‘Top Chef’ Power Rankings, Week Two: ‘You Overwhelmed The Ostrich’

Week two of Top Chef Season 13 kicked off last night, with the whole gang traveling down to Santa Barbara for some wine and uni. Unbelievably, not a single Sideways reference was made. Couldn’t get the rights for that, huh? No one thought it’d be fun if they had to cook with some f*ckin’ merlot? In any case, it was great for reminding me of my college days, when me and the bros would grab a few 12-packs and head up the coast from San Diego for a weekend of red cups and chest bumping. Perhaps fittingly, the Santa Barbara episode turned out to be Top Chef‘s broiest ever. Kwame and Chad, Jeremy and Phillip – there was bromance all around. It must float through the Santa Barbara breeze like sea mist and carne asada particles.

The best moment, of course, was good guy Kwame trying to cheer up sadsack Wesley after his underseasoned sous-vide disaster.

“Bro, you’re a great chef! I really feel like you’re being a little bitch to yourself right now and it’s totally not chill.”

“But, bro, I disappointed RICHARD BLAIS! He’s like the original gangster of casual molecular!”

“I believe in you, homie. Remember when you fed an entire house of hangry Tri-Delts after the General Tso’s truck pulled a no-show at the charity slave auction using only bong water and Lunchables? That’s the Dub City I know. That Pho was transcendent, dog. Now sack up and cook your food, or else Blowjob Stacey will have died in vain.”

That’s the way I heard it, anyway. In any case, this was an episode of switcheroos and changing fortunes, and a fan favorite didn’t survive. First it was uni and wine pairings in the quickfire, where we learned that eggs with uni and wine is apparently a classic combo. Really? Eggs, seafood, and wine? Because that sounds awful. Then it was onto surf and turf surf VS. turf, where the teams of two de-teamed and went head to head. Not that a little competition was going to break apart a pair of best bros like Jeremy and Phillip, or Chad and Kwame.

The Padma Lakshmi Outfit Watch

A floral print dress with a white shawl during the quickfire, followed by another floral print dress. What’s happened to you, Padma?! Where’s that rock’n’roll rebel in the fierce motorcycle jacket from the last episode? Ludo leaves and you suddenly you want to open a charming BnB? Ugh. And she made it look elegant though. She’s so versatile I want to puke.

The Most Top Chef of Soundbites

“Sometimes the most important ingredient is the one that you leave off.”

“Traditionally, that’s not really what you’d call a beurre-blanc.”

This Week’s Harshest Food Diss

“I have a dish that sort of looks like 1960s nursery food.”


1. Kwame (+3)

Nickname(s): Wormser, The Prodigy, The Best of Us

Dish: Rock crab salad with turmeric asparagus and radish.

Judge Review Soundbites:

“I think it’s also really playful and fun.”

“In sort of like a decadent, luscious, slutty way.”

My God, is Kwame not the ultimate Babyface (in pro wrestling parlance)? He sold candy on the subway to raise money to open his restaurant! How amazing is that? Next episode we’re going to find out he’s only in this competition to raise money for his grandmama’s operation and trying to save the rec center from evil developers. Anyway, after single-handedly carrying his team last episode, Kwame took the top spot for his “slutty” surf dish (PLEASE DO NOT SLUT SHAME MY CRAB SALAD THANK YOU) and became a source of inspiration to everyone around him. That’s what a little unshakeable positivity can do for a person. Would that we all had a Kwame in our lives.

Quote: “Bro, you’re a great chef!”

2. Jeremy (+8)

Nickname(s): Fratdad, Totino

Dish: Spot prawns with gnocchi and English peas.

Judge Review Soundbites:


“I love what you did with the spot prawns.”

Quote: “Shut up, Phillip.”

Fratdad opened this week’s episode with a heartwarming story about naming his daughter. He thought other food-related names like “Ginger” sounded too much like a puppy, so he named her “Madeleine,” after the French cookie. Cool story, Jeremy. Later he was paired with Phillip, whom he managed to bro down with, despite clearly finding him obnoxious, as one does with Phillip. He edged out Phillip on his way to the top three with his spot prawns and gnocchi with English peas. (How do you tell if a pea is English, is it listening to Blur?) He’s been near the top in every challenge, despite not being able to pronounce “gnocchi.” Jeremy hasn’t ventured much outside his seafood comfort zone (also my nickname for your mom’s– never mind), but he’s been crushing it so far. (*shaka*)

3. Chad (+9)

Nickname(s): Rad Chad, Rockabilly Bob, The Badboy of IT

Dish: Spicy bean, honey, and orange-lacquered roasted lamb.

Judge Review Soundbites

“My lamb is cooked perfectly.”

