Top Chef

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The Patriotic Picnic

Padma introduces today's Elimination Challenge: Prepare a picnic for Capitol Hill interns. The picnic must include one main dish and two sides, because that is how god intended a picnic to be and who is Bravo to mess with god's plan? Alex pretends this picnic idea sounds really exciting what with all the interns milling around Mt. Vernon's lawns just waiting to eat his meat. Arnold, however, is tres concerned about his pores and what will happen to them if he has to stand over a hot grill for two hours. Oh the exfoliation that will be required! Off to Whole Foods the cheftestants roll. Kevin is tapping into his wife's Puerto Rican heritage, while Tracey is going to make a sausage because she wants to impress the judges and makes sausages all the time. Can I just call it now? Tracey is SO going home. Any time someone claims something is easy it just means Imminent Doom. The chefs run through the store knocking over old people and mowing down children in their pursuit of the perfect spear of asparagus and the last morsel of beef tenderloin. No one snaps at them either, proving once again that this is not reality, it's Bravo. Can you imagine someone running over your toe at the grocery store and not, like, making a shiv out of an ear of corn and taking them down? Anyway, the chefs are busy not being knifed despite their rude behavior, but the most interesting thing we hear is from Amanda. She explains that she did a lot of cocaine and pills in her early 20s, but fought back from the brink of I don't know what. Valley of the Dolls? Sid and Nancy? Requiem for a Dream? She's a fighter and she don't abide no one cutting in front of her in the parsnip line or at the check out counter. She's a fighter and no one should count her out even when she makes bland chicken or boring pie. Although maybe now we understand why she would serve alcohol to children without blinking. Boozy chicken is a gateway drug! Like how marijuana leads to heroin every single time. Anyway, I don't really know why they edited in Amanda's life story right smack dab in the middle of an average Whole Foods run, but there you have it. Amanda will cut a bitch. Maybe you.

After a few establishing shots proving that we are still filming in the nation's capitol, the cheftestants head back to Top Chef DC HQ. (Washington exists solely on a diet of acronyms and ID badges.) Arnold reminds us that the challenge is to make a picnic lunch for 150 of the nation's finest college sophomores and potential future leaders of America. Or at least potential interns at bigger and better institutions, like US Weekly. Arnold doesn't do barbecue, per se, but is willing to skewer a lamb meatball or two or 300. Contrary to Arnold, Kenny loves grilling because it reminds him of his father. He has been grilling since he was seven years old and ...what? SEVEN? Someone let you play with lighter fluid and flames and hot meat and matches at SEVEN? Well, okay, huh. Tracey is talking nonstop to her proto sausage and cursing at her meat grinder. She realizes pretty quickly that Top Chef has supplied sub-par equipment (no, not you GE Monogram) and she will never be able to grind and stuff her sausage. Sausage patties it is! With Vidalia onion and bell pepper relish! Yee haw! She's going home! Tim and Amanda are both making ribs and Tim, being a proud male professional chef from Maryland, which is arguably the South, does not really see any grill competition from a skinny white girl. So maybe that's why they told us about Amanda's past, because clearly drug use = grill skills.

Do you ever find yourself just watching the show and wondering, "What is Angelo Cooking?" Luckily the producers know We Care. Angelo is making an Asian barbecue. There. Question answered. Also, in case you were concerned, he IS confident. Suddenly we hear yelling. Amanda has Alex in a headlock demanding to know how he could dare to use HER oven. Chef Tom Colicchio walks into the kitchen, but doesn't interfere with Amanda's interrogation of Alex, which involves her shoving his hand into a powered up blender. Don't ask, don't tell, right? WRONG. Tom asks her WTF, but looks nervous, because she is a little scary. Amanda explains that there was a braise in her oven and she took it out. Tom takes a deep breath, turns red, and asks if she had labeled the oven or anything? She says no, but it doesn't matter: Prison Rules. Tom backs away slowly before she gets mad. YOU WOULDN'T LIKE HER WHEN SHE WAS MAD. Anyway, back to the food: Ed is making a Moroccan inspired tuna sandwich with cous cous. Tom thinks it is too much, but Ed makes the dangerous mistake of ignoring Tom. Stupid, stupid Ed. Arnold is concerned about time. Stephen is making a bacon-wrapped Chilean sea bass. He has a fish restaurant and is confident. Uh oh! Impending Doom. Tiffany is getting stressed out by Amanda, but she is smart enough to know to stay away from the crazy lady. Suddenly time is up and the chefs head home.

Outside their luxury townhouse, a bunch of chefs loiter outside ruining their palates with cigarettes. Tracey, Kelly, Amanda, Stephen, even (gasp!) Angelo, although we don't actually see him smoke, so maybe he is just gathering intel or hiding from Kenny. As the chefs grill (pun intended!) Amanda about her ribs, Angelo explains to the camera that Amanda is a good chef, but not a great chef and will never beat him. Except, you know, physically.

The next day the chefs are driven to George Washington's historic estate at Mt. Vernon, dropped off and fed to the sheep. Or something. They have one hour to fire up their grills and cook their food. Arnold, being eternally concerned about his pores, doesn't know how to use a grill, but he does know how to copy Kenny. Rest assured, his grill gets lit. Tim butts into the conversation to add the requisite sexist remarks that grilling always inspires: Girls can't grill! They burn their vaginas! They are bad at math, too! The producers help his cause by editing in Tracey yelling, "How do you turn the grill down?" as Kenny chuckles to himself. Kenny then points out that Angelo, once again, is making Asian fare. He says that like it's a bad thing. Angelo just smiles and cuts his Vietnamese beef. Time is up and sad pathetic interns of America start spilling into the barbe-queue. Get it? Of course you do. Interns like nothing so much as free food, because for the most part INTERNS AREN'T PAID and live off of the scraps of office birthday parties and catered lunches. When I was an intern in Washington, D.C. (yes, it's true), my lunches consisted of leftover Christmas chocolate for many months or at least well into the month of March. So these interns are probably starving and lacking several essential vitamins and minerals, which explains why some of them are gnawing on their own ID badges on the way to the table. The judges follow in the interns' wake with a respectful twenty-foot distance between them and the riff raff. They greet Arnold first. The guest judge for today is Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto restaurant in New York. If you were housebound, snowed in, without a party line, no internet, lacking friends, sans books and hence desperate enough to watch Top Chef Masters, you might recognize him. Arnold presents them with a sesame lamb meatball with gazpacho and tabouli. Tamesha -- who I sort of forgot existed because we never ever see her -- made a marinated skirt steak with a fennel citrus salad. Angelo made a Vietnamese lettuce wrap and a smoked egg salad. I have no idea what a smoked egg salad is and, trust me, the picture doesn't help explain it. Alex grilled a pork butt and managed to announce it without giggling, which is more than I would be able to manage. The judges are making their assessments in groups of four. They think Arnold's was delicious, Alex's was good but needed a kick in the butt (pun intended!), Tamesha's was overly sweet, and Angelo's was picture perfect. Next up Tim and his pork with a side of chauvinism. Also, corn. Midst presentation, a duck too

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