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Here we are you guys — the Top Chef episode that’ll determine who will make it to the Final Four. Left in the running are Richard, Yoda, Antonia, Evangelass, and Fleasa. That means either Evangelass or Fleasa are going home this week, right? Right?! After last week’s elimination, I’ve learned not to assume anything, but as a warning, I may have to boycott this show — and these recaps — if someone else other than one of those two gets eliminated this week. Mostly because I will have thrown my laptop through my TV, and won’t be able to watch it or write about it.
Might I suggest you figure this out with a little game of Russian Roulette?
After the normal opening minutes babble, the chefs head off to Allen Brothers, a beef supplier, where they find butcher gear waiting for them as well as an unidentified woman and no hide nor hair of Scar. This is the second QF in a row that lazy bitch has slept through. Putting on a hair net like a SARS mask because he’s “funny” and “crazy” (read: giant douchebag) like that, Evangelass is confident he can handle whatever the Quick Fire is because he has a “strain of butchery” in him. Wow, that sentence would have been so different coming from Fleasa. I’m just glad they waited to have this QF until after Twitch was out of there. He would have gone all “Delicatessen” on their asses.
They walk into a warehouse-plant setup, where each chef is giving a rack of long-bone ribeye. The QF is to cut individual chops from the racks of ribeye, making sure the bone is frenched (scraped clean). With 20 minutes on the clock, they begin — and most immediately run into problems as they realize how hard it is to literally cut through the meat. As Yoda’s swearing and flailing around, Evangelass seems to be sailing through this one with ease as he removes the aged parts of the meat and quickly begins separating the chops before cleaning them. He brags to us a bit, and when time is called he turns to the other chefs and announces he “rocked it” like a triumphant child. How they’ve refrained from punching him in the nuts is beyond me.
“About 8″ long, 2″ wide… When the Chicago nights are cold and lonely, I find this is good company.”
However, instead of evaluating the chops and choosing a winner, unidentified butcher lady sends them back to the Top Chef kitchen with their steaks. Looks like they’re also a cooking aspect to this QF. Sure enough, Scar and this week’s guest judge — Rick Tramonto, chef/owner of Tru and Tramonto’s — are waiting for them when they arrive. The second part of this challenge is to cook the chops, medium rare. They’ll be judged on the butchery and the doneness of the meat, rather than taste or preparation, which seems a little counterintuitive to me. If Bravo continues in this direction with its challenges, the “Project Runway” contestants will find their asses sitting in front of a loom next season.
Scar sends them off, and Richard races around fast enough to make Hung proud. Now this is a pretty boring QF to watch since they’re all basically standing around, cooking steaks. Fleasa tells us this should be second-nature, but with the pressure of the competition you can make mistakes. Evangelass’s secret is to pop the steaks in the oven towards the end, and Richard whines about not having time to stick his steaks in a water bath and about having to do it the old-fashioned way. I feel like whenever he’s out of his element, he whines about the parameters of the challenge preventing him from doing something totally awesome so it’s the challenge’s fault, not his, that he’s sucking. Man up, Blais!
Yoda, who looks like a plump, prepubescent boy in a backwards baseball hat, splatters grease all over Fleasa as she’s cooking her steaks — not like the latter seems to mind. Yoda decides it’s a greater sin to overcook rather than undercook, and pulls her steaks early. Antonia, meanwhile, is taking a page from the unidentified butcher lady’s book and is basting her steaks with love juice.
“Ooh, more grease! Thanks, man!”
Scar races in, screaming time is up (looks like the extra beauty sleep makes her feisty). She and Rick make their rounds, and besides asking the chefs what method of preparation they used, Rick doesn’t really say anything as he inspects the cut and doneness of each steak. Although I have absolutely no idea what the fuck I’m talking about (which is nothing new), I’d say Evangelass’s look the best in terms of cut, and Antonia’s look the best in terms of doneness. I’d pick Yoda for worst cut, and Richard for worst level of doneness. Then again, as long as it’s not still mooing, I’ll eat any steak so I’m a horrible judge of this. Thanks, Rick, for giving us some idea of what you’re thinking.
