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Top Chef S06E08: Eliminating The Wheat From The Chaff

As we do every week, we learn a little bit about the chefs before they go in for the Quickfire Challenge. We learn that Eli is a momma’s boy, and that Robin does yoga because cancer. Seriously, I can’t even imagine the private horror of getting a cancer diagnosis, much less the overwhelming borderline-spiritual sense of grace and relief at learning that the cancer is in remission, but as someone who’s only relationship to your cancer is through your ham-fistedly edited interview clips on a reality TV show, you can relax a little bit with the cancer stuff, Robin. This is not Top Cancer. Just as it was not Top Scallop last season, and just as it was not Top Getting To America On A Haitian Raft before Ron was eliminated. To be fair to Robin, I am sure that she casually and very humbly mentioned her cancer twice, just as a matter of fact, and the producers looped that audio to stretch it out for the full season and give her a storyline that, again to be fair to Robin, is more compelling than the “she’s a terrible cook who is just waiting for her turn to go home” storyline. But yikes! Enough!

But, OK, the Quickfire Challenge:

The guest judge this week is the famed butler Mr. Belvedere restaurateur Charlie Palmer. Hey, I have eaten at one of his restaurants!

The challenge is to pair a dish with Alexia brand Crunchy Snacks. Sure. I mean, that is a typical Top Chef challenge. But of course they have to talk about the subtlety of pairing foods, and the complexity of flavor profiles to cover up for the fact that you are basically making garbage food with diarrhea ingredients in support of a corporate sponsorship. The brothers Voltaggio have both worked for Charlie Palmer so they’re both nervous about cooking for him because they know that everything has to be perfect. Again: sure. But how can everything be perfect when it’s covered in crumbled Alexia brand Crunchy Snacks? “This tuna tartare hardly pairs with these Cool Ranch Skinz, did you learn nothing in my fancy kitchen?” That is Charlie Palmer. Pretending like this show is serious.

Cook cook cook. That is what everyone does. Eli explains that a good pairing is when things match or compliment each other, but that a bad pairing is when they clash. “Picture eating marshmallows with a steak,” he says. What I think he means is “picture me eating marshmallows with a steak. Because I obviously do that a lot.”

Sorry. That was a below the belt joke about Eli’s weight. I’m sure the wounds from my weak barbs are nothing that Eli’s mom can’t soothe.

In the end, Charlie Palmer hates hates hates Robin’s sweet corn panna cotta with avocado mousseline (it even sounds gross, which is a bad sign), Ash’s chilled cucumber avocado soup with creme fraiche, crab, and red pepper, and Jennifer’s (overdone) sauteed pork chop with tomato sauce and feta cheese. But he loved loved loved Michael’s seared rib eye with pickled onion, sauteed musrooms & chive puree, Kevin’s warm bean confit tomato salad with fresh herbs & creamed corn, and Eli’s potato clam salad with fennel, celery, & white truffle sauce. In the end Eli wins and immediately runs home to call his mom and tell her the great news. “Mom, get ready to kvell!”

Speaking of moms, Robin is not Eli’s mom! OK?! He makes that very clear when they have an argument in the house kitchen where they are cooking dinner. Actually, everyone is really mean to Robin and it is kind of hard to watch. Not only for the general cruelty and bitterness with which they treat her, but also for the miserable puns they all use.

Yuck. Stop it, all of you. You’re all rotten robin.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be creating 150 tasting menu sized portions of a dish, each, to pair with pinot noir for Charlie Palmer’s annual “Pigs and Pinot” festival. That is a hilarious name for a festival, Charlie Palmer. You should also open a successful line of high-end hilarious festival names. That’s a thing one can do, right? Entrepreneurship is the American Dream.

Let’s be honest about something here: there has not been a single surprise in the eliminations thus far. Sure, the order could have varied from week to week, but every chef that has gone home so far has deserved to go home, and would eventually have gone home. And there are still three chefs who are waiting for their turn: Robin, Ash, and Laurine. And without going too much into the cooking, despite the fact that this is a show about cooking, those are the three who are on the bottom. It is seriously Russian Roulette at this point…where there is only one set of knives in the gun…and when you pull the trigger…you have to go pack them? The point is, Deer Hunter is an amazing movie, and these contestants don’t know anything about death! Many of them don’t even know that much about rillette!

My ears are sauteeing!

Kevin, Michael V., and Bryan V. are in the top three. Duh. For the first time last night I realized how hard it must be to compete in the same season as Kevin. Just getting crushed by this monster each week.

I guess the brothers can hold their own, and Jennifer. But everyone else, even the dark horses (Mike, Eli) must be so frustrated. The only one who doesn’t mind, as we learned last week, is Ash. He recognizes that it’s an honor to blow clean Picasso’s dick brushes. Or whatever. But like, this week? During the elimination challenge? Kevin busts out deep-cut insider knowledge about the hazelnut trees that grow on the same vineyard as the wine he chose for his pairing, which is why he included hazelnut in his dish? How do you fight that? Kevin wins. Duh. And his prize is that he gets to make food for NEXT YEAR’S “Pig and Pinot” festival? Huh? His prize is that he gets to do what he just did? Thanks.

Which brings us to the bottom three: the aforementioned Ash, Laurine, and Robin. Who cares?! Besides Mike and Eli, who really, REALLY care about Robin going home. But it is really an insignificant choice since they are going to have to eliminate the other two in the next two weeks anyway. Just close your eyes and point at someone. They point at Ash.

Who says he is going to go back to his restaurant and cook the dish he claims he meant to cook for this challenge, and he is going to invite Tom, and Charlie Palmer, but NOT Padma. Ouch, I’m sure.