Top Chef

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Chuck: B | Grade It Now!
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Film Food

So what to do with Dale, the thirteenth wheel? He gets to choose any team he'd like to join, significantly increasing that team's competitive advantage. He barely bats an eye before choosing the first course, and "Richard." Not a peep about Andrew, so we know whom Dale thinks is the best. As does Antonia -- she thinks "his food tastes good, hands down," and sees her stiffest competition in the evening's openers. Dale rectifies his omission in a talking head bit, where he says he's "chomping at the bit" to work with Richard, and that he thinks Andrew is "equally creative." He thinks the three of them, as forward-thinking, progressive chefs, will make a good troika. Andrew's not so sure -- he's miffed that Dale's muscling in on his turf. I think Andrew's competitiveness with Richard has inspired a little man crush, and that Andrew's mostly upset that Dale's intruding on his time with Richard.

The threesome decides to find inspiration in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory for their first course, which gives them a lot of latitude in the creativity department. Richard explains (as he kicks his trusty red mini-smoker into action) that it's about "creating a gumball that tastes like a roast beef sandwich that turns into a blueberry pie." He's clearly the mastermind behind the choice and the de facto team leader -- it'd be pretty fantastic if they actually managed to recreate that gumball.

Spike and Manuel confer -- or, rather, try to find movies that match what they want to cook. Manuel mentions Like Water for Chocolate, since it's a Mexican movie, and he cooks Mexican food. I suppose that's a valid line of thinking when asked to create dishes inspired by your favorite film, but it's starting to feel like Manuel needs to move beyond the Mexican. Spike has no idea what Manuel's talking about, and neither do I when Manuel explains that he doesn't want to kill people on their mouth on their second course." That doesn't seem like something to aspire to in any course. Spike counters by suggesting Vietnamese food and, by extension, Good Morning, Vietnam, because nothing says delicious Vietnamese food like Robin Williams. Manuel goes along with Spike's vision of a summer roll, excited to learn something new and add his two cents in the process.

Jennifer (Jen from here on out -- it's shorter) and Nikki opt for Italian (Nikki needs to show some diversity as well), and they hit on Il Postino for their cinematic inspiration, which is a good choice for simple, rustic, romantic food. Jen suggests they "hold hands," which gets a bigger laugh from Nikki, but I did chuckle. They'll do pasta, which, if I ever find myself in one of Nikki's restaurants, I'm going to order, since that's clearly the part of her repertoire of which she is proudest. Nikki's got the dough, while Jen will shape the tortellini, a shape of pasta reputedly based on some Italian vixen's particularly alluring navel. No intel on the specific contours of Zoi's bellybutton, but Jen does again discuss the difficulty of competing with her lover. It's hard, y'all!

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Top Chef

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