[There was a video here]
To paraphrase our lip besmirched hopelessly blithe Top Chef anti-heroine Amanda, "Geography is not something Americans do." In 2006, a National Geographic-Roper Survey of Geographic Literacy found that 6 out of 10 young Americans (ages 18-24) could not find Iraq on a map, 88% couldn't find Afghanistan on a map of Asia and 70% have no idea what continent Sudan is in. (It's in Africa.) All of which made last night's episode of Top Chef a thoroughly enjoyable shitshow, an orgy of edible ignorance wherein American hubris was sucked off by culinary imperialism who was, in turn, getting rimmed by chubby, tea-smoked Asian girl Eddie Eyebrows had banged earlier. Meanwhile Padma Lakshmi, wearing some fucked up open-crotched leggings, and Marcus Samuelson, the very well respected Swedish-raised Ethiopian-born chef, sixty-nined into each other on top of a Monogram stove and Tom Colicchio sat reading Evelyn Waugh's account of the coronation of Haile Selassie and smoking a fat blunt. Rasta!
In general, this episode was refreshingly without contrivance. There were no squirrelly Bravo-mandated twists. Even the challenge—make a dish inspired by a foreign country—fell well within the bounds of what a chef in the real world might do. No twists were needed to let the cheftestants hang. Give a man enough rope—or a Top Chef contestant a blackboard with a map and nine cheap country magnets —and he'll do it himself. First the group powered through the Quickfire—to make a dish inspired by Ethiopian cuisine—with little trouble. Except, of course, Amanda who didn't know the "etiquette" of Ethiopian spices which doesn't surprise because she actually doesn't know anything. Amanda, Potemkin Village of a woman! Angelo worked at an Ethiopian place—again, not surprising—so he's in his element. Kenny made an Ethiopian duo because his food is both co-dependent and schizophrenic (Co-dependency + Schizophrenia = Double Narcissism?). Tiffany, after a toilette routine that seemed to include a great deal of blotting with cotton and hours of unused footage of nail clipping, winged it and won. Then the blackboard with a world map was wheeled in and knives were drawn. It was just like the Berlin Conference of 1884!
Amanda picked France because her "entire career" has been spent "doing" French cuisine. (She's a 27- year-old sous chef.) Alex chose Spain because he is a creep with a ridiculous and obviously compensatory big spoon he carries about. Eddie Eyebrows chose China because, as mentioned, he banged some Asian girls who I'm sure he called the Orientals and who were also probably dating Angelo Sosa (who also has a thing for women of the Orient) at the time. Angelo chose Japan (see above); Kelly chose Italy because she's blah and wasted; Kenny chose Thailand because he's a beast; Tiffany chose Mexico because she had immunity and because it's an easy, fertile choice. Kevin chose India, despite never having cooked Indian food, because, "Go home or go big." Sad Smeagol Stephen chose Brazil because he had no choice. Coincidentally, he also has no idea where or what a Brazil is.
The chefs proceeded to prepare generally ill-informed edible stereotypes of national cuisine to serve to the actual countries ambassadors. Some fudged it with success. Kelly's beef carpaccio was well-received. Italian ambassador Giuseppe Manzo, which translates in English to Joe Beef, said it represented Italy better than he did. Funny. Some did it with aplomb. Tiffany, who was on fire had immunity and still nailed her tamales. Some epically failed. Creepy R. Crumbian pea-stealing thief Alex tripped and endo'd into a Monogram oven and then made seriously embarrassing tapas (hint: not tapas) he served to Jose Andrés, the man who—along with Simon and Ines Ortega—brought Spanish small plates to a global scene. Jose was unimpressed and in his gravelly voice mentioned that Alex had embarrassed himself, the tall creepy motherfucker.
Meanwhile Stephen Smeogal Seagal once went to a Brazilian steakhouse with his wife and two kids [see Idiocracy] and therefore made steak. I suppose one could criticize him for totally ignoring (had he been aware of) non-cliché Brazilian cuisine like moqueca, a seafood stew, or feijoada, a black bean and meat stew. One perhaps could mention that chimichurri is actually from Argentina, one of Brazil's main regional rivals. But the man couldn't even cook his rice correctly so that particular gripe might be even too much of a compliment. He did do a very adorable dance during the commercial break when Angelo stretched saran wrap over the toilet. Stephen sat down—to pee?—and wondered what was touching his nuts. Unanswered questions: Really, to pee? Did he continue peeing after he felt the warm liquid and nut-tingling? To poop? Did he continue to poop? Angelo, why not let Alex embarrass himself? And Bravo, you have seriously screwed the pooch this season. First Alex's thievery and then Stephen's gleeful laughing while a foul turd torrent blossoms from his pale and saggy buttocks.
At the end, Alex, Stephen, and, somewhat surprisingly, Eddie Eyebrows were called before the judges' death panel. Evidently Eddie Eyebrows' sexual conquests were not as fruitful as he imagined. He's just not that good a listener. His sweet-and-sour tea-smoked crispy duck was neither sweet nor sour nor tea-smoked nor crispy. It was, however, duck. I couldn't decide who I wanted to go home more: Alex, that stalagmite of offensive scowl, a googly-eyed motherfucker and silver-spoon thief or the sad Smoegal Stephen, a naïve idiot. The judges too felt something akin to pity when they sent Stephen home, like they had just consigned an uncomprehending 8 year old to years of hard labor. As Stephen left, Alex the charisma-less asshat and his petty slut-banging Eddie Eyebrows sighed with relief. The judges sat grimly stone-faced and filled with dread. They looked from their table at the sad sacks before them, mentally calculating how many more executions they must sit through. Well, one down, only seven more to go. And as Ethiopia's Haile Selassie once telegrammed Churchill, they thought, "We have finished the job. What shall we do with the tools?"
[Video by Matt Toder]