Top Chef

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Chuck: B- | Grade It Now!
The Elements

Anyway, imaginary couch jumper Antonia has loved the annual blind taste test since the show began, and she's ready to kick some ass. Padma explains the Chicago twist for the challenge: the blindfolded cheftestants will taste pairs of items -- "one will be a high-end gourmet version, and other will not." They will have twenty seconds to identify which is the higher-quality version, and the winner will once again receive immunity.

Andrew, taking his turn as master of the obvious, explains that "if you can't season properly, if you can't taste what good food is, you suck, but if you're blind it's really hard to do." I'm thinking that, although I am sure there are some talented sightless cooks out there, and a bevy of tools to help, being blind would make just about every aspect of cooking more difficult. I'd love to see an entire "blind" challenge, where everything from shopping to cooking to plating to serving was done blindfolded. Hell, how about an entire season?

Ryan goes first, striding toward the metal-topped table and confidently extending his hand toward Ming. I can't decide if Ryan is cute or not -- he seems like a bit of a dunderheaded doofus, but every now and again he looks kind of hot (not that those two things are mutually exclusive -- no, not at all). Padma administers the blindfold, and start Ryan (who, breakfastless, believes his palate is currently "really good" and sees a "chance to shine") with maple syrup -- one that costs $2.99 a bottle, and one that costs $8.99, which looks slightly lighter in color that the cheap stuff. Ryan guesses correctly. Next comes bacon ($15.99 and $3.99 per pound), which Ryan also nails -- and then he's finished, seemingly pleased, and we're led to believe he did fairly well.

Stephanie, the "chef with a big puff of hair," gets the blindfold next, and her first item is crab -- fake-looking stuff that sells for $4.99 a pound, and fresher meat that doesn't have that garish pink color and goes for $24.99 a pound. She tastes the cheap crab first, and then (if the editing is to be believed) puts the expensive crab in her mouth and looks like she's about to puke -- maybe the aftertaste of the junky stuff overwhelmed the better version, or maybe Stephanie is not a fan of crab, but (needless to say) she makes the wrong choice. Bad Stephanie.

Dale's next, then Lisa, who's a "little bit shaky," quite literally, as she knocks over the bottle of water provided to cleanse palates between bites. Padma jumps back like Lisa's poured gasoline on the table, but Ming diffuses the situation by telling Padma that "it's okay, it's just water." I would not want to be the one to spill something on Padma. She's got definite Naomi Campbell potential. Various shots of the cheftestants and the item pairs, as voice-overs explain what to look for: with chocolate ($1.00 and $8.00 per bar), says Dale, "I'm looking for a high fat content, something rich, I'm looking for a bitterness." Bingo, Dale! Lisa misidentifies an item and opines that "this entire thing would have been easier without a blindfold on." Yeah, well, then it wouldn't be that much of a challenge since, as Lisa goes on to explain, you can tell a lot by sight. She correctly identifies the better butter ($9.00 and $4.00 per pound) and cheddar cheese ($18.99 and $2.99 per pound) -- which both do look markedly different -- so just quit your whining, okay?

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Top Chef




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