“Top Chef: California” recap (13.4): Desert Hearts

Previously on Top Chef, we bid adieu to our sweet, queer cinnamon roll, Frances. I don’t really fuck with Last Chance Kitchen, but, damn, I hope she knocks out Floppy Hair. After the elimination, the chefs pack their bags and head to Palm Springs for the next set of challenges. According to white guy with glasses, Palm Springs is known for the gays, their white wine spritzers, and also lots of old people.

The chefs arrive at the desert and go on a drive that reminds of the beginning of Jurassic Park a little bit. Hopefully our chefs fare better than Goldblum and co. They make it to their destination and find Padma hanging out right on top of the San Andreas Fault with José Andrés. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate Padma’s outfit:

Literal goddess.

Quickfire Challenge: The chefs must create a dish using equipment powered by clean energy, which Palm Springs is (allegedly) well known for. There are two options for equipment: a solar stove or a solar oven, and let me tell you, they both look exactly like the future. The chefs draw knives to decide which solar thing they have to use and then get to cooking.

Giselle blows up her solar oven by putting water in it. Man, I don’t even want to think about how much something like that costs. Yikes. Bunhead is doing some dumb shit as per usual. This time, he’s plating a raw oyster on a fucking rock he pulled from the desert. JFC, man. I don’t even know what to say about you anymore.

Anyway, the chefs finish cooking and Padma and José come around to taste. It seems like most chefs handle the challenge pretty well, but Padma calls Bunhead’s dish “snot on a rock.” I know I say this in almost every recap, but every time I think I couldn’t possibly love Padma more, she goes and does something like this. We should all bow down to Padma is what I’m saying.

The judges least favorite dishes were Grayson, Giselle, and Bunhead, while the best dishes belonged to Baldy 1, Wesley, and Cajun. The winner is Wesley! He will have immunity and José Andrés decides to also give him a solar stove because he is a wonderful man.

Elimination Challenge: Padma splits the chefs up based on which solar equipment they used in the Quickfire, and these will be the teams for the next challenge. Cajun thinks the other team looks pretty stacked, so he’s nervous. Padma explains that the chefs have to create a four-course progressive menu that follows the judges as they play a round of golf. The chefs will have to serve from refreshment carts right on the golf course.

The teams do some menu planning, one team choosing to be really vegetable-centric and the other going with a Latin themed menu. Angelina and Giselle refuse to work with each other because they had to cook head to head twice last week, so Angelina ends up with Grayson and Giselle will be cooking with Amar.

At Whole Foods, Bunhead tells us he’s going to make a dessert just like his wife made for Coachella. Of course you guys opened a restaurant in the VIP area of Coachella. I bet you also love to tell people about how you opened a restaurant in the VIP area of Coachella, emphasis on the VIP. Cajun’s dessert will be going up against Bunhead’s and I hope he crushes it.

That night, the chefs have the run of a resort and it looks a little bit like a subdued version of Chefs Gone Wild. Glasses feels like he’s surrounded by a bunch of bros, and it feels a lot like high school. He’s worked in really macho kitchens, and it’s just not his style at all. Glasses is my favorite white dude.

Just a bunch of guys making human soup.

The next day, the judges tee off as the chefs drive around in golf carts and start cooking. Padma is adorably terrible at golf, so y’all know I’m swooning hard over here. The first course is ceviche vs. ceviche, and while they’re both good, Karen and Baldy 1 seem to edge out Kwame and Beardy, partially because they kept the dish colder.

The teams’ next courses also end up being pretty—similarshrimp vs. shrimp. Grayson and Angelina’s dish was only okay, and José wishes they had left the corn raw for freshness. Glasses and Marjorie’s shrimp was fresher and tastier. The next course is pork vs. beef. Wesley and Boston guy’s pork beats Amar and Giselle’s beef – which feels like a few different dishes on the same plate.

The dessert course is Bunhead vs. Cajun. Bunhead seems to spend most of his cooking time complaining about the wind. Cajun’s grapefruit and tequila sabayon is better than Bunhead’s coconut pudding with foam. Also, Bunhead plates underneath a fucking blanket “because of the wind.” Seems like everyone else was able to handle the exact same wind, so IDK man. The only good thing to come out of Bunhead’s idiocy is that it made Padma smile and the angels sang down to us from heaven.

The blue team wins the challenge, which only kind of sucks because that means Bunhead can’t go home. It’s awesome because Karen and Baldy 1 have the best dish! Yay Karen, you keep on repping queer ladies, girl! The judges loved Baldy 1’s idea to serve over the dish over ice, so he takes the win.


The orange team didn’t perform terribly, but the worst dish by far was Grayson and Angelina’s shrimp. Grayson defends the dish, but Tom tells her that there were too many fatty elements on the plate. Grayson kind of talks herself into a hole re: the corn situation. Angelina’s shrimp wasn’t that great either, though.

Tom tees up the elimination with some sweet golf analogies (SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), and then Padma delivers the news: Grayson is packing her knives and going home and she is pissed about it. I totally see where she’s coming from—I think Angelina has been almost eliminated in every challenge so far—but she hasn’t had a great showing this season either. Here’s hoping she can pull through over on Last Chance Kitchen.

Next week on Top Chef: Padma calls Chrissy Teigen “sweet, succulent, and sticky” and we all die.

RIP all of us.