The final four chefs have had a few weeks to recuperate from the stressful rush of the first 12 weeks (or however many days they actually take to film this show, four?) before coming back to compete in the final two episodes, and you know that that means! HAIRCUT TIME! Everyone has got a new look. Kevin, who managed to keep his bald spot pretty hidden for most of the season has shined that puppy up! You can see that thing from space. Is it winking at us? Yes. It is winking at us. The Voltaggio brothers look mostly the same, I guess, but there’s a crispness to their necklines, and I’m pretty sure Michael got some new Soul Patch Wax because that thing is really POPPING OFF THE SCREEN. Jennifer cut her hair shorter? Look, everyone just looks a little different is all I am saying. They clean up nice! And then there is Padma. Total MILTMATWRWRSHIC! (Mother I’d Like To Marry And Treat With Respect While Raising Strong, Healthy, Intelligent Children!) Yowzas!

But we are not here to talk about hairstyles and true love, we are here to talk about cooking food in beautiful but uncomfortable situations!

This week, the Quickfire Challenge involves cooking grapes on a train. You know, like that Hitchcock movie. “A couple of fellows meet accidentally, like you and me. No connection between them at all. Never saw each other before. Each of them has a grape he’d like to cook, but he can’t cook the grape he wants to cook. So they swap grapes.” (Perfect.) Anyway, this is the final High Stakes Quickfire. You got that, guys? No more of the thing that was only recently made up! You guys have all been getting a little too reliant on there being a prize at the end of these Quickfires, but there are not always going to be prizes. Certainly not anymore. But today there is a prize. So enjoy it. Well, one of you enjoy it. Whoever wins. That prize is a Toyota Prius.

Michael Lohan not included!

Kevin wants that car to store all of his other prizes in, but he is nervous because he has motion sickness.

But for the most part, everyone cooks grapes on a train without throwing up. Good work, everyone! You have passed the test. You are ready to be Space Chefs! (Seriously, sometimes these challenges are very outlandish!) Anyway, guest judge Michael Chiarello likes everyone’s weird grape dishes just fine. He even says that he would make Jennifer’s grape dish at his restaurant. “YOU CAN HAVE ME, I MEAN IT! YOU CAN HAVE IT! HAHAHAHHA” Jennifer says, almost loosing her footing in the pool of flop sweat at her feet. “These trains are so slippery AHAHAHAHAHAHA.” You would think that Jennifer would win, since the chef just said he was literally going to steal her recipe (for her chicken livers and clams in mascerated cabernet grapes with mushrooms–which literally sounds like what comes out of me when I barf), but actually it is young Michael Voltaggio who wins the Prius, for his grapes cooked in grape leaves skewered with a grape vine, or something. “I wanted to showcase the whole grape, especially the parts that would be very disgusting to eat.”

Congratulations, Michael!

For the Elimination Challenge this week, the chefs will each have to prepare a vegetarian dish and a meat dish made from local ingredients only to feed 150 people at the annual Nappa Valley Crush Party (which is the time of year where very rich white people who are not sure what to do with themselves pretend to make the wine they drink too much of to stave off their existential malaise). The chefs get to shop at a very cute looking farmer’s market!

Obviously, I make fun of the rich white people in Napa Valley, because there is nothing I want more than to be a rich white person in Napa Valley. “10 dollars for a dozen eggs? I LOVE EGGS!” I’m 104 years old! Haven’t I earned the right to a little comfort in this world? These guys know what I’m talking about.

“Treat yourself, Gabe!”

Anyway, so, everyone cooks food. That happens a lot on this show. No big deal! And then it is time for the Crush Party. I see an awful lot of eating and drinking and SCHMOOZING going on, and not very much crushing. Get crushing, yuppies!

Obvious, but better.

The judges seem to simultaneously love and hate everything. I mean, there is no clear winner this time. Which makes sense, because this season they have really gotten down to the four most talented competitors. But can we stop talking about that for a second and start talking about Padma? Padma! What’s up! You look crazy, sweetheart! Is there a Sex War on Neptune that I’m not aware of?

Tura Satana called, she wants her Russ Meyer role back.

Condoleeza Rice called, she wants to hang out, but she wants to make sure you don’t both wear the same exact outfit.


The judges call the chefs into the Panic Wine Cellar (every mansion should have one) and deliver their verdicts. Kevin’s beef was too stringy. Michael’s egg was underdone. Jennifer’s duck was delicious, but if she really cared she would have grilled it the way she originally planned. Huh? I mean, cutting to the chase: Bryan wins and Jennifer goes home. But it was clearly such a toss up at this point, and they just couldn’t eliminate Kevin, and Michael V. is our generation’s Richard Blaise, so what are they going to do? I’m not saying Jennifer’s dish was perfect, and as we all know, she has gone mostly INSANE over the past few weeks, but I think arguing that she let the coals on the grill go out but still managed to put together a really delicious confit dish is kind of just grasping at knives. Oh here is one! Pack it and go, Jennifer.


