The quickfire challenge is one enormous product placement for Uncle Ben's, but since this is a show about family I guess it is appropriate. The contestants have fifteen minutes to create an entrée that features the heat-and-eat rice and is impressive enough to dazzle the palate of guest judge Art Smith. Yes, that Art Smith. Oprah's personal chef Art Smith. Don't pretend you don't know. Mark, Stephanie, and Lisa make up the bottom three with boring, dense, and boring food, in that order. Antonia and her hot-cold rice salad over steak wins immunity. And, no, I have no idea what rice salad is, what it tastes like, or why Art Smith keeps saying hot-cold when he talks about it.
The elimination challenge is to create a simple, nutritious, and delicious full dinner for a family of four for the low, low price of ten dollars without heading to the KFC drive-thru. The chefs devise menus and head to the challenge location where they meet the second half of their challenge-- shrunken sous chefs! Jealous! Kids are herded into the kitchen, paired up with a chef, and put to work creating delicious, nutritious family dinners. Antonia cries because she misses her daughter and that some how makes Richard want to go home and make mini blazes. Call the fire department and my gag reflex.
Andrew, Nikki, and Antonia are taken into the backroom first. Andrew's fennel extravaganza and Nikki's one-pot wonder chicken just can't compare to Antonia's single parent stir-fry. She gets no prize love at all and has to issue the call of doom to Mark, Stephanie, and Lisa. Lisa tries to defend her bland chicken, edamame, and black bean dish. Stephanie's mystery basket lunch of peanut butter and tomato couscous garners no praise from the judges. But it is Mark and his sloppy vegetable curry and its incredibly serious lack of protein who finally realizes that Tom hates him and heads home. G'day mate!
Last week (if you can remember that far back what with all the Zyrtec you've been popping), Hermie the Elf was sent home for crimes against phalluses. And by Hermie, I of course mean Jennifer, who should have probably avoided dabbling in food-based phallic symbols what with being openly gay and all. Although I viewed the entire asparagus arousal issue as simply a cry for help and a desire to go home to Zoi. Undoubtedly Hermie has learned a valuable life lesson. Let's see what lesson is in store for the contestants this week!
As daybreak comes to the Top Chef house, Lisa is in her jammies smoking on the roof deck. It's interesting how so many chefs will risk their valuable palates with cigarette smoke, but I guess looking cooler and older is totally worth the loss of subtle taste distinctions. In the first confessional of the day, Stephanie lets us know that it's been a long haul so far, but it is only half way to the finals, so she is going to buckle down and prove her worth. Which is totally a sign she is in the bottom three. Antonia is fired up. She is done doubting her flavor combinations. She is going to f* everybody (scandal!) but she is here to win and she will do anything (or anyone?) to do that. Mumbles Mark said something about coming to America to run a kitchen and how winning would catapult him in that direction, but I can't understand a thing he says and some of my best friends are Kiwis. Regardless, such statements usually mean someone is going to wind up in the bottom three. Also, he uses a Crest spin brush. As does Stephanie. Maybe they come with the house? Some chucklehead shouts "Vamoose!" and the contestants head to the Top Chef kitchens.
Madame Padma is rocking the equestrian chic with a black vest and long-sleeved ivory blouse and riding crop. She introduces today's guest judge, Art Smith, as Oprah's personal chef. She quickly adds that he won some James Beard awards, too, but what does James Beard matter when you bear the mantle of the big O? Besides, Oprah totally bought him that James Beard humanitarian award. Dale tells us that Art Smith is known for simple healthy food and that he is opening a restaurant in Chicago. Art Smith stands with his hands in his pockets jingling his change like a man who has won the life lottery. Oprah's personal chef...where was that option at my middle school career fair? I bet Art Smith gets tickets to the Oprah's Favorite Things show. Dale also tells us that the kitchen is filled with Uncle Ben. He does not sound overwhelmingly impressed. Padma embarks on an odd speech about how an entire dinner service can crash and burn if one chef screws up. Art Smith adds that a minute in the kitchen is ten to the diner, which explains why all the diners on Hell's Kitchen are so irritable. Padma explains that today's quickfire challenge is to create an entire entrée in fifteen minutes. Lisa lets us know that fifteen minutes is not a lot of time. Andrew rolls his eyes. Spike and his fugly fedora grimace, too. Padma reassures the chefs that she knows it is not a lot of time, but Uncle Ben is here to help. She then launches into the most egregious product placement yet. Not egregious merely because it is so blatant, but egregious because it is so clearly obvious that this product placement is incredibly misplaced. None of these cooks and no one daring to claim the title of Top Chef would go near some creepy shelf stable pre-made rice. It's rice! It takes 20 minutes on the stove. It is really easy! Now don't get me wrong, I am a fan of the dining shortcut. I love Indian food in a box. I love a good frozen pizza. Kashi entrees? Totally tasty. But shelf stable rice is creepy. Not as creepy as shelf-stable bacon, but creepy nonetheless. Stephanie's face apparently agrees with me as she is barely holding in an eye roll. Undoubtedly the Top Chef code of conduct requires no openly sneering at promotional products.