Wow, tonight's episode of "Top Chef" marks a turning point in the season. With seven cheftestants left, Tom ships them back to San Antonio directly after Restaurant Wars. Sleep-deprived, mentally and physically exhausted, and on the edge of ripping each other's heads off, the chefs go home and the real challenges begin.
The chefs enter the kitchen and see Padma standing next to Eric Ripert, who is a member of the "Top Chef" family. If Anthony Bourdain is the drunken uncle at Thanksgiving, Uncle Eric is the one who quietly hands him a glass of watered-down wine.
This week's Quickfire is a classic time management challenge. The chefs have 30 minutes to cook a dish using three ingredients from a conveyer belt that is continually in motion. The only catch is that the better ingredients will come toward the end. The chefs have to choose whether to cook with mediocre ingredients but conceptualize a dish, or begin by going balls to the wall and hope something good will come out to complement the sauce they are making.
Most of the chefs are sweating bullets because they have to cook for Uncle Eric, and they try to do the best they can with the hand they are dealt. Beverly, Sarah, Ed and Paul pick up ingredients early on, while Lindsay and Grayson wait for fish and Chris J comically continues to miss the lobster that flies by on the belt.
As Padma and Uncle Eric walk around, there are clear winners and losers. Alas, Bev, who is showing her cooking chops lately, should have won the Quickfire, but she ran out of time and left a component off her plate. By default Lindsay comes through for the win with her bouillabaisse and receives the much-desired immunity.
Charlize Theron is not only the guest judge for this elimination challenge, but she may be the most beautiful guest judge ever. I mea,n Natalie Portman was guest judge a few seasons back, but Charlize Theron is an Amazon for God's sake.
She is there to promote her new film "Snow White and the Huntsman." She plays the Evil Queen in her most believable role ever.
The challenge is to create a seven-course gothic feast fit for a queen. Since these chefs all lean toward the kooky side, I know immediately that this will be a great challenge.
Let me say that this time during "Top Chef" is my favorite. With seven chefs left, all the middle-of-the-road/fly-under-the-radar chefs are gone. From here on out, the stars of the show are going to be the amazing dishes produced by insanely talented chefs.
Ed cooks the first course of a tuna tartare that is surrounded by white-and-black sauce, to represent the fight between good and evil. I had to fight my urge to jump into my television like Mike Teevee for "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
Paul is up next with a foie gras, bacon, and beet forbidden forest that surrounded a bloody handprint. The chefs thought that it was brilliant and delicious. I was a little freaked out, but just like Uncle Eric, I am glad Paul wore a glove to make the hand print.
Bev cooks up a seared halibut over forbidden black rice. She proves that she can actually cook halibut and that the mess over Lindsay's halibut during Restaurant Wars was not her fault.
Lindsay has immunity for this challenge, but that does not mean that she holds back. She prepares a seared scallop dish over "Witch's Stew" cooked with dragon beans. If anything, she wins for best named ingredients. She didn't even need the immunity.
Sarah prepares an Amarone risotto with lambs' heart. Charlize loves that she is actually eating heart. I am not a fan of Sarah, but the girl is creative and can cook. I give credit when credit is due, and serving heart to the Evil Queen was an excellent choice.
Grayson, Grayson, Grayson. Wow. The girl from Wisconsin let her freak flag fly high and proud for her dish. She cooks a black chicken with a quail egg and foie gras. The bird still has its claws, and the sunny-side-up egg is placed on the womb of the cooked chicken. The presentation is sick in both the awesome and the ewwww meanings of the word.
To finish off this impeccable meal, Chris J is up with dessert. Let's be honest: If you couldn't tell by his Samurai ponytail, Chris is weird. He cooks a poisoned apple filled with cherry pie, so that when you cut into the apple, gooey red cherry pie filling spills out. Tom is as giddy as a 12-year-old boy watching "Tales from the Crypt" who is loving all the gore. As Charlize says, there is no better way to end a meal for the Evil Queen than with a poisoned apple.
At the end of the meal Tom calls this "the most exciting meal of the season," and Uncle Eric chimes in that this is "one of the best meals I ever had on 'Top Chef.'"
With so much praise for every chef's meal, this is by far the hardest Judges' Table of the season.
All the chefs are brought in to speak to the judges, who have nothing but praise. In a dinner filled with such impressive dishes the judges say that anyone could have won normally with their dish, but Paul's bloody ode to the forbidden forest pushed him ahead of the pack.
Though the judges admit to loving all the dishes, they do have to eliminate one of the cheftestants tonight. Unfortunately, that leads to really nitpicky complaints. Grayson's greens were salty, Sarah's risotto was undercooked, and Beverly's sauce was sticky (and the dish was a bit safe). After being told how great they did, it is disheartening to all three women.
With that, the judges decide that it is time for Beverly to pack her knives and go. She cried, and it was as annoying as expected, but I am actually sad to see her go.
With that, Top Cheffers, I leave you with another week to contemplate a few topics. Will the chefs still talk about Bev even though she is gone? Do you think that Charlize Theron was a bit of a bitch aka the PERFECT Evil Queen? Do you think the Stew Band will play my birthday party? Leave your comments below!
P.S. WHAT WAS UP WITH CHRIS' HAIR IN THAT WEDDING PHOTO!?