Comments (47)
  1. The only thing that really interested me this episode was when Kevin mentioned that there is a facebook group devoted to his beard.

  2. Gabe, one of the great things about you is that you write a pop culture blog about farts on TV and stupid videogames, but you’re still conscious of the actual Real stuff that goes on in the world, like poverty, famine, [perineum], etc. and you actually mention it in your fart-posts.
    So don’t take this as a complaint against you. I just think we need to discuss this.
    I just uncomfortable with the casual reference to terrible poverty and, especially, the insertion of a picture of actual orphans. I just can’t help but be reminded of Susan Sontag’s argument that images desensitize. Images of people and of actual REAL events “are indeed able to usurp reality because first of all a photograph is not only an image, an interpretation of the real; it is also a trace, something directly stenciled off the real…”
    Again, I know this is a pop culture blog, and obvz, you know, we can’t have every post about people sticking remotes up their butts be followed with an essay about how relative to the actual suffering that goes on in the world, getting your subscription to WoW cancelled is nothing, think of Darfur, and so on. The most we can manage is a reference.
    But I think that the gravity of things like this shouldn’t be addressed in a reference or an offhand remark. I don’t know, it’s a conflict. On the one hand, at least you’re making us conscious of suffering. And on the other hand, it deserves more than just a caption on a picture in a post.
    I don’t know; maybe I’m just over-thinking this.

    • GUHHHH, too long, my brain hurts.
      (I kind of agree with you on this one, naps)

    • We need to get you a new browser, preferably one with some kind of poverty blocker, or hobo prevention.

      Keep the sad image out of your eyes.

      ALSO – as opposed to using a /, you can use a line break – (< )br(>) (Remove the parentheses)

    • “I just can’t help but be reminded of Susan Sontag’s argument that images desensitize.”

      Yes. You are overthinking it.

    • No, I think it works just like it’s supposed to: a jarring image to remind you of the utter absurdity of every aspect of the show in comparison to life for a significant amount of people in the world. I read a lot of social-activism sites and Videogum is like a guiltless pleasure, because of the inclusion of things like HEY STARVING CHILDREN into Top Chef recaps; they interrupt a reader’s mindless LOLs with mindful LOLs (I am an adult with college degrees), forcing the reader to think beyond the jokes. And that is a small but potentially powerful thing.

  3. Colicchio needs to explain his contradictory standards for judging “Top Chef” 1 minute its-we only judge whats on the plate-the next he’s ragging on Jen for going in a different direction with her dish and critiquing her on being scattered in her thinking-did he taste that in the “Ducky Duck” he enjoyed so well?

  4. On another note-Colicchio’s own approach to food is incredibly simple thats why Jeff of the Top Chef New York and the Dildo Beach Club in Miami was talking shit about him last year in “People”-how much does that contribute to him not sending home someone like Kevin who made an admittedly tough piece of brisket?

    • i dont understand what you’re saying here. are you saying that since kevin’s approach is similar to his own, colicchio is easier on him than he would be on someone who does stuff like the voltaggios? or are you saying that since colicchio likes to let the food shine through and not the chef’s ability to make an ice cube out of a cow (full disclosure i am obviously on the side of TC and Kevin here) he is is naturally predisposed to liking kevin’s food?

  5. I am filled with guilt, because I could not stop laughing at that YouTube clip of grape crushing. Ok, maybe not that much guilt.

  6. Kevin’s beef was not too stringy, it was too toothsome. And while we’re on the subject of made-up words, the way I feel about Jennifer leaving is sadnotsurprised-some.

  7. - We could exchange murders. Criss-cross.
    - What are you talking about, Criss-cross?
    - I?m talking about Christopher Cross.

    • I don’t know about where y’all live, but Christopher Cross has been on the radio a LOT lately here. Including that song you don’t know the name of but when you hear the lyrics “make it to the border of mexico” you will think for a moment that you are in the backseat of your parents’ Volvo and it is 1982.

  8. I just couldn’t get past that weirdo dress of Padma’s. I want to believe she is deep and smart cuz she’s so gorgeous it kinda hurts my feelings I can’t be married to her raising well adjusted, smart, athletic children. But I get a creeping feeling she was with Salman Rushdie because he was a rich and famous old dude and not because he’s a brilliant novelist and witty raconteur.

    • I wouldn’t worry…something tells me Padma’s leggy gorgeousness had a little more to do with the author’s affections than her depth and wisdom.

