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

Still more dishes stream out. It’s beginning to seem like
that Monty Python sketch where the ever-ballooning diner said he couldn’t fit
in even a "wafer-thin mint." Anyone? Anyone? John Cleese, anyone?

Steak au poivre’s up next. Dale’s dish looks like Lincoln Logs.
Manuel’s looks Mexican. Dale wins.

But after all these pretty well-received dishes, the party
really starts with piccata. Ryan trots out what are, essentially, fancy Chicken
McNuggets with gnocchi potatoes to frowns all around. Valerie gets more frowns
with her somewhat more traditional/correct dish. Hers is deemed least terrible,
and she wins.

Finally, soufflé. Erik serves something with bean paste and
tortilla strips, and the judges recoil in horror. Zoi gives them a rice pudding
soufflé that is deemed not a soufflé, but tasty. Zoi wins.

In the waiting room of despair, the losing competitors fret.
Padma breaks up the silent self-loathing and asks for Antonia, Nikki, Richard
and Stephanie. Left-behind Dale, who has clearly seen the show before, curses
under his breath.

Supreme Court — The four called first to the judges’
table are, of course, the best dishes. Their food was so good it even made
Anthony smile. Sort of. A little. Fine, smirk.

Antonia had great technical skill. Stephanie had great
flavor, composition and color. Nikki had light and bubbly taste. Richard had
forward thinking. All are deemed wonderful, but Rocco names Stephanie the
winner for her duck rolls. The Force is indeed strong with this one.

But as is the yin and yang of life, Stephanie returns to the
room of flop sweat and asks for Ryan, Erik, Nimma and Mark. Walk of shame time
arrives, and the four worst face the judges with their upset stomachs.

Erik cops to his shortcomings.

Erik: I made glorified nachos, I’m not proud of it.

Nimma, when asked if her shrimp scampi was good, replies that
her cauliflower scramble was great. Wow, that’s a roundabout way of saying, "No."
Mark’s duck gets called out as silly and pretentious. Ryan tries to explain
away his McNuggets. He utters a lot of words, but none of them make much sense.
Certainly none of them explains why he made a Milanese instead of a piccata.
Tom makes a face that can only be described as incredulous.

The losers go back to the holding area of unhappiness. (By the
way, Bravo, you couldn’t spring for some nicer furniture? What’s with the
folding chairs?)

The judges deliberate, and Ryan is named class idiot by
Rocco who says, "It wasn’t only his gnocchi that were dense." And sad
Nimma? Her scampi was classic overcompensation. Too little salt in Quickfire,
too much salt in Elimination.

Out on the folding chairs, Erik commiserates with Ryan.

Erik: My nachos didn’t cut it.
Oh, please, I breaded chicken.

When they’re called back in front of the judges, Tom scolds
the losers some more. To recap the humiliation: yuck, yuck, yuck and yuck. But
who has to please pack his/her knives and go? Nimma.

Nimma: Unfortunately, no one will know that I’m a
very good cook.

Poor thing. She seemed overwhelmed by the situation. But we’ll
always have the headband. Don’t forget that.

Coming up this season
on Top Chef:
The kitchen is a
volcano with lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Plus chefs getting soapy in the
tubs, chefs playing the didgeridoos and — oh yeah — chefs bitching and whining
and moaning. Oh, yes, there will be angry lesbians.

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