“Top Chef” Recaps: Episode 4.1 “Anything You Can Cook I Can Cook Better”

The cheftestants pull up in front of a chichi Chicago townhouse, and
when they ring the doorbell, it’s answered by their mystery guest judge: celebrichef
Rocco DiSpirito. Everyone seems suitably impressed. Then they’re asked to "service
the pizza one slice at a time." Does that sounds dirtier than it should or
do I just have the whole Eliot Spitzer scandal on the brain?

So, how was it? Let me summarize.

Richard‘s peach
pizza: Surprisingly good.
Stephanie‘s prosciutto concoction: Something
smells funky.
Zoi‘s broccoli and lamb pizza: A lot
of stuff going on.
Dale‘s sausage and picked kohlrabi pizza: Cool.
Ryan‘s butternut squash pizza: Very nice.
Nikki‘s white pie: Thanks, Nikki.
Andrew‘s heirloom pizza: Thank you.
Jennifer‘s grape and bacon pizza: I
like the way you did the crust.
Erik‘s mushroom, pepper and sausage
pizza: Thanks.
Spike‘s Greek pizza: Thank you very
Nimma‘s mushroom pizza: It’s missing
a lot of salt.
Mark‘s Marmite pizza: No comment.

With 16 pizzas rumbling in their stomachs, Padma and Rocco
come forward to give the chefs their decision (and possibly hunt for antacids).
Rocco calls out half of the chefs and tells them to stand at the far end of the
room. Ruh-roh. Do they have to wear dunce caps, too?

The Bad: Lisa, Nimma, Valerie, Manuel, Andrew, Stephanie,
Nikki and Zoi.

The Good: Mark, Spike, Antonia, Richard, Dale, Erik,
Jennifer and Ryan.

Rocco especially liked Richard’s peach pie: "It gets
proven over and over again that there are no rules in cooking." Though, in
case you were wondering, there is still no crying in baseball.

Mi casa, su casa — Padma tells the group to rest up
and await the next day’s Elimination Challenge. Oh, and the gorgeous townhouse
they’re all standing in? It’s their new Chicago home.

F-bomber Andrew approves of the accommodations by
exclaiming, "Oh, what phatness!" Dude, 1992 called and wants its
catch phrase back.

Decreasing the phatness are the bunk beds they’ll be
sleeping in. What is this, sleepaway cooking camp? With the pop of a champagne
cork, the fun really begins. Booze, glorious booze! They chefs all hang out,
drink and get to know one another casually.

Well, almost everyone. Nimma is alone at her bunk and
looking so sad you’d think someone just ran over her cat.

Nimma: I’m not here to have fun. I really am not
here to have fun. I’ll have fun when I’ve reached my goals. It’s a competition;
I’m just here to work.

Oh, honey, carpe diem.

Fellow loner Dale plays a one-man game of pool.

Dale: I feel you have like to remove yourself out of
a lot of the human side of this. You have to say to yourself, "I’m better
than all these m—–f—–s."

OK, what’s up with all the cussing this season? Who are all
of these potty mouths? Have I switched over to Deadwood on accident?

Knives drawn — Elimination Day arrives, and Padma
greets them in a fuchsia sweater dress and the knee-high boots. Hey, I’m just
being thorough.

The winning Quickfire chefs draw numbered knives. In
numbered order, they then pick one of the losing chefs to go head-to-head
against in the Elimination Challenge. But there’s a little twist (of course).

The losing chef gets to pick which dish the two of them cook
from a list of eight culinary classics: lasagna, duck à l’orange, crab cakes,
chicken piccata, eggs benedict, steak au poivre, shrimp scampi and soufflé. The
best dish from each pair wins, and the worst chef is eligible for elimination.
Everyone looks at the word soufflé and promptly shudders in horror.

The face-offs: Richard vs. Andrew (crab cakes — way to work
that feud, boys), Mark vs. Stephanie (duck à l’orange), Jennifer vs. Nikki
(lasagna), Antonia vs. Nimma (shrimp scampi), Spike vs. Lisa (eggs benedict),
Dale vs. Manuel (steak au poivre), Ryan vs. Valerie (chicken piccata) and Erik
vs. Zoi (the dreaded soufflé).

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