This week on Top Chef, the show carted the chefs off to the Stanley Hotel, filming location and alleged inspiration for Stephen King’s The Shining, which we’re told King wrote after staying a night in room 217 while the hotel was otherwise completely empty. Was it for a red rum challenge? Nay, this was the setting for HORROR DESSERTS, in which the chefs were tasked to “visualize your worst nightmare.”
This allowed the show’s editors to indulge all their worst impulses, like adding “spooky” cuts and screeching violin music and kids laughing sound effects and Padma talking about spirits. Finally, a show on basic cable that mentions ghosts! …Hey no, but really, guys, you can stop now. …Any time.
The challenge allowed the contestants to indulge their worst impulses too, whether it be making a dessert that was supposed to look like a dead hiker with his guts splattered on rocks (Cool Chris, see below) or invent a completely fictional childhood fear (of seeds!) to justify a sorta lame dessert (Bruce Bruce).
(Chef Chris’s jagged rock cake with marzipan hiker and sour cream splattered guts)
After that it was the classic “Journey” challenge, where the chefs had to make a dish that represented their personal journey on Top Chef, from dew-faced ingenue to canny veteran who knows blueberries don’t go with bruschetta and how Tom Colicchio likes his peas. This one was guest judged by Colorado governor John Hickenlooper. Because if anyone’s going to judge aspiring chefs harshly on national TV it’s an elected politician, right? People love a critic, that’s why everyone’s always hassling Simon Cowell to run for office. During prep, Tom came in and gave everyone a shape up or ship out pep talk/ass chewing, after last week’s flaccid nacho/dry mac and cheese general debacle.
“I can always bring back two people from Last Chance Kitchen,” Tom warned, and everyone believed him, because they already did exactly that five episodes into the season. Would they really do that?! Of course they would. Nowadays it’s as hard to tell if someone is actually kicked off Top Chef as it is to determine if something is really a catch in the NFL.
Luckily, the food was better. Which was understandable… because… the chefs were cooking for like seven people this week. Last week they were cooking for 300. Do you know how much harder it is to cook for a large group of people? Is no one going to mention this as a factor? No? We’re just going to pretend it was Tom’s pep talk that did it, huh? And not the fact that they didn’t have to try to make 300 portions of nachos? Sure, fine, whatever, they all had independent epiphanies (cut to Bruce saying “I get it now” for the 12 trillionth time). Great job, Tom!
Likewise, did anyone else notice that yet again, all the bad food that got nitpicked to death was served at the end, after the judges were already full? Food always tastes better when you’re hungry! Is no one going to acknowledge this, either? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!
Anyway, read on for power rankings on this, the most on-brand week of Top Chef to date. (I thought I’d start with number one this week, since at this stage in the game, the climax is more about who gets kicked off than who’s on top.)