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Top Chef Chicago, Episode 2 – We’re Gonna Cook Penguin, That’s Dope


Previously, last week: Same sex couples, Steph’s hands shake but her duck is yummy, Richard likes North African aromas, Nimma has salt issues, Steph wins, and Nimma is knifed.

Padma’s Product Placement Intro and the fun Top Chef opening credits. I actually love these credits. Blows away Project Runway.

It is dawn in Chicago and Steph and Valerie are in the Foreshadowing Top Chef Gymnasium. I am surprised Glad didn’t sponsor it. Steph feels great and has a nice leg tattoo. Apparently, Val and Steph worked together in the past, so I am certain that this will never come up again on this show and that this conversation has no importance.

Meanwhile in the kitchen, Mark and Ryan bond over their sucktastic dishes from the first elimination challenge and Zoi and Jennifer share shoes. Ah, a true advantage in same sex relationships – an expanded wardrobe. Take that, radical right wing!

QUICKFIRE!!! This one takes place in the Green City Farmer’s Market. I am sure the tons of Chicago readers can say if this is a top notch market or just like the one by my house that I get great quiches from in the summertime. That may have been the gayest sentence I have ever written about myself.

Padma is rocking a purple turtleneck sweater. There, much better. And Ryan is talking about cooking what he knows how to cook… as opposed to chicken piccata, I assume. Richard has a t-shirt with the number 15 on it. Not sure what to make of it. Thurman Munson fan?

The Challenge: make an entrée based on what you can buy at the market. However, you can only use five ingredients, including anything you find in the Top Chef Kitchen. Exceptions are salt, pepper, sugar, and oil. They have $25 to shop and 30 minutes to cook.

Spike curses some more. I am going to refer to Vince Vaughn’s Wedding Crashers speech and ask for “earmuffs” every time they are going to curse. There are children watching this – well, not at 10 pm on Wednesday, but during the 800 other times Bravo broadcasts this show. EARMUFFS! This is also the second consecutive week with a Vince Vaughn reference. I still say that Erik sounds just like him, so let’s see if that keeps up.

Immunity is on the line. Go and shop!! Spike is calm and perhaps a bit stoned. Maybe he’s a Jason Castro fan. Richard wants eucalyptus leaves. Isn’t that Mark’s territory? Mark wants lamb, just in case you wondered if he was from New Zealand. Dale wants the best piece of meat, and I am sure the others asked for the worst. Mark leaves with out his bag of salad. His response is to call it a “bummer” and will be replacing the greens with butter. Always a fine choice. I have a theory that no one truly likes salad. If you got hooked up to the Moment of Truth lie detector, I would be willing to bet that almost everyone would admit to not caring for salad.

TOYOTA HIGHLANDER!!! Padma and Wylie Dufresne, from wd-50 Restaurant in New York City, are waiting. He is a molecular gastronomist – my former job (thanks to Bill Maher for that joke) – and Richard is geeked out. Speaking of geeked out, Wylie looks like he could have been my high school Dungeon Master. Rest in peace, Gary Gygax.

COOKING! PEELING! PLATING! Richard wants to prove that molecular gastronomy is not just “Whiz Bang Gadget Gizmo,” whatever that means. Spike thinks his beef looks like dog meat, which seems like an odd choice for this challenge. Judging by looks, I like Dale, Valerie, Richard, Erik, and Mark’s dishes. Wylie agrees on Ryan, Val and Mark, but not so much on Erik and Richard. He also gives Mark a shout-out for his sideburns.

Bottom three: Spike’s is told that his should have been a sandwich. Spike does react well to this criticism. Vince Vaughn does not have a composed plate. Richard is oily and not refined. He is shocked, perhaps because he was not trying for gasoline.

Top three: Ryan is moist and juicy. Well, his food is. Val has lots of flavor. Again, the food. Mark has a great combination of bitter and sweet. And his food is good too. He wins the challenge and is immune. Frodo lives!

Commercials – Naomi Campbell and Christian from Project Runway guest on Make Me a Supermodel. Maybe she will throw a phone at him or something. Fierce.

We return and go right into the ELIMINATION CHALLENGE!!

Knife Draw: Manuel draws a knife that says “Vulture.” And now we get several awesome quotes when taken out of context.

Manuel – “I don’t want to eat a vulture.”
Antonia – after a knife with “Bear” is pulled. “Can you braise bear?”
Gorilla is pulled – and Antonia again gets a winner, “It’s illegal to cook gorilla.” My question to her is, how do you know? Did she try preparing a Gorilla Tartare once before and served some time?
Penguin is pulled and Andrew gets a great line – “We’re gonna cook penguin, that’s dope.” One of my favorite sentences in recent memory.