Sidenote: I know the primary qualification of guest judges is their pedigree (ignoring Sam last week), but is it not possible to also find someone with a personality? With a few exceptions like Bourdain, so many of these guest judges are pouty, pissy looking lumps especially during the QFs. I don’t know if they take themselves too seriously or many just have the personality of a salad spinner, or what. I’d much rather have the same core four judges — Scar, Daddy Tom, Gail, and Ted — every week than these useless guests. And end rant.
The chefs gather for the results. Rick calls out Yoda for being the worst, saying her cut was terrible and it was definitely undercooked. He also calls out Richard for inconsistent butchery and undercooked meat. Rick then praises Fleasa, Evangelass, and Antonia, focusing on Evangelass’s butchery and Antonia’s level of doneness. Huh, maybe I do know a little bit about what I’m talking about! Rick gives the overall win to Evangelass, which again thankfully does not come with immunity. It does come with him treating us to more of his douchebaggery as he melodramatically flails around when Scar reminds him they still can send his ass home.
Anyone else notice his head looks a bit like these chops — bulbous at the bottom and sticking straight up at the top? I’m sure this is the first and last time Blais will ever be called a meathead.
Time for the Elimination Challenge. Scar announces they’re entrusting the chefs with something very precious to Rick — and surprisingly she doesn’t mean his Rogaine kit. Each chef will be making an appetizer and an entree for Tramonto’s, based on the ingredients they find in the restaurant’s kitchen. As the QF winner, Evangelass gets first pick of the proteins for both courses — which hopefully will land him in the bottom again for trying to screw over everyone else.
Back at home, Evangelass is still bragging about how well he did at the QF, while the ladies admirably do not stab him with their steak knives. He tells us he thinks Yoda is the strongest female, but it’s “debatable” between Antonia and Fleasa — with Antonia deserving to go home more. What?? This man is so fucking stupid — but I guess that was apparent the moment he decided to adopt a nickname only appropriate on bull dogs and cartoon villains. I guess we should consider ourselves lucky he didn’t go with Gargamel.
Very early — before daylight — the next morning, the chefs head out to Tramonto’s in Wheeling (a suburb north of the city, which is also home to my favorite restaurant, Bob Chinn’s Crab House). They’ll have three hours to make their appetizers and entrees. Evangelass immediately has to pick his proteins, and goes with the same tomahawk chop steaks from the QF, as well as frozen scallops — a choice which surprises Yoda, Fleasa and Richard, the latter of whom amusingly pokes at the bag when Evangelass turns his back. Even I’m confused as to why this idiot wouldn’t pick something fresh — it seems like he had decided ahead of time he was doing scallops, and stubbornly stuck with the plan despite only frozen scallops being available. Flexibility anywhere, including the kitchen, is crucial but if this can get him eliminated, I’m all for it. Bring on the freezer burn!
“Are you alive, little scallops?”
Fleasa tells us she initially wanted scallops, but since they look so bad (she’s capable of recognizing that condition?), she’s going with shrimp and NY strip steaks instead. To go with her steak, Fleasa is working on peanut butter mashed potatoes, which sounds only slightly less icky than butterscotch scallops. The stress is evidently getting to Yoda, who’s now babbling the entire plot of “Return of the Jedi” to herself while preparing her sweetbreads appetizer and tenderloin entree. She tells us that while sweetbreads are often considered gross — since they’re the thymus glands of veal — they can taste just like a chicken nugget if prepared right. Well that explains what the hell McDonald’s is sticking in those things. White meat, my ass. Richard is also using sweetbreads, paired with some hamachi fish for his appetizer, and he chooses beef tenderloin for his entree. Finally, Antonia is making a warm mushroom/egg salad appetizer and a bone-in ribeye entree.
Things are going smoothly so far, as the chefs dance around each other in the unfamiliar kitchen and try to figure out what the hell they’re making. Fleasa lightly complains that her back is on fire and she means it literally — as Antonia has the door of the wood-burning stove open to allow it to breathe and get hotter. Antonia somewhat reluctantly closes the door a bit, saying she doesn’t want the fire to die. Fleasa jokes, “What about me? What if I die?” To which Antonia offhandedly and awesomely answers: “Well then I guess you’re not going to Puerto Rico, Fleasa!” She’d sound more concerned if she was talking about the likelihood of Ashlee and Pete Wentz’s marriage surviving its first year.
