Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs.

  • Here’s what happened: It’s the mise en place relay race! Knife draws determine the two teams—blue and green—and the chefs are tasked with mincing garlic, shucking clams, cleaning shrimp, dicing onion, doing whatever it is you do to artichokes, AND making a dish out of those ingredients in just 25 minutes. Despite a three-minute penalty, the blue team wins with a plate of fried shrimp and clam bellies and Sheldon, that angel who “still considers himself a line cook,” is granted immunity for his game attitude. The same teams remain for the elimination challenge, wherein each chef must prepare one course of a seven-course dinner that’s centered around radishes. The results are surprisingly astounding, with Padma and Tom declaring it the best food they’ve ever eaten on the show (*rolls eyes so effin’ hard*), the blue team winning, and Brooke standing out for her radish panna cotta. While the judges say every dish was great, they send Sam home for calling his dish a “bahn mi” even though he used brioche and it wasn’t a sandwich.
  • Yay! No rookies vs. veterans! Boo! Another group challenge! It’s okay, though, because the chefs still get to show off their style with individual dishes. Out of the rookies, Sylva and Sylvia are still leading the pack. His halibut didn’t sound nearly as radish-centric as everyone else’s dishes, but it sure looked delicious. And Sylvia’s got Shirley’s knack for weaving a story into her dishes; the radish cake she made is reminiscent of a dish her grandmother used to make her in Italy.
  • It was pretty much a foregone conclusion that a veteran would go home this episode. While I love to believe in the integrity of Top Chef’s judging process, it would’ve been damn disheartening to see another rookie go home for the third straight week. That said, Sam was clearly the weak link here. The only real criticism they had for BJ’s dish was that there was a “soft radish” on it. Sam’s wasn’t a failure in execution, but in conception: calling it a “bahn mi” put the wrong picture in the judge’s heads. How many times has that sorta thing happened on Top Chef?
  • BJ says he loves “making dishes with humble ingredients,” which might be the only humble thing about him.
  • What do you think of the head-to-head format? I didn’t mind it in this format, with each chef preparing one course, but that’s only because we were able to see each dish. That the challenge can end without seeing the entirety of the meal, as it did during the abysmal Seattle finale (that Brooke subtly shades in this episode), is such a shame. Imagine being robbed of Brooke’s panna cotta and Sylvia’s radish cake! Blasphemy!
  • Seriously, though: I love Brooke, but how does a panna cotta that didn’t set end up becoming the best dessert in Top Chef history?
  • Let’s give it up for Amanda! When she talked about her three spinal fusion surgeries I figured she was a shoe-in to go home this week, especially when I saw she was up against Shirley, a clear frontrunner. Her win was surprising and kinda heartwarming, and Shirley’s look of disbelief upon losing was priceless. What did you think of Amanda during the D.C. season? Do you think she’s a dark horse here?
  • FYI, she bartends at a cozy little spot a few blocks from my Chicago apartment, so I might have a soft spot for her. I can’t speak to her food, but she makes a helluva cocktail.
  • Wherefore art thou, Graham?: Richard Blais is back to remind us that, no matter how talented he is in the kitchen, he is literally the worst judge this side of Katie Joel. He says literally nothing of substance. He lacks the wit of Hugh, the spunk of Emeril, the brashness of Toby Young (remember Toby?), and the warmth of Gail. He’s a sentient faux hawk in a bowtie. The extent of his critiques are like, “Wow! Great flavor!” They’ve billed Graham Elliot as a head judge this season and he’s only been in one episode. Maybe Gordon Ramsey’s got him locked in a cage somewhere.
  • Am I too hard on Blais? Are there any Blais defenders out there? Is he only there because he won Top Chef: All-Stars? Do you think he had flashbacks to his “banana scallops” when Casey served her radish scallops? What do you think he smells like? I’m serious. No joke answers.
  • Speaking of bad judges (and Katie Joel), remember how literally 90% of Katie Joel’s words were ADR’d in during the first season? Seriously, you almost never see her actually saying the words she’s speaking. It’s hilarious.
  • Am I too hard on Katie Joel?
  • Katsuji is cold as ice. Not only is he trying to resurrect John’s inner demons, but his “Annie who?” at the beginning of the episode was some deep shade.
  • Serious question: How does one become a Top Chef superfan? Was anybody in that audience reading this review? If so, comment and tell us all about it.
  • Sam says “foams can be scary on Top Chef.” Who else thinks he still has Marcel nightmares?
  • Sam, I’m sorry for calling you Poochie. Your work with Beyond Type 1 is inspiring, your food looks incredible, and you seem like a genuinely nice guy. I’m also sorry for the below pic, which is you finding out Gerald will be your competitor in Last Chance Kitchen. It’s just that it’s the fakest “surprised” look I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t not take a screen shot to post with this review. Anyways, here it is:
  • Last Chance Kitchen: Since Sam didn’t make radish the highlight of his dish, he and Gerald are tasked with making dishes centered around celery, the most flavorless of ingredients. Sam uses the celery three different ways, couching it all in a cream of celery soup. Gerald is more ambitious in his attempt to make celery Dippin’ Dots, but they turn out looking more like shards of green ice and sink his dish, Titanic-style. Sam will need to beat 11 chefs to make it to the finale. New Orleans’ Louis currently has the record, having beat out six chefs to make it to the finale, so ‘ol Backwards Hat’s got his work cut out for him.
  • Can we take a moment to acknowledge how tremendously awkward it is for the losing chefs to have to sit in on Last Chance Kitchen for the rest of the competition? Poor Annie looks like the last kid picked in gym class as Tom forces her to trudge out to her lone chair. If it were me I’d be wearing a pair of Groucho glasses. Instead, Annie yells out, “Celery is one of my favorite ingredients!” and I swear to Christ I couldn’t figure out if she was joking or not. Seriously, look at this sad scene:
  • Next week on Top Chef: Amanda sounds like she’s speaking backwards and I’m like:

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