Remember when we all worried that this season of Top Chef was focusing too much on drama and not enough on food? Yeah, tonight’s episode won’t exactly ease those fears. John and Stefan spent the hour at each other’s throats, sniping endlessly about frozen tuna and who threw who under the proverbial bus. Meanwhile, Danyele couldn’t stop stressing about how little counter space she had during the Elimination Challenge, Bart and John — him again? — got into a dumb spat over a blender, and Josie came in out of nowhere at the end of the episode, picking a fight with Stefan about which of them had acted more rudely in the stew room. Guys, guys: In this argument, you both lose.
After a moment of mourning for dearly departed Eliza, the week’s competition kicked off with the kind of cruel, creative Quickfire Challenge that tends to bring out the best in cheftestants. As the title of tonight’s episode — “Foiled Again” — indicated, the task revolved around aluminum foil. Er, sorry: REYNOLDS WRAP. Major kudos to Top Chef for managing to make this one interesting despite that rampant product placement
Every single item in the Top Chef pantry was covered in a thick layer of shiny foil; pity the poor PAs who were tasked with wrapping every last lemon. The contestants were free to unbundle anything that struck their fancy — but once an ingredient had been uncovered, a chef had to use it in his or her dish. And to make things even more difficult, the gang couldn’t employ regular pots, pans, or mixing bowls while cooking. Instead, every single cooking vessel they used had to be constructed out of Reynolds Wrap and Reynolds Wrap alone.
To the competitors’ credit, nobody tried to half-ass the challenge by making a simple salad or sticking a Cheeto into a mashed-up Snickers bar. Sheldon managed to sear a few scallops on a makeshift foil pan, imparting a smoky flavor that impressed guest judge Stephanie Izard (a.k.a. the winner of Top Chef season 4). Bart wowed with a serving of fish presented on a foil-covered plate; he got extra points in my book for fashioning a strainer out of Reynolds Wrap as well. Danyele’s dish also got good reviews, which made the beleaguered redhead ecstatically happy.
But in the end, the victor was Kristen — who had the cojones to whip up an almond and chocolate sponge cake in just 30 minutes, despite not having access to regular bakeware or even a cake pan. The confection wasn’t much to look at, but Stephanie and Padma raved about its taste — and if nothing else, Kristen’s dish was a lot more ambitious than anything put out by any of her competitors. (A simple roasted chicken, Josh? You couldn’t even throw some of your beloved bacon in to make things a little more interesting?)
NEXT: Berry, berry nice