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Top Chef: EAT THE POOR!

Hosea is gunning for Stefan. Stefan is getting under his skin with comments like, “If you cook like you carve butter then good luck to you, buddy.” Hosea definitely sees him as competition, which makes sense, since this is a COMPETITION SHOW. Hosea asks Stefan how many competitions he’s won. “Three. Yah. Two quickfire and one thingy. How do you lahk that, Hosayah? How do you lahk that in your face?” Rivalry! This season has really failed to get any meaningful drama going. As hard as the editors push on Stefan to be the villain, he just isn’t. I would argue that maybe its his charming accent, but as Jeremy Irons proved in Die Hard With a Vengeance, non-descript hard-to-place foreign accents can also be chilling!


For the Quickfire this week, the special guest judge is season 3 winner, Hung, who Padma describes as “the fastest chef in Top Chef history,” as if that’s a thing. That’s not a thing. I’m sure he is very fast, and even if the facts of that statement are true, there’s no “fastest chef in Top Chef.” This is not Top Scallops, or whatever. Everyone relax. But since he’s so fast and everyone knows how fast he is, the chefs will only have 15 minutes to complete the challenge, which is to create the best tasting dish possible from a selection of canned foods. Yikes! Hosea tries to take a can of artichokes out of Fabio’s hand and Fabio is like “no, I need them,” and this makes Hosea mad, that “Stefan’s boyfriend” wouldn’t give him any artichokes, except that you just don’t grab things out of people’s hand. This is not Top Grab Things Out of People’s Hands! Then Stefan asks Hosea if he can have some of his Spam, because everyone is using Spam all of a sudden, welcome to Spam Town, Population: everyone’s dish, and Hosea thinks about saying no because of how he is gunning, etc, but then he relents and gives Stefan some Spam with the caveat being that if Stefan gets to borrow Spam, then Hosea gets to bitch about it incessantly.

The whole challenge is a little uneasy-making because everyone talks about how much they hate canned food and how much they prefer using the freshest, “finest” ingredients, which makes sense, they are high-performance chefs, but they do realize that they’re on national television deriding the foodstuffs that most viewers rely on on an almost daily basis, right? The whole thing just reeks of the kind of rarified classism that modern culinary culture perpetuates that turns the enjoyment of delicious food into an elite privilege rather than a survival necessity. I’m not saying that they need to love canned food and cook with it at every meal, but they can stop being such assholes about canned food and how yucky and poor it is. Leah, Jamie, and Radhika are in the bottom three, Stefan, Hosea, and Jeff are in the top three. But Stefan, with his baked bean soup (?) infused with Spam and Velveeta grilled cheese wins the challenge and immunity. How you lahk that in you face, Hosea?

For the elimination challenge, the chefs split up in groups of three: a lamb group, a chicken group, and a pork group. They will be preparing a simple, seasonal meal based around their main protein. The groups go off to plan their menus. Tensions rise between Jamie and Stefan. The issue seems to be that Stefan is an arrogant bully, and Jamie wants him to shut up. It doesn’t help that the third member of their team is Carla, because you can’t resolve conflict just by bugging your crazy eyes further outside of your skull.

There’s a twist the next day when instead of going to the Whole Foods, they’re driven out to Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. (Full disclosure: I have eaten at this restaurant! Because I think canned food is for homeless people!) The groups are paired up with farmers and choose all of their ingredients from the produce and livestock on the farm, which means a lot of last minute reconfiguration of recipes. It also means a lot of last minute trying to out-Top-Farmer each other.

Jeff is from the south, so he knows all about tomatoes. Hosea spends a lot of time on a farm all of a sudden. Fabio is not a vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t respect a life. The animals has been born, rais-ed for the porpoise, but still in this lifetime process they should deserve respect. They are all so down to Earth, as long as that Earth is tended by highly paid professionals with a mind towards Michelin-grade dining.

Is Toby Young seriously still on this show? I was sure that Bravo would just remove last week’s episode from the archives and pretend that the whole thing never happened. “You’ve heard the expression mutton dressed as lamb? Well this is lamb dressed as mutton.” No, we haven’t heard that expression Toby Young. Because a) we’re in AMERICA so what is mutton? And b) shut up. “The pesto is the big black wolf who’s blown this pig’s house down.” Ugh. It’s too bad they eliminated Eugene before he’d had the chance to prepare his special Grenade Ravioli with a Cyanide Reduction sauce.

Team Chicken wins, despite Stefan’s completely inappropriate for a hot summer day (Christmas was TWO WHOLE WEEKS ago, GET OVER IT) chicken-dumpling soup. Dan Barber seems like a really nice guy, and he says that all three of them have won today. Really? Even Carla? That’s actually not why Dan Barber seems so nice, though. Dan Barber seems so nice because he doesn’t patronizingly “reward” them with a signed copy of his new book.

Teams Lamb and Pork are in the bottom, and the judges pretend like it’s a toss-up between Radhika for not doing enough, and Ariane for being absolutely terrible at cooking. And it would be close if this was Top Do Enough, but as Toby Young points out in his only non-insufferable moment of the whole show: “I feel sorry for [Ariane], too, because she can’t cook.” Padma defends Ariane as having made a lot of great things for them, and Toby Young takes Padma back to rules-of-the-show-school by pointing out that he was told to judge the contestants on their most recent dish, not their past dishes. ZAP. It is ridiculous that Ariane has won so many challenges by cooking meat perfectly and yet doesn’t know how to tie a roast. That is what is ridiculous.

Chefs to watch: Jeff, Stefan, Jamie