Top Chef: ‘It’s Embarrassing, Like Living in a Trailer Park’


Morning in the Top Chef house. Amanda sits on a giant rubber ball and talks about gravity. Kenny complains that he feels like he’s second fiddle on “the Angelo show.” Angelo confesses that he doesn’t like being a bottom on the bottom because it puts “a damper” on his mind. Arnold claims that “people want to throw each other under the bus already,” though maybe “each other” just means Angelo.

And then Johnny Iuzzini shows up, looking like he wandered in from a Stray Cats reunion show. Is he here to promote Just Desserts, his new show with Gail? Yes, yes he is, but he’s also here to make the chefs wet themselves by demanding that, for the Quickfire Challenge, they make him a pie. “What did I get myself into?” Tim moans, looking as if he’s just signed up for a role in a snuff film.

Angelo starts thinking about curries, because everything he makes must have some sort of Asian component; Lynne says she may be older but can still cook; Tracey does criminal things to some blueberries; and Ed calls Alex a slob and says his “thought process is underdeveloped,” and then proceeds to stick celery in a banana cream pie.

Johnny likes Amanda’s apple rosemary bourbon pie, but doesn’t like Amanda’s self-congratulatory “I’m not even a pastry chef!” “My grandma’s not a pastry chef, either, and she can make a pie,” he retorts, as fists pump in living rooms across the country. He decides he’s least fond of Alex’s white chocolate-chèvre pie, which is more like a quiche, and Tracey’s burnt but undercooked blueberry thing. “Nobody wants to be on the bottom,” she tells us. “It’s embarrassing, like living in a trailer park.” Or like performing like a trained seal on reality television.

Johnny ultimately rewards Kenny for his bananas Foster pie, and Angelo looks like he’s trying to pass a kidney stone.


On to the Elimination Challenge! The chefs will travel to Mount Vernon to prepare a picnic for a bunch of Capitol Hill interns. Alex is excited because he’s “never taken advantage of an intern,” so maybe he’ll get his chance now. At Whole Foods, Amanda plows over anyone in her way and confides that she spent her twenties high on coke, pills, and whatever else she could get her hands on, a confession that may have made more sense in last week’s episode, in which she was seen plying schoolchildren with sherry.

Up at Mount Vernon, many of the chefs express confidence in their choices, with Alex making us cringe for a second time by proclaiming, “I would eat the ass out of this pig.” Meanwhile, the interns trickle in and Padma materializes in a blindingly yellow dress that makes her look like she should be running a meter. Along for the ride is Barbuto’s Jonathan Waxman, who is introduced as “the Obi Wan Kenobi of Top Chef Masters.” Waxman takes a shine to Angelo’s Vietnamese lettuce wraps, saying, “This is a magazine cover dish,” and he and the judges also lavish praise on Arnold’s lamb kefta and barley salad, Amanda’s baby back ribs and grilled asparagus, and Ed’s spiced tuna loin with lentil hummus.

They’re not quite as fond of Tim’s pork two ways, which is doomed from the outset when a Canada goose flies over Tim’s station and tries to shit on the judges, which is perhaps the most brilliant moment this show has ever enjoyed. Shit also clearly crosses the judges’ minds when they taste Tracey’s sausage fennel sliders, and Stephen’s bacon-wrapped sea bass, which boasts overcooked fish and undercooked bacon. They’re also not fond of Kevin’s spin on Puerto Rican food, which involves flank steak, overcooked rice, and undercooked beans.

At the judges’ table, Arnold, Ed, Amanda, and Angelo are lavished with praise, with Arnold winning top honors for his lamb, which was “full of flavor.” “It’s nice to be recognized for who you are,” Arnold says, and then Tracey, Kevin, Tim, and Stephen are called in to account for their sins.

Padma blasts Kevin’s dish as “the safest Puerto Rican food I’ve ever had.” Waxman berates Stephen for his “really seriously inedible” fish, and Gail tells Tim she didn’t care for his vegetables. But Tracey comes in for the biggest beating because she has personally insulted Tom: “If that’s what you call Italian food, that’s really insulting to Italians, me being one,” he fumes. Tracey apologizes to him and Italians everywhere, but to no avail: She’s sent off to pack her knives. But at least she seems to have her head on her shoulders: “I’m not a bad chef — I had a bad day,” she says with a shrug, before going to join Jacqueline and friendly alien John in the sequester house.

Next week, they’ll be joined by two — count ’em — more chefs, whose fates will be in part decided by erstwhile contestants including Mike I. and Spike Mendelssohn. Given their earlier performance, it seems that the geese would make more eloquent judges, but unfortunately, they don’t seem to have been available.

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