Top Chef: Angels And Devils And Clowns

This is Las Vegas, baby! It’s just like they always say: what happens in Vegas can be rehashed into a corny reality competition theme a billion different ways. It’s all about strippers and vices and gambling and excess and crisp flavor profiles and clean mouth-feels. Huh? We’re back to the super-Vegas-y tropes. The Quickfire Challenge is “angels and devils.” Prepare a dish that represents your good side and your bad side. “Like your angel of cooking healthy vs. your devil of clogging your diners’ arteries,” Padma says. Well that is the single most literal interpretation of this cooking challenge, Padma. Actually, the single most literary interpretation will be Bryan’s “white” vs. “black” dessert. Also: racist. But you have to admit that Padma’s interpretation is not very imaginative when it comes to cooking. “Like the angel of salt and the devil of pepper.” I guess it could have been worse. If she’d said that. But she didn’t, so let’s move on.

Oh, and before we even finish talking about the Quickfire, let’s talk about how Mattin is gone.

R.I.P. Mattin.

In solidarity (huh?) with Mattin, everyone wears his Le Petit Princekerchief.

It is really convenient that everyone was able to find one of those in their suitcase. I’m sure that the producers didn’t have anything to do with this. Just a regular solidarity movement, you know how these things go. (Also, it is 2009. Can TV start recognizing the fact that we have at least some mild idea of how TV works?)

Anyway, Angels and Devils. Michael’s angel is modern cooking and his devil is traditional cooking? Or vice versa? It is hard to understand which one is the angel and which one is the devil, I think in large part because it makes no sense. Ron’s angel is sea bass in carrot, and his devil is sea bass in yucca? Again, I know that these guys are talented (sometimes) chefs and not comparative literature scholars, but huh? Ash’s devil is only cooking one dish, and his angel is his mom, who is still very proud of him.

So Ash is in the bottom three, along with Bryan’s racially insensitive desserts, and Lorine for her inability to cook well ever. The best dishes are Michael’s, Eli’s, and Robin, who went “all in” (get it? Vegas!) on the sympathy vote with this challenge, telling her story of being diagnosed with two types of lymphoma. So I guess one of the types was good and one of the types was evil? Her food tasted just like cancer? Sorry. It’s not funny. It is awful when bad things happen, always. And everyone with a traumatic personal story deserves one free pass on this show (like when Ron’s vice was coming to America on a raft or whatever?). But now that she’s used hers up, I don’t see her making it much further. She should have saved it for an Elimination Challenge.

For the elimination challenge, the guest judges are Penn and Teller, who walk into the kitchen and immediately proceed to do a routine they’ve been doing for more than 20 years.

If it ain’t broke, wear it out! The challenge this week is to deconstruct a classic dish. Top Chefs are always deconstructing, or at least pretending like they were deconstructing when they mess up, so this ought to be easy enough. The twist is that they have to deconstruct a specific dish, determined by drawing knives. Some people seem more confident than others. Kevin is nervous because he already made chicken mole negro and it bombed. Mike is nervous because he doesn’t even know what eggs florentine is.

And then there is Ron.

This is basically how he looks the whole episode. He doesn’t seem to know how to make paella, much less what a deconstructed dish is. “You mean you break the dish and pour your food in a sloppy heap on top of the shards?” At one point some of the other chefs try to give him tips on what aspects of paella need to be on the dish, and what a deconstructed dish should look like, and Ron is just like “What?” and shakes his head and wipes is brow and is like “what?” again, and then is just like “you guys are crazy.” GOOD LUCK, RON!

For some reason Toby Young is back, and just as boldly annoying as ever. Speaking of paella, the most ridiculous Toby Youngism of the night is when he pronounces it “pie-ella” and then teases all the other chefs for trying to sound Spanish by pronouncing it semi-correctly. Uh, relax, Professor Words. It is annoying when people adopt phony foreign accents to make themselves sound cultured or worldly, but it is not showing off to just pronounce the word the way that EVERYONE pronounces it. There’s no confusion or pretension about paella. Shut up, Toby Young.

Also, is Teller seriously still not talking? Barack Obama is president now, Teller, we all get to talk whenever we want. TELLER, RISE UP!

So the top four dishes are Kevin’s deconstructed chicken mole, Michael’s deconstructed Caesar salad, Ashley’s deconstructed pot roast, and Jennifer’s deconstructed meat lasagna. But the winner is Kevin, who gets the glory but also gets a prop box of non-stick cookware.

Seriously, there is nothing in that box. I’m not saying this is a big SCANDAL. I’m sure he got the pans later. But he did not get the pans when they told us that he got the pans. TRUTHBUSTERS.

The bottom three are Lorine, Ash, and Ron. Let’s just cut to the chase: Ron goes home. Goodbye, Ron! I wanted to get right to it because there’s another chase to cut to, which is that Lorine and Ash will also be going home soon! Goodbye Lorine and Ash! This season more than any other season seems to have the clearest dividing line between the chefs who have a real chance of winning (Mike and Bryan and Michael and Kevin and Jennifer and maybe Ashley and maybe Eliot) and all the rest of them. Robin and Ash and Lorine and everyone who has already been eliminated are basically just drawing lots to see who gets one more week on the waterslide. ENJOY IT WHILE YOU CAN, YOU GUYS! WATERSLIDES ARE SUPERFUN!