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Top Chef Power Rankings, Week 7: Waithe Waithe Don’t Tell Me

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Welcome to your Top Chef Power Rankings for week seven. “Carne!” was the actual episode title, but here are some additional suggestions:

AKA: Talk Beefy To Me
AKA: Where’s The Beef?
AKA: Waithe Waithe Don’t Tell Me
AKA: Less Frou-Frou More Soul
AKA: Xantham Gum?? …Get A Rope
AKA: Honey They Shrunk The Cow
AKA: It Never Got Beefy Enough For Me
AKA: What Can Brown Do For You

This week, the chefs got to work with legendary Tuscan butcher Dario Cecchini, a guy I first heard about when Bill Buford went to work for him in Heat (a wonderful food book). On the show he mostly showed up as the crazy Italian man who constantly shouts “Carne,” and, frankly, I could’ve done without the editing package of six different competitors saying “Carne!” like Dario.

Yeah, yeah, we get it, carne. How much better would it have been if Dario had a bad Italian accent from the twenties? And all of the judging had been done in it? Bran-done: You beef-a so small. Why you make-a Tom-a Colicchio cry?

The fun thing about Italian is that you can ask an Italian how to say a phrase, and then repeat it back to them in the most exaggerated Chef Boyardee accent possible as a joke and they’ll just be like “Yes! A-just-a like-a this!” (*hand motion like holding an invisible hawk by the feet*)

The show also did that thing this week where they give the chefs an absurdly short amount of time to cook a thing and then berate them for not cooking things that take much longer. I can’t believe you didn’t cook me a standing rib roast! For Christ’s sake you had an entire hour!

Actually, the chefs had two hours to butcher AND cook their meat cuts. What the hell? Come on, we watch this show for persnickety judging, not unfair judging (“You call this a gougére, you cretin? What, did your mother give birth in a stable?”).

Before the butchery session, Lena Waithe showed up to guest judge the quickfire, and if we’re being honest, the editing package where the contestants fluff the judge’s resume was a little sad this time. “Oh man, Lena Waithe! She’s killing it right now, she’s been in, uh… Ready Player One…”

You could tell Eric didn’t really want to bring up Ready Player One as Lena’s only credit but he knew it was the most well known (either that or he felt conflicted about the Aziz Ansari controversy when he thought of Master of None — ed). Nonetheless, Lena was game, there to host a hot brown challenge, in which the chefs were tasked with reimagining the hot brown — an open-faced turkey sandwich covered in mornay sauce, made famous by the Brown Hotel in Louisville. That challenge had rules that were nicely specific — has to have turkey, a sauce, and be plated in a skillet. It’s nice when challenges are specific!

Anyway, it feels like the favorites are starting to crystallize. Call your bookie today!

Results:

Quickfire Challenge Top: Justin*, Eddie, Adrienne
Quickfire Challenge Bottom: Brian, Sara, Kelsey

Elimination Challenge Top: Justin, Adrienne, Eddie*
Elimination Challenge Bottom: Sara, Brandon, Brian

*winner.

1. (+2) Eddie Konrad — AKA: Smiles. AKA: The Accountant. AKA: Seppuku. AKA: Sweaty Eddie. AKA: Calamity. AKA: Nice Guy Eddie.

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Eddie is really starting to pull away as both the favorite to win the competition and my heart. After the first episode I honestly just assumed that he’d be the easiest to make jokes about. Instead, he’s out there sweating his ass off, his skin making a crinkling sound like aluminum foil every time he has to smile, but it’s really those moments you live for as a viewer, and they seem to be happening more and more often now that he keeps winning.

This week Eddie made a healthy-ish hot brown (some kind of salad with torn sourdough bread?) and some ground brisket wrapped in romaine lettuce. The latter he said was… a glumpky? I thought he said blumpkin but I know that can’t be right.

Here it is: I’m seeing galumpki, golabki, golumpki, glumpki… maybe that’s why contemporary Polish cuisine hasn’t caught on, no one can spell it. Well, that and they keep trying to put screen doors on the submarine sandwiches. There’s a little outdated race humor for you.

2. (+1) Eric Adjepong — AKA: Ghana. AKA: Sports. AKA: Spader.

