With Top Chef, you normally expect the stunt challenges to happen early in the season. That’s when they’re still trying to keep people watching and it’s okay if some person goes home for not being able to catch enough grasshoppers because who cares? We hardly know those people anyway. Later in the season, once we already know and have become attached to the remaining chefs, you expect the more conventional cooking challenges.
Not so this season! Last episode, with only four chefs remaining, the producers busted out the testicles. This week, they brought on Chris Cosentino — the Brett Gurewitz of food — to introduce a fly fishing challenge. Why is the guy known for offal (I ate a pig face at his restaurant once, it was great) introducing a fly fishing challenge? Who knows, maybe the original judge got in trouble for sexual assault.
Aaanyway, the chef-testants had 40 minutes to catch, clean, and cook a trout. Which seems fair. Fly fishing, that seems like something one can just pick up, right? I mean why not. Today fly fishing, maybe tomorrow piloting their own helicopter for a boar shooting challenge. I can’t even count how many times I’ve just picked up a fly fishing rod and assumed I’d catch my dinner inside 20 minutes.
Meanwhile it turned out Chris Cosentino actually did know a lot about fly fishing. Or at least, enough to know not to eat Adrienne’s part raw river trout. As he explained it: “There’s an old saying: ‘does a bear shit in the woods?’ They do, they do uphill, and it taints the water. So, fish of this caliber needs to be cooked through.”
Hot damn, did he just combine “does a bear shit in the woods” and “shit flows downhill” into a single adage to explain a real-life situation? What are you, Confucius? I haven’t seen someone take that circuitous a route to a point since Lincoln. Quick, now do the one about the bear and the rabbit running out of toilet paper!
“Do you know the phrase ‘if you’re aunt had balls she’d be your uncle?’ That’s exactly why you have to add a little water to fix a broken emulsion.”
After that display, the contestants headed to the Aspen food and wine festival… Assspenn, where the food and wine flow like wine… where their task was to cook for 200 people. A dish for 200 people, PLUS, no protein, AND they had to cook over a “cowboy stove,” some kind of dangling disk sled filled with charcoal. Luckily, they got to pick sous chefs. Surprise! It was the previously eliminated contestants. Kudos to the show for not even attempting to pitch this like it was a big reveal. Everyone knows every reality show is going to involve at least three reveals where the eliminated contestants show up again.
It was at the Food and Wine festival that they ran into all the heavy hitters, like guest judge Daniel Boulud, the only human whose name must be pronounced with the italics, like Le Bernardin. Oh, and also Jonathan Waxman, who seemed to assume that Adrienne was Bruce’s sous chef and not the other way around (either that or it was some very rude anti-Waxman editing). This comes after Waxman supposedly skipped out on $100k plus in bills when his San Francisco restaurant closed a few months back. Quick, someone get to work on that “Scumbag Waxman” Meme.
In any case, this was a perfect unachievable Top Chef challenge: give us a high-brow Food & Wine Festival dish, but also cook it over an open flame and make sure it tastes like barbecue in two hours. Oh, and no meat!
…All judged, of course, by Padma in her finest Woodstock outfit. That has nothing to do with the unachievable challenge part, I just thought it seemed worth mentioning.
Anyway, there isn’t much left to rank with just one more episode to go, but let’s jump in.