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Top Chef Power Rankings, Week 2: Cheese Mongers And Tiny Soul Patches

Week two of Top Chef is generally a time for the season’s favorites to further separate themselves from the middle of the pack and begin to consolidate their power, like Stalin. Instead, last week‘s losers became this week’s winners, and last week’s winners fell back, leaving us with a giant ball of middle-pack ambiguity, like my sexuality when I watch Tom Colicchio berate someone for undercooked farro.

This week’s quickfire was “mise en place relay,” during which the chefs broke into two teams and competed to brunoise shallots, portion beef filets, and chop and peel mushrooms — the last of which I didn’t even know was a thing. Have you ever peeled a mushroom? Who the f*ck peels mushrooms? The outside part is the same texture. This makes no sense.

Anyway, knife skills and being super fast at mise en place is more like a parlor trick, in that it’s kind of related to being a good cook but not really. It’s something you probably would’ve developed on the way to becoming a good cook, but it doesn’t make you one. It’s kind of like hitting the speed bag for a boxer. In any case, they’re fun tricks, and good TV. The guest judge for this challenge was Troy Guard, who is known the world over for his extremely tiny soul patch.

I hear he goes to a special barber who paints doll house figurines.

There must’ve been some TV magic going on, because the way the show told it, the winners of the mise en place challenge then had eight minutes and 20 seconds to make a dish. Uhhh, what? What are you making, ramen? We were led to believe Chef Tyler somehow cooked beef with glazed carrots in that time. The f*ck? You can’t glaze a carrot in eight minutes. I can barely peel a carrot in eight minutes. Moreover, what the hell does this prove? Is speed really the most important consideration here? You better take that shit over to Top Microwave.

Other things that happened this episode:

  • They visited a cheese farm, to taste delicious rocky mountain cheese (which sounds like a euphemism)
  • …at an “artisanal sheep dairy and creamery,” which also sounds like a euphemism
  • The big boys sharing a room managed to run their “bear den” joke into the ground (ha ha ha that was very funny okay stop)
  • Only one chef made a “cutting the cheese” joke (bless you, Fatima)
  • At least three people had head colds, which isn’t super fun to listen to… (Christ, man, take a Mucinex, listen to Steve Bannon’s brother)
  • Gail Simmons disappeared again. BRING BACK GAIL, GOD DAMN YOU. Don’t you bastards dare take Gail from me and try to compensate with more Graham Elliot. That’s like trying to trade lobster for cat turds. Yes, I know I don’t have any good reason to hate Graham Elliot, beyond his dumb outfits and bland inoffensiveness, but you know what? That only makes me hate him more! Get off my TV, you gormless bow tie monkey!

14 (-4) ((Eliminated)) Claudette Zepeda-Wilkins — AKA Frames, aka Young Susan Feniger

Ah, Frames, we hardly knew ye. She got kicked off this week for an undersmoked trout and cheese dish, a fish-and-cheese pairing that Frames wasn’t stoked on but went with because she was partnered with Adrienne, who apparently specializes in fish-and-cheese pairings at Le Bernadin (you actually have to pronounce it with the italics). Did you guys know Adrienne works at Le Bernadin? I think I heard that somewhere.

Did Frames really deserve to go home for not knowing how to smoke trout? Eh, maybe. All I know is that if there’s one eternal truth of Top Chef, it’s that you’re never going to score any points trying to make a gross-sounding thing not gross. I mean, your ceiling with cheese and fish is basically “better than it sounds.”

She also made some crack about being “the only Mexican chef cooking Mexican food” in the competition in the first challenge, only to get booted attempting some Frenchified nonsense. Ouch. Oh well, now she can go home and nurse that head cold she seemed to have. Maybe she caught it from Padma? We’re going to have to de-mucus that whole state.

13 (-8) Tu David Phu — AKA Johnny Football, aka Jake Ryan, aka Tu David Phu Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar

There’s no way to sugar coat it, the guy I pegged as the handsome cool kid last week absolutely got his ass handed to him this week, both competition wise and socially. It was actually hard to watch. First he got yelled at by Mustache Joey for scorching his stew (…again), for which he actually apologized (ouch). Then he was so bad at tying up his lamb that Tom bumped him out of the way like an embittered company IT guy to show him how to do it so he didn’t screw it up worse than he already had. Which basically makes him a lamb cuck. Finally, he meekly attempted to justify his crappy lamb grilled over straw for some reason (mmm, I love charred bits of straw with my lamb…) — a dish described by Tom as having “no redeeming qualities at all” — by saying he wished he could’ve told them to pick it up and eat it with their hands, a suggestion that rightly fell flatter than the brim on his backwards cap. “Because… uh… when you eat with your hands, it’s a completely different dining experience.”

