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Top Chef S09E07: Like Grandma Used To Make Badly

Everyone is still recovering in the kitchen two seconds after last week’s elimination of Manic Panic when Padma walks in and just gets things going. That is what I like to see. LET’S JUST DO THIS ALREADY. She eliminates everyone except for Paul, Gay Chris (aka Malibu), and Ed, who have two minutes to cook a 12-course-meal for Paul Bocuse. None of them can do it, they’re all eliminated. The season ends. LET’S GOOOOOO! Padma tells everyone that they’re going to Austin and the contestants, as always, lose their shit. There are literally multiple rounds of high fives and a lot of screaming. Looks like someone got into the bulk box of dry sherry. Someone says there’s lots of music in Austin, which is stupid and wrong. There is an annual music festival in Austin, that’s true, but it’s not going on right now, and otherwise there is just a regular amount of music in Austin. Somehow, no one mentions that Austin is also home to one of the most insufferable seasons of The Real World ever. Wes? Fucking Wes? Remember him? The worst. That season started off OK when Danny got his SKULL PUNCHED IN, but after that it was so boring. Weirdly, this doesn’t come up. Paul’s nervous because he’s from Austin and he feels that he must represent. “So, I’m like sweatin’ balls at this point.” Sure. Good luck, Paul. I’m sorry, for a number of reasons, to hear about your balls.

Sidenote: as they pack up in Dallas to head to Austin (I think they’re in Dallas? I don’t really care. Where are they? Who cares.) Sarah shouts “Here we go! Lock it up. Load ‘em out.” That’s not a thing, right? “Lock and load” is a thing, but “Lock it up. Load ‘em out” isn’t a thing, right? Shut up, Sarah. They drive their Toyota Siennas 100 miles to Austin and this is where we learn that everyone calls Gay Chris “Malibu” because “he’s beautiful,” which doesn’t quite track, but OK. (Gay Chris then asks Paul if they would be compatible on Match.com so I’m sticking with Gay Chris, personally.) Other Chris and Beverly are both recording these conversations on Flip Cams in their separate cars so I wonder what that’s all about except only insofar as I wonder how I can avoid ever having to see that footage. Life’s short! Speaking of how life is short, everyone talks about the personal sacrifices they’ve made, especially in the realm of relationships and starting families, in order to have their careers, which is kind of sad, can we please drive faster and just be in Austin now? Or can you guys turn the car around and make us all go home?

Austin! Phew, we made it. We’re about to get into the Quickfire, but first Paul reveals how he got started, which is that he used to sell weed to his friends. PAUL! LIVIN DE LIFE! He explains that he woke up one morning and…he had dogs…and there was shit…and he decided he had to get his life together, so he became a chef. The story seriously does not hold up. It’s fine that he used to sell weed and now he’s a chef, but you can make pretty good money selling weed and you can maintain a relatively stable and non-criminal, non-meth-faced clientele doing so. They’re trying to turn it into some kind of moral tale of how cooking saved him from a life of crime, but it’s like, guys, come on, it’s 2011, we all know how weed dealing works. It’s great. Everyone should do it. “I had beautiful, rare dogs from a rare dog breeder and one of them took an extra month to house train and I was just like, fuck it, I need to get my life in order, so I sold my sports car and got a sublease on my luxury apartment and here I am.” Keep your flimsy, unearned morality play out of my Top Chef, Bravo. (Also the photo illustration of his weed dealing days is just straight up a PROM photo, so relax.)

Tom and Padma explain that this week’s Quickfire Challenge involves Twitter, and explain that the program gained popularity in Austin at the South by Southwest festival. Cool story. This week, Top Chef fans are going to TWEET the challenge at them LIVE. Ugh. UNFOLLOW! Other Chris explains that this is great because at his restaurant they actually tweet at each other in the kitchen and have a live feed of the food they’re serving. Wait, what? He says it’s a great way to get the customers excited about the dining experience, but again, that is not true. If I walked into a restaurant and found out the chefs were tweeting at each other and posting pictures of the food to instagram I would BURN THE RESTAURANT TO THE GROUND.

Right away this challenge makes no sense because what the Twitter graphics say and what Tom says are completely different? For example, the first tweet, Tom reads as: “DentonBiety says: everything is better with bacon. Well, let’s see if that’s true.” How hard is it to read 140 characters correctly, Tom?

Cook cook cook. Tweet tweet tweet. Everyone is excited to be making something with bacon because of how easy that is, which is pretty short-sighted considering that by the end of this ridiculous Tweet challenge who knows what you will even be eating anymore. Other Chris says that bacon should be its own food group because of how delicious it is. Is that how the food groups work? Is that how we got to the food pyramid? They are just in order of deliciousness? Got it. Michelle Obama should hire Chris as a consultant for her committee to end childhood obesity. “If pizza is a vegetable then surely bacon can at least be a whole grain.” The first Twitter Twister is that everyone has to include a hash on their plate. OK! The second Twitter Twister is that each chef has to choose an ingredient for another chef to include in their dish. This is where the challenge breaks down for a number of reasons. For one, how is anyone going to make anything edible out of this hash (BOOM! LIKE ELI, I DID IT!) and second of all, some people complain about having to use sriracha while other people don’t even mention what their secret ingredient is, so it’s hard to tell what’s actually going on. Ultimately, though, people do make human-looking food, which is pretty impressive. I’ve made a lot of jokes this season about how terrible all of the chefs are and how it’s the worst season, but I actually had a change of heart during this Twitter challenge, because if anyone can make food out of this nonsense in half an hour that looks as good as some of this food really did look then toques off to these heroes.

