Top Chef Episode 10: It Doesn’t Get Better

Photo courtesy Greg Endries

Holy shit that’s a creepy photo. Even for a chef, that’s creepy. Good thing he’s not looking for a job in a barber shop. Or as a babysitter.

Anyway, now that we’ve got that out of the way (stop looking at the photo), let’s get down to the business of…Restaurant Wars! This is something the chefs pretend to be stoked about, but secretly think, “Are you fucking kidding me? Set up a restaurant in 5 hours and lose one chef to the suited purgatory that is front-of-house?” Still, it has become the standard by which all cheftestants are judged, even if it is—as Less Handsome Chris calls it—a no-win situation known to Trekkies as the Kobayashi Maru (this dude probably gets ALL the ladies).

We hit the ground running with the teams separated into…pick one: hangdowns vs. hair-pies; chicks vs. dicks; pees against vees; boys versus girls; innies vs. outies).  Each team has to do a 3-course tasting for 100 covers, offering two options for each course, and each team gets their own night. Since you probably know the rest of the drill, I won’t bore you with the menu planning and the restaurant naming. Just know that the fellas dive right in with an inspirational esprit de corps while, on the other side, Beverly gets quickly steamrolled by Gummy Gruenberg and the rest of the girls. Turns out that whole “it gets better” thing just doesn’t apply to poor Bev. But because she stays up every night practicing it in the mirror, she still maintains her anguish-hiding smile throughout the challenge.

The boys handle themselves in a much more diplomatic fashion, quickly coming up with a (terrible) restaurant name and a menu that works on paper but nowhere else. Unfortunately, with Ty-Lor and Less Handsome/Nerdlord Chris J on your team, you have to worry about things like absolutely shit presentation and poor execution of esoteric culinary techniques best reserved for the likes of Achatz and Dufresne.

The boys are up first with “Canteen”–a place of community where they serve nostalgic dishes…like pork belly and salmon with tomato water? Ed’s in the front of the house and gets slammed as soon as the doors open. Since they only had 5 hours to plan everything and the servers were pulled off the street an hour before that, the dinner service is controlled chaos at best. But the judges were actually more disappointed with the food. Ty-lor’s appetizer of Thai-style shrimp and crab salad with caramel fish sauce (something he made before) wasn’t bold enough–despite the fact that he was mixing fish and caramel. Paul’s pork belly needed something more than just pork belly (like maybe flavor). Ed Lee’s “almond joy” dessert caused Colicchio to have a Seinfeld moment about the lack of coconut. And Chris J’s homemade Cracker Jacks with frozen peanut butter was another failed attempt at being creative (italics meant to denote jazz hands).

The result, unsurprisingly, was a disaster.

Then, after what was probably the first decent night’s sleep the cheftestants have had since taping started, the girls get started on their concept, “Half Bushel.” Although it’s trendy and the moment’s kind of over, their “rustic farm-to-table” approach is more focused than the boys’, and since nobody likes Beverly, they have a fall guy in case anything goes bad shit. Their service starts out a bit slower, but Lindsay, who agreed to front-of-house duties, isn’t exactly cut out for the job. She’s also very concerned with leaving Beverly to cook her halibut, and rightly so, because when the time came to do so, she fucked them up (though, in her defense, she fucked them up precisely in keeping with Lindsay’s instructions). When the judges arrive, they wait for what the producers want you to think is an eternity, putting them behind the boys in the service category.

Then the food comes. Grayson’s peach salad with pickled shallots and candied pistachios is a hit. Guest judge Emeril goes nuts over Gummy G’s arancino. And Beverly—who got shit on for only making one dish—made the right choice by doing so and killed it with a red curry short rib. Their desserts fell flat and the service wasn’t great, but overall, they bested the boys.

At Judges’ Table, beaten down Beverly gets retribution once again by winning the challenge, giving the camera operators plenty of time to focus on Lindsay’s prune-face. A few reluctant hugs later (people REALLY don’t like Beverly), the girls send in the boys, who are criticized for the missteps mentioned above. It was a bit anti-climactic, but I was honestly surprised that Ty-Lor went before Less Handsome Chris and his poor excuses for molecular gastronomy. I suppose Ty can go back to hanging dong while the final seven trudge through the rest of this Austin-heavy Texas season.

Personally,  I’ve got my money on Bev and Paul in the final.  What about you?