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Top Chef: Chicago, Episode Nine – I Have A Culinary Boner Right Now


Previously on Top Chef: Frodo plays Aussie music. Chefs have to cook with only $10. There is “little” help and Antonia crying. Steph wants to prove herself. Frodo makes curry for some reason. Antonia reveals that being a single mom helped her win. Steph barely survives and Frodo is taken by the power of the One Ring. (OK, officially the last Tolkien joke of the season.)

Padma monologue and credits. Would you like to win a gourmet dream vacation? As long as it includes snorkeling, I guess. Also, has anyone ever noticed the smaller pictures next to the larger ones of the chefs? Nikki is blowing us kisses. Thanks Nikki.

We open with Spike fake crying about Frodo’s departure. Who is he, Samwise Gamgee? Meriadoc Brandybuck? I know, I know, I promised. Seriously, I’m done now. Andrew gives us a raspberry and says that he likes Frodo “a lot and it is gonna be a little less entertaining, shall we say.”

Spike continues to sob, “He was here, then he wasn’t then he is but he’s not.” Well that just doesn’t make any sense. He goes on to say that “Kiwi and I were friends, it’s kinda sad.” Spike, leave the nicknames to me before I start calling you the Mad Hatter. Or Hatman. Or Baron Von Fedora. Anyway, Andrew moves in to the living space.

Now the women getting ready. Antonia fixes her hair, Steph gets her jeans, Nikki ties her sneakers while showing cleavage in a wife beater t-shirt and Lisa applies a doo-rag. Antonia says that this is the “first time four women have made it this far all at once.” It ranks up there with Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House on the list of Great Achievements for Women in America. Move over Elizabeth Cady Stanton – look it up folks. Nikki thinks that as a woman you “have to be a fighter and competitor.” Which she totally does later in the episode, right?

QUICKFIRE! Tom and Padma are there with Padma in the military jacket and jeans. Amazingly, not the best she will look in this episode. Tom mutters, “Oh, they know,” referring to the likelihood that these chefs that appear to be big fans of the show are anticipating the two challenges of the week.

Padma informs them that they are going to “up the ante” and the winner gets no immunity from this point on. Maybe it is the Survivor fan in me, but I have never liked that policy. Padma says they are bringing back two favorite challenges and have them draw knives to divide into two teams. A very lopsided breakdown ensues with one team of Rich, Andrew, Antonia and Steph against Dale, Spike, Lisa and Nikki. That’s like the Boston Red Sox taking on the people living in my development. They only way we can win that is a challenge based on volume of our TV sets.

Dale points out the obvious: “We don’t have the strongest cooks.” Lisa says that she worked with Dale once and it “worked out great for the challenge; after, not so much.” Nice understatement. Not so much is equal to a man grabbing his crotch and yelling at you.

Tom says that this is his favorite challenge, the Mise En Place Relay Race. Steph shows her fandom by talking about the last relay race, “it was really awesome to watch, with Hung racing through the chickens and Casey taking, like, five hours to do an onion.” I agree with Steph. I loved this challenge last year and this year is no different.

The challenge has four legs: 1) Peel and supreme five oranges, 2) clean and turn two artichokes and make them look like Jughead’s hat, 3) clean “that guy right there,” a fugly monkfish, into two filets, and 4) make one quart of mayonnaise. They have two minutes to decide who gets which leg.

Andrew says that “I am the master of mayo, not the master of monkfish though.” As we learned in Episode Two, Andrew can make mayo. Antonia confirms the amount of oranges in the task and chooses that one, Rich nods towards the fish. Steph reviews the tasks and says that because she makes mayo all the time, she gets it, “Blais is happy with the monkfish and Andrew is Mr. Speed Artichoke Man.” Officially the most useless superhero ever.

Nikki hasn’t made mayo without a food processor since culinary school. I am instantly surprised that she went to culinary school. Dale rolls his eyes and comes out with this brilliant TH, “It is so asinine for me to hear these words come out of people’s mouths. (pause) I haven’t made mayo by hand in years (fake shock), they’re just scared of it (after a cut to Nikki taking the task reluctantly). Why are you still here?” Seriously, Dale is a bit of a jerk, but he’s dead on here.

Chefs are in position. Rich answers a question that was obviously asked by a staffer in a TH about the mood, “Buzz and anticipation is one way to put it – nervousness is probably more accurate.”