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This whole time I’ve been thinking of Eric as the cool guy student council president, but he started off this episode dancing way too hard on Brother Luck’s grave. “Thank God he’s gone, he wasn’t one of us.” Whoa, easy there, James Spader, wasn’t the guy doing exactly what you’re doing one year ago?

That being said, why is Eric ranked so high? I don’t know, call it a hunch. He didn’t land in the top or bottom at all again this episode, but the judges seemed to like his braised jowl dish, and seemed to object mainly to the fact that he made a mousse with his beef tongue. “Those little dots of tongue? Really?” Tom asked derisively, making a dismissive wanking motion with his hand.

Eric’s food has looked consistently good all season, I have to think he’s going to put it all together eventually.

3. (-1). David Viana — AKA: Maybe. AKA: Superfan. AKA: Mouse.

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David has been a favorite throughout most of this competition but this is his second off week in a row, thanks to a wack tartare that guest judge Nancy Silverton said was like eating raw hamburger meat. I guess that crudo rule doesn’t apply to beef. Also, it’s generally bad when your food looks like Roger Ailes’ genitals. Even worse, David used chipotle in his dish, which he pronounced “chi-POLE-tay.”

Does anyone else feel like East Coast people are deliberately mispronouncing this just to piss me off? Come on, man! Jack in the Box had an entire ad campaign to teach this one! And you’re a chef! After you eat your chi-pole-tay are you going to drink an expresso and head to the liberry?

Is David’s fall a momentary lapse or a sign that he’s circling the drain? Hard to tell, but I’m not quite ready to put The Weez or Hollow Bones in the top three yet so David goes here.

4. (+4) Justin Sutherland — AKA: New Spike. AKA: Cheech. AKA: Slick. AKA The Weez. AKA: Bacon.

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Justin won the quickfire with his “Kentucky Fried Breakfast Brown,” a dish that sounds like a jazz scat cooked by a guy who looks like he does a lot of jazz scatting. I have to give him credit though, that was probably the best-named dish this season, and you have to respect that perfectly symmetrical whale’s eye of a sunnyside up egg he put on top of it.

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I don’t think I’ve ever seen an egg look like that before. He won that challenge and then asked Lena Waithe for a hug. Oh, you’re gonna be the asks-celebrities-for-hugs guy now? Smh.

Anyway, The Weez followed his hot brown win with a top-three finish in the elimination challenge, cooking up a flank steak that the judges loved and giving him two top-three finishes in a row. Justin is starting to seem like a favorite, but I just can’t assume a consistent performance from a guy who wears a fedora and constantly talks about weed.

Justin seems like if his restaurants go under he could always get a job cooking for Terrence Howard.

5. (+2) Adrienne Wright — AKA: NPR. AKA: Dangles. AKA: Hollow Bones.

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Plucky Adrienne is still in this competition, landing, like Justin, in the top three of both challenges this episode though she won neither. I don’t know where to put Adrienne. She’s up, she’s down, she has a very nasally voice… She seems like a possibility for the finals as long as she doesn’t have to open any jars.

6. (-1) Michelle Minori — AKA: Screen Time. AKA: Who? AKA: Yung Shaman.

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Oh hey, is Michelle still here? Sorry, Michelle, we weren’t sure if you’d left. Michelle did a braised chuck that the judges called “quite dry” over grits that they said were “coagulated.” Oh well. Braised chuck seems like exactly the kind of dish the judges claimed they wanted this episode, only once they got it realized that you can’t really braise chuck in that short a time.

Anyway, Michelle. What do you say about Michelle? She’s the competitor who eventually murders someone and you think “see, it’s always the quiet ones.”

7. (-1) Kelsey Barnard Clark — AKA: Wine Mom. AKA: Elle Woods. AKA: Roll Tide. AKA: Can I Speak To Your Manager?

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Kelsey told a fascinating story this week about how she went to France and ate a croque madame and it was very important to her because now she owns a sandwich shop where she sells croques madames.

Tommy Wiseau

Fine, not everyone can do extemporaneous parables like Daniel Day-Lewis’s Abe Lincoln, okay? Kelsey started off rocky in the hot brown round, where she had her vinaigrette ridiculed by Padma. “You call this a sauce, stupid?”

