Top Chef : Bring Back the Past Season’s Losers

In this episode of Top Chef, we were forced to endure the Top Chef Bowl, in which losers from past seasons we didn’t like in the first place returned to battle our current contestants. The product placement also gets out of control in the Quickfire (okay, it was already, but seriously, the oats were a killer).

Jump for it.

The ep begins with a whiney statement from Leah about last week’s hookup with Hosea. (Go ahead, blame it on the booze girl, as if you weren’t trying to jump his bones all the way back in ep 2). The chefs go to the kitchen and Scott Conant is there, another huge culinary star and not exactly hard on the eyes either.

This wipe board full of squares is revealed (football squares?), and chefs are to put their name in one of the boxes. In one of the most elaborate time-wasters ever seen on the show, Padma reveals the protein or food group they are to work with (on the left, vertical side of the board), and then slowly starts to reveal the other ingredient along the top of the board (horizontal side) they are also to use. “Fabio, oats! Stefan, oats! Jamie, oats!” Yep, everyone has to use oats, and not just any old oats, Quaker oats. In a “new and surprising way!” So everyone gets to work. Furthering the withering relationship between HosEah, Leah starts boning a fish and Hosea calls her out immediately (behind her back, natch), since the fish is what she screwed up so royally last week during restaurant wars after the makeout session caused her to forget how to cook. Classy, H. 45 minutes elapse, and we are forced to look at oat-covered everything: eggplant (Fabio), tofu (Carla), shrimp (Jamie), veal (Hosea), chicken and everything else (Jeff). Only Stefan goes with banana mousse and comes up with the win. He’s cocky now. He’s all, “I’ve got five wins in a row, I’m da bomb.” This should have alerted me to some sort of a foreshadow. It did not. In fact, I said, “Stefan is so good. He’s going to win Top Chef.” Bravo! Got me.

Next up, the cheftestants discover jerseys with their names on them in the ‘stew room’ (I think that’s what they said), and then the losers from past seasons arrive. These people are embarrassingly called the “All Stars,” and again, I picture Casey Thompson in San Francisco laughing her butt off. Okay, people liked Spike and Andrew from last season. But Andrea? Nikki? Miguel? Josie (okay I kinda liked her). Camille (really, no idea who this is)? Anyway, now Padma tells us we are having the Top Chef bowl, and that chefs will be paired against past season losers for a 20 minute cook-off. They will use the ingredients from the cities of seven NFL teams: San Francisco, Seattle, Green Bay, Dallas, Miami, New Orleans, and New York (murmur, no Pittsburgh or Arizona, since this was filmed in the summer or something). Big winner Stefan gets to choose his city and his opponent. He picks Dallas (woop woop) and chooses to go against Andrea. Can’t blame him. No one in 100 years would ever think she could beat him. Nope, no one. Everyone else huddles up and chooses a team to represent, and then they plan menus for a couple of hours. The past season’s losers talk smack for a bit (why, WHY does Spike insist on the hat?), and then everyone goes home.

The next day, everyone goes to the Institute of Culinary Education for the cook off. A bunch of culinary students are there with foam fingers, and Tom, Toby, and Scott Conant show up looking grumpy. The chefs who’ve already been voted off this season are also forced to sit in the audience wearing jerseys. Padma is wearing a tight ref’s shirt (not a bad call there). First up, Leah vs. Nikki. Nikki suddenly has a very strong NY accent I never noticed in Chicago, and Leah is all mopey (as per usual) and underselling. “I just made a tiny, little steak, it’s really simple, nothing fancy, no big deal, it will probably taste awful.” She wins the judge’s vote with her strip steak, but Nikki wins the “fan” vote (culinary students) for her chicken livers. Hosea and Miguel are next up with Seattle. They talk smack the entire time to each other (that’s what I remember Miguel doing best, running his mouth), and Hoesa beats him down with a crispy salmon roll that the judges and fans prefer. Carla vs. Andrew in the “how bizarre can I act?” showdown (this had to be planned by producers, come awn) were up next. They had New Orleans, and Andrew made a head-scratching crawfish “crudo,” and Carla made a gumbo with crawfish and sausage. She won the judge’s vote, and Andrew got the fans, somehow.

Next up: Stefan and Andrea. Oh, yes. This part can also be called the “Dallas Disaster.” In honor of our fair city, Andrea makes chili (cough), and Stefan makes two small salads topped with wimpy slices of pork and prime rib. He is so smug. It’s insane. The judges are split down the middle, so the winner is decided by the fans.

They ALL pick Andrea. All. Every single one. It’s so awesome. Stefan starts cussing and doesn’t stop for approx 15 minutes. The past season’s losers make fun of him relentlessly in the other room.

Jamie and mystery girl Camille are up next, and they have San Francisco. Jamie does her hometown proud with a crab cioppino, and Camille makes some bizarre miso/sweet potato/mustand/crab dish. Judges are split again, but thank G, fans go with Jamie.

Jeff and Josie face off Miami style. They both do ceviches. Jeff’s is gorgeous and looks fresh. Josie’s is warm (?) and looks like a mess. Oh snap, judges and fans pick Josie.