Not to say that some people didn’t make clown food. The bottom three are Grayson for her “puff thing,” Other Chris, for his over-salted scallop, and Ed for his burnt hash soft-shell crab barf pile. Sorry, guys. If it makes you feel better, just remember that you were cooking food based on what a bunch of dorks on Twitter were writing?

The top three are Beverly for her crispy pork belly, Sarah’s squash blossom, and hometown hero Paul for his blackberries and asparagus and clams and bacon uh thing. Paul wins! He gets $10,000 furnished by who cares nice try and the chance to hold his head high in the Musical Wonder Town of Austin. Paul is glad he won a challenge in Austin, which is nice for him, and he seems like a really talented chef. But also he doesn’t get immunity, so stay on your toes, Paul, because you could still embarrass yourself in front of EVERYBODY. (I doubt it, though. Stay crispy, Paul. So chill. #GETWEEED.)

Everyone goes to a hotel lobby and has glasses of grapefruit juice while waiting to hear about the Elimination Challenge, at which point Patti LaBelle walks out and sings a song. The whole thing just seems completely natural and fun. This must be the music everyone was talking about? Austin is famous for its Patti LaBelle hotel lobby concerts. Padma arrives and explains that the chefs will be cooking for Patti LaBelle and a few of her friends. Since Patti LaBelle learned how to cook from watching her mother and father and her aunts, uh huh, the chefs will all be cooking a dish that tells the story of their culinary heritage. Aww. Somebody’s going to get disowned!

During the always thrilling grocery shopping montage, it seems like everyone’s just doing meat and potatoes. This ultimately is not true, but it’s how it feels for a second. Grayson explains that she’s already worried because her cut of meat doesn’t look right. Wait, you haven’t even left the grocery store and you’re already worried? Pick a different cut of meat, then. Oh wait, no, sorry, I get it, there’s Gail Simmons holding a gun to your head. Better just stick with the worrisome cuts. No! You are in charge of your destiny! USE THE SECRET! (Use the butcher.)

Quick question: why is Ed eating cereal off of a plate while Ty-Lor is drinking wine? What time is it? Where are we? Couldn’t a PA or someone move that disgusting used up paper towel roll to clean up this otherwise important and necessary shot?

Cook cook cook. Stories stories stories. Everyone talks about their grandparents, or their parents, or Ty-Lor’s Asian nanny (?!!??!?!) and it’s all very touching and nice. Seriously. Good for everyone for having a family and knowing at least one person in the world who loves them. Of course, things get a little trickier when it actually comes to the food. Like, Other Chris is doing meat and potatoes, which is already kind of a snooze, but then he decides to make “tiny” meat and potatoes? HAHAHHA. What?! “I thought that would be neat.” Why? “Imagine a meat and potatoes meal. Picture it in your mind. Now picture it a little smaller.” Incredible. His grandpa is like “I’m so proud of you.” And, like, Gay Chris just makes seared salmon, which really doesn’t seem like the thing that your meepmoop showed you how to cook. Anyway. Patti LaBelle. Emeril Lagasse. Everyone’s having a great time, I’m sure.

For the first time this season, the losers are brought in first. The losers are Grayson for her GIGANTIC and stringy steak, which seriously, Grayson, come ON, dude. She tries to explain that this is how they eat in Wisconsin but that’s such garbage. You are on a show about high-end, inventive and imaginative chefs. It’s OK to FUDGE a little when it comes to the actual portion size that your dad likes to wolf down. Gay Chris teaches all about albumin, which is the white foamy protein that leeches out of fish when it’s cooked to hot. It is brought up three times. There will be a test on it later. And no one even knows what the hell was going on with that jerk Heather’s food. It was meat, I think? Hard to say.

The top three are Beverly for her braised short rib, Ed for his vegetarian bibimbap, and Sarah for her stuffed cabbage with homemade sausage. Everyone did a great job, Tom explains, of translating the story of how they learned to cook into a delicious dish. That’s nice. Good for them. Admittedly, for as hard as I defended Beverly last week against Rachel’s insistent racism, it is funny that two of the top three are Asian. I’m not saying they’re not deserving, I’m just saying that their culinary origin stories are more unique or at least less predictable to the western-influenced judges than someone making “tiny” steak. (That was a bad comparison because Other Chris’s tiny steak was the stupidest thing I’ve seen since Other Chris’s edible cigar. But you know what I mean.) But racism wins in the end (just kidding) because Sarah wins the episode. Congrats, Sarah!

Patti LaBelle salutes you.

The losers are brought back in. Tom says that it’s particularly hard to eliminate someone this week since the challenge was so personal. Is it? Is it that hard? Just eliminate someone. You want me to do it? I’ll do it. I don’t care. Go home and cry to whoever taught you how to make the terrible dish you made. Ultimately, it is The Bitch, Heather, who gets sent home. Oh! That explains why Beverly keeps talking about karma in her interview segments. I guess karma is real and exists because Beverly mentioned it at the beginning of the episode and now Heather has been eliminated. IT’S CALLED THE SECRET, I HAVE ALREADY MENTIONED IT!

Sarah’s reaction to the news is a bit much.

Goodbye, Heather. I am not sure whether or not I believe in karma, but I do think that you were incredibly mean-spirited and rude to your fellow contestants and I bet this was mostly due to the pressures of an intense and invasive reality show about a thing that you take very seriously, but there are ways to be competitive without being a monster. You can want to win without sacrificing your sympathy or understanding for your fellow human beings. Just keep that in mind for when you have to compete again on the web-only Top Chef Late Night series or whatever the hell that thing is I’m not even going to watch that thing what is that thing?