I don’t want to have the whole hot dog/sandwich debate over again, but a vinaigrette does seem like a type of sauce to me…

Anyway, that faux pas landed Kelsey on the bottom for the quickfire but she came roaring back in the elimination challenge to finish… not on the bottom. Good for her. Kelsey seems solidly middle pack at this stage of the competition.

8. (+1) Sara Bradley — AKA: Party Mom. AKA: One-Upper. AKA: Abe Fro-ma’am.

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Have you noticed Party Mom turns into Eddie at any mention of Kentucky food? Suddenly her insecurities are plainly on display. She saw Justin hogging the spotlight during the introduction of the hot brown challenge and she just couldn’t handle it. “Ooh, Ooh, pick me! I have a hot brown on my menu too!”

Then she confidently told the cameras “I’m sure I do a better hot brown than Justin,” before attempting to do a scotch egg hot brown that she couldn’t get on the plate in time and was subsequently disqualified (while Justin went on to win). Dammit, Sara, just cheat! What’s going to happen if you put your last scotch egg on the plate two seconds after Padma says “hands up?” You think they’d call the cops? I’m pretty sure it’s fine. We’re making food, not curing childhood diseases.

After undercooking her sausage in the quickfire, Sara doubled down on sausage in the elimination challenge and the same thing happened. Double sausage?? What are you, Abe Fro-ma’am, the sausage queen of Kentucky?

Sara’s sausage casings were too thicc (trust me I know the feeling) and her dish left Padma saying “I’m underwhelmed.”

Sara needs a win, badly, and I hope she gets it because it’s going to get a lot harder to write this when only Adrienne and Michelle are left in the competition.

9. (+1) AKA: The Hair. AKA: Hipster Joe Flamm. AKA: Slouches The Wonder Butcher. AKA: Cool Lurch. AKA: Dry Guy.

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Has anyone else noticed that Brian sounds like Droopy Dog on quaaludes? Except not slurry or sloppy or anything, just… extremely slow and nasal, like Droopy Dog giving a deposition.

Favorite Moment of This Week’s Show: Tom Colicchio gives Brian what seems like a very important piece of advice when he says “just be yourself.” To which Brian responds, “Oui, chef.”

That’s right, he responded to an admonition to “just be yourself” in a foreign language. That is just (*Dario Cecchini kissing fingers*).

I don’t know how the hell Brian hasn’t gotten eliminated yet. He billed himself as the show’s butcher and in this week’s butchering-centric challenge the reviews he received on his dish included “I’m just confused.” “Over seared on the outside and then raw on the inside.” “I don’t know how you can cook a piece of meat this poorly.”

“I don’t know how you can cook a piece of meat this poorly.” I think if they’d taken into account that it was a butcher cooking a piece of meat this poorly, Brian would’ve gone home. Someone must’ve really blown it to outdo Brian, which brings us to…

10. (-6)((Eliminated)) Brandon Rosen — AKA: Heydrich. AKA: Biff. AKA: Shhhh.

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Ah, Brandon. To be honest, he never lived up to his initial promise of being this season’s villain, though he does mouth his words like he has to chew them first. Brandon, unfortunately, lived up to one of my iron-clad Top Chef truisms: that once you break out the molecular gastronomy kit, you’re lost. That goes double if you’re only breaking it out to try to salvage something you screwed up, like Brandon this episode.

These were the judges’ faces when Brandon revealed that he’d just xantham gum in his steak tartare sauce:

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Mmm, that’s some good Top Cheffing. Xantham gum!? …Get a rope.

The whole time he was getting dressed down, Brandon infuriatingly never explained the fact that he’d only used xantham gum because the cap fell off his grapeseed oil and ruined his sauce at the last minute. It was like watching early seasons of Lost where three episode arcs could’ve been resolved if only one character would just explain the thing we just saw happen. For this sin, I sentence Brandon to five hours of listening to obnoxious Claire scream Australianly.

Oh well. Adios, Brandon. It seems my punishment for villainizing you is having to try to come up with burns about Michelle.

Vince Mancini is on Twitter. You can find his archive of reviews here.

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