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Top Chef: Chicago, Episode 8 – The End of All Things for Frodo


Dale describes their dish and Tom asks the kid what he likes about cooking. Eating, of course. Frodo’s kid admits to liking spicy food but hesitates oh so slightly. Andrew’s kid is beating the crap out of something with the pan as Tom cringes and asks him to “watch your fingers.” Tom is such a dad. He tells us that he likes how Spike is making three dishes and stretched his dollar very well. That he did. He also is very skeptical of Steph’s combination of peanut butter and tomato – and yes, that does sound rather gross.

Steph admits that the couscous seems overcooked and Spike makes a cute game out of adding cheese to his pasta, even adding in an Emeril “bam.” As time expires there are many high fives, including Antonia making it clear that she can “take” a hard high five.

Commercials – The Bravo poll is an actual real question this week – what was harder, a) 15 minute time limit, b) $10 budget or c) kid sous chefs.

Service starts as Padma, Gail and Art arrive.

Richard – Roast chicken with beets, avocado, apple and cilantro
Rich comes out and sees that the guests are the rest of the Common Threads kids. He lets Abigail do a lot of their description to the judges and she proudly explains beets to her friends. Padma loves the apple and Art thinks it is very nutritious but would have removed the skin.

Lisa – Quinoa crusted chicken with beans and edamame
Tom helps plate the food as Lisa comes out and asks the kids if they are hungry. She explains in a TH that the judges ate with the kids, but Tom ate back in the kitchen. He stayed back there to watch them interact with the kids and I assume, to keep an eye on the kids. Lisa’s kid made the dessert by himself. Padma wanted to have fresh veggies. Art doesn’t think the chicken was all that flavorful. Padma likes the peanut butter and apple sandwich and Art thinks it was a great snack.

Dale – Turkey bratwurst, Dijon, Granny Smith, potatoes, sweet and sour braised cabbage
Dale warns the kids about the spice and in a TH explains that he is planning to stand up for his dish. The follow-up single to the classic Antonia tune “Stand By Your Dish.” Gail and Padma think it is very strong and acidic. Padma criticizes that usually families have two or three different tastes and this might be too spicy as a result. Dale’s kid tells his table that they tried really hard to make it.

Spike – Pasta with puttanesca sauce and even more soup, this time carrot!
One future drama student at the table exclaims, “Oh my God… is this spaghetti?” Spike thinks the meal is well balanced and clarifies that the half-baked apples didn’t cook all the way through, but were good enough to serve. As I pause the recording to write notes, I give Art a very unfortunate screencap with spaghetti hanging out of his mouth. Sorry, Art. Gail thinks it is very tasty and has great vegetables. Spaghetti Girl continues to rave about the concept of spaghetti.

Nikki – One-pot Roasted chicken with apple and mixed vegetables, cucumber and tomato salad – with brussel sprouts!
Nikki can’t imagine not liking this dish, and using her past performances as a basis, I can. However, this dish looks really good, so good for you Nikki. Art loves it. He loves one-pot dishes and the flavors and Nikki’s story. Gail says the dish is complete. The kids love it too.

Frodo – Roasted vegetables in red curry with cucumber salad and garlic naan.
Frodo is nervous with Tom back there because he is a “well seasoned chef.” I guess Zoi was nowhere near him. Frodo explains that it was fun with his kid because of their different backgrounds. Padma is amazed that he would even try to make curry for this challenge and even worse,it is too sweet. Gail laments the lack of protein. Yes, laments.

Antonia – Stir fry whole wheat noodles with bok choy, chicken, edamame & cilantro
Not much shown for her, interestingly enough, but Gail thinks it was sweet, but still great. Padma thinks this pasta dish was better than Spike’s.

Andrew – Chicken Paillard with basil and parmesan with a fennel, orange and apple salad
Again, Andrew doesn’t have much shown of interest, but Art thinks it was very delicious and the kids like it.

Steph – Braised chicken and veggie couscous with chive yogurt
Tom asks the kid if she likes the dish and she hesitates before saying yes. Tom comments that the kid has to say yes and Steph interjects that she doesn’t. However, I think Steph knows that she is in trouble. She made two dishes and the kid made dessert. Art doesn’t think this tasted great. Padma doesn’t like the couscous. Gail says it is a tell tale sign of a restaurant chef that she couldn’t do well on this challenge.

Judges confer as Tom joins them. He thinks the chefs really enjoyed the challenge and the kids did as well. I am disappointed that the winning kids didn’t get to share the room with the Top Three, but I can understand it.

They like Nikki’s dish. Gail thinks it was colorful and fun. Tom liked its simplicity. Antonia gets props from Gail for it being real life for her. Lisa gets hit by Tom who says he thought it was bland. Steph’s dish is also not a favorite of Tom’s as he makes a disgusted face when describing the PB&T.

