Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.
- Hi. Let’s talk about bears. How the hell is this show going to introduce a faction calling themselves the Bear Den and not even acknowledge Papa Bear himself.
- Guys, Tom is the bear, or, if the whole bald thing bugs you, a desirable commodity amongst legit bears (the Urban Dictionary kind, natch). Richard Sweeney described him as such on season five, and there was even a pervasive belief that in 2010 Tom would ride on a bear float in that year’s LA Pride Parade (he didn’t, but not because he didn’t want to). I’m down with Bruce, Tyler, and Joe calling themselves the Bear Den—factions are an all-too-rare occurrence on Top Chef—but these young punks need to recognize.
- Okay, onto the episode.
- Quickfire: Hey, it’s the mise en place relay race, which has become so identifiable amongst Top Chefs that it requires its own knowing vocal flair by Padma, the kind she’s been applying to Restaurant Wars since season four. In this round, two teams of chefs must brunoise shallots, chop mushrooms, and butcher/portion some beef tenderloin. The twist here is that, since there are more chefs than there are tasks, they can portion out cheftestants as they see fit. The bear-filled Blue Team wins, not because of their strategy to beef up the shallot station, but because of Bruce’s precise butchering. “You understand portioning,” Padma tells him, and, Christ, even that sounds sexy coming out of her.
- The winning chefs are then tasked with using their mise en place to make a dish. Considering their ingredients consisted of beef, shallots, and mushrooms, the resulting dishes weren’t all that telegenic; they did, however, sound delicious, and Chicago Joe won for a dish that I bet tasted really, really good.
- Chicago Joe also won immunity, five grand, and a year’s worth of Blue Apron meals that, being a professional chef, he will never, ever have the time to cook. That dude’s gonna be swimming in so many unused thyme baggies and freezer packs.
- Any of you use Blue Apron? I did a free trial and it was great but, like, that shit’s expensive. If you’re one of the 1%, tell me about your favorite meals.
- Elimination Challenge: Cook a four-course progressive dinner using an ingredient that will only be revealed once you arrive at the farm and restaurant of this man.
- Papa Bear, meet Daddy.
- Actually, that’s Alex Seidel, who runs a Colorado restaurant called Mercantile. Tyler says he looks like a Greek god and invites him back to the Bear Den even though dude isn’t beefy enough to be a bear. Tyler, not just anyone can be a bear. You know this.
- It turns out that Alex works with a bearded hunk named Jimmy Warren who makes cheese, which turns out to be the secret ingredient of the chefs’ myriad meals. I love this, and honestly can’t remember another challenge where cheese was the central focus. That was a bit of a shock considering the art’s popularity; like, I remember season four’s Sara talking about wanting to be a fromagier, but I honestly can’t recall a specific challenge. It seems so obvious. Am I forgetting it?
- Anyways, the results are fascinating and most of the chefs use it as a means of getting crazy creative. Chris and Tanya made ice cream from sheep’s milk feta, which sounds goddamned looney but was apparently delicious. And then you’ve got Fatima and Lauren incorporating cheese rind into a cracker and Carrie making a ricotta dumpling with a whey sauce. Really enjoying the freedom these chefs are getting this season; on Boston they were forced to cook with, like, cranberries, just really inherently limiting ingredients. Cheese encompasses multitudes, and we saw that in the dishes.
- Me when I hear someone say whey sauce:
- Lots of great dishes, but Carrie takes it with her dumpling, with which she impressed Tom by only cooking it on one side.
- Tom when you cook his dumpling on only one side:
- It was a nice bit of redemption for Carrie, a hometown chef who biffed it last week. I didn’t touch on this then, I don’t think, but, aside from Stephanie Izard, I can’t think of many hometown chefs who took home the gold on their seasons. Fucking Hosea won New York. More on him below.
- A bit of drama was foisted upon Joestachio this episode, with him taking on a bossy, snotty demeanor that “Amish soul food” Chris attributes to the curlicued one’s youth. Tu, who impressed on last week’s episode, also didn’t come out here looking good. Tom had to show him how to properly tie his lamb, and Graham described his dish as “corn pudding that someone dropped lamb on.” Ouch.
- Tu and Joe were safe, however, given that they were on the winning team. Instead, Claudette went home, which was unfortunate considering I liked her fire and attitude. The lack of smoke in her cold smoked trout was apparently worse than Rogelio’s undercooked lamb, which I thought for sure would send him home. He got the dreaded, disappointed “okay” from Tom when he said he considered his lamb medium rare. That “okay” is a death knell. Alas.
- Claudette takes a moment in her parting speech to throw Adrienne under the bus. I didn’t mind it, especially considering Adrienne can’t seem to get out two sentences without mentioning she worked at Le Bernardin. You never heard Jen Carroll doing that. Why? ‘Cause it’s gross.
- Loved the Bear Den giving Tyler shit for barking when they were pretending to be bears or whatever. Chicago Joe might be my favorite personality and chef this season. I hope that means he’ll comp me at Spiaggia. Somebody send him this.
- Also, please comment if you were the intern tasked with finding those fuzzy paws. I’ll bring you to Spiaggia.
- Speaking of bears, I loved Laura talking about keeping bear meat in her fridge. Watch out, boys! (We’re gonna be doing this all season, aren’t we?)
- Tyler went as Julia Child for Halloween as a kid and has the receipts to prove it. Tyler rules.
- Did anyone else notice Tom and Padma wearing glasses at dinner? What the hell was that about? Is this a bit? You can bet I’ll be watching out for this in the future.
- Not commenting on Padma saying the feta ice cream was the best dessert she ever had on Top Chef. As I discussed last season, that whole “best thing ever on the show” talk is not to be trusted. Don’t believe me? At judge’s table, she described it as “one of the best” things she’s had on the show. It’s that pinot grigio, I tell you.
- Could listen to Fatima say “compressed cucumbers” all day.
- Last Chance Kitchen: Watch it here. Spoilers below.
- Okay, since cheese was Claudette’s undoing, she is forced to cook cheese curds and whey alongside Kwame, Marcel, and Lee Anne. Oh, but that’s not all. Tom starts reciting “Little Miss Muffet” and only Marcel—of course—rhymes along with him. Spiders, my dudes. They’re cooking with spiders. Dried tarantulas, in fact.
- Kwame compares their taste to a dried morel mushroom, while Marcel likens it to a dried kalamata olive. Marcel makes a “tarantula gremolata,” because for fuck’s sake, Marcel.
- Annnnnnd Marcel goes home. Which really bums me out. Because Marcel is, like, my ‘lil buddy. And I know he has a successful restaurant and had his own TV show and plenty of fame and I’d probably hate him IRL, but I root for the little bastard. Also, dude’s gotta be keeping chef knives in that bindle sack he calls hair.
- Claudette wins! She wants to make bugs delicious. Good luck with that.
- Also, Tom uses some liquid nitrogen to chill a beer. I’m down for it.
- Next week on Top Chef: Gird yourselves. Hosea is a guest judge, and, if I’m not mistaken, famous YouTuber Jake Paul is also there. As I’ve documented on this very site, he is garbage.