Hello, Gasmii! Damn, this was a doozy. My entomophobia has reached new bounds after being forced to sit through shots of scorpions, crickets, worms and the like and imagining the hell on Earth that would reign if those creatures realized that they outnumber us like, 1,000,000 to 1. Then Naomi emerged victorious, and I started to believe that surely this episode had been a product of a producer’s soul promised to the Morningstar.
Why is it always cold around you, Naomi?
The chef’s enter the kitchen for the Quickfire and find a table covered in edible plants. Hugh identifies some aloe and salsify, but despite his wishful jumping, cannot see what’s hidden behind the palm fronds that are so obviously shielding something on the table. Stonecoldfox enters, positively gleeful that he gets to introduce this challenge and not actually partake in it. He announces that the chefs are going to return to their roots. Everything on the table is edible, including…
These unholy beasts.
Horned worms are introduced and Alex Stratta mutters, “Horned what?” He looks like he can’t believe for a second that he’s gonna have to cook with the insects, and says as much a minute later, when he also mutters that he “can’t fucking do this.” It’s pretty awesome. Also on the table, crickets, darkwing beetles (they earn a “Fuck!” from Traci of the Gardens), night crawlers, and scorpions. Most of the chefs are appalled, but Mary Sue and George seem to have senses of humor about the whole thing. Stonecoldfox announces the benefits eating bugs provides one in the form of protein, iron, calcium and other vitamins that the insects have in spades, and I roll my eyes at this point. Blah, blah, blah, bugs are good for you. I’ve heard that before, and I don’t give a fuck. Let me tell you a story about a cricket that found its way into my room one night. I turned on my light and spied the little fucker under my window sill. I chose my weapon, a broom, and it its mighty ability to hop quickly distances many times its size. It won, and I lost sight of it. But I could still hear its evil cheep from within my room.
I slept on the couch.
I don’t sleep with animals I don’t trust, and I sure as hell don’t eat them.
All the chefs hop to it, but no one is sure exactly what the hell they’re doing. George makes a horn worm and coconut soup, Traci does a scorpion salad, Alex gets over himself a little bit and chops up some beetles for a sauce, Hughnibrow deep fries some crickets to serve with a sunchoke salad for a pretty presentation and Naomi makes a worm salad. She’s also sure to mention that she grew up in Oregon, and they garden there, so she’s not intimidated by nightcrawlers. Naomi, do you meet a lot of people intimidated by slow-moving creatures with no teeth? Celina is the only chef who’s even remotely confident. She’s had crickets in Bangkok before, and they tasted like soy. She’s gonna fry’em up and put them on a salad. Zip zap zop!
I find some new love for John when he interviews that while HE’S never eaten a bug, he used to force his younger brother, Richard, to eat them. Then he turns to the camera and straightfaced apologizes. It’s amazing. He decides to not go the easy route and use the fryer, but instead to grill up some scorpions. Heinous. I hope he wins. Suvir continues to entertain as always. He’s a Hindu and forbidden to take the life of another living thing, so he makes a salad, and puts the horn worms in a jar on the plate. The presentation is complete with the addition of a crème brulee torch, to allow the diner to kill the worms if they so choose.
The worms have no red shoes to gaze at when their life becomes too difficult. I shall give them mercy in place of red shoes.
Time’s up! The judges are Man and Woman of the Wild, Ruth England and Mykel Hawke. I don’t know who these people are because I don’t watch shows that are thinly veiled attempts to prepare me for the Apocalypse. It’s pessimistic. Of course Naomi cheers when she sees Ruth and Mykel, probably because she watches their show thinking, “I could totally do that.” Her dish is tempura worms and elderflower salad Mykel calls the best worm he’s ever eaten. Pfft, whatever. Hugh’s fried crickets and sunchoke puree is another hit, but it doesn’t look as good as Celina’s crickets and salsify. Mykel, who, first of all, sounds like a cross between Anderson Cooper and Slingblade, grunts articulately that generally crickets are served legless. That knowledge is completely and utterly useless to me.
