Top Chef Presents Hats Entertainment
A shrimp battle and a brunch battle whittle the field from six to four.
Our Candidates For Elimination?
I'm gonna stick with this predictor of the show's outcome, even though it's been anything but accurate. Naturally, we begin with Sylva, last week's winner, talking about his win. He puts it into the larger perspective about how depressed he was when an arsonist burned his restaurant in September 2015. But being on Top Chef has helped him regain his focus. "I'm feeling amazing," Sylva says. "I'm feeling a little unstoppable, which is bad." Yes, it is bad, Sylva. And you can't chase away the hex you just put on yourself by being self-aware. The hex is there. And if you go home tonight because of it, just know it's because you said it out loud.
Tom surprises the chefs by invading their sacred Stew Room, which Casey does not like. But seriously, at this point in the show what does she like? Tom tells them he has a treat for them tomorrow, and Casey figures out that the "treat" is going on a boat. This does not come as good news to Brooke, because Brooke has a fear of vomit. Also not great news for Brooke, Shirley admits that she has "major motion sickness." Looks like the morning boat ride could be a fun one. And colorful!
Before we find out anything about the challenge, the chefs meet Tom and his pal Capt. Tommy, who will take them all out shrimping. So the remaining six chefs go shrimping, they have a great time, and absolutely no one barfs. Dammit, Top Chef, haven't you ever read Chekhov? If you promise barf in the first segment, there'd better be barf after the commercial break. As disappointed as I am in the lack of barf, it doesn't compare to the disappointment the chefs feel when they see Padma and a makeshift kitchen waiting for them on the dock at their return.
Padma's wearing some jumpsuit-like thing that manages to simultaneously look like it's on forwards and backwards. It also manages to be both flattering and unflattering at the same time. Is it made of denim and not-denim? I have to think the answer is "probably."
The Quickfire Challenge is simple. The chefs just need to make a dish using the fresh shrimp they caught. The twist is, this is a Sudden Death Quickfire and the bottom three chefs will have a cook-off, with the worst chef going home.
Early in the challenge, Shirley admits she's a little out of it because of the Dramamine or whatever she took to combat motion sickness. Sheldon decides to try a thing he tried in Season 10, using branches from the trees around to smoke his dish, in a challenge he won. Brooke immediately calls him out on it. "You're doing this again?" she says. "You did that in Alaska." Sheldon replies, "You know what happened in Alaska." We all do. The two of you went on that killing spree and it nearly meant the end of the franchise. But then you pulled it back with an amazing salmon dish.
Hilariously, Shirley looks around at everyone else's dishes and decides that everyone's dishes look pretty great, which they do. "Other than my pile of dark things that I hate on the plate," she says. And then we get to see her dish in comparison to those of her fellow chefs and wow does hers look sad. It's dark and sad and wilted looking. Motion sickness pills obviously make Shirley question man's place on earth. Padma and Tom make their rounds, tasting everyone's dishes. They don't give away much of how they feel, except when Padma tastes John's dish and then says, "Did you mean for it to be that spicy?" It's never good when Padma asks questions like that.
Tom decides Sheldon's smoky shrimp was their favorite, so he gets the win. The bottom three are Casey, Silva, and Shirley. Tom's criticism of Casey's dish is that it was just a tiny bit too salty, which is hilarious since a previous criticism of one of her dishes was that it just needed a grain or two of salt. Casey makes a face that clearly says, "What the fuck do you people want from me?" And then another face that says, "I am fucking OVER THIS." Shirley's dish was a mess and the shrimp was overcooked. And Silva's dish was way too salty.
For the Sudden Death Quickfire, the chefs get to use any of the proteins from the sea brought in as bycatch in the shrimp nets. Shirley admits that she's still loopy from the Dramamine. As time winds down, Casey discovers the squid she's using seems a little tough. And that ends up being what sinks her. She gives a tearful confessional exit interview, then walks into the ocean.
Elimination Challenge: Prep
"Chefs," Padma says, "it's time to have fun with your food." Instead of whatever bullshit you've been doing with it up 'til now, I guess? Then she introduces the guest judge for this week, Chef Dominique Ansel, the inventor of the Cronut. For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs must create an original breakfast/lunch mash-up for brunch. And they'll serve their food to Charleston's famous Hat Ladies.
Dominique thinks this challenge will really give the chefs a chance to be more creative. John has a problem with that, and says, "Being told to be creative is like, you know, 'Try to be articulate. Try to be smart. Try to be good-looking.' It's not easy." I will agree that at least one of those is not easy for him. Brooke is a little bummed about this challenge, as the crepe thing she made last week would have been perfect for this week's challenge. But she can't make it again.
Back at the house, Sheldon gets on his phone and Facetimes his family. No, Sheldon, NO! You know that's the kiss of death on this show! Then moments later, when all the chefs are in the kitchen prepping their meals, Sheldon reveals that for his chicken and waffle-inspired dish he's using store-bought waffles. "Prepackaged, frozen waffles," John asks. "That could get you in trouble on Top Chef." Why is Sheldon trying so hard to get struck by lightning?
