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Top Chef S07E07: Poor Stephen.

So, I’ve been thinking a lot about this whole pea puree thing. I mean, I haven’t. I haven’t even thought about it once. I’m an adult, with an adult life to lead. Let’s all try and keep things in perspective. But last night they mentioned it, and I thought about it, like, between commercials? So last week, Alex supposedly steals Ed’s pea puree, right? And they both end up in the top 3, but Alex wins based almost solely on the pea puree. Ed is like “whuuuuuut?” This week, as the show opens, it is all pea puree this, pea puree that. Ed explains that he’s not mad. Really?! Because if this really happened and was a real thing, then you definitely would be mad. “The fact that a guy who looks like Fievel the Mouse if Fievel the Mouse was cast in the Campbell Scott role in Dying Young, and who has proven himself time and again to be completely incompetent in the kitchen, STOLE one of the key components of my dish, and then WON the challenge with that component, doesn’t make me mad. I’m just curious. The thing I love more than winning this grueling competition show that I’ve agreed to be on for the sole purpose of winning is THE TRUTH.” Nonsense. But so then, at the end of this week, SPOILER ALERT, both Ed and Alex are on the BOTTOM now, even though Ed’s dish was clearly fine and better than some of the other dishes out there (cough Amanda cough), as if the producers wanted to give Ed a chance to dramatically confront Alex in a dramatic confrontation during Dramatic Confrontations’ Table, suggests to me that something else entirely is going on here, and that the whole thing was an elaborate production ruse to drum up some fabricated, mid-level stakes in an otherwise boring season. And even then it didn’t happen. Nothing happened. Even exposing this SCANDAL is a non-starter. Whatever. YUMMY SNORE PUREE!

This week’s Quickfire Challenge is to make Ethiopian food. The end. It is a refreshing challenge in which the chefs are forced to cook in a style with which most of them are unfamiliar, in a test of their skill and ingenuity, rather than the reification of a corny pun based off a high-school level Civics 101 understanding of government. “As you know, the President needs the approval of congress to declare war, so you are going to need the approval of a songstress to declare your dish delicious.” No.

In the race for supplies, Alex beats Kelly to a pressure cooker and then spit-cackles in her fucking face. “HA!” he shrieks. “BEAT YOU TO IT!” What a stupid piece of shit. He’s the kind of guy at the barbecue who takes the game of Uno way too seriously. He’s the guy whose girlfriend starts play wrestling with him, and suddenly she’s pinned to the ground, and his knees are digging into her biceps, and he’s demanding that she admit that he is a better wrestler than she is, and she starts crying, and he doesn’t understand why she’s crying, and now he won’t let her up off the ground until she explains apologizes for turning this whole thing back around on him when she was the one who started wrestling in the first place and she knows it’s basically her fault so she should admit that. I know this is a competition and everything, but chill out, Krang.

Also, Stephen had a feeling this challenge was coming. Haha. No you didn’t, Stephen.

Poor Stephen.

Anyway, guest judge Marcus Samuelsson does not like Kevin’s braised chicken with chickpeas, cucumber-mint salad & yogurt, Stephen’s stew with lamb meatballs & yogurt sauce, or Alex’s beef & lamb tongue stew with cabbage & potatoes (“HA!”). He does, however, like Amanda’s stewed goat on grilled injera, Angelo’s berbere-spiced doro wat with egg, mango yogurt & mint on steamed injera, and Tiffany’s beef goulash with poached egg, currants, peppers & yogurt. Tiffany wins! Hooray! Ed interviews that this is great news because it means Angelo does not win. Agreed. Angelo needs to be taken down a couple million notches. He needs to be taken down all the notches. Don’t worry, Angelo, there’s plenty of hair product at the bottom.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be preparing individual ethnic-themed dishes for a group of foreign dignitaries. They draw knives to determine the order in which they will select the country whose cuisine they will represent. Foreign dignitaries, of course, spend a lifetime struggling with complicated issues of international relations and the fragile and tendentious cobweb of modern geopolitics. So at the end of a long day of shaking hands and easing tensions, there’s nothing they like better than relaxing in front of a group of television cameras, eating food that barely resembles anything they’ve ever even heard of in some kind of backwards, jingoistic half-assed tribute to the diversity of NON-AMERICAN flavors as part of a reality show challenge. “It was all worth it,” they all say. “It’s delicious at the top.”

Shop shop shop. Cook cook cook. Cheese portrait?

At the event itself, the judges judge. There is a particularly funny moment when the guest Spanish judge complains that Ed’s dish doesn’t feel like an authentic enough tribute to the flavors of China, and then they cut to the Chinese Ambassador, who is like “that was an incredibly authentic tribute to the flavors of China.” Fair enough. I think this is the kind of thing that happens a lot in this world, now that everyone is a critic. This guy knows what I’m talking about:

Back at Judges’ Table, the judges loved Kelly’s beef carpaccio, spring vegetable salad & parmigiano-reggiano, Kevin’s stewed chicken with leek & parsnip puree, cucumber-mango salad & lentils, and Tiffany’s chicken tamales with queso fresco & tomatillo sauce. As Tom pointed out, you don’t have to cook traditional food, you just have to cook food that tastes good. That sounds reasonable enough, although when Tom was eating Angelo’s tuna sashimi, he was complaining about how it was delicious but didn’t really seem like it was prepared in a traditional Japanese style. WELL? WHICH IS IT CUEBALL? Anyway, Tiffany wins! TIFFANY STRAIGHT CRUSHING THE COMPETITION!

She also gets $10,000 and $10,000 donated to charity. Nice!

Not so nice: the judges did NOT like Alex’s braised veal cheeks, jamon torta with olive & tomato salad, Ed’s tea-smoked duck breast with pot stickers in szechuan jus, or Stephen’s flank steak in chimichurri sauce with black beans & rice. Personally, I think Ed was just thrown in there because they needed three, and because Spanish General Tso over there didn’t think it was authentic enough. But Alex and Stephen both definitely deserve to be up for elimination, as they have deserved to be up for elimination every week since the competition began. The producers’ attempts at an Ed-Alex Showdown come to naught, but Alex does manage to look like a snake stuffed through a too-tight sweater.

In the end, though, it is Stephen who goes home because all he cooked was steak and rice, and he cooked the steak poorly, and he fucked the rice. Stephen was literally a ticking elimination bomb, and yet, after all is said and done: POOR STEPHEN.

Next Week: Goodbye Alex! Or Amanda! Or Kevin! Probably!