'Top Chef' recap, 'Curse of the Bambino'

Ron Eyester is upset.

His team landed on the bottom last week and Joy Crump got sent home for serving raw veal. For some reason he is blaming it on the drama between Aaron and Keriann. He tells everyone in the stew room, "If we have another team challenge let's make sure that we don't act like *bleepin* children."


Frankly, I'd be more upset at whoever came up with the wonderful idea of putting vanilla in that dish. Wait, that was Ron.

Regardless, it gives the producers another chance to replay the shouting match from last week where Aaron said he could cook Keriann under the table. Because people shouting at each other is the foundation of any reality TV show, cooking or otherwise.


I wonder if there's a sign in the editing room that reads: "Do not roll opening credits before postmortem stew room fall out!"

Next morning, we get to find out that Aaron isn't really a bad guy. He's just misunderstood. Let's let Aaron tell us about himself and what makes him the lovable guy he is today.

"Growing up in a broken home I had no discipline, had no father figure. I had no parental guidance," he says, "because of my childhood, I'm closed off. I pick and choose very carefully who I lead into my life. And I think that people kinda view me as the cocky little *bleep* that likes to talk *bleep*."

We get it. You got issues. Finally, time for some cooking.

This week's Quickfire judge is another Boston culinary icon and owner of Blue Ginger, Ming Tsai. First Todd English and now Ming Tsai. Did we accidentally jump into the "Hot Tub Time Machine"?

Since we can't risk Mei Lin name dropping Michael Voltaggio again, the honor of the "Ming Tsai really inspired me" confessional goes to Melissa King. Let's hope Melissa gets more screen time because I had to look her name up to write this recap.

Padma starts off strong by declaring this a Sudden Death Quickfire before losing us with another history lesson, "In the year 1773 …" Zzzz.

Ming Tsai drops some knowledge and tells us, because of the Boston Tea Party it was widely considered unpatriotic to drink tea which directly lead to the popularity of coffee in America. That and the fact that coffee is amazing. Obviously.


The challenge this week is simple: create a delicious dish highlighting tea.

The curveball is there are 13 different styles of tea on the table but the chefs won't know what they have until they open their tin. With 45 minutes on the clock, the winner of this QuickFire will have immunity. Lose and you're on the chopping block. High risk, great reward.

Sidenote. On the show Padma says, "There are 13 different varieties of tea …" to which, on his Twitter account, head judge Tom Colicchio writes, "Correction, there is only one variety of tea. There are many processes to create different styles." The more you know.

The scramble isn't so much for the tea as for ingredients. Aaron missed out on the yellowtail, so he's settling for monkfish cheeks instead. Surprise! He's never worked with that product before. Glad to see he's still making smart choices.

Rebecca LaMalfa — who fancies herself a "double threat" because she is both the executive sous chef and pastry chef at her restaurant — ends up with something called lemongrass pomegranate ginger rooibus. I have no idea what that is but I'm pretty sure my grandmother wants her potpourri back.

James Rigato, who won the Quickfire last week, tries to channel the excellence of Patrick Swayze one more time, apparently by making a dish as dated as one of his movies. When a judge says he hasn't had a sauce you've made (beurre blanc) in 10 years, that's not a good sign.


You can see where I'm going with this. These three had the challenge's worst dishes. Aaron totally over cooked his fish, Rebecca made dry vanilla cake and James basically made a dish comparable to "Road House 2."

On the flip side, Melissa's oolong infused duck and Ron's duck with mole sauce were both tops. But the winning dish was Gregory's deftly executed tuna crudo with strawberry white tea and coconut. I can't even imagine what that must taste like. Gregory gets the coveted immunity.

The loser of the challenge and the one on the chopping block? Aaron.

Remember when he said he could cook Kerriann under the table? Well in order to stay alive, Aaron must challenge one of the chefs to a cook off. And this would be the perfect time to put his money where his mouth is right?


In the cop-out move of the season so far, Aaron weasels out of challenging Kerriann and picks broccoli salad expert Katie Weinner instead. His weak reasoning is that since he's untrained and Katie's a culinary instructor, this would be a good way to show everybody what he's made off. Whatever gets you through the night buddy.


The Sudden Death cook-off is deceivingly challenging. Thirty minutes to cook a dish using only boiling water as a heat source. No oven, no pans, no fire. Just boiling water.

Katie comes up with a pedestrian pasta dish with tomatoes and smoked mozzarella that looks like something you'd make in a dorm room. While Aaron made a wonton wrapper out of minced shrimp, wraps it loosely around some julienned veggies and calls it a "spring roll." Both dishes look terrible.