“I just thought it was luscious. You know it’s really nice.” [Oh shut up, dude, you just heard the other chick say ‘luscious.’]

Quote: “I don’t drink anymore, so I couldn’t taste the wine. Also, I don’t drink. Have I mentioned I don’t drink?”

Chad doesn’t drink anymore, except Mountain Dew when he’s pulling an all-nighter writing some killer code at a hackathon. Anyway, Chad flew up the rankings this week by properly lacquering his lamb, which is always important. He was paired with Kwame, the eventual winner, and only lost the head-to-head battle by Tom’s tiebreaker vote (hence his high placement in the rankings). Will it last? Probably not, but here’s up here for now.

4. Carl (+4)

Nickname(s): Boston, Mini Alex Smith, The Fighter

Dish: Roasted chicken thigh with prosciutto and English peas.

Judge Review Soundbites

“It reminds me of home.”

Quote: (*the sound of Carl stealing all of Gisselle’s eggs)

Carl is still a bit of a mystery at this point, but his chicken thigh sounded wonderful, and everyone loved his scrambled eggs with uni and how well it paired with the wine (*vomit*). He also gets bonus points for stealing all of Gisselle’s eggs. I hope someone sabotaging Gisselle becomes a running theme.

5. Karen (even)

Nickname(s): Rosie the Riveter, Chef Hot Topic

Dish: Seared rock cod with carrot orange purée.

Judge Review Soundbites

“This is probably one of the best dishes I’ve had today.”

“It’s the bold flavors that make this really, really nice.”

“I’m missing a piece of fish.”

Karen really beefed the uni challenge, trying to do seafood hot and sour soup with “whipped uni,” which proceeded to completely melt once it hit the hot soup (ROOKIE MOVE, KAREN). Then she came roaring back with her seared cod that landed her in the top three, and may have won, if she hadn’t left out Padma’s fish. Side note: Of all the people to end up with the plate missing fish, she got Padma? No way the producers didn’t cook that up. You just know they spend every episode devising ways to goad Padma into going full Judgezilla. (I think Padma is capable of murder, if pushed).

Anyway, Karen. She’s up, she’s down, she ends up even in the rankings. What’s going on with Karen? I’m seriously asking.

6. Jason (even)

Nickname(s): Brainiac, Likable Alton Brown, Wikipedia Brown

Dish: Marinated grilled pork with steamed crudités, Thai-style egg, and green bean salad.

Judge Review Soundbites

“There’s a lot of work in this dish.”

“Jason, you just need to develop a little more flavor here.”

“I just wish I had had more uni.”

Quote: “Who doesn’t like a little gonads?” (Because the part of the uni you eat is the gonads, you see. Jason has all the interesting facts.)

Early on, we found out Jason was Food & Wine Magazine‘s best new chef last year, which has to count for something. Then he was paired up with Frances, which was adorable because they were both wearing Hawaiian shirts like they were on their way to a Sadie Hawkins dance together. Jason sort of got screwed by being the nice guy, agreeing to cook Asian food even though he’s an Italian chef. And then he won the head-to-head challenge anyway. Sort of a down week for Jason, but he’ll be a top seed once he learns to start being more of a prick. There’s a life lesson here.

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7. Amar (-6)

Nickname(s): Big Sleazy, Chief No F*cks

Dish: Olive oil poached halibut.

Judge Review Soundbites

“It’s nice and delicate.”

“The fish could be cooked a little less.”

“There’s no complexity to it.”

Quote: (*calmly mad dogging Grayson*)

My top seed from last week, Amar was off to a great start again this week with his uni and shiitake tempura that the judges loved. It looked like he was going to breeze through this thing and win going away. But did Big Sleazy take it too breezy? It would appear so. Also, where did those chicken feet they showed him cooking end up? I smell a rat. Overall, this seemed like the episode the producers designed to make us question our conclusions from the first two shows, and make it like it’s not totally obvious that Amar’s going to win.

8. Grayson (+7)

Nickname(s): Hot Lips, Ask My Boyfriend

Dish: Lacquered pork belly with spiced carrot purée.

Judge Review Soundbites

“I really love the flavors together here.”

“The purée is fascinating and dynamic.”

Quote: “Blah blah blah my boyfriend.”

This episode could’ve been titled “The Resurrection of Grayson.” After being in the bottom of every challenge in the first two episodes and probably deserving to go home, she of the impossibly shiny hair (it’s so lustrous! do you think she eats egg yolks?) roared back in this episode, winning immunity in the quickfire with her uni crab salad. (Sample review: “It’s bold to do so little.”) It paired so well with the wine, too. Probably because Grayson’s boyfriend is a sommelier, and he teaches her lots of things. Grayson’s boyfriend seems like a really great guy. Has Grayson mentioned she has a boyfriend? He goes to another school.

