This season’s Top Chef was filmed in Charleston South, Carolina, and this week the show celebrated the most classic of coastal Carolina pastimes: the mise en place relay and the head-to-head cooking challenge. “Mise en place,” by the way, is French for “miso in the plaza,” referring to an ancient custom of eating soy soup in the town square, which was thought to cure syphilis. I’m kidding, mise en place actually means “cutting up shit” or something. And that’s what the chefs did! For speed!
To judge this challenge, the show brought in noted mise en place expert Chris Cosentino, who owns a restaurant near my house (cool story, huh). Cosentino was introduced in classic Top Chef fashion via a confessional with Chef John (aka Steve Douchemi). “…And who do I see standing there but Chris Consentino,” he said, reminiscing about the time Cosentino got him kicked off in the last season and also butchering his last name.
Smooth move, John, are you and Chris CoNsentino gonna go out for some expresso later? Anyway, it’d be a bummer if these two didn’t get along, they’re clearly bracelet buddies.
The mise en place relay, by the way, involved preparing artichokes, chopping onions, shucking clams, and mincing garlic, and sadly, not one person yelled, “Hey, stop mincing around and come shuck my clam!”
Anyway, they drew knives to decide teams, and Chef Sheldon (Hawaiian guy) ended up being the mise en place champion. Chris Cosentino positively mooned over Sheldon’s clean chef’s station in what can only be described as a lascivious manner.
If I could make gifs you’d see Cosentino moving his head back and forth like a sidewalk ogler here.
“He treats objects like women, man.” Seriously though, he’s looking at that clean cutting board like it’s a pair of stripper titties. Anyway, after that the chefs stayed in their relay teams for a competitive seven-course meal, one chef from each team going head to head in each course. So much food… God damn, man, judging this show sounds like the best gig ever.
The secret ingredient for the head-to-head challenge? Radish! F*CKIN’ FOURTEEN COURSES OF RADISHES BRO, F*CK YEAH!
I mean, not exactly the ingredient I would’ve chosen for sweeps week, but sure, radishes. That’s cool. Radishes are like jicama with an edge. And they kinda look like ballsacks. Also, I admit the secret ingredient loses a little something when it’s not being screamed into a microphone by a weird Japanese Wayne Newton impersonator who’s just chewed himself into some kind of bell pepper-induced fugue state.
Isn’t that great? Bite us up a bell pepper, Cosentino, you lazy piece of shit. Stage craft is your friend. Anyway, in other news, Padma’s outfits were on point this episode.
How YOU doin’.
Anyway, I don’t want to spoil anything, but it turns out the chick with the radish tattoo won the radish challenge. Go figure. And this was a challenge that had Padma calling it “The best meal I’ve ever had on this show.”
The best? After 14 seasons? Radishes? Well I’ll be a son of a bitch.
Anyway, I’m going to start at the bottom this week because it seems more fun that way.
14. Chef Sam Talbot (-5) ((eliminated)), AKA Handsome Dan, aka Kutch, aka Oh Face
Sam going home this episode was very bittersweet on account of he got by far the most screen time (“It’s either go radish or go home” — I swear he really said that) and even had a Very Special Moment with a Top Chef superfan who asked about Sam’s type 1 diabetes and his type 1 diabetes foundation. Jeez, handsome and mindful? This guy really is a triple threat. Someone marry him already. It’s just too bad that Sam spent more time making sex faces over Sylvia’s yogurt cake than he did conceiving his own dish.
LET ME SEE YOUR YOGURT CAKE FACE!
THAT’S NOT SEXUAL ENOUGH! I SAID, LET ME SEE YOUR YOGURT CAKE FACE!
Sam’s fatal error, and if he’d ever read one of my power rankings he would’ve known never to do this, was misnaming his dish. Because if there’s one thing all food show judges are obnoxiously persnickety about, it’s nomenclature. You can make a delicious thing, but if you misname it somehow, the judges will tear you apart. You have to put yourself in their shoes: what’s more important here, judging food in order of deliciousness, or proving to everyone that you know what goes in a romesco sauce?
Sam made a thing he called a “banh mi,” and then, like a damned idiot, used BRIOCHE bread instead of FRENCH BREAD (*record scratch*) “Get the rope!”
This epic fail left Tom saying “When something is a banh mi you expect certain things.” Chris Cosentino groaned “I just didn’t get explosive radish flavor.”
RIP, Sam, at least he left a handsome-looking corpse.
13. Chef BJ Smith (-1) — AKA Reaction Shot, aka Gay Seth Rogen, aka Chaaaad
This was BJ’s face after Padma said “this is the best meal I’ve had on Top Chef.” The camera loves BJ, possibly because he constantly generates the exact reaction the producers are going for. He’s like the real-life version of that guy in Not Another Teen Movie whose entire character is to stand around and say “damn!” or “oh that is whack!” when something crazy happens.