No, they are not cooking these animals, they are being separated into five groups of three. Team names: Gorilla, Lion, Penguin, Vulture and Bear. They are catering a 200-person staff party at the Lincoln Park Zoo and must base the meal around the foods that these animals eat. Zoi then offers my favorite commentary in the episode: “What is food for a vulture? Decomposing carcasses? Roadkill? Rats?” No my dear – that is your challenge for Episode 6. Make a picnic lunch out of a rotting corpse, dead possum and live vermin.

Another great line from Frodo on the Vulture team: “Fish, rabbits and lamb – this is similar to my diet.” Except I assume he eats them cooked and not off the decomposing bone.

Antonia says that right away she and Steph started “throwing stuff at each other.” I hope she means ideas because as a member of the Gorilla team it could either mean a food fight or a poo fight. Valerie adds that she had a hard time jumping in and the Foreshadowing Vulture swoops in to circle the decomposing carcass that is our Rachel Dratch doppleganger. Steph mentions adding meat to the gorilla vegetarian diet. To which I say, WHAT? Amazingly, she is not really hit for this later on, at least not on camera. But I say, if you are making a meal based on the diet of the animal and that animal is not a meat eater… then there should be NO MEAT ON THE MENU!

Anyway, the teams are as follows:

Bear – Dale, Spike and Nikki
Gorilla – Val, Steph and Antonia
Lion – Richard (the Lionhearted!), Ryan and Erik
Penguin – Andrew, Zoi and Lisa
Vulture – Mark, Manuel and Jennifer

Ryan is surprised that lions eat beets, and to be honest, I am too. Andrew wants to make crab cakes again for the Penguin team and that seems like a bad idea. Dale comments that he is a control freak and doesn’t like ceding control in groups. Really? I hadn’t guessed that about him. Zoi lays in bed with Jennifer and says she would want to be a bear. It seems Dale agrees, but Mark would rather be a vulture so he can pick the eyes out of Dale Bear. He also makes a no-look easy billiards shot. Steph says she has no experience serving 200+ people and here is where I knew that they were going to suck at this.

SHOPPING!! Grab the Tarragon, someone (I think Erik) shouts! Spike claims to be a scavenger and thus should be a vulture. Richard wants to resurrect the career of Rick Moranis with the idea for “Honey, I Shrunk the Prime Rib.” Nikki for some unknown reason wants to spend more on décor – for a catered lunch, mind you – rather than on the food. To quote Chef Tom, “This is a cooking competition!” Dale breaks out the EARMUFFS when claiming not to be an interior decorator. I believe that is another Bravo show, Dale.

COOKING!! Much peeling, wrapping, and placing in ovens. Someone cuts a big hunk of salmon. Nikki is preparing many trays of doomed mushrooms and is making me sick. Full disclosure folks – mushrooms make me sick and I try to imagine these dishes without mushrooms when they look good. Two giant trays of mushrooms would render me useless for about a week.

Nikki wants to spoon honeycomb on something and that sounds somewhat dirty. Andrew is using a thickening agent, and once again… dirty. Erik says that Richard has many fun tools and crazy juices. Alright, guys, enough of this talk already.

Val is making ba-linis for the first time. That sounds like a bad idea because pancake-like items should probably be eaten right away. Have you ever tried to each cold or reheated pancakes?

Chef Tom makes his rounds. He asks the Penguin Team about the little fish that they are cooking. It is anchovy, Chef Tom, along with some others. Enough salt in anchovies to make Nimma proud. They are making a glacier jelly mold or something, giving Tom a chance to make a Global Warming joke. Chef Tom and Al Gore – two of my favorite people. They should make a buddy movie.

Spike asks Andrew about how his “icicles are coming” and Andrew responds that “we’re sexy.” And I never understand what he is saying. It’s like Diablo Cody wrote his dialogue. Dale thinks the mushrooms look like EARMUFFS! Spike cleans it up and says they look like turds and who wants to put a turd in their mouth. Word. Steph has soggy chips and we all know how painful that can be.

Commercials – The show is called Workout and it is official that Bravo is geared to a different man than I.

ZOO!! Wine at the zoo – awesome. Team Bear is using the turds. Nikki wants to make them pretty. Dale thinks this is putting perfume on a pig. However, his addition of cheese to the ‘shrooms turns out to be like putting acid on a pig; not very helpful to the pig.

Antonia sees a problem with the blinis. Val says that the celery chips are also bad, and Antonia wants Steph to turn that dish into a salad. Remember what I said about salad?


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