Top Chef S07E09: Whoops, Hi, Al Qaeda!

I’m going to be honest with you, because honesty is important: I didn’t pay very much attention to last night’s episode. I had stuff going on. It happens. We’re all adults here. There’s no crying in recaps. On top of that, I am away from my “comfort zone” (also known as My Pajama Lounge), and so just all around this will be a more-truncated-than-usual account of last night’s episode. It’s like Padma is always saying: HAVE IT WORK. You know her famous catchphrase? “Have it work.” Classic Padma. Anyway, the guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge is Wylie Dufresne. FULL DISCLOSURE: I have eaten at his restaurant! The waiter was an asshole. If Wylie Dufresne is reading this, one of your waiters could, at the very least, use a talking to, sir. Anyway: the challenge is the Mystery Box challenge. Everyone gets a box of unique mystery ingredients that will form the basis for their dish. After that, more mystery boxes will be delivered, from which everyone will get the same mystery ingredients, which they must incorporate into what they are making. Once again, it is the perfect recipe for mildly interesting television with a side of garbage actual food. “In order to test your skill at highly refined food preparation, which requires thought, precision, and balance, we have emptied a dumpster into a bowl. Have it work, foodsigners.”

Angelo straight loses his mind. Beads of sweat straight popping off his forehead.

Everyone is struggling, because these mystery boxes keep pouring in, and they are each one filled with worse garbage than the last. “Ramps and grape jam?” Wait, here comes another one! “Cereal dust and tobacco.” Wait, here comes another one! “Staples and a pair of used panties from one of those Japanese vending machines that sells used panties, aren’t those vending machines weird?” Seriously, this Challenge is funny to watch, but I’m at a loss to understanding the point. It’s the same on every “meritocratic” (sure) reality show. I’m happy the people on Project Runway can make a dress out of rotten lettuce and empty bottles of thousand island dressing, but also so what.

Angelo has a heart attack and dies. But he is resuscitated and rushed back to the kitchen to learn that he lost. Tiffany wins for her cooked fish with bubble gum reduction on a bed of toenail clippings and shaved popsicle sticks. Tiffany has proven herself to be a real dark horse in this competition! Her and Kevin are a couple of real dark horses. (Sorry.)

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will draw knives to select a classic dish, and then they must “disguise” that dish before serving it to spies at the C.I.A. and also the director of the C.I.A., Leon Panetta. And also Eric Ripert. Do C.I.A. agents really use disguises at this point? I mean, I know that a deep cover background story complete with fake passports and other falsified documents is basically a fancy “disguise,” but are they really rolling frozen pastry dough into fake mustaches and introducing themselves to people as Professor Kung Pao?

If you haven’t been following my very good friend Max Silvestri’s concurrent Top Chef recaps at Eater this season, a) you should, and b) he has had an on going joke about how Angelo is a spy, which would explain his indeterminate accent, and his complete inability to relate to other human beings. Needless to say, this episode was tailor made for Max’s Angelo jokes, and I am very much looking forward to reading his recap!

Everyone hates Alex, except Amanda, because one time pills. Shop shop shop. Cook cook cook. Everyone explains how incredible it is that they are going to the C.I.A. and I agree that it is incredible, but for very different reasons. Like, I don’t think it’s particularly impressive that through no effort or particular skill on their part, the producers of the reality show on which they are contestants, organized a challenge based on the C.I.A. in keeping with the geographic theme of the season. I do however think it is incredible that the director of the C.I.A., Leon Panetta, agreed to participate in any way whatsoever. Last week, I was very surprised that Nancy Pelossi had nothing better to do than appear on an episode, but compared to Leon Panetta’s responsibilities, Nancy Pelossi’s job is a FUN HOBBY.

These guys know what I’m talking about:

To his credit, Leon Panetta DOES leave the meal early, but he really should not have been there in the first place. And the worst part is that his leaving feels staged. I mean, I’m sure he did just have to leave, but this show is the Fake Mayor of Fake Mountain, so when he explains that he must attend to urgent business, it feels like a joke. “Does Leon Panetta dine and dash often?” Padma asks some lady sitting next to a cop (?). YES, PADMA, SOMETIMES THE DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY AT A TIME WHEN AMERICA IS ENGAGED IN TWO OVERT WARS AND AN ETERNAL COVERT STRUGGLE WITH INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM, YES, SOMETIMES HE HAS TO LEAVE DINNER EARLY AND WILL NEVER GET TO FIND OUT WHETHER OR NOT KEVIN HID THE COBB SALAD IN A PASTRY.


Anyway, pretty much everyone does terrible. Either they don’t “disguise” their dishes at all (seriously, Amanda? You hid your French onion soup in a bowl of French onion soup?) or they do, and it’s gross. The judges three favorite dishes are Ed, Tiffany, and Kelly. Tiffany wins! BOOM. She also wins a trip to France. Nice. Ed is mad, because he wanted that trip to France for him and his girlfriend, to take her mind off the fact that he tried to cheat on her with Tiffany. Don’t worry, Ed. You’ve already lost more Elimination Challenges than your dad ever lost in his whole awful life.

The three losing dishes are Amanda, Angelo, and Alex. People are really hoping that Angelo goes home, but that’s kind of ridiculous. I mean, he could go home, and then it would literally be anyone’s game, because no one would be watching, and we’d never know. “Who won this season of Top Chef?” “Anyone it doesn’t matter.” That being said, he does look like he is about to cry. Personally, I think Amanda should go home, because she did not even do the challenge. People on this show are constantly rewarded for making good food outside the ridiculous limitations of the challenges, which makes sense insofar as this show is supposed to be about who can cook the best, but at the same time, all the challenges are retarded, and people can cook much better completely outside the constraints of these joke recipes. So, there should at least be some kind of balance. Then again, Alex is the worst. Old snake head. He goes home. Goodbye. No tears shed for this one. Alex was overly aggressive for someone who had no idea what he was doing, and he almost certainly stole Ed’s pea puree, and the fact he made it this far always seemed like an accident, and his head is the same head as a snake has. R.I.P.