Top Chef: ‘It’s Like the Spice Girls and Their Bodyguard’


This week, as if to atone for last season’s use of policy wonks and politicians as guest judges, Top Chef opened wide and spit out a Jonas Brother. Specifically, as Spike tells us, it’s Joe Jonas, a “world-famous teenage heartthrob.” Dale T. is less impressed: “I thought he might be a pastry chef,” he says, curling his upper lip. For his part, Joe Jonas looks dewy-skinned but slightly bored as he tells the chefs, “I’m a big fan of the show, guys.”

Joe Jonas goes on to announce that today’s Quickfire Challenge will be to make midnight snacks for the children attending the Museum of Natural History’s annual Night at the Museum sleepover. Richard guesses that Joe’s palate runs toward “filet mignon and Cheez Doodles,” which perfectly sums up boy bands in general, while Dale T. makes the incisive observation that “Joe Jonas’s palate knows what it likes eating.”

As Dale L. begins making “crack for small children,” Marcel crows that he’s “sooo happy to be cooking for kids” because, basically, he has a mother. Spike reminisces about hours spent doing manual labor as a child in his parents’ restaurant, while Richard admits he was a “husky” boy who ate cereal with heavy cream, which sounds AMAZING. And Stephen’s unsurprising revelation that he grew up eating health food is accompanied by a baby photo of him eating matzoh, part of which may still be stuck up his ass.

Joe Jonas isn’t a fan of Tiffany D.’s messy coconut rice pudding, Mike I.’s un-chocolaty chocolate polenta blobs, and Stephen’s snickerdoodle sandwich. But he likes Spike’s homemade potato and carrot chips with marshmallow dressing and Tiffani F.’s weirdo Rice Krispie treat, and he declares it a tie between the two. Or rather, the show’s producers do, to enable what happens next: Tiffani F. and Spike each must pick teams who will help them make 150 servings of their snacks to serve to the kids, who will choose the winner and finally put an end to the Quickfire Challenge That Will Just Not Go Away.

The chefs display a gamut of largely negative emotions when told they must serve food to small children. Dale L. admits that “children kind of scare me. … They’re called brats for a reason.” Jamie folds her arms across her chest and says, “I have no interest in having children. Ever.”

Meanwhile, Fabio is chosen last but decides to go with Spike’s team “because I want to piss off Spike.” Dale L. gets the best line of the night, observing that the hilariously gender-segregated teams are like “the Spice Girls and their bodyguard versus the cool guys and their babysitter, Carla.” Then he says something about Ritz Cracker handjobs. Oh, Dale L., how we have missed you.

At the museum, the screaming children, driven to previously unscaled heights of lunacy by massive doses of sugar, choose Tiffani’s glucose bomb as the winner of the challenge. And then Tom appears. The chefs look at him like he’s a fart in a parked car, because they know that his sudden arrival means they’re going to have a very long night. And ho ho, are they ever: for the Elimination Challenge, the teams will make breakfast for the kids and their parents. Each team leader chooses whether to serve a T-Rex menu (all-meat/meat products) or a Brontosaurus menu (fruit/veg/grain). Tiffani chooses meat, and everyone goes to the Large North American Mammals room to go to bed. Stephen, seeing the cots on the floor, sniffs, “I’m not used to this. I live in a loft in downtown Manhattan. This is creating a sense of uncomfortability, if you will.” Really, is anything sexier than the collision of arrogance and borderline illiteracy?

Some of the chefs wander through the museum, and then 45 minutes later it’s time to wake up. The camera lingers over Tre’s muscled torso in a hilariously gratuitous fashion, and then everyone runs to the kitchen. Once there, Team T-Rex makes the unhappy discovery that they pretty much can’t use anything but meat and eggs. Anger ensues. Then Jamie cuts her finger and leaves to get two — two! — stitches, prompting other chefs to recount all of the times they cut themselves and just slapped duct tape over the blood and kept working. Jamie’s partner, Jen, gets the most awesomely passive-aggressive line of the night, telling Jamie, “It’s OK, just take care of yourself.”


Breakfast time finally arrives. The judges appear, along with Katie Lee Joel, children, and parents. Stephen looks all hot and bothered to see Katie Lee, confiding that “there’s some history” between the two of them as a flashback shows her tasting some drink Stephen made while he tries not to leer down the front of her dress.

Padma and Gail sit down with some children to eat. Padma tries and fails not to look slightly repulsed by the situation. Gail compares Richard, Marcel, and Angelo’s parfait to a painting. Everyone seems underwhelmed by Tiffany D. and Antonia’s unevenly baked frittata trio, and Fabio hawks his breakfast gnocchi with the aplomb of a Viagra salesman. Jen and Jamie’s braised bacon with hard-boiled eggs comes in for some hard knocks, thanks to the bland eggs, while the over-reduced shrimp sauce Tre made to go with Casey’s salmon registers as a sodium bomb.

Back in the broom closet, the judges summon Team Brontosaurus and inform them that their dishes were the best, and that Angelo, Richard, and Marcel’s banana parfait is the winner of the challenge. It’s a warm and fuzzy moment until Marcel announces that really, he alone should have been the winner.

His petulant “shoulda been a contender” sentiment is echoed — loudly — once Team T-Rex goes before the judges. Jen doesn’t even try to conceal her anger, and it’s breathtaking. When Tom criticizes the team for plating everything together, she shoots back, “You guys are smart enough. You’re the judges. Why don’t you say, ‘Hey, can I get a different plate?'” And Tom replies, “Yeah, I’m smart enough to know that, but maybe someone on your team should be smart enough to know that.” Good day, sir!

Tom actually seems secretly delighted to have Jen busting his balls, while everyone else seems kind of delighted to have the opportunity to rag on Jamie for her itty-bitty stitches. Back in the broom closet, Jen remains unrepentant, saying, “Welcome to Jen All-Stars.” Bitches.

Back at the judges’ table, Katie Lee remarks that Antonia and Tiffany D.’s frittatas were something she “could have found on a hotel buffet or cruise ship,” but it’s pretty clear that the judges have it in for Jen’s bland eggs and underwhelming braised bacon, despite her earlier insistence that “it was everything I wanted it to be.”

And so it isn’t surprising — though it is shocking — when the judges tell Jen to pack up her knives. Off she goes in a flurry of crazy-lady laughter and expletives, which would be easier to laugh at if they weren’t accompanied by her confession that “my dad has always said second place is still losing. I wonder what he’s going to say about second to last.” That’s really kind of heartbreaking.

But there’s no time to dwell, because next week two chefs will be eliminated amid charges of culinary plagiarism, frozen melons, and Wylie Dufresne’s magnificent mutton chops.

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