When it comes time to torch Suvir’s jar’o worms, Ruth calls the dish a copout, but Mykel steps up and burns one of the little suckers to a delicious crisp. He likes them, but considering he cooked them, it doesn’t look good for Suvir. John’s scorpions and Mary Sue’s Thai salad with beetle vinaigrette are more big hits, with Traci’s salad, Floyd’s worm omelette, and Alex’s beetle angel hair falling somewhere in the middle. In the end, Hughnibrow takes the win and immunity, while Suvir, even after explaining his religious beliefs, is in the bottom, along with George. Ruth and Mykel are totally sweet and entertaining when explaining their thoughts, and it’s nice to see judges unlike Kellis that aren’t taking the opportunity to be mouthy to incredibly successful people.
I sure do love them French fried nightcrawlers.
With that nasty business out of the way, it’s finally onto the elimination challenge. It was at this point I told myself that if it involved further insect carnage, I was going to turn this shit off and respectfully decline to recap. We all have our limits. I were Willie Scott during the bug passage scene in “Temple of Doom” I would have simultaneously vomited and passed out, leaving Indy and Short Round to certain death.
Luckily, I wasn’t Willie, and the elimination challenge is a simple charity dinner. Each chef is to create a dish, and the diners will choose their favorites from the menu, or which dish they would pay $100 for. The winning dish will get that money plus the $10,000 prize for their charity. Traci of the Gardens wisely surmises that when something looks simple on Top Chef, the chefs are usually being led like lambs to the slaughter. She’s right, of course, as Curtis announces that throughout the challenge, certain surprise roadblocks will be thrown up in the way of success. Of course. Anyone else think that this is a bigger copout than Suvir the Merciful’s worm jar?
Instead of wasting time coming up with creative and interesting challenges to test your mettle, the producers have decided to mess with you so they can more fully convince themselves of their omnipotence.
The chefs are told they have three hours to prep, and they will only be able to use what’s in the Top Chef pantry. All ten immediately rush to the fridges to take stock of what’s available, and Hughnibrow volunteers to do the last dessert since he has immunity. Whoa, what do you know? Someone who used their immunity intelligently. Naomi takes the lead (shocking), and reasons that since she was the leader of a winning team, she knows what it takes to win. Naomi has conveniently forgotten that while her team was diner’s choice, the judges did not agree. I’ll bet Naomi conveniently forgets a lot of things. Like her close friendships disintegrating because of how incredibly obnoxious she is.
Alex, in the nicest way he can, but through some seriously gritted teeth, explains that while he appreciates Naomi’s take-charge attitude, she likes to hear herself talk. Cut to Naomi barking at John, asking if he can do a hot app or a pasta. He decides to do risotto, and I immediately worry for him. Making risotto on “Top Chef” is one of those reality television no-nos, like singing Whitey Huston on “American Idol” or drinking on “The Real World.” It never ends well.
All the chefs start prepping as Naomi makes sure the menu is correct by shouting it out over the din in the kitchen. All the chefs roll their eyes at yet another desperate grasp for attention that matches her skirt and earrings.
Does everyone know I’m important? IF YOU CAN’T HEAR ME GET CLOSER!
Celina’s doing a chocolate pudding and ginger doughnut that sounds delicious, though I wish she’d stop insisting everyone call it puddin’. The word puddin’ makes people cute, not desserts. Her reasons for picking a dessert even though she doesn’t make a lot of desserts (uh-oh), is that she screwed up on her last dessert, so she wants to redeem herself. I smell trouble, and it smells like chocolate puddin’.
Just as everyone’s getting started, the first roadblock arises – there’s no water! Okay, that’s kind of hilarious. Mostly because Floyd is working with raw fish (sole) and can’t wash his hands. Gross! George interviews that the water challenge is ironic considering his charity is CharityWater.org. It brings water to people that don’t have it to drink, and that’s just awesome.
The other chefs get to melting ice and other creative ways of getting water, while Naomi just yells that she needs water for her soup, so if anyone has extra, would they pretty please share? She interviews that she can make cream of celery soup with five ingredients, and it’s not very complicated. This will enable her to step away periodically and help with other things, like setting up the dining room. I’m sure I don’t need to point out that no one asked her to do any of this.