Meanwhile, Evangelass’s frozen scallop decision is coming back to bite him in his presumably hairy ass, as he sees they’re all torn and water-logged. He grabs rolls of paper towels to dry them off with, but he’s definitely looking the most screwed so far.
The hats, the creepy pedophile vibe, and now 1 white glove… Evangelass’s transformation into Michael Jackson is almost complete.
Daddy Tom, fresh from his philanthropic endeavors (I usually have more self-esteem than this, but I’m definitely willing to be a charity case if that’s what he goes for), is in the house! He stops by Antonia first, and asks her if Evangelass’s choices affected her in any way. She admits she would have possibly picked scallops, but once she saw they were frozen, they were all his. Both she and DT share a chuckle over Evangelass’s stupidity before he moves on to Yoda and Richard. His chat with Yoda is uneventful, but DT manages to ruffle Richard’s fauxhawk when he basically accuses him of playing it safe (which I would agree he has been lately). Turning to Fleasa, DT is clearly concerned about the peanut butter mashed potatoes, and calls the concept “interesting” — which Fleasa accurately calls out as a DT euphemism for “you’re going to fucking poison me, aren’t you?”
He finally gets to Evangelass to chat about the frozen scallops. Evangelass admits they’re not the quality he would have liked, but then announces that he has no problem using frozen scallops in general — earning a very judgmental look from Daddy Tom who clearly disagrees. Trying to brazen it out, Evangelass declares that if he can make the scallops look good, he can make anything look good — and DT quickly agrees. At this point, unless Fleasa’s peanut butter mashed potatoes make DT hurl, Evangelass looks like the clear loser.
Daddy Tom announces there’s one hour left before service, and that he’ll be serving as the expo in the kitchen — basically the person who takes the final look over the dish between the kitchen and the servers, sometimes plating the separate elements or adding final touches. A good expo can make or break a kitchen for both servers and guests, and having DT in that role should prove interesting. As everyone’s finishing up their dishes, they each reiterate for the millionth time that they don’t want to be the one who misses the finals by one person. Richard tells us he’s failed at a lot of things in life — one obviously being personal grooming — and he definitely does not want to fail at this. He wants to make future baby Blais’s proud, dammit!
“Maybe if I cover the scallops with dog food, no one will notice how much I’ve yet again fucked up my QF advantage…”
Service time arrives, and Daddy Tom quickly introduces the chefs to the three “special guests” for this EC — previous Top Chef winners Harold, Ilan, and Hung (looking extra-tranny tonight). While Harold and Hung are dressed nicely, Ilan stays true to form by wearing a slouchy, wrinkled open button-down shirt over a graphic tee. You know he thinks he’s too fucking cool for this. I’ll say it right now — I HATE Ilan. I’d rather marry Evangelass and be Fleasa’s BFF than spend one minute with this asshat. DT lets them all give advice, with Harold telling them to stay true to themselves, Hung advising them not to give a shit if everyone hates them, and Ilan telling them not to assault any fellow chef and prove you have the class and intellect of a dung beetle.
Rick, Scar and Gail’s gold-draped breasts show up as Hung licks his lips in appreciation. Anyone’s guess which one he’s looking at. Fleasa’s chilled shrimp appetizer is reviewed first, and has numerous problems, including a fishy taste. Let’s just say I’m not surprised and leave it at that. The judges rave about Richard’s hamachi/sweetbreads dish, with Rick saying he would put it on his menu in a heartbeat and even Ilan crawling out of his cave of superiority to compliment it. Up next are Evangelass’s scallops — which he thinks taste awesome but are vaguely critiqued by the judges as they can’t quite figure out what’s wrong with the dish. Hint: Evangelass made it. It’s not the disaster I was expecting, but it clearly isn’t going over well.
This brings us to Yoda’s sweetbreads appetizer, which is much more favorably looked on than Evangelass’s dish. Finally, Antonia’s warm mushroom/egg salad arrives along with some oddly-placed elevator music. While everyone seems impressed with her egg-poaching skills, the rest of the dish is maligned as Ilan violently coughs/gags. One can only hope he’s choking to death on his own ego.
