The chefs are greeted in the San Antonio “Top Chef” kitchen by Padma, a pile of pancakes and guest judge Pee-wee Herman who arrives on his bicycle which looks dripping wet — probably from jumping over an ocean full of sharks.
The chefs have 20 minutes to make pancakes — Pee-wee’s favorite food, allegedly — and they’re supposed to let their imaginations run wild. Please tell me someone whips up pancakes with movie theater popcorn. (No one did.) Here’s what they made:
Grayson: Ricotta-buttermilk pancake (in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s head) with peach compote, blackberry and basil.
Sarah: Confetti pancakes with blackberry sauce, cacao nibs, banana and vanilla whipped cream.
Paul: Rolled pancake with berries, black pepper and champagne Dippin’ Dots-esque topping.
Lindsay: Ricotta pancake with whipped creme fraiche, marcona almond and anise cookies.
Ed: Pancake bits with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, bacon and bruleed marshmallow.
Padma asks Pee-wee to pick the winner, which is Ed. He gets $5,000. Seriously? Five thousand dollars for pancakes? Are we watching “Top Chef” or “Top Seventh Grade Home Ec Student Final Project”? This is ridiculous.
For the Elimination Challenge, Padma tells the chefs it’s time to go back to the Alamo. Pee-wee recaps “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” in a rather sad, overwrought 15-second telling of the stolen-bicycle-no-basement-at-the-Alamo story, which is followed by a forced ha-ha reaction from the chefs. It’s just so depressing and painful to watch. This series should’ve ended after last season’s “All-Stars.”
For the challenge, the chefs have to make “an unforgettable family-style lunch” for Pee-wee and the judges. They’ll have a bike and $100, along with a map to the Alamo. They have to find a restaurant in which to cook their meal, and only one chef can cook at a time. It’s a confusing set-up, I know, but it plays out much more easily as the show moves on. The chefs get a few minutes to talk with Pee-wee to menu-plan, and it’s excruciatingly not funny . . . which is a shame because Paul Reubens is a funny guy.
The next day, the chefs head out on their red bikes and hit the farmers market first. They stock up on proteins and vegetables, then set out to find restaurants and B&Bs to cook in. It seems as if the producers think the viewers will believe these restaurants didn’t know ahead of time that the cheftestants might be arriving. The chefs beg for some other ingredients from the restaurant kitchens and start cooking. Nothing particularly interesting goes on — no shenanigans, no kerfuffles and nothing I’m interested in eating. They transport their nearly finished food via bicycle to the Alamo where they plate their meals for the judges.
Here’s what they serve Pee-wee, Padma, Tom and Gail:
Sarah: Summer vegetable egg salad with chicken-skin vinaigrette.
Grayson: Egg, spinach and gorgonzola-stuffed chicken breast with butternut squash.
Lindsay: Stuffed zucchini with braised beef cheeks, rice and goat cheese.
Ed: Chicken and grits, raw corn, kale and okra salad, and red-eye gravy.
Paul: Roasted chicken with red curry gastrique, summer salad with basil-blossom oil.
The judges’ discussion as they ate is as bland as the food seemed, and to top it off, Padma talks to Pee-wee in the same way one might talk to a 2-year-old. As far as the food goes, there are no great techniques, no bold flavors and certainly no “wow” factor from any of the cheftestants — which is something you want this late in the game, I’m thinking. Tom just looks like he’d rather be downing gin and tonics than doing this show. Gail and Padma really over-emote in strange ways, too. It’s all so disingenuous and strange. You can’t even mock it anymore, it’s that bad.
Padma calls all the chefs to Judges’ Table. The judges really liked Paul’s dish, though Padma wanted a little more crunch and Gail wanted a little less sweet. They question Ed’s chicken-cooking technique, which yielded an odd texture and made for some rubbery poultry. Gail and Tom liked Grayson’s dish, but Tom questioned why she added butternut squash. Padma loved Sarah’s okra, and Tom liked her take on egg salad but said the eggs were under-seasoned. Lindsay’s dish was a hit, though Gail thought her salad was over-dressed.
The winner is Lindsay, who seems surprised that she won. Paul is also declared safe, but Ed, Grayson and Sarah are in the bottom three. They leave the Judges’ Table so the deliberations can continue. So, who’s going home? Buh-bye, Grayson.
Padma calls the remaining four chefs back to Judges’ Table where they learn that the eliminated chefs have been competing to earn a spot back on the show.
Up Next Week: Padma and Tom reveal the winner of “Last Chance Kitchen” (our sources say it’s Beverly), and Paul cries. Seriously, Paul? Just when I was really starting to like you.
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