Top Chef Episode 3 Recap: Oh, Kale No!


Let’s have a brief moment of silence for our fallen comrade before launching into this week’s hour of clichés and bleeped-out swears. Jason, we’ll miss you until you reappear as a result of that twist you hinted about last week.

As for the rest of the cheftestants, there’s still a 1 in 17 chance to win, even if Vegas is giving different odds (can you bet on Top Chef outcomes in Vegas?). I’m not sure who I like besides St. Nick, but Bret the Dumbass has definitely fallen to the bottom of my list, right next to Cancer Card.

The Quickfire this week is judged by Dana Cowin, who appears to have fixed her teeth and maybe her hair. Since she’s the editor of Food & Wine Magazine, she gets to decide what’s played out, and right now she hates Kale, Bacon, Smoked Things, and Eggs on Top of Everything. Before these trends can take their last breath, however, the cheftestants have an opportunity to give them a lifeline by reinventing them for Ms. Cowin and her new teeth. This is an Elimination Quickfire, so the winner gets immunity, and the loser goes home.


With 17 left, Bravo’s editors finally decide to show every cheftestant’s dish. Hometown hero Nicholas gets “Eggs on Top of Everything” and dresses up a scallop with a quail egg, truffle juice, almond milk, and a duck egg vinaigrette. Not one of Dana’s favorites, but good enough to keep him out of the bottom. She preferred Nina’s Scotch quail egg with leek and potato puree, Stephanie’s fresh pasta with candied bacon and flash fried sweet potatoes, and Shirley’s rice congee with shirred egg, soy sauce, and sesame oil. Of the three, Dana picked the congee, giving Shirley immunity.

The kale and smoked dishes did not fare so well. Louis Maldonado, one of this week’s story lines because he gave up his career to have kids, forgot the smoke in his smoked trout dish. Bret the Dumbass, after being explicitly told by Ms. Cowin NOT to make a fucking kale salad, makes a fucking kale salad. And Aaron Cuschieri–a dude that’s super awkward on camera–overdoes it with the salt on his fried kale dredged (?) in soy, mirin, rice vinegar & yuzu sauce. Terrible mistakes across the board, but Aaron’s is the most offensive, and he’s sent packing early, dishonoring his mentor Takashi Yagihashi.

Next up is a trip to Commander’s Palace, where the cheftestants enjoy a four-course meal of dishes prepared throughout the years at the New Orleans institution. Before eating, they’re told to pay close attention, because the elimination challenge will require them to replicate each dish in a hybrid team/individual challenge. Each table of four gets a course, and they’re given the evening to overthink things and strategize.

At dinner service the next day, Louis has more tribulations with trout and struggles to replicate the blackening spice for his entire team. Cancer Card literally throws Nina’s food after she doesn’t realize that the plates are marked with each cheftestant’s name. Stephanie complains about the difficulty of making biscuits (clearly she’s never heard of Bisquick), and Shirley’s beets go missing. All in a day’s work, I suppose.

The first course is Shrimp & Tasso Henican, and had Bene, Michael, Travis, and Nina collaborated on a single dish, they might have gotten it right. There were missteps on all the plates, but nothing as bad as courses two and three, the Black Skillet Seared Trout and the Veal Chop Tchoupitoulas. Failure to properly replicate the blackening spice was a setback for everyone in the trout group, and the judges cried foul at underseasoning and overblackening. The veal chops, cooked wholesale by Bret the Dumbass, weren’t properly seared. His own plate was poorly presented, and he winds up at the bottom, as is only right.. But before we talk about how craptacular the bad dishes were, a dessert silver lining. The sweet team impressed the judges with their Strawberries Three Ways. Justin’s beignet was something Colicchio would like to eat for breakfast every day. Hugh Acheson thought Stephanie’s biscuit was better than the Commander’s. Dana loved everything because she’s a whipped cream whore (her words, not mine). Two of these four wind up at the top along with Nina, where Justin is declared the winner.

As expected, two of the Team Trout members (Louis and Carlos) share the bottom with Bret the Dumbass. Thankfully, he doesn’t launch into some senseless, meandering argument in favor of his dumbassery, and instead just “stands by his dish”–which, of course, gives him a one-way ticket to sequester where he can hang out with Jason and that other eliminated chef who’s name I’ve already forgotten.

Next week, Eddie Huang. Because David Chang was busy.

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