Things weren't going so hot for my relationship with "Top Chef" this season. Predictable outcomes, uninspired dishes and the insipid Christmas episode where no one was eliminated had me feeling as unsatisfied as Kiera Knightley after a meal. I wanted to taste blood, sweat and tears. Or at the very least, hear some verbal lashings or quotable quotes like, "I'm not your b*tch, b*tch."
I was starting to think that "Top Chef" had gone soft. That I would need to turn to the "Real Housewives of Orange County" in order to see some cat fights with the sort of drama that inspires viewers to, as Bravo's tagline says, "Watch what happens." I was even beginning to wonder if viewing each new episode when it aired was worth staying up an hour past my 10 pm bedtime. As a single girl without the income to spend on $100 bottles of eye cream/concealer, I need all the beauty rest I can get! (Plus, I really really like sleeping.)
Just when I was about to give "Top Chef" the biggest evil eye in my arsenal of dirty looks (perfected during my ornery teenage years), the fancy TV suits went and did something so wonderful that all my former complaints were immediately silenced.
They gave me episode 7.
From the moment guest judge John Christoff Novelli stepped into the "Top Chef" kitchen for the Quickfire Challenge where the chefs were commissioned to make desserts without sugar, I knew times were a-changin'. His visceral commentary regarding some of the weaker desserts was the perfect amuse bouche for what was to come during the elimination challenge. I could hardly wait for the knives (and Melissa's tears) to start falling.
For the elimination challenge -- a blind tasting where none of the judges would know who cooked which dish, each contestant was given the freedom to create a family-style plate that reveals who they are as a chef. They were then divided into two groups -- group A would cook first, group B, second -- and told that they would be serving their food to the panel of four judges, including Gail's temporary replacement, Toby Young from Britian, as well as some serious "foodies." The "foodies" were soon revealed to be the chefs in the opposing group -- a delicious twist that was further amplified when the presenting chefs were able to see and hear their competitor's scathing critiques. Of course, none of the contestants' surprisingly tame comments could come close to the caustic droppings that emerged, unfiltered, from Toby Young's mouth. As he ranted about Melissa's unadventurous tuna tartar tacos that he likened to "cat food," and made claims that he had "found the weapons of mass destruction" in Radhika's bowl of soup, my love for "Top Chef" was rekindled.
The flame in my love-sick heart continued to grow with each undercooked lamb chop and chunk of raw garlic, and I was nearly bowled over in delight when both Melissa and Eugene were sent packing in a double elimination that more than compensated for the egregious Christmas episode. As I watched them mug to the camera about missing the opportunity to show what they can really do, I was half-tempted to interrupt their cliched reactions with a hearty, "So long, suckaaaaas!" But I restrained myself -- content to wait until today to share my malicious musings with the blogosphere.
It was a delectable episode from start to finish. Plus, it offered the most quotable quote to date from my favorite Italian stallion, Fabio.
As the camera panned over Jamie's scallops, Fabio chortled, "It's 'Top Chef,' it's not 'Top Scallops.'"
And with those words, all was right with the world again.