Last up is Fabio vs. Spike in the Green Bay challenge. Fabio needs to take this one in order for the Season 5 chefs to win. Both F and S make venison, but Fabio overcooks his big time and puts cheddar cheese all over his salad. Spike’s is slighly more elegant and better prepared. He gets the chef vote, while Fabio gets the fan vote. Season 5 wins the Top Chef Bowl. It’s finally over.

The judge’s vote determines who the losers are, so Fabio, Stefan, and Jeff get the big L. Meanwhile, Carla, Leah, and Jamie all wrap their heads in some form of ridiculous looking headband and bask in the glow of the winners circle (Hosea is there too). Carla is the winner, and she gets two tickets to the SuperBowl, which is a really cool gift obvs. She’s super excited.

The boys sulk in for chef’s table. Fabio gets reamed for talking back to Scott Conant and for killing his vension again. Jeff is slammed for weak ceviche, and Stefan’s flavorless salads are questioned. (I mean, really. Salads? For Texas? Major meh. He phoned this one in, big time, and it’s no wonder he lost).

Everyone knows it’s Jeff or Fabio. Jeff goes, and Fabio knows it probably should have been him, and gives some weird “second chances” speech. I’m sad to see Jeff go, because he was drama-free and always took an extra step with his food. He rarely played it safe, and he seemed like a good guy too. I’m sure Fabio will win fan favorite, but I’m not so sure he can cook. He’s not going to win TC. I still think it’s’ going to be Stefan and Jamie in the final. Possibly Hosea too? Thoughts, everyone?

11 comments on “ Top Chef : Bring Back the Past Season’s Losers

  1. Best line of the night was Fabio. “I’m a professional chef. If they give me monkey *ss to stuff with fried bananas, I can do it.”

  2. Sarah, I think you got the narrative wrong on Jeff vs. Josie. Everbody liked Josie’s better, which is why Jeff was on the chopping block.

    The real moment of foreshadowing was very early in the ep when Carla noted that Jeff has a problem controlling his “creative monkeys.” This has indeed been a problem for him; he can never create one fantistic dish when three just-better-than-okay dishes will do.

    My wife and I have been noting all season that we couldn’t remember a single Creole or Cajun dish cooked (except for that early redneck loser in what, season 2?) in the entirety of the Top Chef series. That’s a pretty major American cuisine to get shut out thus far (thank heavens Arizona wasn’t one of the teams or all we’d hear about is more of this nebulous “New American” kind of crap). So it was nice to see New Orleans represented. Crazy to do a gumbo in 20 minutes — you can’t even do a proper roux in 20 minutes! So we were surprised to see Carla choose a gumbo, although apparently it was pretty good.

    I concur on Jamie versus Stefan. It’s nice to see her cooking something other than scallops and/or soup. Oh wait, the cioppino was a soup, wasn’t it? Nevermind.

    We like Fabio, but we couldn’t recall a single dish on the show that he has done very well. He even messed up the ravioli. An Italian chef who screws up ravioli with too much pesto? As GOB Bluth would say, “Come on!”

    Note that despite her blown work during Restaurant Wars, Leah has been doing quite well, albeit kind of stealthily. I see her skating into the finals and then maybe even pulling out the underdog win if Stefan blows the lead a la Richard last year.

  3. Oh yeah, one other thing. New British judge Baldy looked like a total chav wearing those glasses last night. I never thought that anything would make me long for the return of Gail Simmons, but this guy sure does. Although if we could arrange for the resurrection of Ted Allen, that would be even better.

  4. Best moment: Carla’s reaction to winning Super Bowl tix – even after she previously admitted not being a football fan.

    Priceless.

    Previously, she bugged me a bit but has really grown on me. I almost sit around waiting for more kookiness from her. She’s actually a pretty darn good chef it seems.

  5. @Mulry:

    That’s another priceless moment – use of the word chav for Toby. Only thing missing to complete that chav look was a white track suit.

    Awesome comment!

  6. I liked Toby Young’s writings, but in person he is a total knob…Then again, Gail’s weird faces throughout each show made me feel really sorry for her fiance (did he come to his senses and run for the hills before the big day?)…Second the Ted Allen comments.

  7. Unfortunately, I doubt we will ever see Ted Allen again on TC, because he is doing his own version over on the Food Network called “Chopped”.

  8. yes mulry, you’re right. I’m at a luncheon but will fix the error when I return.

  9. And again this week I ask, “When will they vote off Toby from being a judge?”

  10. Am I the only one that thinks the way Top Chef is run with top 3, bottom 3, that we get to 7 chefs left and 5 of them are losers? What the &&*! are Leah and Constant Disaster Carla still doing in there – weaklings!! Nice people but no talents! How the hell did either of them beat 50 other people out to even get on the show? Perhaps if the methods for ranking/rating were different, we’d get more talent in the end?

    PS I also am a Padma hater. She’d be fine if she wasn’t MODELING on the dam breaks, commercials. What does that have to do with FOOD!?!?!?