Tom and Dominique visit the kitchen to do a little pre-eating poke around. They ask Brooke what she's doing, and she tries to keep a lot of it secret. She doesn't want to reveal to them what she's thinking of doing with the plating of the dish, because then if it doesn't work out, they'll wonder what happened. It's a very good point. But then she basically explains it anyway. So it seems like Brooke could be in trouble too.
Elimination Challenge: Service
A bevy of brunch ladies in Sunday hats parades into the restaurant; hidden among them are Padma and Gail, as well as Tom and guest judge Dominique Ansel. The hats are amazing, and it's awesome that Padma and Gail are wearing them too. But it leaves me wishing that Tom had worn a hat too. You know, in solidarity. I guess The Secret doesn't work.
When it comes time to serve their dishes, the majority of the chefs have technical issues. Sylva's eggs aren't cooked enough, so he somehow "misses" being part of the first twenty dishes out. Not exactly sure how that works for this particular challenge, but it's definitely a thing. It makes him reconsider his frittata as scrambled eggs. But then his dish just looks like a piece of salmon on a bed of scrambled eggs, which upsets him. If he hadn't had oven issues, wouldn't the dish have looked like a frittata with a piece of salmon sitting on it? Not sure how one is better than the other, except for the fact that the judges were expecting a frittata and what they got was in no way that. "Why is this a frittata?" Tom asks. "I wish you had more creativity in the dish," Dominique adds. "Yeah," Tom says, piling on to an obviously pained Sylva, "this screams that things were going bad in the kitchen and you were struggling."
Brooke wanted to plate her dish in some special way. Instead, she has to leave her hibiscus sauce as a broth in the bowl. And because she already basically described what she'd hoped her dish would be to Tom and Dominique when they visited the kitchen, Tom picks up that something went wrong with her dish as well. "I guess what she tried to do didn't work," Tom says to Dominique.
John's dish is octopus and scrambled eggs. He talked about making it an octopus hash, like corned beef hash with octopus instead. Which, of course, sounds disgusting. Also, can we talk for a moment about how much John sweats? Like, is he the designated sweater, sweating for all of the remaining five chefs so they don't have to? Because, honestly, it doesn't look like anyone else has a problem with the temperature of the kitchen, while John looks like Robert Hays in Airplane!. The judges seem underwhelmed by John's hash, and one table of diners remarks that no one at the table finished the dish.
Sheldon's chicken and waffles successfully dodge the "prepackaged curse," because Sheldon wisely crumbled up the waffles he bought and used them in the breading of the chicken. All the judges like his chicken, and Gail especially loves his umami butter he served on the side. Dominique enjoys the dish, but wishes there was a bit more of the waffle on the plate.
And Shirley's cheeseburger/dim sum hybrid seems to please the judges' sense of whimsy at least. Even though Tom and Gail mention that the beef inside was a bit dry, Dominique loved the cheese inside of the dumpling, because you normally don't have cheese in a dumpling. Guess it doesn't take much to tickle that guy's fancy. It's obvious that Sheldon and Shirley are safe, and Sheldon will probably win, but as for which of the remaining three fucked up the most, it's hard to tell. My early guess is John with his sweaty, non-crispy octopus hash.
Despite making a Facetime call back to his family and using pre-made food in his dish, Sheldon doesn't go home, but he also doesn't win, despite having what seemed like the tastiest dish of the day. Shirley pulls out the upset, because she showed the most creativity and came closest to delivering what the judges were expecting from their hybrid brunch challenge.
As for the bottom three, the judges decide to take John off the table, despite how disgusting his dish seemed to me personally. His eggs were good, his Hollandaise was good, and his octopus was good (allegedly), so he gets a pass. A really sweaty pass. That leaves the conversation between Brooke and Sylva. Padma is so mad about Brooke's concept. How did that show creativity? How was that even a mash-up of anything? I'm not sure she's been this mad about anything this season, maybe on any season. Seems like a weird hill to plant your flag on, but maybe there's some old PTSD around yogurt and peanut butter that we don't know about.
On the other hand, Tom can't get past Sylva's poorly cooked fish and poorly cooked eggs. He literally rolls his eyes at Padma's argument. And god bless him for that. If I could make Tom's eye-rolls into a ringtone, I'd never put my phone on silent. Ultimately, Tom's eye-roll wins out over Padma's aggravation, and Sylva is sent home. It's a drag, but maybe he'll be the one to win his way back on through Last Chance Kitchen.
Double elimination makes for a fun hour of Top Chef. The sad part about this stage of the competition is that all of the remaining chefs are so good, you don't want to see any of them go home. And you especially don't want to see someone go home because they cracked under the pressure. Which is what looks like is beginning to happen with Brooke.