Top Chef Week Four: Amused via vending machine, Sugargate, and yet no one goes home

November 9, 2006

Drah-ma. Again. But this time, no heads would roll. That’s right. We hope you’re learning all their names, because they’ll ALL be baaack next week. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, there was the QuickFire Challenge. Contestants had to come up with an amuse bouche to serve to a judge, Suzanne Goin, who looked like she had too much sense to really be on this program. But there she was. The twist was they had to “shop” at the vending machines in the Top Chef hallway: There was your run-of-the-mill chips-and-gum machine, one of the fancier rotating auto-mat style refrigerator thingys, and a soda machine (all conveniently stripped of most brand names). They all took their $10 roll of quarters and, without much irony, chose things that they ultimately turned into really impressive amuse bouche(s?). All that is, except Michael, who declared the game was “stupid,” bought Cheetos and a Snickers bar and made what looked like an orange worm emerging from a clod of chocolate dirt. Eew. (To paraphrase the sensible judge.) But, alas, he would not go home for that.

The Elimination Challenge divided the contestants up into four teams, and charged them with making a three-course meal totaling no more than 500 calories for kids at “Camp Glucose.” (Seriously? Camp Glucose?) Fortunately, and to their credit, this caused much less groaning than the kid challenge did last year, and even less than the Friday’s challenge last week. Betty wisely 86’d Marcel’s crazy idea to serve the kids asparagus with a tiny sliver of prosciutto, and their team made the winning pizza dish. Frank thought of the recipe, and therefore “won.” The team including the “hot diabetic” — to use one kid’s handle for Sam — didn’t do as well as you might have thought, considering that advantage. Hard turkey meatballs and sour smoothies do not satisfy sugar-deprived kids.

So Betty’s team triumphed, but not without drama. As the two last-placed teams were on the chopping block, attempts were made to throw poor Betty under the bus for adding two tablespoons of sugar to her crispy chocolate cookies. And she’s so nice! In the end, Betty confessed to adding the bit of sugar, but convincingly acquitted herself by arguing that since the dishes were still under 500 calories, she didn’t think it was breaking the rules. Old Tom Colicchio looked pretty stern, but said that no one was going home amid this confusion. But, he warned, “We’ll be watching you.” Or something. Yes, Tom, it is a TV show, and you guys are taping this, right? You can, um, play back the tape to find out what happened, no?

Should we talk about the food?
: The Elimination Challenge didn’t produce that many impressive results. It’s to be expected given they’re cooking for kids with severe calorie restrictions. However, the QuickFire Challenge was very impressive in the sophisticated presentation by all but Michael. To see the craftsmanship by the contestants really makes you appreciate the amount of skill hiding under the snarky banter.
Wife: Ah, the food. Sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t. I concur with hubby that none of the Elimination Challenge offerings made my mouth water, though those kids were pretty darned excited about that pizza. The QuickFire Challenge was totally impressive (again with the exception of Michael. Didn’t he buy corn nuts, too? Did he just snack on those?). They really know how to dress up those plates, and it gave me a newfound respect for vending machine’s culinary potential. I’ll never look at the Pepsi machine at work quite the same way.

Is this sugar-gate? Did Betty get off too easily?
For those of you who don’t know, in my other life, I’m a lawyer. As a lawyer, I’m well trained in the art of parsing and reading rules to suit my own desired outcome. I don’t think Betty spent three years after college in the library studying the law (neither did I, I was busy eating) but she can represent me before a judge anytime she wants. A1 parsing.
W: Sugargate? Hardly. The Lychee Controversy of 06 was far more scandalous!

Was guest judge chef Suzanne Goin right about Michael being uninterested in the competition?
H: This episode once again makes me believe that Michael enjoys the copious amounts of free alcohol flowing behind the scenes more than the competition. I hope he turns it around, but my feeling is, we’ll be seeing him drinking his sorrows at the bar sometime soon. Though I’ve picked him every week so far to be kicked off, and he’s still there.

W: Yes, Suzanne Goin nailed Michael. “It seems like you don’t care”… Ah, didn’t that playback just show Michael saying something just like that? He seems goofier every week. But obviously our predictions are causing some kind of rift in the space-time continuum, creating a parallel world where Michael is never kicked off and wins the whole thing.

Moment of the night…
H&W: We agree that it has to be when a “Glucose Camper” declares, the food is good, but I want to marry the hot diabetic!

Winners and losers?
H: Michael’s off next week. Or he won’t be… at this point I’m going to keep at him because I want you to think I ‘m a one trick pony. I’m now leaning toward Cliff as the winner.
W: I’m NOT going to pick Michael, because it only seems to help him. How about Marisa? She still bothers me. And I’m picking the hot diabetic to win it all. Why not?

Your thoughts? Who’s the next off? Who’s the winner? And did we see Betty’s darkside? Did the show editors let it slip out?


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