‘Top Chef’ Power Rankings: Pitch Your Fast Casual Restaurant Concept Without Saying ‘Chipotle’

This week on Top Chef, the producers went old school in the quickfire, introducing Martin Yan, of Yan Can Cook fame. If you never watched Yan Can Cook, I question your childhood. No one could hack things apart with a giant cleaver like that guy. Yan was there to judge a chop suey challenge, “chop suey” being a Chinese-American phrase that means “bits of chopped up sh*t over rice.” (Not exactly, but basically).

Everyone loves Yan Can Cook, and Chinese food in San Francisco is an obvious pairing, but did anyone really think this challenge through? Chop suey isn’t the most TV-ready of foods. Maybe something more visual would’ve been better? Egg rolls? Dim sum? I mean if we’re doing chop suey, why not a sloppy joe challenge? Anyway, the producers made up for this gulf in watchability by focusing on the other part of the challenge, the contestants having to cook on a wok station. The theme there being “wok stations are really hot.” Not exactly as informative as the historical periods challenge from last week, but it was worth at least a few minutes of contestants complaining and things catching on fire.

Quickfire Top: Jeremy (tasty crab!). Marjorie (balance!). Amar (correct elements!). Winner: Marjorie.

Quickfire Bottom: Carl (not enough vegetables). Kwame (oily eggplant). Isaac (starchy chicken).

The Elimination Challenge

After that, Umami Burger’s Adam Fleischman showed up to introduce the elimination challenge: Pitch a fast-casual restaurant concept that “can work in any city in America.”

Of course! Because what could be a more San Francisco-appropriate challenge these days than having to bullsh*t potential investors and try to dress up your centuries-old business model as a flashy new startup? To Top Chef‘s eternal credit, everyone made it through this entire episode without a single person uttering the words “disrupt” or “unicorn.” And that, people, is why I like writing about food. Could you imagine being a tech journalist? (*deep, full body shudder*)

Specifically, the challenge was to make one dish that reflected the concept, for 150 diners, along with a restaurant name and full menu. To help them in this task, the contestants would be paired with one of the eliminated contestants as their sous chef. Isn’t it a little early for the bring-back-the-eliminated-contestants show? I’m guessing there will be at least one more of these challenges.