All of the chefs are pretty panicked at the thought of no water and possibly having way more work to do in throwing the party together like they thought, so of course it’s time for Suvir to wax philosophical about why he never loses his Zen quality. I never tire of this. He believes that since he never trained in a kitchen, kitchens are calm and therapeutic for him. I’m not sure where he learned to cook, but I’m sure finding out will only make me love him more.
Sitting on a giant mushroom smoking a hookah?
It’s time for another curve ball as Stonecoldfox enters and announces that the prep time will be cut short by 30 minutes. Suckage. This causes most of the chefs to simply wind up and move a little faster, but it screws John out of his garnish. He’s pretty pissed, so I’ll bet it was going to be tasty…
Amidst the chaos, Naomi is shouting out what tables are where and how many seats they have. As she hauls plates to an expo station, she interviews that she’s spending most of her time strategizing about the layout of the restaurant, how she’s going to time everything and how she’s going to place her servers. That last bit proves to be pretty irrelevant when Stonecoldfox announces another curveball – no servers! My front of house heart leaps to the top of my chest and I fist pump yelling, “At long last, back of house! AT LONG LAST YOU SHALL KNOW.”
Hughnibrow steps up to “help” Naomi lead, but it really just creates a giant shitshow when it comes to make a plan for plating everyone’s food and setting up the expo station. Poor Mary Sue runs around the kitchen just wondering where to put her sad little triangle plates, but nobody can seem to help her. I get the feeling Hughnibrow just got sick of Naomi’s pompous bitchery, and stepped up to knock her down a peg or two. I fully support this.
My brow gives me secret powers.
Naomi starts yelling that she thinks everyone needs to be finished with their dishes so they can all chip in and help with service. Traci of the Gardens rolls her eyes, yells that that’ll be impossible with proteins and goes back to work. She interviews that Naomi’s stupidly trying to boss around a bunch of people who aren’t used to being bossed around, but she has better things to do than get involved in kitchen politics. Also because Naomi has no power over her. Traci of the Gardens is mighty.
I can’t wax about Traci’s awesomeness for long, because the guests arrive! Hughnibrow immediately starts expo-ing and Mary Sue’s tuna ceviche on a plantain chip is first up. (That shit’s delicious, btw. Did I mention that I’ve worked for Mary Sue? It’s like I’m on the show:. She’s pretty confident having made ceviche for 25 years, and with that, the dinner is off and running. Hughnibrow and Naomi continue attempting to work together as the other chefs serve food and pour wine.
It’s the same Critic’s Table as usual, but Ruth is absent and replace by one of James’ old intern, Alan Sytsma.
He is exactly as attractive I believe James was at that age.
Mary Sue introduces her dish, and I’m sorry to say that while the judges adore Mary Sue’s presentation, they are less than impressed with her ceviche. Alan even goes so far as to say that the avocado added to the dish reminds him of a bad guacamole. You know what, Alan? Your face reminds me of a bad guacamole. Sorry, that was childish.
Next up is Suvir with another chaat. He calls it a dish that’s designed to educate the palate as well as please it, and I’m curious as to why Suvir’s on some kind of weird mission to foster chaat love in the West. Regardless, the judges love it, though there is some mincing bullshit about Suvir not getting out of his comfort zone. George serves a Portuguese shrimp “alhinho,” and if anyone knows what that means, speak now or condemn me to witlessness. I’m sure I’d like it, though. It involves pickled carrots and I’ve eaten a jar of those straight no chaser. It’s too salty, but the judges like it for the most part.
When Naomi’s turn comes up, Suvir comments that the sheer simplicity of her celery soup might count as a point against her and I pray he is right. I feel like Naomi’s worried about that, too, because she doesn’t introduce cream of celery soup, but instead calls it celery veloute. Bitch, please. You made something Campbell’s cornered the market on decades ago and that’s that. Unfortunately everyone fucking loves it, and I’m left to hope that while the diners are licking their bowls, they won’t convince themselves that anyone would pay $100 for soup.
I don’t care if that’s condor plasma drizzled on top.