He also looks like the most stereotypical Top Chef contestant. And his dish this week sounded by far the most Top Chef-y: “a conserva of radish and local trout.”
Is “a conserva of radish” like a school of fish or a murder of crows? No idea. Anyway, BJ is on the bottom every week and I can only assume the editors keep BJ around solely because he’s like a human expository dialogue factory.
12. Chef Jamie Lynch (+2), AKA Rodman, aka Gravel, aka Midnight Oil
Yes, technically Jamie won his challenge this week, but he was cooking against BJ, which is sort of like the Jets beating the 49ers last week (BOOM, SPORTS BURN!). Jamie was all but invisible this week, and the most notable thing he did was get roasted by Sheldon. “If we win, Jamie’s gonna get a radish tattooed on his face,” said Sheldon.
Damn, man, getting roasted by a dude as chill as Sheldon is like getting bit by a fluffy golden retriever. That’s gotta burn worse than habanero on your balls.
11. Chef Jim Smith (-4), AKA Truman Compote, aka Dapper Dan, aka Buddy Challah
I know what you’re thinking, “nooo, not Truman Compote in double digits!”
Trust me, I know, it brings me no joy to put our favorite spiffed up friendship gnome this far down, but that’s what happens when you lose a head-to-header to Katsuji. It seems poor Jim committed the sin of hubris this week, telling the camera, “If there’s one veteran that I think I can really stick it to, it’s Katsuji.”
That seemed like an entirely valid assessment, but… stick it him? Jim, is that you?! Jim can’t harness the spirit of the forest for his friendship cakes when he’s thinking negative thoughts, everyone knows that! I’m sure Jim will be back next week. All he has to do is say “I think I can” 10 times and click his heels together.
10. Chef Casey (-9), AKA Texas, aka Nerd Alert
The lovely Casey won over the crowd but lost the round (against Sylva) in the judges vote, which was a shock considering the brilliance of Casey’s master plan. She cooked a “radish scallop,” you see. “I really want them to go, ‘oh, I thought this was something else, but lookee, it’s a radish,” she said.
Between “Lookee it’s a radish” and last week’s tearful “isn’t food cool?” Casey is running away with the “giant dork” award this year. I love that about her.
9. Chef Katsuji Tanabe (+1), AKA Professor Kats, aka Sooge Knight, aka Katsuji the Kosher Mexican
Everyone’s favorite unicorn (The Japanese Mexican Who Cooks Kosher) came out hot this week, chopping onions like a man possessed. He also talked the most shit, opening the episode with his reaction to Annie getting booted last week: “Who’s Annie?”
Incredibly, Katsuji backed it up this week, winning a head to head match up against Jim of all people, who had seemed like such a strong competitor before now. This was Katsuji’s winning dish:
Straight up though, that looks weird as hell. I’m not a fan of any food that comes in dot form, unless it’s Dippin Dots. Which are rad.
Nonetheless, Katsuji did it this week. Will it last? Probably not, which is why he’s at number nine. But I will continue to enjoy his dumb little quips (“One Mexican minute!”) until he gets kicked off for trying to make a coffee-crusted lavender-infused New Mexico chile haggis popsicle or something.
8. Chef Sheldon Simeon (-5), AKA Shaka Brah, aka Cool Breeze, Aka Shel Chillverstein
Chef Sheldon tried to stay #OnBrand this episode, inviting the Top Chef superfans back to Maui for some Mai Tais. Hey, Sheldon, you’re supposed to be chill, not shill, am I right? (I just opened the oven and checked the temp, and yep, that’s a burn). Anyway, Shel Chillverstein had ol Chris Cross cooing over his epic mise en place skills and spotless station this week (“Sheldon is the MVP to me”). But unfortunately this show isn’t called top prep cook (I can’t believe none of the cheftestants dropped this burn during confessional. So many missed opportunities this week). Chef Shel dropped a squeaker to Steve Douchemi.
That being said, Sheldon got Chris Cross’s vote, meaning Chris Cross voted against his bracelet bro. Which had to be some kind of moral victory, getting two guys in Buddhist beads to go against each other like that. Also, Sheldon was kind of on fire with the quips, hence the headline of this post.
7. Chef Amanda Baumgarten (+4), AKA Bangs, aka Annoying Amanda, aka Spinal
Annoying Amanda this week finally explained her whole “three years off for a back problem” deal this week, telling us she needed a surgery to fuse three of her vertebra. At which point she whiffed on a golden opportunity to say “which I guess makes me a master of fusion cuisine, am I right, guys? Who’s with me, high five.”
COME ON AMANDA THAT JOKE WAS RIGHT THERE FOR YOU UNDER A SILVER CLOCHE!
Is it poor form to ridicule someone’s disability? Yeah, probably, but I’m getting surgery on my butthole today so I feel like I get some leeway on that. Anyway, Amanda went head to head with Shirley this week, saying that beating Shirley would “be like a total mic drop” (didn’t I tell you she’s annoying?).
