Last week on “Top Chef” the show managed to make us hate Travis and his “I am Vietnam” attitude, while setting up Michael and Nina as budding enemies. We knew from last week that Lea Michelle from “Glee” was going to be a guest judge, and host a Halloween party. So which chef ended the episode under the knife? Let’s dive in and find out.
Sara kicks off the episode still pissed over banking on Travis in the last challenge. While Sara cries from the guilt, Travis calls home for moral support. We get some insight into Travis when he reveals that his Dad doesn’t know he is gay. Just last episode he was sharing pictures of his Vietnamese boyfriend on cable television, so he better pop that balloon sooner than later.
The chefs enter the kitchen for the Quickfire, and find all of the ingredients and appliances wrapped in aluminum foil. According to Padme and Gail, real Moms use Reynolds wrap for all sorts of fun stuff. To prove that they bring out their own mothers. The chefs break into two teams each led by one of the Moms. The twist is that the Moms will shop for all of the ingredients and cooking equipment for their respective team. Each ingredient chosen by the Moms must be used in the dish.
Like a senior citizen supermarket sweep the Moms run into the pantry. The chefs yelled requested ingredients from outside, and the Moms seemed to follow directions. The two teams start working on three dishes each, but the ingredients are a random assortment. Combining mustard and strawberries isn’t an easy task. Just when you think the ingredients are there the chefs realize they have limited cooking equipment.
The first dish from Team Gail’s Mom was a lamb and fonduta with sharp cheddar and roasted mushrooms. The dish was praised for not overcooking the lamb. The second dish was a red snapper papillote with rice pilaf. The third dish was a compressed buratta with pickled apples and balsamic sabayon.
The first dish from Team Padme’s Mom was clams poached in fish sauce with coconut cream. It was an Asian and Mexican fusion dish, but Gail might have found it too spicy. The second dish is a snapper and branzino papillote with mustard vinaigrette. Padme and her Mom seemed to really enjoy this one. The third dish was a soup with beans, carrots, chiles, and okra with cherry chutney. Basically everything but the kitchen sink in that soup.
The final decision in the Quickfire came down to the team with the best dish. That ended up coming from the winning group, Team Padme’s Mom. That group split ten thousand dollars, and bragging rites. The Moms quickly departed the kitchen so that Padme could let the chefs in on this week’s Elimination Challenge.
Star of “Glee” and “Top Chef” super fan, Lea Michelle, was introduced as the special guest judge. Lea is hosting a costume party, and the chefs are going to be the caterers. The chefs are working in teams of two, and each responsible for two dishes. Teams are made by who the chefs are standing next to, and immediately there is friction between Nina and Michael. The chefs get time alone with Lea to pick her brain about food.
She tells the group that she is an active vegan, but for tonight she would allow vegetarian options that include cheese. The chefs start immediately rolling their eyes in frustration. She also hates sweets and sugar, but loves all vegetables. Basically most American’s worst dietary nightmare. The one thing she was clear about is to have cheese on the menu. If nothing else make the dish full of cheese.
Heading into Whole Foods, the chefs are all shopping for the creepiest ingredients they can find. Nina declares that Michael’s dish is something an amateur could do. She’s worried his dish could end up bringing down their team. There’s little time to worry about any of that because it is time to prep for the party. Chef Tom does his walk through, and each team has some aspect of Halloween into their dish. He also finds out that three of the teams are doing the exact same dish. That ramps up the pressure for those chefs.
Nina and Michael continue to implode in front of everyone else. He keeps on calling her “sweetheart”, and she thinks he’s a moron. There seems to be no salvaging this friendship. The chefs arrive at the party site, and find out they are serving outdoors at stations. They finalize prep, and await the crush of Lea Michelle’s guests. Michael also incorporates the nicknames “boo” and “sweety” into his team dynamic.
The party starts with Padme dressed like a voodoo priestess, Hugh Acheson is prince charming, and Lea Michelle is a cat. Tom is rocking a Great Gatsby look. After each dish Lea over analyzes them with Tom, and boy can she be annoying. I can’t be the only one who feels terrible for whoever is forced to be her personal assistant. “Lea wants all of her Cliff Bars pre-tasted for freshness”. Michael’s dish was a terrible failure according to Tom, and that could set the stage for their team to be on the bottom.
Overall Lea was very happy with the dishes presented, but they thought there might have been too many risotto balls made. With three of them on the menu it made it even tougher on the chefs to succeed. Padme asked to see two teams, Nick and Patty & Carlos and Travis. They were the top two teams for this week. Carlos and his cheese sauce made a big impression on Lea, and his work with Travis seemed to have cohesive dishes. Patty and Nick got credit for meeting all of Lea’s expectations. Lea announced the winner of this week’s challenge as Carlos and Travis.
Padme then asked for them to send back Michael, Nina, Brian, and Bene. As they depart for judging the chefs wonder if maybe tonight could be a double elimination. Brian and Bene were doing “spa” cuisine, and that was what Lea specifically asked for them not to do. Tom thought they made basic tomato salad. Michael had the worst risotto ball of the night. It had a dry consistency with too sweet of a sauce.
Nina’s dish was great, but she wasn’t helping out her teammate Michael. The “spa salad” group got kicked again for being boring and not listening to what Lea wanted. It felt like going into the reveal that Michael or Bene could go home this week. The chef who fell this week ended up being Michael. Not a shock as he seemed on the bottom of every challenge this season.
Next week on “Top Chef” the chefs visit a farm, and end up cooking at La Provence under Chef John Besh.