This week’s Top Chef celebrated the only constants in reality competition, sudden death and Logan Paul. The High Drama began fresh out of the gate, with the dreaded SUDDEN DEATH QUICKFIRE. The challenge? To “deconstruct” the Denver omelette. Which is to say, make a Denver omelette that’s not. As the guest judge warned, and I quote, “I better not see any omelettes.”
This is the perfect encapsulation of every ridiculous food television challenge, by the way. You could substitute pretty much any traditional comfort food. Someone comes on and says “here in [place], today we’re going to celebrate the proud and glorious tradition of BLAGH, our region’s greatest culinary export! But we’re not going to have everyone cook BLAGH, that’d be much too boring! Who wants to watch 12 chefs cook boring old BLAGH anyway! So, your challenge is to reinvent BLAGH. That means we better not see any BLAGH. In fact if anyone cooks BLAGH, they’re going home.”
This then led into a tearful editing package about Laura, the moose-dodging Pioneer Woman from the wilds of Alaska. The montage was all about how much she missed her kid, lil Trig or Trak or Tug or whatever. Come on, how long have you even been gone, a week? Two? I’m sure the kid is fine. At this point I began cursing Top Chef, whose entire appeal to me is based largely on its lack of the “boohoo I miss my dumb kids montage” that’s in every episode of Chopped. I barely tolerate my friends’ kids, you think I care about some stranger’s? Keep your kids to yourself. In fact that’s just sort of evergreen advice to everyone.
Then we cut back to present action with Alaska having a mini freakout because she couldn’t think of any deconstructed Denver dishes. Really?! You?! The queen of resourcefulness, who made crackers out of cheese rinds in the last episode and famously can’t leave trash without attracting bears, can’t think of a way to repurpose a Denver omelette? I guess it makes sense. Ol Moose Food thrives on scarcity. She freezes in the face of too many options. She was like someone who escaped the USSR in the 80s where there was one brand of everything suddenly confronting a Costco.
Of course, she immediately bungled the challenge and got eliminated. Ahh, NOW the I-miss-my-kids montage makes sense. They almost certainly recorded those interviews after the elimination. Mostly on reality shows you only start talking about how much you miss your kids to make having to go back to them seem like a choice. “Actually, I lost because of how much I love and miss my wonderful children.” It all makes sense now.
After that, the show announced a food truck challenge set at a college, to be promoted by DUNT DUNT DUNNN… former Vine star Logan Paul, who arrived to answer the question of which food looks like a fam. Jesus Christ, Top Chef. First a kid montage and then a Vine star cameo? Are you trying to drive me away?? Graham Elliot was also mysteriously absent this episode. Was that it? Were you trying to make me feel bad about ridiculing the affable bow tie clown by replacing him with someone truly grating? WELL IT WORKED! UGH!
Of course, Top Chef always does the “soundbites to fluff the guest’s resume” thing, where Padma introduces someone, then they cut to one of the contestants looking into the camera saying “Oh my god I’m so amped, Fetch Stryker is like the original gangster of nouvelle Arkansas beef core!”
They essentially tried to do the same pattern with Logan Paul, only with Padma telling us (via sound clearly added in post) that Logan Paul “has over 11 million followers.”
This was followed by a short package of chefs looking at each other impressed, like “11 million followers? My gosh that’s incredible.” “Yes, indubitably, 11 million is certainly a very large number of something.”
Yes, and that’s LITERALLY THE ONLY INTERESTING THING ABOUT HIM. Actually I have to give LP credit for annoying me slightly less than I imagined he would. He only got about five minutes of camera time, and other than crowing about loving waffles, wearing a shirt for his TV (web?) show, and dabbing (what’s next, bro? Gangnam Style? some planking? a round of the ol’ knock out game?), he kind of… wasn’t… that bad? When another judge said a dish was meant to “look good but is mostly useless,” Paul piped up “kinda like me.”
Aw, that’s good self-deprecation, kid. You’re going to need that. Otherwise, like all social media stars, he was vaguely grating and had way too much hair. I think those are the main qualifications for tween fame.
13. (-8) ((Eliminated)) Laura Cole — AKA Pioneer Woman, aka Paula Cole, aka Dr. Quinn, aka Ol’ Moose Food
This was a precipitous and kind of disappointing fall for Ol Moose Food, not that it wasn’t entirely deserved. She really plowed her own moose patch this time. She seemed to show potential in the last episode, only to get eliminated with a bad take on a Denver, followed by a failed, runny omelette in the ensuing head-to-head-to-head omelette showdown. Chef Laura managed to choke so badly that the other chefs could barely watch. She ended up serving an omelette so uncooked and runny that Padma said “I’m scared to eat it.”
Oh please, Padma. How many tartares with a raw egg yolk on top have you eaten during the course of this show? There were two in the first episode alone, and this is season 15. It has to be in the triple digits. So don’t act like you’re suddenly worried about salmonella. Anyway, RIP, Laura. I’ll be rooting for her in Last Chance Kitchen, but somehow I doubt more head-to-head cooking is going to be in her wheelhouse. It’s a real shame, she was by far the easiest to write jokes for. And she gets sportsmanship points for not complaining about getting hosed having to waste the first part of the omelette challenge cleaning off a non-stick pan after Tanya stole the last two clean ones.