Anyway, Grayson ballsily took on Amar and Wesley in the head-to-head challenge, and frankly, I thought she was an idiot for doing so. Not messing with the uni was a cagey veteran move, and now this? You pick a team with a perennial favorite when Gisselle and Angelina were on the same team? “I want to take on the best.” Whatever, dummy, don’t be the hero. Next time you see low-hanging fruit like that you whack it with a fungo bat. COOK HARD, COOK FIRST, NO MERCY! Nonetheless, her dumb decision ended up working out for her. Say what you will about Grayson, let it never be said that the girl doesn’t make a dynamic pureé.

9. Isaac (-7)

Nickname(s): Cajun Man, The Excited Southerner, Cornbread, Roux McClanahan

Dish: Fennel crusted halibut, English peas, and brown butter hollandaise

Judge Review Soundbites

“The halibut got overcooked.” [Have we considered that halibut just isn’t that good? Two crappy halibut dishes this week. Sorry, someone had to say it.]

“Overall it just needs a little hit of acid.”

Quote: “HAHAHAHAHA.” (I forget what he was laughing at, but he has a magical laugh, he sounds like the Wizard of Oz).

Future fan favorite Isaac is brash, folksy, and always seems happy to be there. Why are Louisianans so damned likable? Isaac narrowly lost his head-to-head with Carl this week, though I’m sure it wasn’t for lack of BUTTAH, which Isaac smuggles under his fluffy beard and in the legs of his pantaloons. WHICH A WUNNA Y’ALL WAN SOME A GRANMAMA TOUP’S SPESHA BUTTAH CAKE? So much buttah. Isaac is down now, but I expect him to crawl his way back to the top like a crawdad.

10. Phillip (+1)

Nickname(s): Chef Top Knot, The Weez, Shut Up Phillip

Dish: Center cut ribeye with rutabaga purée.

Judge Review Soundbites

“Very tasty dish, mine was cooked perfectly.”

“Traditionally, that’s not really what you’d call a beurre-blanc.” [RULE: Chug your beer every time a judge gets hung up on nomenclature.]

Quote: “My name’s Phillip, by the way.”

Phillip continues being a solid cook with the unfortunate habit of being Phillip, which is really hamstringing him in this competition. Why are people from L.A. so obnoxious? Also, just once I want someone to say “Hey, Phillip, it’s called Top Chef, not Top Knot Chef.”

Phillip made his own butter this week, forgetting that he could just borrow some from Isaac’s pantaloons. I guess it… sort of worked out? Phillip only narrowly lost his head-to-head with Jeremy and his totally sick spot prawns. The judges love of Phillip’s dishes seems to be just baaarely outweighed by their knee-jerk impulse to tell him to f*ck off. I’d almost feel sorry for him if he wasn’t so Phillip.

11. Marjorie (-8)

Nickname(s): Mike Ms.abella, Wallflower, Marcie

Dish: Roasted pork loin with olive-oil crushed potatoes.

Judge Review Soundbites

“The garnishes are okay, but I think the pork is really dry.”

“I have a dish that sort of looks like 1960s nursery food.”

You see why I didn’t have Marjorie number one last week, even though she won? She also was the victim of this week’s harshest burn. I don’t even know what 1960s nursery food looks like (were there jello molds?), but damn, that sounded mean as hell. Anyway, I can’t tell whether Marjorie’s natural place is middle-bottom of the pack and last week was just a fluke, or if she was simply the victim of having to cook pork loin which is always f*cking dry why won’t anyone listen to me?!

12. Wesley (+1)

Nickname(s): Pig Pen, Eeyore, Chef Tomsula

Dish: Sous-vide ribeye with asparagus stencil.

Judge Review Soundbites

“I don’t know why anybody would ever put a ribeye in a plastic bag.”

“A little plain.”

“This is the kind of dish that gives sous-vide a bad name.”

Quote: “I think I’m f*cked.” (*the sound of Wesley spitting a fist-sized hunk of ribeye into the trash*) “I cooked like a child.”

I was expecting redemption for Wesley after being beaten up and beating himself up for the better part of the first two episodes. I thought we were finally seeing it when he ended up in the top half of the quickfire challenge. But then he tried to sous-vide some tough ribeye and lost track of time trying to be the Banksy of asparagus puree, and it was back to the bottom for him. And then more of Wesley looking like he was about to commit seppuku with his meat fork. (Wesley doesn’t go anywhere without his meat fork.) Poor Wesley. He’s even more sympathetic since I realized that he’s basically the Jim Tomsula of Top Chef. (That one’s for the other Niner fans.) I love a slovenly underdog.

