“Top Chef” mini-cap: Today is the day

A tryptophan-induced food coma prevented me from recapping last week’s rock’n turkey episode. So let’s belatedly pour a little out for our dearly departed homie Richard. Poor, cute teddy bear Richard. Alas, he failed at a dish that is Girl Scouts 101. This leaves chefbian Jamie as the only remaining member of Team Rainbow.

Still, Richard’s presence is felt in the morning after. He left roomie Alex a letter of encouragement, which sets off some water works for him, along with Jamie and Carla. Jamie now feels the full weight of queer expectations on her shoulders. And, as any good gay would, she accessorizes away her pain. As she says, “I’ve made a rainbow bracelet, kind of in honor.”

But enough tears and pride gear, let’s cook. Quickfire brings celebrity chef Rocco DiSpirito as guest judge. Italian chef Fabio seems less than impressed, saying, “He is an American chef, Italianizing. He is not real Italian.” He then calls him a good chef and cops to owning some of his cookbooks.

The Quickfire is to make an amuse bouche breakfast bite. Rocco gives the cheftestants a little tip: bacon. Yummy, yummy bacon. In the end it comes down to Leah and Jamie who both made a variation of egg on toast. Rocco picks Leah’s because when it comes to amusing one’s bouche, smaller is better. She wins immunity and Jamie is, well, pissed.

But there’s no time to simmer because it’s time for the Elimination Challenge. The chefs have an hour to create a dish for a two-and–a-half-minute live TV presentation. Several of the contestants on the reality TV show proceed to freak out at the prospect of being on TV. Guess they thought those big, heavy camera things following them around all this time were really fancy oven timers.

As they get ready for their close-ups, Daniel is confident about his chances because he says, “I am very charismatic and I think I light up in front of the camera.” Um, did someone tell the camera that?

He then proceeds to say “Bah-bah, booey!” to the camera. Host Padma Lakshmi calls him “lovable” but head judge Tom Colicchio says his mugging is “not that good and a little over the top.” I concur, especially considering last episode Daniel wondered aloud whether it was Jamie’s “time of the month” after they argued. Someone appears to be gunning for asshat of the season dishonors.

When it’s time for their close-ups, Jamie runs out of time and serves a runny duck egg, Alex runs out of time and serves runny crème brûlée and Melissa runs into too much habanero and makes her dish too spicy. And then, in what to my memory is a Top Chef first, Colicchio spit out her food. Oh, dear. They, clearly, make the bottom three.

Then in the understatement of the season, Colicchio also calls Stefan’s personality “not that great.” But it wasn’t all bad. Fabio gets called “a dream guest” and Ariane’s presentation is “perfect.” Jeff also gets praised and the three cheftestants make the top three.

Then in the wee small hours of the night, a man dressed in black enters the house and disrupts their slumber. Fine, it’s just Colicchio. He gets Ariane, Fabio and Jeff up and tells them they will be cooking for the Today show, and their food will be judged by the hosts including Meredith Vieira and Kathie Lee Gifford.

The ladies make yummy noises for Ariane’s tomato salad and Fabio’s seared tuna. But then they get to Jeff’s malfouf roll, and in what I know is a Top Chef first, Kathie Lee spits out her bite. Yes, people, two regurgitations of food in one episode.

Cougar power wins out and Ariane wins the challenge. She also gets to make her dish on the Today show live today. Did anyone catch it? I’m glad to see Ariane pull through her confidence issues. What? I can be nice sometimes.

But, it’s not all self-esteem boosting. The bottom three must now face the judges. Padma tells Melissa when she bit into her too-spicy shrimp “the whole left side of my mouth was throbbing.” Things are throbbing on Padma? I’m going to need a minute.

Jamie gets criticized for seeming angry after her egg flopped (oh, of course, the angry lesbian) and Alex gets criticized for picking a dish that it wasn’t physically possible to complete in an hour. But in the end it’s Alex’s poor and probably distracted decision (he is getting married in a month) that gets him PYKAGed.

Next week, they’ll cook for judge Gail Simmons‘ bridal shower. Please, please, please let someone bake a cake for a stripper to pop out of.