“Top Chef” mini-cap: It takes Craft to be top dog

With Top Chef: New York fans and lovers of cute things still mourning the premature loss of adoragay Patrick (those rosy cheeks!), Team Rainbow soldiers on to cook another day. But, hey, maybe the fact that you have an official T-shirt will console you. Consider Bravo’s status as the gayest channel on TV cemented.

Meanwhile, Team EuroTrashers are busy feeling superior both to everyone else and each other. Stefan calls Fabio his biggest competition. Am I the only one who keeps seeing Harlequin romance covers every time someone says his name? It doesn’t help that Fabio insists on repeating his competitive credo: “It doesn’t matter how many dragons you kill, it’s who takes home the princess.”

Wow, that’s just wrong in every way possible.

But enough disturbing mental images. What’s cooking? The Quickfire Challenge is as New York as it gets. It is, yes, the humble hot dog. Last week apples, this week hot dogs. If they make s’mores next week, it’ll be like every camping trip I’ve ever been on.

The remaining 15 chefs rush to create a signature dog to impress host Padma Lakshmi and guest judge and New York City restaurateur Donatella Arpaia. Some look tasty (Hosea’s bacon roasted pepper dog) and some look like Oscar Mayer test kitchen experiments gone horribly awry (Jill’s summer roll dog). In the end, Radhika’s kabob dogs win the day as well as immunity. Sadly, the challenge did not settle the great mustard or ketchup hot dog condiment debate. However, I feel confident that had they had time they would have firmly come down on the side of good mustard.

For the Elimination Challenge, our chefs must create a three-course “new American” lunch menu to feed 50 hungry New Yorkers. The catch? The restaurant is head judge Tom Colicchio‘s flagship restaurant Craft. And the diners are 50 Top Chef rejects from New York. Bitter, table of 50.

Our sole chefbian, Jamie, has decided to make a chilled sweet corn soup. Ah, soup. If seasons past are any indication, this should draw the ire of fellow competitors. And, as if on cue, Fabio calls making soup “as simple as it can get.” Good thing Jamie thinks her soup is “awesome” and is “not worried.”

However, I am worried about some of the other chefs’ choices. Jill has chosen to make quiche out of an ostrich egg. Thing is, she has never worked with ostrich eggs before. What is with these chefs who insist on trying something brand new when they’re on the chopping block? Practice makes perfect for a reason.

When it’s time to serve, the bitterness brims over with the 50 jilted chefs. Comments like, “I could have done way better than this,” “It almost angers me to eat this food” and “Horrible” are passed around like the proverbial pepper. The judges are, by and large, equally unimpressed. Padma even spits out Ariane’s lemon meringue martini dessert for being too sweet. My God, woman, you made Padma regurgitate food. Never show your face in a kitchen again!

While Tom doesn’t regurgitate anything, his words may make the cheftestants want to hurl. He chides, “If this is your take on new American, I think you set new American back about 20 years.” Oh, and snap.

The judges call in Jamie, Hosea, Ariane, Fabio, Carla and Jill. I’ve noticed this year that instead of sending the best and then the worst separately, they’ve taken to bringing everyone in at once. Hmm, I guess it adds a little more initial suspense and a little more humiliation for the losers. And humiliation, clearly, makes for good TV.

The challenge’s bright spots were Carla’s apple pastry, Fabio’s beef carpaccio and Jamie’s corn soup. Fabio and his fancy-treated olives (somehow they were hard on the outside and liquid inside like an egg) wins the day. So for those of you keeping score at home, it’s Europe 2, America 0 in Elimination Challenges. First the Euro kicks the dollar’s ass and now this.

The challenge’s not-so-bright spots were Jill’s ostrich quiche, Hosea’s crab salad and Ariane’s lemon meringue. The judges given them all a tongue lashing. While they all sputter out excuses, Jill’s seems particularly half-hearted and the judges call it “the lamest excuse we’ve had in five years.”

In the end, Jill gets PYKAGed. This, of course, brings on the guilt and self-loathing for Ariane. Hey, Bravo, might want to look into putting a therapist on retainer.

So, are you surprised Jill got the boot instead of Ariane? And, seriously, someone hook that lady up with some self-help books before things get really ugly.

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