen. Padma adores the dumplings. Ted loves the char on them.
Braised Short Ribs with Pickled Red Cabbage & Apple Basil Salad
Padma: “I love a short rib.”
Butterscotch Miso Scallops, Spicy Eggplant & Pickled Long Beans
Tony: “It’s like Willy Wonka scallops.” Padma in horror: “No, really?” A random diner says she has no idea what she’s eating...probably not a good sign. Equally, it’s not a good sign when Lisa says Dale isn’t happy with his food choices and ultimately the executive chef is responsible for the food. That can’t bode well. Lisa, it better be you or I’m out of here…
Halo-Halo with Cantaloupe, Coconut, Kiwi, Avocado & Candied Nuts
Mango Sticky Rice with Toasted Coconut
Tony's take on the Sticky Rice dish: “It’s baby vomit with wood chips.” He was “okay” with the halo-halo, although he didn’t “particularly love it”. José did. Random diners HATED the sticky rice dessert.
Spike’s take on his teammates’ performances: “Poor,” which also means he thought HIS wasn’t.
Needless to say Antonia’s team won. Tony: “I was really impressed by all of your comportment.” Why do I think he would have behaved more like Dale in the kitchen, who everyone is down on for acting temperamental when things don’t go right? Isn’t that the definition of a chef?
The winner is Stephanie. She wins a culinary tour to Barcelona and a guided wine tasting tour for two.
The other team goes in to face the judges. I’ve just noticed that Dale is wearing shorts and hideous blue shoes. Are they crocs? I can’t quite see…Remember it better be Lisa!
Tony: ”ALL of us were unanimous in finding some very unpleasant aspects to this meal.” Well, TONY, I find your face unpleasant! Especially, if you even think of sending my Dale home!
I don’t get his critique about the napkins. He asks who came up with the color. No one takes responsibility. He says that the décor “announced itself as a place where a greasy dumpling would be unforgivable.” Was Tony saying that the décor was SO elegant and well done that he expected the food to follow suit? It sure didn’t sound that way…
Then the judges go off on the author of the butterscotch scallop dish - Dale. (Frankly, I’ll take butterscotch any way I can get it, especially if cute Dale is dishing it out.) José said nothing worked in the dish. Padma said it was way too sweet. “Hearing the words butterscotch and scallops together in the first place was very worrying to me,” says Tony. “It looked like a melted candy bar.”
Tony goes on to rip the laksa and says it was like “putting (his) face in front of a campfire”. Dale actually points to Lisa just as she actually takes full responsibility for the dish.
Could it be that Dale IS a little bitch as Spike (was it?) always calls him? Never mind, Lisa’s a bigger one. They go on to criticize basically everything about Dale and Lisa and their nitpicking over whose responsibility everything was. SHE really is a tattle tale, but I’m getting an uneasy feeling that as the executive chef of this challenge, HE’S going to take the fall.
But CLEARLY, he is the better cook. He’s won more challenges including being in the top two in this very episode’s Quickfire. Dale, you better stay, buddy…José doesn’t like the lack of teamwork that they’re showing, but what are you supposed to do when you don’t want to take the fall for someone else’s mistakes?
Oh good, José opines (correctly) that because Spike was in the front of the house, he considers himself away from all the trouble in the kitchen and above it all. And he was fortunate that nothing falls off the wall.
Dale makes the point that you’re only as good as your weakest link. Lisa comes back with you’re only as good as your leader. I agree with Dale. Buh-bye Lisa. They leave to let the judges deliberate.
The judges agree that Spike was smart to stay out of it and that he did his job ok. They agree that Dale fell down as a conceptualizer, executor and something else or other. BUT the judges agree that Lisa “botched” both of the dishes she made – sticky rice and the laksa and that she’s really bad at taking criticism. Are they are picking Lisa….or not?
OOH, Lisa and Dale are still having it out. Dale isn’t that nice, but he’s still a better cook than she is.
The three chefs go back in, Dale looks mad; Lisa looks belligerent and Spike looks a little too self satisfied.
WHAT?!! DALE is sent home. That really, really, really, really stinks. He’s okay with the whole thing. He actually breaks up talking about it.
Dale being sent home is a huge mistake. A HUGE mistake. A huge MISTAKE!!! I’m done… Without Dale, I don’t care who wins…I wouldn’t even have minded if Richard had beaten him in the final two, but the remaining chefs are of no interest. Top Chef is dead to me.