“Top Chef” Recaps: Episode 4.2 “Zoo Food”

Chefs of the jungle — Back at the kitchen, there are three hours to cook, and culinary mayhem ensues. Team Penguin decides to make a "flavored glacier jelly mold." But will they float little marshmallows in it like Grandma used to do? F-bomber Andrew returns as he expresses his childlike enthusiasm about the "f—ing glacier!"

Richard breaks out more of his toys. His locker is starting to seem like Mary Poppins’ magic carpet bag. Could a coat rack and potted plant be next?

Valerie confesses that she has never made blinis without serving them right away. There goes that Spidey sense again.

Head Judge Tom Colicchio comes in to intimidate — I mean, check up on the cheftestants. He seems particularly intrigued by Team Penguin’s glacier. Then comes the inevitable global warming joke, and somewhere, Al Gore is looking at his Nobel Prize and sighing.

Team Bear are less pleased. Nikki’s blueberry-and-walnut–stuffed mushroom caps look like — well, let Spike explain it:

Spike: Nikki’s mushrooms look like turds. And like who wants to put a turd in their mouth?

Well, I saw this John Waters movie once, but other than that — really — no one.

Over at Team Girl-illa, the celery root chips for Stephanie’s crab salad are soggy. The team decides to "cross their fingers that they stay crispy." Ah, crossing one’s fingers, just like they taught you in culinary school.

Life’s a zoo — The three hours are up, and all the food gets packed up for a trip to the zoo. Dale decides to put cheese on the mushroom turds, a move he likens to "putting perfume on a pig."

Antonia is skeptical of Valerie’s blinis and deems them "not necessarily something I would eat or enjoy." Yep, that’ exactly what I would put on my menu, too. They do, however, decide to bail on Stephanie’s soggy chips and just serve her crab salad alone instead.

Padma arrives with judges Tom, Wylie and Gail Simmons from Food & Wine magazine. Then, boom: 200 partygoers descend on the tables like a pack of hungry animals. (Come on, you knew that one was coming.)

Team Bear decide to pull the mushrooms because they aren’t staying warm enough. Never mind that they still look like turds.

Gail and Padma compliment the spiciness of Team Lion’s dishes. Eating side by side, Gail says something about it being "fiery" and my mind starts to wander again, this time to a very happy place. Mmm, Padma and Gail, mmm.

The ladies then go to Team Penguin and practically lick their dishes clean. Team Girl-illa, though, is another story. Stephanie’s crab salad is a bust. Then Tom and Wylie try Valerie’s black olive blini with fennel mascarpone, rutabaga and beets.

Wylie: Sounds delicious, actually. [both take bites]
Tom:
Sounds.

Antonia’s lamb lettuce cup and Stephanie’s mom’s banana bread recipe are Team Girl-illa’s only saving graces.

Things are going well at Team Bear until the dreaded mushrooms are mentioned. Spike thinks they shouldn’t have served them; Nikki thinks she would have been in jeopardy if she didn’t. But Tom and Wylie just want to know who cut the cheese, or more precisely, why they cut the cheese onto them in the first place.

Over at Team Penguin, Andrew serves his squid ceviche with soy-balsamic tapioca. Man, someone has a thing for the balsamic vinegar. But this time, freed from the tyranny of counting, the judges love his dish.

Table talk — Everyone convenes in the holding area as they wait for the judges’ decision. Some feel pumped; some feel pummeled. Padma breaks the tension by calling in teams Vulture and Penguin. This means all three chefbians made it into the winners circle. It is a good day to be gay.

Team Vulture’s food was "fabulous" and "well-flavored." The Penguins’ fare was "fun" and "refined." Wylie announces that Andrew and his glacier and squid creations make him the winner. The F-bomber takes a moment to pray to the profanity gods in thanks.

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