Virginia Sherwood/Bravo
Stephan Lee
January 19, 2012 AT 07:01 AM EST

Top Chef

TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
Reality TV

The Top Chef caravan stuck a flag in Austin and moved once again… back to San Antonio, where we started this circuitous culinary adventure through Texas. At this point, does anyone care about the change in location? The next time Top Chef chooses an entire state as its inspiration, they should set their sights on a less geographically expansive one, like Delaware, known for its crab puffs and Scrapple. (With the Wikipedia blackout it was way harder to look up “Delaware state food” just now.)

Location aside, the Quickfire Challenge was a rather ingenious one. The chefs had to choose three ingredients from a moving conveyor belt and use them all in a dish. The longer they waited to pick ingredients, the more likely they were to nab good ones but the less time they’d have to cook them. It was like playing a game of chicken against the clock and the conveyor belt gods-elves. I seem to remember a Mario Party game sort of like this. Fast Food Frenzy, anyone?

It was fun to see the cheftestants pick food combos even the most pregnant of women would think were weird. It was also fun to see Grayson chest-bump Sarah’s elbow. And it was also fun once again listening to fan-favorite guest judge Eric Ripert’s amazingly thick accent, which is somehow totally easy to understand.

Landing in the bottom was Chris, who had to chase down the lobster (the conveyor belt giveth and the conveyor belt taketh away) for his poached lobster-foie-gras-vanilla dish. Lobster and foie gras sometimes go together but it’s a tricky combo, and Eric said they didn’t complement each other in Chris’ case. Padma noted that the milk and vanilla with Chris’ cauliflower brought out a chocolaty taste, to which Eric said “to-tal-ly.” (I know Padma’s been at this for a long time, but I always feel like cheering whenever she gives a critique that sounds especially expert.) Grayson also did poorly by crumbling soggy-looking Goldfish over Dover sole and citrus-ing the hell out of it. Paul had a bad showing with his dish that brought together Wonder Bread, saffron, and bitter melon in an unholy trifecta. If this challenge were a videogame, the bitter melon would be a trick item that turns into a bomb once you touch it. I recently went to an authentic Chinese restaurant with some very authentically Chinese people, and nobody touched the bitter melon dish that I, for inexplicable reasons, insisted on trying. In Top Chef, bitter melon is the anti-bacon.

NEXT: Nothing tastes better than the A-list …

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