Top Chef

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T is for Target
get a good crust on the outside. Dale interviews that the women have prettied up their tables with tablecloths and whatnot. Really, why did they bother? I mean, if you have time at the end, sure. But are they being judged on it? Then don't spend energy on it.

Speaking of which, Carla has finally arrived to set up her table. She explains that she was going to make a salmon cake with soup, but she couldn't find salmon. So she's just making soup. This is why you look at the available food before you decide on your dish. Carla thinks about going to find a protein, but she realizes that she doesn't have enough time. Blais explains that the longer soup sits, the more flavor it develops, so Carla doesn't have much time to get flavor, and that's a problem.

Meanwhile, Mike is still ordering Angelo around. Doesn't Angelo also have a dish to cook? Luckily, Angelo kind of fights back and tells Mike to get his own damn supplies, and even snaps, "I've done everything else for you. You want me to cook the food for you too?" Ooh, girl. You tell him. Mike explains that his dish has changed like three times and now it's just a spicy coconut broth? With no protein? I don't know. Meanwhile, Angelo has barely started cooking. They are all really struggling with this one. Except Dale and his dorm food. And Blais seems okay. Anyway, Angelo is making baked potato soup. He has Mike taste it, and Mike thinks it's too thick and it's missing something. Angelo takes that to mean that it needs more salt, so he adds bacon and salt. Yikes. Antonia thinks it's bullshit that everyone is making soup, because that is a really safe way to play it. Antonia also points out that they are cooking this food in the middle of the night, so they're tired and confused.

Time is running out. Carla mentions that she doesn't know if her soup has had time to develop flavor, and she doesn't know if it's worth $25K, but she thinks her presentation is. Um, you're not being judged on presentation. Like, at all. I don't know how many times I have to mention this. Angelo realizes that his soup is now too salty, and we see him pouring water in to dilute it. That seems like a terrible idea. It's going to dilute the salt, sure, but it's also going to dilute the flavor. How about adding milk or chicken broth or whatever he used for liquid in the first place?

The Target employees roll up and the cheftestants start serving. Dale interviews that he thinks, given the constraints of the challenge, he did pretty well, but he also knows that it's just grilled cheese and tomato soup, so it's not that impressive. The Target employees seem to like the food (I almost typed that they seem to like the soups, since that's what nearly everyone is serving) so far, but what will the judges think?

The judges arrive and they look exhausted. Here's the problem with these overnight challenges: everyone being so tired leads to some low-energy discussions. It's hard for even Bourdain to be witty when he's exhausted. I get that they weren't going to shut down a Target during store hours for this challenge, but maybe they should rethink the whole overnight challenges for next season. Have the cheftestants take an hour to raid the store in the middle of the night, then do the cooking, serving, and judging the next day or something. I don't know. Be creative.

Blais is first to serve, but before he can begin, Padma introduces the judges: Colicchio, Bourdain, Ming Tsai, owner of Blue Ginger, and Thomas O'Brien, a designer who often works for Target. Blais serves his dish, which is pork tenderloin with green chilies, apples, braised pork ribs, and corn pancakes. Bourdain comments how ugly the dish is, but it tastes good. And that's it.

Dale presents his rib eye grilled cheese sandwich and spicy tomato soup. He explains that he used two irons to give it a nice sear. Ming thinks that's brilliant, and notes that it has a good sear. Bourdain jokes that Dale is really good at stoner food and should maybe get a urine test. Ming says that Dale should consider becoming "an IRON chef." ZING!

Carla knows that her flavors didn't have time to develop, but she has to serve, so she offers up her curry apple soup with tomato ginger jam and cucumber apple slaw. Ming wishes there were a protein, and Padma says that the soup tastes like a sauce, so it needs a protein. So Carla's lack of protein is the biggest problem. No one really mentions the lack of depth of flavor.

Antonia serves Parmesan eggs on garlic crostini with almond, tomato, and apple salad. Bourdain thinks it's ballsy to cook eggs when she has to make a hundred of them, and the other judges like the flavors, especially since it's almost their breakfast time.

Mike is up next to present his spicy coconut soup with mushrooms, scallions, and lime. Mike claims that he used fresh coconut milk and Padma bitchily asks him, "You found fresh coconuts here?" Mike says he didn't and Padma snarks, "Then it's not fresh coconut milk." Wow. Padma needs a nap. She eats one spoonful and says it was enough for her. Tom and Ming both like it well enough.

Tiffany and her new hat serve up jambalaya with chicken, sausage and shrimp with a summer salad. Bourdain isn't crazy about it, and the texture of the chicken was off. Colicchio thinks it's just okay, and Thomas O'Brien adds that there's something not special about it.

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