New year, new episode of Bravo's Top Chef. The season picked up again this week with only seven of the original fifteen competitors still in the competition. At this point, the chefs have been living together for several weeks and, as in many situations where you have a group of type-A personalities, things are getting a little tense. Everyone in the group seems to oscillate back and forth between feeling compelled to act as a team trying to screw over everyone else so that they, as individuals, can get ahead. It makes things more interesting from a dramatic standpoint, but the chefs really need to get a grip on their tempers if they want to end up as Top Chef.
As the episode started out, one of the first things that we got to see was that Michael had a wisdom tooth pulled. He made it sound like he went to a less-than-reputable individual for the procedure, but seemed to be getting along fine aside from the pain and swelling. Medicated, Michael was much less feisty than usual. He noted that he hoped the challenges weren't too long and the rest of the tired-looking competitors agreed.
The quickfire challenge this week was different from previous ones because immunity was no longer up for grabs. The challenge was to create a dish based on a color and the chefs drew knives to see what their assigned shade was. Michael drew orange and made an orange-glazed salmon with carrot chips. Ilan drew red and made steak tartare. Elia, with white, did a Dover sole filet with mushrooms. Marcel, in frown, made a breakfast-themed steak and egg dish with coffee foam. Betty got green with a green zucchini tamale. Sam, in yellow, also opted for a breakfast dish with eggs, lemon and corn muffins. Cliff had the most difficulty with the challenge because he is colorblind and had difficulty identifying which ingredients were purple, his assigned color. He was pretty sure that someone once told him eggplant was purple, so even though Marcel offered o give him a hand with the colors, he simply tried to match everything to the eggplant skin.
Judged by Ted Allen, who was again standing in for Gail, the least successful dishes were Betty, Ilan and Marcel. Both Betty and Marcel had their presentation criticized and both Betty and Ilan had the taste of their dishes taken to task. The three top dishes were made by Sam, Cliff and Michael, and it was Michael who was declared the winner.
Moving on to the elimination challenge, the chefs again drew knives. This time, instead of colors, they drew sins. The challenge was to make a seven course meal where each of the courses represented one of the seven deadly sins: wrath, greed, envy, pride, lust, sloth and gluttony.
From start to finish, this challenge was emotionally charged. With the exceptions of Elia and Michael, who was heavily medicated, everyone spent a good portion of the time screaming at Marcel, including the fairly even tempered Sam and Ilan, who revealed a rather cruel side of his personality for the first time in the show. Marcel seemed to handle everything reasonably well and with more maturity than some of his competitors, especially considering that it was one versus six (including Elia and Michael who, although passive, did side with the group) for the whole show.
Getting back to the cooking, each chef worked on his or her own course and the meal was served during a dinner party hosted by actress Debbie Mazar. The sins and dishes were served as follows:
Sam's dish was a hit, particularly the very addictive popcorn. Betty's soups were not nearly smooth enough and the flavors didn't meld well together. Michael's trout dish was very well executed. Cliff's dish was criticized for not having enough broth. Elia's chicken was very succulent, but she didn't seem as confident as "pride" should be when presenting it. Marcel's cherry dessert didn't strike diners as lustful even though it was probably the most beautiful dish of the evening. Ilan's dessert had no contrasting textures and a soggy, wet funnel cake.
Michael's trout and salmon dish was declared the winner and Tom remarked that Michael should consider taking vicodin more often.
The three bottom finishers were Betty, Marcel and Ilan. Betty's technique needed a lot of work and the judges weren't sure if her skills were enough to carry her further in the competition. Marcel was asked to avoid foam in the future. Ilan was asked why he decided to stick in a dig at Marcel's dessert when serving his own (he said something to the effect of "cherries decrease your libido" to the diners) and was also quizzed about his choices for his unpopular dessert. Ilan didn't really have a defense for his very immature actions, nor for his overly rich, mushy dessert, but Betty was the won who was asked to leave this week.
Next week, it looks like Gail Simmons will be back (although I do hope that they will consider having more of Ted Allen) and we'll get to see if, by some miracle, the chefs aren't at the edge of killing each other (or Marcel).
Forget what happened last year over the holiday? Check out the recaps here: