This is the final episode dedicated to whittling down the massive number of chefs with whom we started in the "Top Chef
" quest to get down to a more reasonable count of 16, so, again, don't get used to anyone. But I will say that, if the looks of the food we're seeing is any indication (and I know, it can look good and taste like a bath towel), the level of cooking this season is pretty extraordinary. I'm not even hungry watching the show and I'm drooling a little. Given that it seems like every other competitor is a James Beard nominee or an executive chef for so-and-so famous guy, all I can think is 1) I wish I could crash one of these dinners and 2) I'm pretty sure Padma (who says she gains about 15 pounds each season) will be investing in even more maxidresses than usual. We're gonna see some really, really good eats.
In the stew room, Grayson, Ed, Molly and Janine bond. But not too much, as Edward doesn't want anyone to get in his way. Edward is not messing around. I like Edward, but I do think he might cut someone to get off the button.
The final group faces their challenge. Hugh, Padma and Tom will be judging. I'm telling you, Tom is going to be puking bacon-wrapped scallops at some point, as he's been on every single judges panel thus far. Of course, so has Padma, so maybe they can share a bucket together.
Although I promised myself I wouldn't get attached to anyone, Chaz is from New York and he's a longtime admirer of Padma. In fact, he had a picture of her in his locker in middle school. He was nominated by his mom as one of his two favorite sons, and he works at a place called Fatty Crab. I am so rooting for Chaz. I don't even care if he's a good chef, he's good TV. If I don't get to eat any of this stuff, at least give me a contestant with a sense of humor!
The other chef who stands out in the sea of stress is Beverly. She has a super cute, fat little baby. For that alone, i've got to root for her.
The final group must all pick an ingredient from the pile laid out on the table -- but initially they can't lift the cloche next to it, which probably hides an unpleasant surprise. And they do! The cloches reveal clocks with show how much time they have to prepare their food. Aack!
The chefs run around frantically. Oh, wait, there's a gratuitous appliance shot. There's always time for branding!
Laurent is from France, or really Los Angeles by way of France. He's a lot older than the rest of the competition, so I'm not sure if that means lots of helpful experience or he's going to have a rougher time of it.
Of course, time ticks out pretty quickly for our first group. Twenty minutes? That's barely enough time to make eggs and toast.
The 20 Minute Group
Kim - lamb
Lamb chop with kalamata olives and arugula
It looks good, but Padma says the lamb was greasy, while Tom thinks it was overcooked. She's out. Man, the judges are not messing around.
Andrew - mushrooms
Roasted mushrooms with brown butter vinaigrette, crispy spinach and poached egg
Tom thinks the mushrooms are gritty but nicely cooked, so he opts for the bubble. So does Padma. This sounds about right, as Andrew didn't think his dish was all that, either.
Paul - trout
Grilled trout with Southeast Asian tomato salad
It's Tom's favorite dish of the group. Hugh and Tom want him to move through and voila, he gets his coat. This is a big deal for Paul, as he owns food trucks in Austin and he feels he's representing his state. Of course, his food truck was featured on Anthony Bourdain's show, so we know he must be pretty good.
The 40 Minute Group
Chaz doesn't even plate anything, as he miscalculates how much time he has left -- so even though the risotto is done, it's still in the pan. I'm so sad. He's out. Chaz feels like Padma's breaking up with him. See, he's funny!
Berenice - Short rib
Asian style short rib with cabbage slaw
Hugh thought it was one dimensional and uninspired, so he says no. Tom also says no. And so it's goodbye to Berenice.
Laurent - duck
Duck with lemon yuzu and arugula
Hugh thought it didn't make sense and opts for bubble. Tom says no. It's up to Padma. She says bubble. Laurent is grateful.
Jonathan - Brussels sorouts
Brussels sprouts with tomato sofrito and hazelnut gremolata
Tom and Hugh didn't care for the sprouts, so he's out. Farewell, Jonathan, we barely knew you. Literally. I think the guy had about two minutes of air time.
The 60 Minute Group
Another gratuitous appliance plug. GE Monogram, we get it, we get it!
Ashley says she can't be sent home for a Filipino dish, as she learned it from her mother-in-law. But I think she might be.
Ashley - oxtail
Braised oxtail kare-kare
It didn't do it for Tom. Padma thinks the oxtail left a lot to be desired, so she suggests the bubble. Hugh thinks her cooking needs more maturity, so it's a no from him. Ashley's out. Boy, is it going to be awkward seeing her mother-in-law again.
Lindsay - veal shank
Braised veal, creamy polenta and warm salad
Tom loved it. Perfectly seasoned. He wants to give her a coat, and so does Hugh. She's in!
Beverly - octopus
Korean style octopus nakji bokum
Tom liked it and wants to see more. Hugh thinks she earned a jacket. She made it! Hey, if I can't root for Chaz, I can root for the chick with the fat baby.
At the Top Chef house, everyone's drinking champagne -- and checking out the competition. Which is also what they're doing in the stew room, but without champagne. Or joy. Or anything. Somebody give these guys some crackers or something; it feels like chef jail in there. Edward asks Molly where she cooks, and when she answers that she works on a cruise ship, he laughs. Wow, I hope that's just mean editing (and I'm sure it is), but ouch. Molly knows other chefs are going to look down at her, so at least she's prepared for it if it actually happened (though I bet it didn't). Edward is prepared to kill the other chefs for his jacket. Wow, Edward wants this bad. Like, felony bad.
Emeril and Hugh will be joining Padma and Tom. She informs the six chefs that there are only two slots left. The chefs quiver with fear and hope.
They can make any dish they want and have 45 minutes to cook it. Go!
Edward is going to buck the trend in seafood (everyone else has grabbed shrimp, it seems) and he's making duck. Everything's going great -- until he cuts himself. He throws on a glove to keep the blood out of his food, and eventually a medic tries to work on his hand while he's cooking. Do not interfere with Edward, medic! He'll cut you!
Edward looks pale as he delivers his dish, as I think he's a quart low.
Duck with BBQ sauce and sweet Asian custard
Emeril loves the flavors and thinks the presentation is fantastic. Hugh thinks the duck may have gone a little over.
Jumbo stuffed prawn, mousseline of shrimp with soy glazed watermelon and rice
Tom says the shrimp's overcooked. The skill is there, but that was a mistake. Hugh thinks it needed a little push. A push where I don't know, but a push nonetheless.
Seared scallop with baby clams, bacon, corn and watermelon garnish
Hugh wishes she hadn't ostracized the watermelon. Emeril thinks it's simple but well-executed.
Polenta with bacon wrapped shrimp and port wine fig sauce
Tom thinks it's a nice dish and he thinks, if her intention was to marry the fig and bacon, that worked. Emeril loves how she protected the shrimp with the bacon. I love how these chefs make everything sound like a battle or a bad date.
Scallop two ways: tartare and seared on a bed of fennel with saffron
Tom thinks the tartare does not look appetizing. Emeril thinks the hot scallop is cooked perfectly, though he agrees with his colleagues about the puke-colored tartare.
Mussels with sherry, fregula, charred corn panna cotta and shrimp
Emeril is confused by the panna cotta. Tom wishes he'd stopped before the panna cotta, because he would have been singing his praises for a fun bowl of mussels. Never thought of mussels as fun, but okay.
The chefs are shuffled out so the judges can talk. Molly is definitely out. So is Laurent. Edward might be going through, even though Hugh is iffy on the duck. Tom and Hugh agree that Andrew is a middle-ground player. Hugh thinks Grayson's shrimp and grits were different, though Tom thought her dish had flaws. Tom felt Janine's dish was rough, though the judges think her scallop was perfectly cooked.
The nervous chefs are called back in. Molly is… eliminated. Laurent is also kicked to the curb. Edward is… getting his coat! So no one has to die! Yay!
It's down to Andrew, Janine and Grayson. Andrew is... eliminated. He's disappointed, of course. It's now between Janine and Grayson.
The last chef's jacket is... Grayson's. Janine is out. How much would that suck to be that close to a coat only to see it slip through your fingers? Janine has had a bad year, and this seems to just be a continuation of that. Let's hope she gets a significant other soon.
This season, they will be cooking snakes, cooking for PeeWee Herman, crying hysterically and medics will be called. Oh, and check out Last Chance Kitchen on bravotv.com. Looks like a lot of Texas-sized excitement to me!
Do you have a favorite yet? What did you think of the challenges? Was there anyone you were sad to see go?
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