Top Chef

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Block Party

Bayless screeches that he enjoyed a lot of the flavors, but reiterates that the challenge was all about transforming the humble taco into a sophisticated fine dining dish and seems disappointed that he tasted "a lot of sort of street tacos." Where is the carnitas foam, people? One of his least favorite dishes was Erik's, because "the plate looked sort of like a train wreck." Erik still disagrees with the coupling of Mexican food and fine dining, and suggests that Bayless "can go screw himself." Word. Bayless also had a (literal) "struggle" with Lisa's taco Lisa's inedible skirt -- "if you work with skirt steak you know that you never serve it rare because no one can bite through it." Oops -- guess Lisa didn't get the memo. Finally, Bayless explains that Ryan's paper "bugged me" as completely inappropriate for fine dining. Not one of the lowest-ranked tacos ended up there because of they way it tasted, apparently.

"Top tacos?" asks Padma. Andrew's the first top taco -- he hit the flavors right on, and scored with presentation as well -- "fine dining all the way," pronounces Bayless. Richard's "very simple" dish "tasted like Mexican street food, but the package was pure fine dining." Bayless designates Spike as the author of the last top taco, because "the flavor was super soul satisfying -- it just made you sort of swoon and want to come back for another bite and another bite," which is one of the more florid reactions I've seen to a Quickfire dish. Alas, it's not enough, as Richard wins out over Spike and secures immunity for his innovative thinking and presentation. Spike's justifiably peeved, since his taco hit Bayless in the heart rather than the head, but it will be Richard's reimagination of the taco that lands on the menu Topolobampo. Way to go, brown-noser.

They're not wasting any time this week, as the Elimination starts immediately. Padma instructs the group to divide itself into two teams (Red and Blue) -- once they've polarized along political lines, it's time for a field trip. As several cheftestants make a beeline for Richard, Spike expresses surprise that anyone would want to be on a team with someone who's just secured immunity, if for no other reason that "the law of averages." Spike, he of the keeping-it-real street taco, becomes the de facto ringleader of Red Team, while fancy-pants Richard provides the anchor for Blue Team (due, in part, to his blue apron). Plenty of red versus blue quips to come.

Red Team is Zoi, Jennifer (so for this team challenge, the lesbian couple technically competes with, instead of against, each other), Dale, Andrew, Erik, Spike and Ryan. Jennifer's pleased to be working with Zoi -- "I respect her and she's, like, one of the best cooks I've ever worked with." She kind of has to say stuff like that, doesn't she, if she wants to get laid. Blue Team is Stephanie, Nikki, Antonia, Mark, Manuel, Lisa and Richard. As the (red and blue) Highlanders set off through the streets of Chicago, the groups phone and walkie-talkie and text each other in an attempt to figure out where they're going, and what kind of ethnic food they'll be saddled with, but they clearly have no idea. Watching people mired in an exercise in futility is almost as enjoyable as participating in one.

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Top Chef

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