      • Yeh that’s what bothers me. Well really I didn’t question why Rushdie would chose to be with her. I mean, look at her!!! I just counted as a credit to her that she would go for a dude because of how cool and awesome he is and not ’cause he’s rich. But bottom line, the problem is me for caring that much about it. ugh! to me

        • While I totally agree with you about the weirdness of Padma’s dress (yikes- bond villainess much?) I think the double standard here is a little lame. We can “understand” Rushdie being shallow (and in the same breath genuinely laud his wit and writing) and potentially only going for her ’cause she’s hot, but we ought to be disappointed in Padma (and have her lose “credit” with us) for being shallow in a slightly different way herself? Weird sexist logic there, sorry (and really no “ugh” to you, just pointing it out!). :)

          • Look, I’m not making serious points or anything. In my mind I like to think they are both serious, smart people that have the best motivations. But guess what? We’re all human and subject to human failings. As a dude, it’s hard to not notice how incredibly beautiful she is. And like the January Jones stuff it can be funny how even an obviously smart guy like Rushdie might give her a pass on some stuff because The Bubble. So I don’t appreciate the sexist label. Did you not see how I’d like to have a healthy relationship raising smart, well adjusted children with her? Also, JOKES!! I doubt Padma’s wardrobe is really all her fault, you know those dumbass producers put her up to at least some of that. So for the record giving in to an involuntary attraction is not as bad as intentionally gold digging. Objective fact. One is calculated, one is a weakness. Also for the record. JOKES!!!! Why do we always have to have the PC police up in here?

          • I am really a big fan of both Padma and Rushdie and think highly of them both but that ain’t gonna stop me poking fun at them from time to time.

        • She was with him because if your roommate dies because of a fatwa during the year, you get an automatic 4.0

  9. i got the feeling that they liked everyone’s dishes equally, but jennifer was chosen to go because she made technical mistakes which made her change her whole dish. that’s pretty unprofessional. if your menu says “grilled duck” you cant send out a plate that is duck confit. that is a restaurant law.

    • I agree with you, rb, and wanted to add that Jennifer had been a mess for more of the season than she had not, and at the end, they often take into account the chef’s overall performance. I did think they were going to send Kevin home though. Also, guys, this is Top Chef, not Top Tan!

  10. Polentas are the new Scallops. It’s Top Chef, not Top Polentas, guys!

    In other news, I’m going to Bryan’s restaurant in 2 weeks. Jealous?

    • Wait, are you talking about Volt (how cute)? They have a chef’s table special 121$ for a 21 course meal. It’s for reals and I kinda want to do it too.

  11. After years of reading without commenting, I am moved to set up an account just so I can up vote this. This is my second favorite blog (sorry, but Four Four is genius) and I 100% agree 80% of the time and usually the biting social commentary is right on. Yes, but I would like to support Mr. Napoleon Complex in his/her/its feeling that in this one instance it doesn’t quite work and I think that if one were not familiar with the great work of this blog in exposing out obessions with the trivial while there is real death and misery everywhere, then that person might get the wrong impression. It isn’t overthinking because the reason for this blog is to actually think about what other people are not thinking about, but should be. When I see those two kids I want to claw my eyes out, not because I don’t want to be disturbed by the misery of the world but because I know that I can’t do anything about it and if I could, I probably wouldn’t. What I am saying is some day the sun will grow cold and consume the inner planets of our solar system and then at some point after that probably everything in the universe will collapse in on itself and everything will be okay then, but for now—yikes!

  12. Let’s all just pray that as she ages Padma doesn’t

  13. Just read Mans’ comment – I did the same thing! Just created an account and joined today. The SECOND i saw Kevin’s hairdo I cracked up laughing just imaging what Gabe would say about it. I think I look forward more to the recaps than the actual show!

    • The recap is also the only reason I watch the show. It is the same with ANTM and Four Four (What? A second plug?). Terrible shows make for great writing.

  14. Matt C  |   Posted on Dec 3rd, 2009 +2

    My man Kevin looked like Friar Tuck in this ep…

  15. actually I can’t lie. I LOVE the show

  16. The ‘Strangers on a Train’ reference made my day, Gabe.

  17. The picture of the starving Africans was hilarious.

    Gabe may be an insufferable Liberal, but he still knows how to nail a joke when necessary, and that my friends, was nailing it. I can’t believe two people actually took issue with that, oh wait, yes I can. Some people don’t understand that in comedy, nothing is sacred.

  18. As far as Top Chef goes, their comments while eating the dishes were clearly edited to make you think Plain Voltaggio was going home, instead of Fish Mouth. Spicy Voltaggio has been messing up lately, but they give him a pass as usual. Oh well…

  19. I like how Michael V. looks like Bart Simpson in that GIF.

  20. Suicide, physical abuse, poverty, OH MY.

  21. They have to keep both voltaggio bros in as long as possible for tension. All I know is, Kevin will win, but they BETTER name a second place winner or else have them fight to the death.

  22. I know this is really late because i was saving up episodes on TV and just watched them- This was the funniest post of the whole season, i laughed out loud for real! (lots of love!) at least four times- your recaps have really reached a new height!

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