So much to love and wail about this week so I’m just going to begin with Quickfire Awesome – FONDUE. And FONDUE, according to Mike, is what is served at GAY FONDUE PARTIES. I clapped my hands and did a “SIGN ME UP!” sing-song. Oh, I’m sorry, Mr. Jersey Stereotype, was that meant to be snide and dismissive? No one cares what you think because you can’t even cook rigatoni properly. I love gay and I love melted anything. It is all delicious and I thought the challenge – to create a unique fondue – was one of the best Quickfires yet. I love fondue so much that it took the edge off my bitch-face when Padma announced the chefs would be judging the winners/losers. (I’m still not sure why was that twist was necessary?) So after the chefs stopped milling about being confused/disgusted/ruminating on the possibility of a NUDE FONDUE PARTY (thanks for the mental image, Blaise), the final results ranged from disastrous – poor Mike’s melted feta and lamb kabobs just weren’t GAY enough – to Dale’s brilliant phở-ndue which I thought was not only incredibly clever (because if you’ve ever ordered take-out phở you know that you have to assemble it at home) but looked delicious. He made me have wholly inappropriate midnight cravings like the nasty phở slut I am.
In the meantime, Richard seemed genuinely butt-hurt that his freeze-dried banana and chile chocolate sauce concoction wasn’t even in the top three. Was his fellow chefs’ decision fair judgment or strategy? He convinced himself it was the latter and that’s good, I think. Hang on to that fire, Blaise! Be a threat! Rah!
There was a lot of Antonia this episode and even after an hour of quality time together… I just don’t think it’s going to work out, you guys. Every time her face fills my screen during the confessionals, I feel my eyes glaze over. Obviously she can break out the big guns, but even when she pulls out an amazing dish (last week’s winning Elimination Challenge dish, mussels with fennel in broth) she doesn’t seem to take any joy in it. If Top Chef was called “Nostromo,” Antonia would be Ash – steadfast, capable…but a bit “bring-back-alien-life-form-crew-expendable,” if you know what I’m sayin’. Yes, she makes delicious food, but there’s such a strange, off-putting tension about her sometimes. I’m rambling, but I can’t be the only one coming down with narcolepsy when she’s on screen, right? It’s not that I don’t think she deserves to win exactly, but that I don’t want to root for her.
Luckily, Antonia’s general blah-ness was counter-acted by adorable Jimmy Fallon-ness and batshit Carla-ness. Tonight’s elimination challenge kicked off with a super sekrit surprise visit to the set of Late Night so Jimmy could present the chefs with their task…via a game called Cell Phone Shooter. Here’s how it worked: The chefs held a cell phone and had to snap a shot at a big screen of scrolling ingredient. Whichever ingredient they took a picture of was the dish they had to prepare for Jimmy’s birthday lunch party. (They were also informed of the foods Jimmy hates: mushrooms, mayonnaise, and eggplant.) Yes, it was as dumb as it sounds (and you would have fast-forwarded through it on DVR), but it was worth it to see Carla go full-on Kermit when she landed chicken pot pie for her dish. And is there a dish that screams CARLA! more than chicken pot pie? I think not.
[INSERT BUITONI RAVIOLI PRODUCT PLACEMENT! MMMM, LOBSTER AND SHRIMP RAVIOLI! Yes, in the kitchen! On the show! All that was missing was soft lighting and Marvin Gaye in the background! Damn.]
Jimmy’s family and friends joined him, his wife, and the usual suspects – Tom, Padma, and Gail (looking extra-cute, I might add?) – for a sampling of seemingly straight-forward cuisine, but with the all-important Top Chef twist. We had Tiffany with the chicken and dumplings, which she presented with a Southwest twist; Richard’s pork and duck egg ramen; Mike’s “Fenway-style” sausage and peppers (playing on Fallon’s Boston roots); Dale’s Philly cheesesteak on a pretzel bun; Angelo’s coffee/chipotle/all-spice rubbed pulled pork; Antonia’s beef tongue (having come to the Southwest via the South, I was amused at all the tongue consternation, but ain’t no part of an animal surprises me in the freezer case anymore); Fabio’s brisket/chuck/short ribs burger-that-was-more-like-meatloaf; and – OF COURSE – Carla’s chicken pot pie.
Without question, Carla’s dish was the big hit. Colicchio couldn’t stop stuffing his face long enough to actually comment on it. (Also, I had to Google “pea salt” as soon as the ep ended – and I’m still not clear on what it is.) Later, at Judges’ Table, there would be much swooning over the fact she’d included crust on the bottom. Because there has to be a bottom for it to truly to be pot pie, y’all. Unsurprisingly, Carla ended up the winner (and promptly had some sort of seizure, bless), but the judges also had raves for Angelo’s pork rub (he seemed genuinely thrilled) and the wonders Antonia managed with beef tongue (she pressure-cooked it on the advice of Blaise, who was not in the top three, thus giving weight to Mike’s assertion that helping fellow chefs out gets you nowhere).
And, as Tiffany so rightly stated, judging has now arrived at the NitPick Stage, when the judges are just looking for the tiniest flaw to send a chef packing. She, Dale, and Fabio hit bottom this week and Jimmy once again had the opportunity to bring up THE SALT MONSTER in reference to Dale’s dish. To his credit, Dale fully owned his mistake (he hadn’t accounted for the salt on his cheesesteak’s pretzel bun), as did Tiffany (her dumplings were too thin and her “gravy” more “broth”). Fabio – who admitted earlier that he knew nothing about making a “BOOGER” (Fabio, honey, REALLY? Nothing at ALL?) – still seemed confused about the entire concept of a burger and fries…and was sent packing for his affront to American culture.
THE FABIO/BLAISE BROMANCE IS OVER, YOU GUYS. But mostly I wailed at a future of episodes without Fabio, who is a one-man Top Chef quote machine. I’m pouring a Fat Tire onto the tile in his honor. But next week might cheer me up because I’m convinced Muppets and Carla are not allowed to co-exist in the same space without an explosion of awesome.
Will you miss Fabio as much I will? Does Antonia also bore you to tears? Give me comfort, validation, and chicken pot pie!