Unfortunately for Laura, sportsmanship points are not redeemable… for anything, really.
12 (even) ((Eliminated)) Rogelio Garcia — AKA Scholarship, aka Backstory, aka Brogaim
Likewise I’m sad to see El Rogo hit the dusty trail, but this one of the most expected eliminations in all of Top Chef. Since winning honorable mention in the first quickfire with his chorizo stew, Rogelio has been in the bottom of pretty much every challenge. This week, as a member of the “Foodgasm” truck — side note, could you guys maybe think of a food truck name that doesn’t remind me of cum please and thank you? — Rogelio tried to do a twist on Mexican street corn. Only he decided to turn hot deliciously elote into some kind of cold/luke warm cabbage salad. When the judges asked if it was meant to be room temp or cold, Rogelio, ever agreeable, told them it was both, and promptly got kicked off.
Dude. Just make regular Mexican street corn. That’s what you love. That’s what they love. That’s what I love. This felt like a prime example of a chef thinking the food he loves won’t be “upscale” enough to please Lord Tom and Princess Padma. Probably that’s not true, and either way, you’re not going to win over any college students with a light salad made with cabbage. This speaks to a greater truth: No one actually likes fancy food. Even rich people just want to be charged more to justify eating mac and cheese or whatever. You’ll always be much better off cooking your most humblest peasant comfort food and then daring the judges to be racist enough to criticize you for it.
11. (-1) Adrienne Cheatham — AKA Fish, aka Halle Bearnaise, aka Le Bernadin
We know Adrienne must be good on account of she works at Le Bernadin (pronounced with the italics), which the show never stops reminding us. She also gives off the unmistakable air of competence, yet she always seems to land in the bottom third. This week she was on team “Blazin Sammies” (the only good food truck name of the group) with Tu and Chris, where she masterminded the mildly disastrous “one bread” policy. Despite being the one who chose the type of bread specifically for her sandwich, a Harlem chopped cheese, the judges were lukewarm on it (Logan Paul seemed to like it, but his opinions were rightfully disregarded). It sounded pretty good?
I don’t know what Halle Bearnaise is doing wrong, but she better figure it out soon. She works at Le Bernadin, for Christ’s sake.
10. (-1) Brother Luck — AKA Barbershop
What do we do with Brother Luck (yes, for the non-show watchers, that is his real, birth name)? He’s up, he’s down… BroLuck actually won this week’s Denver challenge, giving him immunity. Which he ended up needing on team Foodgasm, where he cooked a thoroughly disappointing fry bread that helped land his team on the bottom. He blamed having to leave his dough out for too long. I want to believe that, though it doesn’t explain why he used “powdered honey.” What the hell is the point of that? The whole point of honey is the texture. We already have “powdered honey,” it’s called sugar. Anyway, he did get a flashback montage of him rocking some sweet cornrows, further justifying his nickname.
9. (-1) Tanya Holland — AKA The Professor, aka Ghost, aka Waffles
Waffles finally got some screen time this episode, with a flashback montage to her opening Brown Sugar Kitchen in then-gritty West Oakland, where chicken and waffles became her most popular menu item. She promptly landed in the bottom three in the quickfire for a weak crepe, putting her in a head-to-head-to-head omelette challenge with the two headcases, Rogelio and Laura. She showed her ruthless streak, snatching up the last two clean non-stick pans (who needs TWO non-stick pans to make an omelette?!) at the beginning of the challenge, forcing the other two to either waste time cleaning or cook in crappy pans, basically winning the challenge before it began. Total veteran move.
Then she bounced back on team “Down the Chin” — STOP (clap hands emoji) REMINDING ME (clap hands emoji) OF CUM (clap hands emoji) — where she dribbled to the top by cooking, what else, chicken and waffles, for a guest hair farmer who just so happened to want to make loving waffles part of his #brand.
Was it skill or kismet? Time will tell, folks, time will tell. In conclusion, America is a land of contrasts.
8. (-1) Chris Scott — AKA Silky, aka Good Damone, aka Amish Soul Food
Silky Chris is my favorite person on this show, but it’s been a while since he was in contention for the lead in a challenge. This week he was middle of the pack in the Denver, then, as part of team Blazin Sammies, kind of got hosed by Adrienne’s one bread policy. All that bread made his fish fry too dry.
A TOO DRY FISH FRY? SAY IT AIN’T SO!
7. (-5) Bruce Kalman — AKA Arthouse Guy Fieri, aka Gnocchis, aka The Dungeon Master
Bruce once again knew the guest judge, proving that maybe he should’ve skipped straight to Top Chef Masters via seniority. I was all ready to call him an early favorite once again, but then he received a harsh burn in the quickfire, via Padma — “Really, Bruce? Gnocchis again?” — followed by a poor showing on team Foodgasm serving a “fat on fat on fat” pork belly grilled cheese. Which actually did look pretty gross. It’s pretty hard to blow it that bad cooking bacon for a corny influencer, who was almost certainly looking for any excuse synergize his brand with the engagement of bacon. On the plus side, we got an editing package of Bruce’s past as a rock guitarist who once opened for Meatloaf. That is pretty rad, and also would explain why he still thinks he can rock a leather wrist cuff and chain wallet.
