Top Chef

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Chuck: C | Grade It Now!
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Block Party
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Morning shenanigans in Chicago -- everyone's dragging themselves out of bed and getting ready to face the day. Amidst some beefcake-lite shots (Spike, Ryan and Dale shirtless), Spike and Andrew play wrassle -- Andrew pops topless Spike with a towel, Spike mimes shoving Andrew's head into the wall. Just two guys having a little bit of innocent fun, as Richard, voice of reality (with a hint of the humorlessness I'm beginning to notice), tells the camera about the seriousness of elimination (it could happen to you!), and helpfully reminds us that "it's all about the food." Spike and Andrew continue to horse around, building to what I can only hope will be a fabulous money shot.

Stephanie's feeling Valerie's absence, and all of the women (at least if Stephanie is their designated spokeswoman) are bummed that they lost one of their own, since "we all just want a woman to make it to the finals and represent." I agree, it would be nice to see a woman win the title. Putting things in perspective, Zoi says "it's not common to have one lesbian in the kitchen. It's not common to have one woman in the kitchen." Wait a minute, isn't that where a woman belongs? As much as I'd like to think she's wrong, that women have made major strides (which they have, as evidenced by the number of extremely well-regarded female chefs, as well as by empirical evidence gathered by myself while dining out), I have no doubt that a restaurant kitchen is still a pretty sexist, chauvinistic place. The biggest struggle, believes Zoi, is "to break people's image of what a chef is."

Andrew, fresh from wrestling (no shuddering finale, alas) thinks the image of what a chef is includes "being an entertainer" -- he's certainly remained true to this line of thought so far, for better or for worse. He feels they're all there to "have fun," as the editors once again place him in opposition to dour Richard.

As the cheftestants assemble in the kitchen for the Quickfire, Padma introduces this week's guest judge, Richard Bayless, "who has done more than any other chef to introduce Americans to fine dining Mexican cuisine," which, I must admit, has always seemed like a bit of an oxymoron to me, kind of like high-end Chinese food. It's difficult to justify paying fine-dining prices when you can get amazing and authentic Chinese and Mexican food on the cheap. But Bayless, with his restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo , has been successful both critically and commercially (he has his own line of cookware, but these days, who doesn't?), so the joke's on me. Bayless, wearing a shirt the color of Japanese eggplant and a meticulously groomed blondish-gray goatee which is a completely different color than his head hair (a generic brown), looks well put-together but there's something about him that creeps me out a little, like there's something sinister beneath that manicured surface.

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Top Chef

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