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Top Chef: Chicago, Episode 3 – Shut up, Spike, and What’s With the Hats?


Previously on Top Chef… my DVR didn’t start until the credits. Basically, Valerie took her Rachel Dratch look-alike self out of the competition with some really bad bah-linis.

Credits. Erik’s a bit imposing. He’s also from Chappaqua – where the Clintons live. Do what you want to with that bit of info.

CHICAGO: we get shirtless Spike and Dale. Hooray. We also learn that Richard’s hair is so shellacked into place that it doesn’t change when he sleeps. Or maybe that’s how it got that way in the first place! Steph wants a woman to win this season. Well, duh. She is a woman after all. Zoi and Jennifer are lying in bed again. It seems that there is a shot of them in bed together in each episode. Bravo plays to the core audience again! Andrew thinks that chefs are entertainers. I think that I would rather have Bobby Flay make me BBQ ribs than sing the tunes from “Carousel.” But that’s just me – he may have a fine voice.

QUICKFIRE! Padma and a guy in a purple shirt. He is Mr. Rick Bayless. He is a Mexican food guru that looks like William H. Macy’s cousin. I also always think of “Homicide: Life on the Street” when I hear the name Bayless. In case you were wondering…

Steph already sees the writing on the wall and says, “Crap. Mexican food.” My wife called the challenge basically right away – reinvent the taco as an upscale item. I must add that I have totally dug the challenges in this season so far. Very creative, even if not completely executed well.

Erik is talking about something but I cannot really pay attention to it because I am completely distracted by that butt ugly hat that he has on his head. This will sadly be a strange theme throughout this episode.

COOKING! We have a utensil football toss. Manuel is feeling pressure because of his heritage. He is also going to try to think about the best ingredients for the challenge. Well, thank goodness for that. I was hoping for stuff from the garbage.

Dale needs an avocado, stat. Spike is yammering about something but I am distracted by HIS UGLY HAT. Seriously, is it a contest?

Andrew is making his with duck – and I say, yum. He thinks he will win for having crazy, random ideas. I think that he just needs to keep cooking delicious things with duck. Have I mentioned that I love duck?

Richard is making something that is not even a taco. It looks more like a burrito to me. He is using jicama instead of tortilla because he is taking the word “upscale” in the challenge to heart. Get used to this theme, folks. My wife is excited about this choice – she tells me jicama is a root vegetable similar to a rutabaga.

Ryan wants to use clean, fresh vegetables. Sigh. I love for someone else to use filthy, rotten vegetables. Maybe for a challenge where the guest is Oscar the Grouch.

Mark says something in Elvish or something – I mean it, I listened to that twice and didn’t understand it.

QUICKFIRE DISHES!
My impressions: Manuel’s looks good, man, I also love chorizo. Lisa – who? Has she even had a Talking Head interview yet? Hers looks boring and Bayless can’t even bite into it. Andrew also used plantain jam with the duck, and that sounds awesome. Erik’s sounds tasty but looks like crap. Spike’s didn’t impress me but you’ll see that I was not on Bayless’ page there. Ryan’s looks awful. Richard’s is interesting. He really took the challenge to heart here and took a big risk. I also like how he made one for himself so he can eat with Bayless and Padma. He thinks that he was unique and different.

Bayless makes his decisions…

Bottom Three:
Erik – the plate was a train wreck, which seems to be his big problem in each challenge. Erik then insults Bayless in his Talking Head, which sounded quite “sore loser-ish” to me.
Lisa – well, he couldn’t actually bite into it
Ryan – the paper that he used bugged Bayless

Top Three:
Andrew – refined flavors and a great presentation
Richard – simple, tasted light, great overall
Spike – “super soul satisfying”

Richard wins, and he basically won because he went out on a limb and went very upscale. Padma and Bayless criticized the lot for making “street tacos” and ignoring the upscale part of the challenge. Bayless wanted to have the “humble taco made into fine dining.” Somewhere there is a garage band in New Mexico named “Humble Taco.” I will buy that album someday.

Spike acts like a dick about Richard’s win and Bayless is stealing the recipe from Richard for his restaurant. Gee, I hope Richard gets something for that.