Rich leads us to break by saying how much he liked the challenge and seeing Antonia cry. He wants to make babies now… little Blaises. Run Antonia! I think he’s looking at you!

Commercials – Sargento cheese looks good. Mmmm… cheese.

Meat Locker of Doom. Nikki couldn’t keep up with her kid. Rich jokingly told Abigail that he wanted to hire her and she seriously reminded him that she was still in school and not ready. He trails off on the story as Padma walks in looking like a million bucks in the short dress and boots. She brings in Nikki, Antonia, and Andrew.

Nikki calls the challenge fun and Gail adds that the kids loved it and were proud of the food they made. Tom compliments Nikki on the one-pot dish. Gail thought it was seasoned well and that it was bold to put in the sprouts. True. Art calls it accessible.

Padma complements Andrew for making fruit accessible in a savory dish. Art liked how he made fennel. Gail says that they kids had never had it and they all loved it.

Antonia’s dish was loved by Padma and Art called it “absolutely delicious.” Padma says it was “delicate enough for a child to enjoy it and flavorful enough for an adult.” Gail says that you don’t have to dumb down a dish for kids to like it, just make it tasty.

Antonia wins the challenge – great week for her. She says that if she didn’t win a challenge that she has to do all the time at home then it would have been embarrassing.

Antonia brings back the Bottom Three: Lisa, Steph, and Frodo. Steph thinks that her dish was not simple enough. Tom tells her that the PB&T combo was just bizarre. Art calls out the couscous for being “not right” and the portion size for being too large. Steph concurs on the couscous. Tom doesn’t believe she used her whole budget. She says she spent most of it on the chicken.

Padma asks Frodo if he tasted the food. He says he is baffled by his placement and wonders if Tom doesn’t like him. Tom and Padma share a laugh and he asks if Frodo is serious. Frodo says that he gets criticized for things being “overcooked, undercooked, too salty… how do I make this guy happy?” Tom says to not make things salty or in this case, too sweet. Gail questions his choices. Art wanted more veggies. Gail adds that she understands why he chose sweet potatoes (for their nutrition, but for me, yuck), however, she is confused by the inclusion of the nutrition-free cucumber. She also wanted more protein. Frodo is confused because he didn’t want to put meat into vegetarian curry. I think he is forgetting about the entire bean family here, and I don’t mean Rowan Atkinson.

Lisa enjoyed her dish and has taken on an attitude that is not very attractive. Tom says her dish was undercooked and bland. Lisa gets very defensive. Not much else of interest here other than her attitude.

Art says that if you are going to be a great chef you need to take criticism and Lisa’s attitude does not seem lost on Art. Don’t make him mad; you make Oprah mad if you do. She’s worse than Sauron (I need to get all of my Lord of the Rings jokes out of the way this week). Padma saw no flavor in Lisa’s dish, and Gail agrees. Tom says that you always cook for an audience and he doesn’t care what audience this was for, bland food is bland food.

In the Locker of Doom, Lisa continues to bitch as she claims that she thought it was over-seasoned. Is Zoi hiding out somewhere in there?

Tom thinks Frodo made a sloppy plate and Gail thinks the whole thing was lacking. Art loves curry, but this, not so much. Tom doesn’t think Frodo spent his money wisely (if you recall, in Whole Foods Frodo spent about a dollar under his budget).

Tom expresses surprise at Steph’s fall from grace. Padma simply detested it and Tom didn’t see anyway to improve in the dish. Art comments that people have been making

Commercials – Jason Alexander guests on Step It Up and Dance, officially ranking only above Michael Richards on the post-Seinfeld career path. That is a low bar to clear, Jason. Although I have liked him on his Bill Maher appearances.

Oh, and people thought the $10 budget was the toughest challenge, and for once, the Bravo viewers are correct.

Tom sums up the criticisms: Lisa lacked flavor, Frodo didn’t spend or cook wisely, and Steph was overcomplicated. Frodo is eliminated. Frodo does not live. He sails off to the Grey Havens. Ok, I’m done. Tom tells him that he doesn’t dislike him and will share a pint with him someday at the Green Dragon. Ok, now I’m done.

Frodo thinks this was a stepping stone and his message to his buddies that remain: “Rock on, Rocker!” Words to live by.

Next week: slow motion apparently. Chefs cook for 14 hours on lack of sleep. It is a wedding, folks! Spike has an EARMUFF moment with the cake, Lisa and Dale get reunited, Rich is overcome with emotion and Dale has a HUGE EARMUFF moment. Oh, and Andrew gives us the following: “I have a culinary boner right now.” We have next week’s title now!

If you want to chat – Jeremy@realityshack.com.


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