“Top Chef: California” recap (13.7): Blast from the Past

Previously on Top Chefboth Angelina (Sudden Death Quickfire) and Messy Wesley (Regular Elimination Challenge) were sent packing. Karen won the beer-inspired Elimination Challenge because she’s awesome.

This week, the chefs are headed to L.A. On their drive, Kwame describes his ideal date with Padma—wine and cheese in the park, plus buying her a surprise dog. This is the kind of date I can really get behind. Kwame has become one of my faves, but I’m still willing to fight him to the death for Padma’s affection—if it comes to that.

img1Kwame, you will be a worthy adversary.

At the Top Chef kitchen, Padma introduces the guest judge for this week’s Quickfire:  past contestant Antonia Lofaso! Together, they tell the chefs about the challenge: each chef has 20 seconds to choose one ingredient from the pantry and then they will all have to make a dish out of only the 10 ingredients chosen. For some reason, the chefs choose two proteins, so they have 20 minutes to make something out of: steak, chicken, jalapeños, salt, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes, and celery.

The judges taste all the dishes and announce the least favorites: Cajun for an underwhelming and not very pretty plate of food, and Karen, who had good flavors, but not enough focus. On top are Baldy, who made carpaccio (which brings his total of raw dishes to, like, 32), and Amar’s chicken dish. The winner is Baldy, so he has immunity.

Padma wastes no time segueing into the Elimination Challenge. She’s all, “You think 10 ingredients is rough, what about 10 years ago, amirite?” Everyone just goes with it, because Padma is a majestic unicorn and you don’t question her reasoning. These are the rules. Padma tells the chefs that Top Chef premiered 10 years ago (oh man, I feel so old), and also brings up MySpace and Katie Holmes. She can barely get the sentences out without completely cracking up—it’s amazing. Bravo TV, I DEMAND A BLOOPER REEL.

img2Take 143, probably

Plot-twist: Baldy used to have so much hair! We know on account of his MySpace picture:


Anyway, the Elimination Challenge is that the chefs have to create a dish that represents where they were 10 years ago. They head off to Whole Foods to go shop for ingredients. It’s mostly uneventful, except I’m a little concerned for Marjorie because she wasn’t able to get lemongrass for her green curry. After Whole Foods, the chefs head back the Roosevelt Hotel, grill some food up on the roof, enjoy the view, swap stories, and do their best Tom impressions. Looks like a solid night.


The next day, the chefs head back to the kitchen where they prep their dishes and tell the stories of where they were 10 years ago. Tom shows up along with Michael Voltaggio to talk to/intimidate the chefs as they cook. What do you guys think it’s like to have a last name as awesome as Voltaggio? I feel like it could change your life. Anyway. Bunhead says some bullshit about how Top Chef is more about pleasing the judges than anything else, and Tom looks a little like he wants to murder him. Same, Tom.


The guest judges arrive and it’s just a who’s who of Top Chef alum and great chefs (HI MEI, HI!)—aka a very intimidating table of people to feed. Marjorie serves first, and her seared halibut in green curry is very well-received despite her lack of lemongrass. Beardy’s shrimp ceviche is also a hit.

Cajun and Glasses are up next. The judges think Cajun’s duck gumbo is really delicious (except for some tough sausage casings. There might be a joke there, but my humor is far too refined for that, obviously). Glasses’ poached trout dish is not very good. The trout was poached well, but everything is underseasoned and underwhelming. The judges mostly like Karen’s orecchiette, but think she needs to marry the elements of her dish a little better.

Amar’s butter-poached lobster goes over very well. Boston Carl’s fricassee makes Gail smile, so thank you for that Boston Carl. The judges, once again, give Bunhead some negative feedback—this time on his ceviche—and he, once again, seems to think it’s the judges’ fault and not his. Woof.

The judges do not like Baldy’s lobster ravioli with salmon, but he has immunity, so it doesn’t really matter. Kwame is not feeling good about his dish at all. It’s inspired by his father, who he started to drift away from 10 years ago. His jerk broccoli is confusing and disappointing.

At Judges’ Table, Tom scolds the chefs a bit on their performance this week. Dad’s mad, you guys: DO BETTER. Despite this, there were still a few great dishes: Marjorie’s curry, Beardy’s ceviche, and Boston Carl’s fricassee are on top. The winner is Marjorie! She don’t need no lemongrass, y’all!

On the bottom are Kwame, Bunhead, and Glasses. Kwame looks like a sad little puppy, and I hope he doesn’t go home. Bunhead is fucking infuriating. Tom feels like there is something wrong with Glasses, so he asks him to talk about his feels. Aw, Tom, you really are such a dad. Even though Tom empathizes with Glasses, this is still a competition, and Glasses is sent home.

Next week on Top Chef, we all question what the world is coming to as the chefs are judged based on Instagram photos of their plates.