Now they all divide into two teams: Blue and Red. Spike doesn’t understand why they all flock to Richard because he has immunity and that would be the last team he would want to be on. Um, I think they went there because a) they knew it would not be split any further into smaller teams because it was an odd number. Spike’s comments only applies with a smaller group; b) he just won that challenge and is good. For the first time tonight, Shut up, Spike!

They get into their TOYOTA HIGHLANDERS! Seriously, Top Chef and American Idol are competing for most blatant product placement in any reality show. And it is real close. Dale starts rattling off the various districts of Chicago. Basically, they have no idea where they are going. I think the drivers may be lost.

Commercials – the Glad Force Flex is a really awesome bag. I just used many for a big clean up job and they kicked butt.

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE!
Padma is looking amazing in casual attire, and is standing in the middle of a suburban street. Somewhere in the background, Wayne and Garth are playing hockey. Game on! Padma then says this sentence: “Chicago is a city made up of neighborhoods.” And I add, “While Detroit is a city made up of cheese.” Come on, isn’t EVERY city made up of neighborhoods? I love you, Padma, but that was moronic.

Anyway, she continues that this is a mealstogether.com Block Party challenge. That website looks pretty cool; to me it appears to be a site with advice on how to enjoy meals and events with your family and friends. Cool idea. The twist on the challenge is that there will be no shopping – they must go door to door for the groceries. Cool twist, however, I have a complaint which I will get to shortly.

Erik thinks that Padma threw a great curve ball. Maybe he’s confused her with Bert Blyleven. The only time that will ever happen. Ever. If her curve is so good, maybe the Washington Nationals will sign her.

Richard is fearful that a bunch of white coated strangers are going to knock on doors and scare people, like a scene out of E.T. Speaking of E.T., Chefs are now going door to door like they are trick or treating. I think Spike got a rock.

Andrew thinks that sending Ryan to do the shopping is a good idea because he’s a pretty boy and people will respond better to his requests for grapes. That’s what he said. It’s strange comments such as this that may endear you to me. However, your bitching later on completely offsets this.

Ryan agrees with Andrew and suggests that sending Erik would be a mistake. He then does a terrible impression of Erik asking for food. You needed a Vince Vaughn impression, dude. Mark introduces himself to a resident and says he’s from Top Chef. We will basically hear nothing else from Frodo this episode.

Ryan finds lots of fruit from someone who just went to the Farmer’s Market. Hmmm. Here’s my problem that I alluded to earlier. I think the producers helped these folks load up in anticipation of this challenge. That’s a problem. This would have been MUCH cooler if folks didn’t expect this and had regular pantries to raid and had to make do with Beef-a-Roni and leftover casseroles. Antonia and Nikki find a place with 200 boxes of pasta for Nikki’s eventual disastrous Mac and Cheese. Andrew and Spike find a place with a bomb shelter pantry or something. Spike then lies to the other team about cleaning out that place. His words – “I took everything, but there was a good chunk left.” What? Again, shut up, Spike!

Manuel wants to make dishes for the Blue team that are “familiar, but wow.” Richard wants to again make things upscale to play to the judges, rather than just making hot dogs and hamburgers. Meanwhile, the Red team is making… hot dogs and hamburgers. Zoi wants to make classic Americana because that’s what “these people” like. Ryan wants to cook for the people rather than the judges. These comments are the first of many that should be wildly insulting to the folks in Middle America tonight. The Red team thinks that everyone not on a coast eat only foods that you find in a Bob Evans. I live in New York and I was offended by all of this condescension to the people on this block and in the Midwest. But I digress.

Day of the challenge. There is much cooking and shredding and now Nikki is wearing a dumb ass hat. What the hell? Doesn’t this network have a show about fashion? Couldn’t they get Christian over here to help these idiots out? She is also slicing up Velveeta and is afraid of being able to make an adequate sauce that can be transported.

The Blue team is making a sexy drink. Um… cool? Richard is making paella – or so he thinks – and feels that this is all about he judges. If it is good enough for them, then it is good enough for anyone. Exactly.

Someone is making a big ole pile of meat. Nothing wrong with that. Erik says they have no team leader – mistake – and that he makes corn dogs in his restaurant. Zoi got the “sh*t end of the stick” with the pasta salad. Dude, earmuffs. Zoi agrees that pasta salad is not a “Top Chef winner dish.” Dale does not think their menu is as elegant as it can be, he would rather push than play it safe. Dale is on to something.


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