So it’s made with neck glands and looks like a pig snout. Sign me up for some of that!
This takes us to the entrees. Richard’s tenderloin is up first, but he’s dragging ass back there and pissing off Daddy Tom who’s trying to keep things moving as the expo. As Richard proudly tells us his dish is intricate with many different parts, I wonder if he’s doing this on purpose to prove he’s not “playing it safe” as DT told him earlier. Yeah, pissing off the head judge is a good way to get back in his favor.
As Richard’s dish is hitting the table, Ilan announces that his least favorite cut of meat is tenderloin, in case anyone gave a shit. Survey says… nope. Harold’s chest hair (seriously dude, this isn’t Atlantic City) thinks all the separate ingredients on the plate really work well when put together, but Scar’s lazy ass thinks Richard should have then just put all the ingredients together for them. Up next is Fleasa’s NY strip and the infamous peanut butter mashed potatoes — the latter of which are liked with the under-seasoned steak ironically being the problem. Gail also whines about her steak being too thin, but unless she wants her breastesses to explode out of that top, she should be thankful for that. Harold’s about two minutes from getting nippled in the face.
Evangelass’s tomahawk chop steak is next, which gets mixed reviews. The judges seem to like the texture and outer crust to the meat, but the accompanying potato puree is too sweet and nothing is really mind-blowing. At least that’s what Ilan thinks, as he shouts over the others with his constant opinions. Shut. Up. Yoda’s turn arrives, and her beef tenderloin looks amazing to me, and the judges love it. Antonia brings up the rear again as she flirts with Daddy Tom in the kitchen, telling us it was nice to be with him in that setting. That’s not the setting I would chose, but beggars can’t be choosers. Ilan praises her bone-in ribeye, saying it’s the first thing he’s fallen in love with since he last looked in a mirror. Rick also loves it, and says it’s his favorite of the entrees at least.
“So then I was like, ‘Yeah, Cliff, just shave that motherfucker’s head like this, it’ll be funny’ — and here’s the best part — he actually tried to do it and got sent home!!! Oh man, good times.”
Back at the Top Chef kitchens, the chefs stand around the holding area, toasting each other and trying not to wet their pants as they wait for Scar. Fleasa, who has seemed almost perky for her this episode, tells them that no matter who goes home they all did an amazing job and should keep in touch. Aww, she thinks these other people actually would want to have anything to do with her ever again! Delusions are cute. However, either someone finally found her meds or she’s getting a good edit this week — which does not bode well for Evangelass.
Scar beckons them all to the Judges’ Table, where she starts with Richard and his hamachi appetizer. They ask him if he would put it on his menu, and he carefully says he would probably tweak a few things, not sure if he’s about to be praised or bent over. Rick tells him he loved it, but Scar quickly warns him that his tenderloin entree wasn’t as successful for some pieces were undercooked. Turning to Yoda, Daddy Tom praises her on always keeping her cool in the kitchen (haha, check out the QF footage, DT), while Gail and Scar tease her about now looking so calm right now. Yoda admits she’s scared shitless, and Rick puts her at ease with her sweetbreads appetizer. Scar then asks Yoda the same would-you-serve-this question she asked Richard about Yoda’s beef tenderloin entree, and Yoda gives a similarly careful response. But instead of then praising the dish, Scar merely asks if Yoda’s made it before this EC. Yoda admits she has not, and Scar moves on to Fleasa which seems like a dick move unless they cut something out. That exchange definitely would suggest to me that they hated the tenderloin, where in reality they loved it. Since she appears to be the winner, maybe they’re trying to keep her in suspense. If they want to run the risk of her crapping herself on their floor, that’s their choice.
With Fleasa, Gail wanted the shrimp appetizer to be warm although she loved the lemon flavors. Rick tells her he struggled with it and “couldn’t get his arms around it.” The only thing this dude looks like he’s been getting his arms around recently is a keg of PBR and the local Hooters waitress. As for her NY strip entree, Rick praises the peanut butter potatoes, while Daddy Tom lightly criticizes the technical preparation of the steak. As Scar moves on to Antonia, Fleasa’s eyebrows slide up the oil slick on her forehead in surprise that she got off that easily.