John’s shitake prosciutto risotto is amazing and prepared perfectly. Before I think that he’s managed the impossible and created a risotto that won’t get him sent home, James whines that John hasn’t challenged himself. Because a five ingredient soup is so very taxing. Shut up, James.
For the fair to middling rounds, Floyd’s rice flaked sole is delicious but his broth is overpowering. I think that’s some out of the box work – when’s the last time you had an overpowering broth? Alex’s salmon with gazpacho veggies is good, but the salmon isn’t cooked very evenly across the board, so he gets mixed results. Inside the kitchen, Hughnibrow and Naomi aren’t working very well together, and he interviews that they’re both trying to be in total control. Naomi interviews… nothing. Why? Because she doesn’t have anything to say. When you ignore people who have a problem with you it’s like the problem doesn’t exist! Hugh was definitely being temperamental, but at least he’s recognizing the issue. Hughnibrow is what I like to call, “functioning.”
Traci’s ribeye is a simple home run ribeye, but it doesn’t blow anybody out of the water. After that, it’s time for desserts. Hugh presents a panna cotta that I want to bathe in, and it’s received with the appropriate positivity.
For someone whose aesthetic choices are questionable, this dessert is very, very pretty.
Closing the evening is Celina’s cocoa puddin’, and I’m sorry to say that it’s grainy and decidedly unappetizing. Sucks for her, because on this show, two bad desserts usually equals three strikes and knife packin’. Time for the judgin’.
See, Celina? It’s annoyin’.
The chefs sit down for some wine and Stoli and congratulate themselves on a job well done. Stonecoldfox congratulates them as well and calls in Suvir and Naomi. AND THEN NAOMI WINS! 43% of the most fiscally irresponsible diners in the world gave said they would pay $100 for Naomi’s soup. Suvir’s dish got 40% of the vote, but I don’t even care that he’s safe. All I can deal with at the moment is that the judges awarded over $10,000 to Naomi’s charity, Seed Savers Exchange. What’s that, you ask? Why it’s a marvelous and benevolent organization that distributes seeds! All manner of seeds to any who ask! There’s some bullshit about the seeds being heirloom seeds and the charity’s mission to protect biodiversity, and I’m not at all surprised that Naomi is worried about everyone in the world being able to grow cucumbers while George Mendes wants to make sure people have WATER.
Reason Number 11: Lame charity.
Stonecoldfox congratulates Naomi, I burp in response and he asks her to send him John, Celina and (oh no!) Mary Sue. Now I’m worried. I think chances are good that Celina is going home, but a soup just made $1800 in an hour, so I think my instincts are off. The judges run through the flaws of each dish, which are all pretty simple – Mary Sue’s ceviche was bland and tasted too much of pickled onions. Pfft, I think that’s a good thing. John’s risotto was perfectly made, but not out of the box enough. So he’s in the bottom? That seems weird to me. Especially when Alex sent out uneven salmon topped with tortilla chips. Finally, Celina’s puddin’ was bland and had a crappy texture. They ask her why she continued to do desserts when obviously it’s not her forte, and James tells her to get out of Dessertville. I would like to know who told James Oseland that he could make up words, but this is the second episode in a row he’s offended my ears. I know I make up words, but I work for TVGasm and he works for Saveur. I’m allowed.
The judges hem and haw for awhile, agreeing that this dinner was a “highlights” dinner and none of the chefs before them offered anything worth $100. The bottom three are called back in, and after another round of wristslapping for bland fish, gritty puddin’ and boring risotto, it’s revealed that JOHN CURRENCE IS GOING HOME.
This man is excellent at hiding his rage.
You’ve got to be frigging kidding me. How is chocolate pudding more innovative than risotto? How is poorly made chocolate pudding less of a loser than perfectly made risotto?? How is a genial southern man who forced his brother to eat bugs more worthy of elimination than a staid, boring counterpart? Total. B. S.
John is so sweet on his way out – his pride is hurt, but he’s very, very happy to be part of what he calls a carnival freakshow of magnificence. He tearfully tells the chefs that he loves them, and marches out the door.
Total. B. S.
Don’t worry kids, your seed heritage will remain intact.