13. Gisselle (-6)

Nickname(s): Nosering Girl, Chef Suburu, The Constant Narrator

Dish: Quail with cucumber and radish.

Judge Review Soundbites

“I like the sauce here and there’s background flavors and that’s what keeps it interesting.”

Quote: “I frickin’ work with uni all the time!”

Carl stole all of Gisselle’s eggs, so she had to make uni with potato and onion jam instead, prompting guest judge Dana Cowin to quip “I think we’ve got a bit of a fight on the palate.”

That left Gisselle up for elimination. She wisely chose Angelina for the head-to-head duel, and won, cooking a soft-scrambled ostrich egg with pepitas that, frankly, looked pretty disgusting. Pepitas and eggs? Yicch. Then she teamed up with Angelina (DUMB MOVE) which turned out to be a BRILLIANT MOVE when the judges pulled the switcharoo and they had to go head to head, leading to another Gisselle victory. Way to whack that low-hanging fruit, Gisselle. Anyone else expect to see her and Angelina in the bottom two again next episode? The bottom of this list seems a lot clearer than the top.

14. Angelina (even)

Nickname(s): Angstelina, Save the Last Dance, How the F*ck Are You Still Here

Dish: Marinated mussels with escabeche and some kind of foam. [RULE: Someone made a foam, chug your beer.]

Judge Review Soundbites

“It eats salty.”

“The mussels are flavorless to me.”

“The nice thing about mussels is the juice that they give off, and the juice is gone.” [OH, SNAP]

“You overwhelmed the ostrich.”

Quote: “It happened for a reason, right?”

I don’t know why Angelina is still in this competition. She has been on the bottom of literally every single challenge. Nothing against Angelina, who seemed surprisingly patient with neurotic Gisselle, but they pretty much never like her food. “You overwhelmed the ostrich” might be my favorite Top Chef criticism of all time. Anyway, I’ve never been one of those people who are convinced this whole show is a conspiracy and the producers pick the winners and losers solely based on entertainment value, but I don’t know how else to explain Angelina not going home this week.

15. Frances (-5) ((Eliminated))

Nickname(s): Glibsville, Butters, Robbery Victim

Dish: Ginger-glazed black cod with jicama, cucumber relish, and roasted squash.

Judge Review Soundbites

“Wow there’s a lot going on in here.”

“Think you could’ve edited a couple ingredients out.”

“It’s just a hodgepodge of stuff on the plate.”

“The flabby skin thing really irritates me.”

“Compared to what we’ve had it’s just not that good.”

Quote: “The skin becomes blobby and sh*t.”

Aw, man. I loved Frances. I don’t know what was more likable, her permanently even-keel attitude, her glib soundbites, or her hilarious accent (“it say ‘organic’ in can”). This week, she got booted for flabby fish skin, a food show sin right up there with mushy pasta, stiff risotto, or anything with truffle oil. And she knew it too. She tried to use the flamethrower thingy to crisp it off, but couldn’t figure out why “the skin becomes blobby and sh*t.”

Uhh, could it be perhaps that you’re aiming at the wrong side of the fish? Seriously, go watch that clip again, the skin’s on the bottom and she’s aiming the torch at the top side. Figure that one out. Anyway, I refuse to believe Frances deserved to get kicked off over Angelina. And then there was only one (chef with two-toned hair still in the competition).

This Week’s Guest Judges Power Rankings

1. Dana Cowin

She looked kind of mean at first, and was, but she had something thoroughly articulate to say about every single dish. And then she busted out “1960s nursery food” which is a mic drop line if ever I’ve heard one.

2. Richard Blais

Keep fighting for your right to sous-vide, bro.

3. Cat Cora

Did she say anything negative? It was all “I love this” and “my childhood that.” Stop shillin’, you ain’t that nice. The Food Network seems so pathologically populist these days. I heard Michael Symon actually gave himself a hernia from smiling too hard.

4. The 10 random dudes they never bothered to name.

Seriously, who were they? Just some soundbite ringers to make sure they had the coverage? Though I did love that “sometimes the most important ingredient is the one you leave off” line. That’s some beautiful bonehead zen right there. The ingredient you leave off? To paraphrase the Simpsons, I could eat that at home.

NEXT WEEK… They road trip to Palm Springs, and sh*t. Gets. Real.

Vince Mancini is a writer and comedian living in San Francisco. A graduate of Columbia’s non-fiction MFA program, his work has appeared on FilmDrunk, the UPROXX network, the Portland Mercury, the East Bay Express, and all over his mom’s refrigerator. Fan FilmDrunk on Facebook, find the latest movie reviews here.