I want to see Bruce shred on some two-hand tapping solos. Ten bucks says he still knows “Eruption” by heart.
6. (+7) Tu David Phu — AKA Johnny Football, aka Jake Ryan, aka Tu David Phu Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar, aka Tippecanoe And Tu David Phu
Chef Tu bounced back some this week, landing in the top three after the quickfire, though not quite gaining back the social standing he lost after last week’s cringeworthy lamb debacle. He was on team Blazin’ Sammies and made a meatball banh mi, which actually looked really good. Then he got blasted for not enough herbs and the wrong kind of bread (another victim of Adrienne’s callous one-bread policy!). It sounds like his biggest mistake was calling it a “banh mi.”
That’s Top Chef 101, never sabotage yourself with imprecise nomenclature, these judges are nothing if not pedants.
5 (+5) Tyler Anderson — AKA Henry Roll-ins, aka Matt Pinfield, aka T Bone, aka T n A,
Chef Tyler continues to charm, though I don’t exactly remember the funny line he had this episode. He was on eventual winning team Hangover Cure (ehhh, a little on the nose, but it least it doesn’t evoke an image of semen on my face) cooking a tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons, that seemed neither challenge (soup at a food truck?) nor weather (hot soup on a hot day?) appropriate, but the judges loved it. He also got a flashback montage this week, revealing that he found cooking only after realizing that “improvising punk songs” wasn’t a marketable skill.
T Bone isn’t quite in early favorite territory, but he’s winning the “Dude who reminds me of my friends” competition going away.
4. (-3) Joseph Flamm — AKA Joey Cheeks, aka C-Pap, aka Chicago Beef, aka Bob’s Big Boy, aka Flamm Bae, aka InFlammable
C-Pap had a quiet episode this week, staying in the middle of the pack in the quickfire and on the “safe” team (Team… ugh… Down the Chin) in the elimination challenge. Not quite enough to retain his top spot, but a performance that didn’t drop him down too many spots. He made some ribs that Gail (otherwise my favorite judge — I’m a ride or die Gail man) thought weren’t tender enough. Granted I didn’t taste them, but the fetish for ever more tender, even more falling-off-the-bone ribs has gone too far. It’s really not hard to make falling-off-the-bone ribs. And anyway, is that really the highest rib goal? I got teeth, let me chew them shits. Anyway… uh… good job Joe?
3. (even) Carrie Baird — AKA Tots, aka Chee-eese
I honestly had Carrie pegged for early elimination after episode one, when she attempted some disastrous blueberry bruschetta abomination. But she’s hit her stride by finding her wheelhouse and staying in it — cooking proudly dork-ass cheese-filled Mormon food (TINA! COME GET SOME HAM!). She almost won this week’s quickfire (“A Denver omelette! They have that at Denny’s!” she exclaimed Mormonly) cooking a Denver egg sandwich. This after the guest judge claimed that the Denver omelette “began as a sandwich,” whatever the f*ck that means. Thus Carrie wanted to “pay homage to its roots” by cooking… basically exactly what that dude just said. Points for Carrie for knowing how this show really works. You never want to out-creative yourself on Top Chef. You can try to change the entire Denver omelette game, but you’ll probably just end up getting beat by someone cooking a tasty version of the world’s most obvious dish. Flavor beats creativity every time, and as noted above, no one really likes fancy food.
After that, Chee-eese got major demerits for being the one who came up with the most semeny food truck name: “Down the Chin.” But she over-came (heh) that with a well-received juicy Lucy, a hamburger with a cheesy core. A dish that might be a metaphor for Carrie’s whole persona.
2. (+2) Fatima Ali — AKA Chokers, aka Mini-Padma,
Fatima, second maybe only to chef Chris in the Top Chef who seems like they’d be most chill to hang with contest, continued her strong performance this week, staying safe without a win. She was on the winning team, cooking some kind of waffle with rosewater whipped cream situation. Which honestly didn’t sound that good, but I left her high on the list anyway on account of: she had as much equipment trouble as team Jizz On My Food er Foodgasm and it didn’t seem to slow her down, and she seemed to win a waffle showdown against the waffle queen herself (granted they didn’t go head to head).
Also, she seems cool.
1. (+4) Joe Sasto — AKA Mustache Joey, aka Rollie Fingerlings, aka Freddy Mercurioli, aka Blanche
Mustache Joey, repping hard for UC Davis (geaux Aggies, Ladybird sucks), DESTROYED the competition this week with ONE WEIRD TRICK. He blanched his wings with water and baking powder before frying, in the hopes that it would keep them moist inside while getting crispy on the outside. It sounded like a good idea and it worked out. CHICKEN WING HATERS CAN’T STAND THIS ONE WEIRD CHICKEN TRICK. Clickbait jokes this week, sure, whatever.
Mustache Joey gets the top spot this week for cooking good, challenge-appropriate food and for not naming his food truck after sex acts.