Have you ever watched a slick handsome dude used to bullshitting his way out of everything wilt under cross examination? Yeah, it was like that. It was rough. Julie Newmar still seems like a chill dude so I hope he turns it around, but it’s always hard to watch a guy get lamb cucked so bad.

12 (-1) Rogelio Garcia — AKA Scholarship, aka Backstory

Rogelio served broken sauce (*Papa Roach voice* Broooken saaaaauce…) in the quickfire and undercooked lamb torchon in the elimination challenge, making three challenges in the row where he was on the bottom. I realize one of those was an eight-minute steak challenge which essentially proves nothing, but any way you slice it, Rogelio is not looking like a world beater at this stage of the competition. Start cooking Mexican comfort food, man. Incorporate your childhood. I like to imagine Rogelio is going to turn this around when the ghost of Kwame from two seasons ago comes to him in a dream exhorting him “Rogelioooo, use your backstoryyyyy…

11 (-9) Tyler Anderson — AKA Henry Roll-ins, aka Matt Pinfield, aka T Bone, aka T n A, aka Cut it out with the bear den shit already man seriously

Tyler seems to get all the funny lines, or at least all the true lines, like “It’s eight minutes, it’s not like ‘welcome to the French Laundry,'” and “Oh, Brother, where art thou?” Of course, you have to weigh that against him making 15 trillion bear’s den jokes this week. How ’bout you let that one hibernate, huh buddy?

He also crushed on the handsome (eh) cheese mongers, comparing them to Greek Gods. I don’t know if I’d go that far, but they are nicely groomed.

Anyway, T Bone looked like a favorite last week, but he’s taken flak for his last three dishes, including his last one, which he tried to justify with some crap about how “the cheese was so beautiful as it is, I didn’t want to do much to it.”

Come on, bro, haven’t you ever watched this show before? That only works if you’re making crudo. Take your Greek God cheese and cut it.

10 (+3) Adrienne Cheatham — AKA Fish, aka Halle Bearnaise

I keep wanting to put Fish higher in these rankings, based on the fact that she seems to know her stuff, and after all, she did work at Le Bernadin (pronounced with italics), but she keeps ending up in the bottom of elimination challenges. This week the judges cooed over her crispy trout skin, even if they thought the rest of the dish kind of sucked. It’d be tempting to blame that on Frames, but it was kind of Fish’s idea? She got mad knife skills though. Live up to that potential, Fish. (I named her Fish because she always cooks fish, in case that was unclear, I’m very clever).

9. (-1) Brother Luck — AKA Barbershop

Brother Luck, who let’s be honest doesn’t really need a nickname, came out of the gate hot, showing off his mise en place tattoo (who had that in Top Chef bingo? in 15 seasons I don’t think there’s ever not been at least one chef with a food tattoo) and some of the fastest mushroom chopping I’ve ever seen. You know, for whatever that’s worth. He also came in second in the quickfire with some kind of hibiscus-spiced steak. “Mmm, you can really taste the hibiscus!” the judges cooed.

Hibiscus is one of those ingredients you see constantly on Top Chef that I’ve never once enjoyed in real life. Why do the judges always cream their shorts when they smell sleepy time tea? Anyway, Brother Luck is smack in the ambiguous mid-pack ball right now.

8. (+4) Tanya Holland — AKA The Professor, aka Ghost, aka Who?

Almost everyone reading these points out how great Tanya’s restaurant, Brown Sugar Kitchen, is, but thus far she’s mostly been defined by getting by far the least screen time of any chef. But she cooked the dough part of the beignet (I think?) that Padma called “the best dessert I’ve ever had on Top Chef.” (She says that like every three shows, so take it with a grain of hibiscus)

That’s kind of… like the main part of a beignet, isn’t it? The editors sure didn’t treat it that way though. I suspect Tanya is sandbagging right now, lulling the other chefs into a false sense of security. She’s going to have to start pulling some Omarosa stuff if she wants more screen time though. Tanya, repeat after me, “I’m not here to make friends.”

7. (-5) Chris Scott — AKA Silky, aka Good Damone, aka Amish Soul Food

Is Chef Chris not the coolest dude ever? I don’t think anyone has ever given a smoother, more effective “Hey, maybe stop being such an asshole” talk like the one Silky Chris gave to Mustache Joey this week. This after Mustache Joey tried to micromanage his ganache. Hands off the ganache, punk, Silky has been making ganache since you were just an emulsion in your dad’s Dockers.

Anyway, Silky Chris, Damone’s Wario, had a hand in one of this week’s top dishes — he made the ganache! — but I can’t exactly put him at the top of the rankings over a damned ganache, now can I.