Gregory tells us, "Everyone's kinda secretly rooting for Katie to send Aaron packing." There's nothing secret about it. People are audibly cheering for Katie. But there is no joy in "Top Chef" kitchen - feeble Katie has struck out. (Yes, a baseball reference. It's called foreshadowing.)

Apparently a well seasoned floppy shrimp roll beats out bland tomato and pasta. Aaron lives to fight another day. Ugh.

Elimination Challenge: Since it's Boston, you knew sooner or later the Red Sox were going to be involved. However, since they filmed this during the baseball season, the players themselves couldn't be distracted. Instead "Top Chef" goes to Fenway Park as the setting of this week's Elimination Challenge.

Since the theme is baseball, the chefs will have to pick one concession stand staple to use as inspiration for a fine-dining dish. The choices are peanuts, popcorn, pretzels, cotton candy and fried dough. I've never seen fried dough at any ball game before.


Katsuji Tanabe tells us how he came to this country with $5 in his pocket and now he owns his own restaurant. Ever notice $5 is the most common amount of money people show up with? No poor immigrant ever came to this country with $8.99 or $2.50. Plus, I'm sick of Katusji. He's gotten way to much screen time so far, especially for someone who isn't cooking very well.

James isn't down with this challenge because he's not inspired by junk food. Based in Michigan, he's all about local farmers and foragers that bring fresh ingredients to his restaurant. That's why he's making a lobster cake ... you know, because of all the lobsters in Michigan. He's going to do the best he can and hopes he's not in the bottom. Now that's confidence!

Speaking of confidence: Keriann thinks she can define the laws of science and braise short ribs in three hours. Doug Adams is skeptical, Katsuji is skeptical, we're all skeptical.

Katie's dad passed away not too long ago and one of the fondest memories she has is going to a Minnesota Twins game with him. She's going to make a free-form creme brûlée and dedicate this dish to her father.

Gregory was a rising star before getting hooked on drugs and burning a lot of bridges. He's since sobered up and winning "Top Chef" would be redemption. We see him stretch and meditate in his pajamas because that shows how spiritual and centered he is now.

The judges show up to an empty Fenway Park. It looks exactly like the end of this season, when nobody showed up because the Red Sox finished last in their division.


There's a table set at the bottom of the Fenway's famous wall, the Green Monster. This week's special guests are sports writer Dan Shaughnessy and Hall of Fame pitcher Dennis Eckersley, with guest judges Ming Tasi and Hugh Acheson in tow. Richard Blais was there this week, too. He's there strictly to interject superfluous baseball metaphors and puns.

The chefs have an hour to finish their dishes but because the makeshift concession kitchen is so small, they have to go in groups. We're gonna focus on the best and worst dishes.

What's the first rule of "Top Chef?" Aside from not angering Mean Girl Padma, it's not telling the judges about the mistakes you've made.

Katie realizes her creme brûlée didn't set. So she improvised and made it into a popcorn mousse. Thinking she screwed up, she apologizes to the judges right away. However, the dish turned out great.

What didn't turn out so great is Ron's popcorn soup. That thing had the consistency of Cheez Whiz and worst of all, he stuck a baseball-sized fish croquette right in the middle of the it. I could not tell if anyone even ate half of it.

Other dishes on the bottom are Kerriann's braised short ribs and Katsuji's pork belly. Our skepticism is confirmed as the short ribs fail to braise properly in three hours, not to mention she barely incorporated any pretzels in the dish.


Katsuji keeps making the same mistake over and over again. Dude started with a bread pudding, then added a big slab of tough pork belly, and mushrooms and shallots … etc. There's just too much going on.

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The top dishes are Melissa's popcorn ramp soup, Katie's aforementioned popcorn mousse dessert and Gregory's duck with peanut chili jam.

Even armed with immunity, Gregory's bringing his A game. Everything on his plate worked together and made sense. Tom keeps mentioning Gregory's attention to detail, and coming from Tom that's high praise.

Back in the stew room. Guess who gets into an argument again? Aaron, aka Mr. Misunderstood, starts a verbal tussle with Katsuji, who does talk too much. It's funny when phrases like, "I'm not afraid of you" get tossed around. As if they're about to throw down or something.

At judges table to no one's surprise, Gregory wins again. Tom officially declares him the front-runner.

In the end, even though Keriann under braised her short ribs and Katsuji over stewed his pork belly, it's Ron who gets the boot. There was just nothing fine dining about his dish.


I'm sure Ron is a good cook who can put out a great plate of food. It's just "Top Chef" challenges aren't quite his type of cooking. Like he said before leaving, "All these miniature entrees that these kids are making, it's not what I do." We know, Ron.

Next week: We head to a place where everybody knows your name! (Hint: It involves beer.)