Top Chef

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Pork or Cat Food?

Morning. Jen sits by the pool while Robin does exercises outside alone on her little yoga mat. And she's actually not talking for once! In the words of Depeche Mode, enjoy the silence. Inside, Eli, the brothers Volt, and Mike I. are hanging out, waiting for the day to start. They look like a boy band (or man band) since they are all wearing matching white T-shirts and dark pants. Michael V. interviews that he was in the bottom for the first time on the last challenge, and narrowly escaped going home, and he didn't like it. Just when you think he's lost his swagger, he compares himself to Babe Ruth and says that even the Babe struck out sometimes. So in other words, he's awesome and it was just a blip. Nice to know his ego is still intact.

Eli gets the call home this week, so either he's going to do really well, or he's going home. He reveals, to the shock of no one who has watched him be an immature dick this season, that he still lives with his parents at the age of 25, and he's close with them. Him being a mama's boy does not surprise me at all. Also, his Crocs are the most disgusting, filthy things I've ever seen. Dude, they cost like $30. Treat yourself to a new pair, because those are gross. Anyway, he interviews that he also doesn't like being in the bottom of the pack, and he doesn't want to be known as the guy who did poorly on Top Chef for the rest of his career.

Robin finishes up her Pilates routine as she interviews that she had cancer and cancer cancer and she beat cancer and cancer and cancer and lots of stuff about cancer, and I tuned out somewhere. I think it's great that she beat cancer. I can't imagine the impact that would have on your life. I don't watch this show for inspirational stories about beating cancer. I want to see some interesting and good food, thanks.

Quickfire Challenge. The cheftestants arrive in the kitchen and Padma introduces them to Charlie Palmer, who Michael Volt tells us is "the pioneer of American cooking." Palmer immediately reveals that he worked with both of the brothers Volt before, but he promises not to let that influence his judging. I can believe it. If anything, he'll probably be harder on them as a result. Padma explains that they need to pay some bills, so the challenge will be to create a dish pairing a product-placed snack food (think fried waffle chips or fancy Andy Capp fries) with a dish each cheftestant creates. The snack foods come in different flavors, and the cheftestants get to choose whatever they want.

As they prep, the brothers Volt reminisce in interviews about working with Charlie, and how he's a perfectionist. Michael, in particular, doesn't think that Charlie ever liked him that much. Is this like how Peggy thinks that Don Draper doesn't like her on Mad Men? When really, I doubt he gives her much thought at all? Anyway, Michael thinks Charlie likes Bryan better, and Bryan disagrees. Jen is still lacking in confidence, which seems to be a running theme this season, but it's getting a bit tired. Eli, on the other hand, has too much confidence. If only they could share confidence and even it out. Eli thinks he's awesome at doing pairings, because he went to CULINARY SCHOOL (unlike the majority of the remaining cheftestants, apparently, who not only went to culinary school but have worked in top restaurants).

Ash is getting frustrated with his own performance of late and vows to cook food his way! Wow, we've never heard that one on this show before, huh? So this week, he will either win the whole thing or go home, I predict. Jen thinks she cooked her pork chops too early and they will be overcooked. Is she right or is she being typical overly self-critical Jen? As time runs out, Jen knows that if they don't eat her food first, she's screwed. And of course, they don't eat her food first.

Instead, they go to Eli first, probably responding to the frantic hand motions of the camera people urging them to stay away from Jen and thus increase the dramz. Eli made potato clam salad with fennel, celery, and white truffle sauce. It kind of just looks like clam chowder with some leaves in it, so I don't know where he gets off calling it a salad. He used the onion-flavored snack. Kevin did too, and he made a warm bean confit tomato salad with fresh herbs and creamed corn. He claimed earlier that the traditional green bean casserole with the French-fried onions on top that everyone makes at Thanksgiving was his inspiration. I love that he admits to eating that crap. Bryan ALSO used the onion snacks, and he's serving them with seared rib eye with pickled onion, sautéed mushrooms, and a chive puree. Charlie makes an arch comment about everyone loving the onion snacks, and that they are a safe choice. He's kind of a dick, because the snacks are crap and full of artificial flavors and he knows it, yet they forced the cheftestants to use them, so shut it, Charlie.

Robin chose the jalapeno snacks, and made sweet corn panna cotta with avocado mousseline. It looks disgusting. It looks like fish mousse served on top of cole slaw. There's no visual appeal at all. Mike I. made his own version of chilaquiles, and is serving it with the hot pepper snacks. Mike V. did tuna tartare with avocado, pickled onions, and jalapenos. Don't know which snacks he used.

Ash is making his food, his way, so he's serving up something I think is on the menu at Chili's: chilled cucumber avocado soup with crème fraiche, crab, and red pepper. At least it's visually interesting, but it doesn't seem all that creative. It's paired with the barbeque-flavored snacks. Now-back-to-invisible Laurine made swordfish with spinach, asparagus, and fava bean puree. I feel like this was an ill-designed challenge because some of the cheftestants (Bryan, Laurine) incorporated the snack food into their dishes, and some just served them on the side (which was the actual challenge, I think), and nothing is ever mentioned about which was the right thing to do. It just bothers me. I like rules, and I like knowing the rules ahead of time. Jen finally gets her food tasted last, and you can't tell me that wasn't planned ahead of time. Come on. She made a sautéed pork chop with tomato sauce and feta cheese, and she's another one that incorporated the snack into her dish. Charlie and Padma both comment that the pork chop was overdone, which Jen already knew, and going last didn't help.

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