First, Lisa vs. Antonia on the oranges. Dale gives Lisa a “Go girl!” encouragement and you totally know that he is the kind of guy that would get into a fight at his kid’s hockey game someday. Lisa says that her hands were “so shaky, I thought I’d slit an artery.” They would probably lose the challenge if that happened. Steph is concerned that although Antonia is going at a good pace, Lisa is whooping her ass. Antonia is using a methodical method to try and do it right while Lisa is going full throttle and taking the chance that she may mess up in order to get a time advantage. Lisa is successful and after some more Dale rah-rahing, she “smoked her ass” and gave them about a two orange advantage.

Spike says that instead of snapping artichokes one by one, he takes a knife and turns them over right way and had two done in a matter of seconds. Antonia finishes and Andrew steps up. He THs that this “is where the fire comes in.” Boy does it ever. Andrew is a savant with the artichokes. He rips them apart with his hands and peels like a madman. “My secret weapon is a peeler – wow.” Antonia looks like she is in love. Spike is struggling and breaks his second artichoke. Lisa laments that her huge lead is gone. Spike and Andrew finish at the same time.

Dale vs. Rich on the fish. Rich says that it “feels like pit stop; the team is clearing space off and I am getting the ugly, dinosaur-like fish on the table and it’s me vs. the dragon.” Is that Dale’s nickname? Does he know that? Lisa says that Dale is flying through it, but the filets are pretty bad. Tom looks and laughs. Rich explains that one of the tricky things about cleaning a monkfish is that you can clean it forever and there is not a lot of yield on it. They keep the tie after cleaning the fish, so it comes down to mayo.

Steph is using five yolks and the two are neck and neck. Steph is using the Antonia method by going slowly and thinks the team is getting nervous. It is obvious that she knows the effort this will take and is just trying to get it done. She goes at it and says the adrenaline was pumping. Rich awesomely says that “I have not seen that much emotion FROM MYSELF.”

Nikki’s mayo isn’t breaking. Rich urges Steph to bring it “Chicago style.” Dale is urging on “Staten Island” and calls her “Strong Island.” Ah, now I know why I don’t like Nikki… Staten Island. I’d rather go to one of the rings of Hell before going back there.

Steph is done and there are many WOOOOs. She calls it the most exciting challenge. Dale drops a big F-bomb and punches the lockers. Nikki scolds him and Lisa says in her TH that dale “flipped out.” Dale says in his TH that he “really hates losing, especially with a huge lead.” I hope he’s not a Cubs fan, because he should be used to that by now. Antonia says that Dale “had a temper tantrum and he punched the locker then had to have his diaper changed.” Ha! The mom in her comes out again. We see the dented locker and Lee Ann has to send someone to fix it.

Commercials – The Kutcher/Diaz movie…God, no.

ELIMINATION! A big pysch out to the Chefs: there is no Restaurant War this year. They are crestfallen. Spike says that “95 percent of us want to open our own restaurants and Restaurant Wars defines what we are all about.” Who was the five percent?
Padma says that they are changing it up… with these two apparently random people! Corey and JP are getting married tomorrow.

Steph gets it right away and giggles. Spike and Lisa each give us a TH “are you serious?” Andrew cringes, shakes his head and laugh/sighs, all wordlessly. Very funny.

Restaurant Wars is now Wedding Wars. Andrew says “so we are catering a wedding which is not… that… cool.” Dale is a “restaurant dude” and has no catering experience. Padma says that the “prize” for the Relay Race is to pick Corey or J.P. as your muse for the challenge where you make a menu for them for 125 guests. Some prize. The couple owns their own restaurant and wedding venue, so as Antonia says, “That adds a tremendous amount of pressure.” Surprisingly, Rich picks the bride. Not The Bride from Kill Bill, although that would have been an amazing challenge. His reason? “It’s the bride’s day.” Even Corey looks surprised by this choice.

Spike thinks you would have to be a moron or off the wall to pick the bride. “She’s gonna want this moment to be exactly the way she has envisioned it since she was 14 years old – the food, décor, the f****n wedding cake!” Which is obviously extremely sexist, but Spike doesn’t do much to piss me off this week, so I will let that one slide. But listen up, Hatty McDaniel… that’s your only free pass!

They have five grand to shop at Whole Foods and the Restaurant Depot and they will be working through the night. Andrew gives that awesome line from post-credits last week, “I have a culinary boner right now.” He continues, “… knowing I will be working all night, this is something that separates me from the rest of the crew. I am an animal and can work 14 hrs non-stop to get the job done without ANNNNY problems.”


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