She even confused the poor Whole Foods fish guy, talking to her fish and leaving him with this dumbfounded look on his poor fishmonger face:
That’s a look that says “Look, lady, I spend my days elbow deep in fish guts, they don’t pay me enough to humor hyper manic reality show contestants.”
To her credit, Amanda actually beat Shirley in the head to head cookoff, which is a pretty big deal. Especially since Shirley’s dish sounded pretty bomb.
6. Chef John Tesar (even) AKA Bangles, aka Steve Douchemi
I gotta hand it to ol’ Bangles this week, he kinda brought the heat. And he hasn’t even been all that obnoxious this season. Before warning Katsuji not to bring out the “Old John” (*eye roll*) (*not here to make friends*), John proved himself a master clam shucker (*wheezing smoker’s laugh*). Then he went head to head with Sheldon. He made a “radish Sriracha” and while I have no idea how that would work, it does intrigue me. He then made what, to be honest, looked like the tastiest damned dish of the show:
You could tell John was a veteran when the judges asked if those were home made noodles and he was like “of course, motherf*cker, you think I’ve never been on this show before?”
I’m not quite ready to accept Bangles as a legit competitor or a worthwhile human, but he’s definitely getting there.
5. Chef Emily Hahn (even), AKA Stormcloud, aka Avril Terrine
I was pretty bummed when Emily, branded early as “The Angsty One,” didn’t show off any of her patent-pending ‘tude this episode. The closest she came was this look of withering indifference while Brooke was (spoiler alert) accepting her laurels:
Emily ain’ care.
Anyway, it’s hard to know where exactly Emily stands, in that she won the head-to-head challenge, but it was against Sam, who clearly doesn’t even know how to name a deconstructed sandwich (IDIOT). She also went with a cured salmon this week, which is at least the second or third time she’s won without actually cooking anything. Aka the Jeremy From Last Season Special. To paraphrase Amar, is this Top Chef or Top Crudo? Keep in mind, Jeremy won last season so maybe Avril Terrine is on to something here.
4. Chef Shirley Chung (even), AKA Bowl of Hug
Chef Shirley went up against Annoying Amanda this week, and cooked some kind of radish beef thing that yet again sounded super delicious. She ended up losing, but I don’t think that counts much against her since Tom Collicchio called them “both really powerful dishes.”
(*cue Tony Robbins asking “is your father a powerful man?”*)
I realize I’m a sucker for stewed meats, but Shirley’s food always looks good as hell. That’s why she’s three slots higher than the chef she lost to.
3. Chef Sylvia Barban (+8), AKA Chef-a Sylvia, aka Pasta Fazool, aka The Nick Diaz of the Kitchen
Mamma Mia, Chef-a Sylvia go-a down-a eight-a slots a-last a-week, and then-a thees a-week she comin-a back uppa eight-a more-a slots-a. She bouncin em up anna down more than-a rubber meat-a-ball!
Actually it’s hard to know where to put Chef Sylvia this week. Was her radish yogurt cake really that life changing or is Sam just prone to hyperbole?
It’s hard to say, considering she lost her head-to-head challenge with Brooke, but Brooke apparently cooked the best dessert in the history of eating. I did like Sylvia’s pro wrestling-style promo interview. “I not a-scare when I move em uppa here from-a Eetaly, I not-a scare when-a they wanna putta Sylvia onna di Top-a Chef, and I not-a scare now to make-em uppa di a-dessert against a-Chef a-Brooke.”
Point taken, she ain’t scared, homey. Reminds me of a certain Stockton Bad Boy I know. And I’m sure the four other people who watch both of these things agree with this reference. Chef Sylvia is about to go Nick Diaz all over this competition, throwin’ double Stockton Heybuddies out while she bleeds into her risotto.
2. Chef Sylva Senat (+6) AKA Haitian Man, aka Not Sylvia
Sylva might be a controversial number two (and I know something about controversial number twos, heyo!), but he came in second this week against some stiff competition (in “the best meal Padma ever at on Top Chef,” remember). And much like Shirley, Sylva is a master at cooking stuff that sounds really good. This week it was berbere-rubbed halibut, which isn’t quite as tasty sounding as dark meat rice, but it ain’t bad.
1. Brooke Williamson (+1), AKA Biscuits, Aka The Girl With The Radish Tattoo
Damn, Brooke is running away with this thing. I know it’s only week three, but she has yet to finish out of the top three in these power rankings (which are clearly very important). The producers tried to manufacture some drama this week, with Sam Oh-Facing all over the kitchen about Sylvia’s cake while Brooke worried that her panna cotta wasn’t setting. And then at competition time, Brooke stomped her, giving her that devil-woman smirk you see above. Of course, maybe it’s just Occam’s Razor that the girl with the radish tattoo would win a radish competition.
Of course, in her season, Brooke won five out of the 15 challenges (next closest was three), including the last three before the finale, but ended up coming in second. So now she’s in the position of the more she wins the more it feels like a jinx.