They only talk to Antonia for a few brief moments, and it’s all positive — especially with her bone-in ribeye entree. None of the criticisms about her warm mushroom/egg salad are repeated. This brings Scar finally to Evangelass. While Gail compliments him on the way her tomahawk chop steak was prepared, Daddy Tom leaps out with his teeth bared to attack Evangelass on the frozen scallops. Rick backs DT up, which confuses and amuses me since the frozen scallops came from HIS kitchen. Evangelass is equally confused, but the difference is — he’s stupid enough to say the same thing out loud. As the other chefs make priceless faces and DT does his patented annoyed head rub, Rick pissily agrees that he did have the scallops in his walk-in BRO but that doesn’t mean Evangelass had to use them. Just ask Fleasa — just because the shower’s there doesn’t mean she has to use that! Things haven’t been looking good for Evangelass the whole episode, but that had to have sealed his fate. Maybe he could spit in someone’s face for extra insurance.
Sidenote: If everyone agrees that using frozen scallops is such a huge mistake, why the hell were they in Rick’s walk-in in the first place? Either that’s a) really embarrassing for him since an expensive, high-class restaurant shouldn’t be serving those or b) it was a set-up designed to test the chefs — especially since so many of them seemed gung-ho on scallops. It just seems really suspicious to me. Thoughts?
Scar shoos them out, and in the back Evangelass is in shock at what a fucking idiot he is — yet standing by the opinion that he should be in the top four. The other four look on in varying degrees of amusement, pity, and in Fleasa’s case, gratitude. Back at the Judges’ Table, the judges seem to think Yoda was the strongest overall, with Richard’s appetizer and Antonia’s entree putting them in as solid second and third place finishers, respectively. Turning to Evangelass, Daddy Tom says the word naked and I get distracted for a few moments. But his point is, Evangelass can’t cook simple, naked food and then fuck it up. Rick also mentions he was disappointed by tonight’s efforts after Evangelass won the QF the day before. Focusing on Fleasa, DT finds her apathetic and Scar disagrees, arguing that she focuses too much on flavor (despite half her dishes being under-seasoned???) and not enough on technique.
Predictably and justifiably, it’s come down between Evangelass and Fleasa. There seems to be a tie for suckiness with the appetizers, so they turn to the entrees. DT thinks Evangelass put very little effort into his tomahawk chops — too busy drying out scallops, no doubt — and we don’t hear anything critical of Fleasa’s NY strip. Ruh-roh.
Bringing them back out, Yoda is announced as the ultimate winner of this EC and first finalist. She literally runs over to claim her prize — Rick’s tacky looking new book and a suite of new kitchen appliances — while Richard’s face melts off in disappointment. But he doesn’t have to sweat it for too long as Daddy Tom tells him he’s a finalist as well. Antonia quickly follows as the third finalist, and the three of them are asked to leave the Judges’ Table for the final slaughtering. Once alone with Fleasa and Evangelass, Daddy Tom taunts them with their repeated bottom group finishes — Fleasa five times (six in a row now) and Evangelass seven times (wow, I hadn’t realized it’d gotten that high). He rehashes each of their mistakes, before turning to Scar… who tells Evangelass to pack his knives and get the fuck out! He takes it well and with class, and after telling us that nobody puts baby in a corner, makes his exit.
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In the back, Yoda, Richard and Antonia bravely embrace Fleasa and put their faces close to the grease pit while she tells us she’s going to shock the shit out of the judges. OMG, is she going to shower?!?
So that’s it guys — we have our final four! What do you think? Was Evangelass the right one to leave, or did the horseshoe up Fleasa’s ass work its magic yet again? On this week alone, I definitely think Evangelass needed to go, but I think he was a stronger chef overall than Fleasa. Who’s your pick for the ultimate Top Chef? My money’s on Yoda. Talent + Vag = winner. Does anyone hate Ilan as much as I do? And what do we think about Fleasa’s new ‘do?!