6. (-5) Joe Sasto — AKA Mustache Joey, aka Rollie Fingerlings, aka Freddy Mercurioli, aka Kind Of Ganachehole

The editors are clearly setting up Rollie here as this year’s Brash Young Dick, this year’s foamless Marcel, this year’s hatless Spike, if you will, making him seem bossy and over critical — trash talking Damone’s ganache, steamrolling Alaska, and calling Tu David Phu’s lamb “dog food.” But at least in the last case, Mustache Joey turned out to be correct. Though the judges seemed to like Joey’s corn grits even less than Tu’s whack of lamb. Though he did collaborate on Carrie’s winning dumpling. So where does that leave us? I don’t know, fam.

5. (+4) Laura Cole — AKA Pioneer Woman, aka Paula Cole, aka Dr. Quinn, aka Moosedog Millionaire

I thought Alaska was headed for the bottom this week when she got steamrolled during menu planning by Mustache Joey, who was delegating and doling out dessert tasks while Alaska meekly squeaked out “but I studied pastries in Paris!” at a volume too low for anyone but the cameras to pick up. Instead, a twist! She came back with a vengeance, going straight to the top by making a cracker out of the cheese rinds — which sounds weird but also awesome — that the judges loved. Dr. Quinn has a Slumdog Millionaire-like way of tying every task back to something she learned on the mean streets of Alaska. This week’s lesson: “food waste becomes bear bait.” Hell yeah, re-use those cheese rinds, girl. Every time she talks I’m imagining some flashback sequence where Laura is holding two soufflés above her head while running from a horned up elk.

4. (-1) Fatima Ali — AKA Chokers, aka Crackers, aka Mini-Padma, aka Ally Shadidi

Fatima’s personality hasn’t really come through just yet, though she keeps landing near the top (both times with some form of a cracker, weirdly). She seems like she belongs near the top, or at the very least, she hasn’t screwed anything up yet. She also made the week’s best fart joke. Nice, Fatima, nice.

3. (+11) Carrie Baird — AKA The Mormon, aka Tots

Carrie is a Mormon from Idaho, just like the cast of Napoleon Dynamite, and always seems to cook potatoes, thus justifying her new nickname, “Tots.” Carrie won this week’s challenge and you could make the case that she deserves to be higher, but I don’t know. I can’t quite bring myself to forget last week’s blueberry bruschetta disaster. In any case, this week she brought her “mormon funeral potato” skills (I didn’t know that was a real dish! My mormon friends never fed me!) to a potato-ricotta dumplings dish. That ol’ devil Tom Collicchio threw us a curveball, asking Carrie pointedly “why did you choose to sautee these on only one side?” like he was angry. I was already yelling THAT’S HOW YOU COOK POT STICKERS, YOU BALD SON OF A BITCH! at my TV when Tom said “I really liked that they were only seared on one side.” You got me with that one, you old dog, you got me.

Anyway, Carrie proves that at the very least, she has a way with potatoes and cheese (even if she pronounces ricotta “ra-CAWT-uh” like a bumpkin). It’s a little early to tell whether that makes her a favorite, but she’s screaming up the rankings either way.

2. (+5) Bruce Kalman — AKA Arthouse Guy Fieri, aka Bangles, aka The Delegator

Despite looking like a guy who plays a lot of Magic: The Gathering, Bruce is the most acclaimed chef in the competition. This week, Bruce and his Buddhist prayer beads helped his team sail through the mise en place challenge thanks to his epic meat weighing skills. Which is to say that even when Bruce looked like he was getting lapped by the other team, he understood that you can’t just eyeball your meat portions if the challenge is to cut them all to within a one-ounce size range. Slow and steady wins the meat race, I always say (stop eyeballin’ my meat portions, bro). Anyway, Bruce hasn’t been in the top of anything yet, but his food has always been well received, as was the case with this week’s agnelotti in whey sauce. There’s still a good 50/50 chance Bruce ends up winning this competition and celebrates with… I don’t know, a special edition Game of Thrones beer.

1. Joseph Flamm — AKA Joey Cheeks, aka C-Pap, aka Chicago Beef

Chicago Beef won the quickfire cooking, what else, beef, at which point he loosed a terrifying cackle that chilled the spine, liked he’d briefly become the Gollum of free Blue Apron meals. After that he collab’d with Bruce on a well-received agnolotti in whey sauce (more like pinche guey sauce! that was a joke for my Mexican friends, puto). Which, combined with his mostly good showings last week is enough to… put him on top? I guess? I know I should be more definitive in my rankings, but everyone has been up and down.

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