This week on Top Chef there were a lot of moments when I screamed “Nooooooo!!!!” at the TV. One competitor stuck $500 Iberico ham through a meat grinder and used it to make a broth. Another used canned crab. And yet neither of these transgressions doomed their committer to defeat, because another chef used a heat lamp like they were working the window at McDonald’s. And none of them got dressed down or belittled enough for it, if you ask me. Not enough shaming this season. It’s not Top Chef if no one cries over a poorly made gastrique.
This has been a season of the unexpected and, frankly, it’s exhausting. I don’t know who to even root for. The underdog/favorite dynamic seems to shift minute by minute. What I wouldn’t give for a new Fati, a new Isaac Toups (Peppah!), hell, even a new Bangles. Instead, this week revealed the winner of Last Chance Kitchen. And that winner was (*drum roll*) …Chef Michelle!
Oh good, more of the world’s shyest Top Chef competitor. And to think, we had a 50 percent chance of more Sweaty Eddie. Michelle seems nice, and like a really good cook, but let’s be honest: she is not great TV. Reality TV runs on alcohol and extroverted sociopaths. Michelle is more like the salutatorian who’s too bashful to raise her hand above her chin. Instead, she leaves it folded into her body and almost imperceptibly raises four fingers when she knows the answer.
Michelle returned for a garden challenge, the chefs having to cook with the vegetables and herbs they planted earlier this season. “Nothing more fascinating than watching someone make salads,” I always say. I bet there were more salads on that set than in the rest of Kentucky combined.
Then they found out that everyone who made it through this week’s elimination challenge would move onto the finale in… Macau. Phew, okay, at least that’s an interesting choice. I pray that one of the competitors will lose a pinky to the Triads, that’s the only thing that could salvage this season.
First though, they would have to make it through this week’s elimination challenge, in which the competitors would cook for their mentors. Sadly, all of the mentors were about as buttoned up and subdued as this season’s crop of competitors. Can’t we bring back Wolfgang Puck or someone? Remember him? Just throwing dishes at the wall and cackling like a banshee while he force-taught a competitor risotto as she sobbed? Man, that was awesome.
Oh, also, they had to “buy” their ingredients at a horse auction. They had $500 to bid with and the rest to use at Whole Foods. Which actually turned out to be kind of anti-climactic because there were only six of them, which apparently wasn’t enough for a bidding war. Probably should’ve done this earlier in the season. And forced the loser to cook with discarded horse dicks or something.
This episode’s saving grace? They finally brought back Gail. Hell yeah. Bring back Gail! Bring back Gail! It’s like all my chants have been answered.
1. (+1) Sara Bradley — AKA: Party Mom. AKA: One-Upper. AKA: Abe Fro-ma’am. AKA: Jiggle Juice. AKA: Kanye.
Look, I’m as shocked as you are about Jiggle Juice being number one on this list. But after a top three finish in seven of the last eight challenges (her one miss being the most memorable, her brutal waffle shaming in episode nine) I can’t deny her.
This week, Sara had the most well-kept garden, and if you believe her, a plan for what to do with her herbs and vegetables once the time inevitably came. Sara is a drunk but also a homework doer (I have a theory that the world is divided into homework doers and improvisers), and I respect that. Most writers tend to share that disposition. Anyway, Sara rode her spring squash to a top three finish in the quickfire, with a delicate byaldi, which is apparently some type of ratatouille. I don’t really “get” squash. The texture makes no sense to me and I never know which parts of it I’m supposed to eat. I think I need to take a squash class. But that’s neither here nor there.
The judge of this quickfire challenge was Chef Ouita Michel, who Sara had to cook a Beard dinner with earlier this year. You wonder if Sara might’ve won if the judge judging it hadn’t been worried about appearing to play favorites. Also, nice pun synergy having a chef named “WEED-uh” judge the garden challenge.
After that, Sara bought some Iberico ham at the auction, which is one of my favorite foods of all time. It’s like more delicate prosciutto where the fat liquifies on your tongue and OH MY GOD ARE YOU PUTTING IBERICO HAM INTO A FUCKING MEAT GRINDER?!!?
That’s right, Sara used a $500 ham (at least, $500 according to the show — they can cost a lot more than that, up to 10 times as much) to make a damned broth (a ham-walnut stock with poached fish). That had better be some amazing god damn broth (and in fairness, it did sound really good). It must’ve been, because she won.
Any way you look at it, Sara is on a hot streak going into the finale. Which she’s going to need in Macau. She does seem like the competitor most likely to wake up in a warehouse somewhere after a black out gambling binge. Studious gardener Sara is cool, but I hope jello shot Party Mom Sara comes back to us in Macau.