There are two types of foodies—the type of normal person who just likes a really good meal and the affected, hoity-toity, proselytizing snob. When the cooking monkeys raided four Manhattan eateries all the snobs came out to play.
But before we get to all those fancy restaurants, we have to get to Chef Field Day? What is that, you ask? Well, it's the day when all the children in chef school get to go outside and play games and compete against each other and don't have to learn a damn thing. All year, they get excited for Field Day when there's no more homework, no more books, no more teacher's dirty looks. They run from jungle gym to swing set, rambunctiously waving their arms above their heads like a bunch of orangutans who just finished throwing feces at a bunch of German tourists in the Central Park Zoo. And what is their favorite game of all? It's Mise En Place Relay Race! That may sound nerdier than the chariot race at Connecticut State Latin Day (which I ran in on more than one occasion), but the chefs fucking love it. Actually, next to Restaurant Wars and the Name That Ingredient Guessing Game, it is one of the high holy days on the Top Chef calendar.
The group is split into four teams and they have butcher a bunch of lamb, crush and chop a bushel of garlic, and do something to some artichokes. Oh man, they are so excited. They can't even hold still. Little Marcel raised his hand because he was so anxious that he had to go pee, but Padma didn't call on him in time and he had a little accident, and his mother had to be called to bring him a new pair of pants. And to make the race even more exciting, the chefs then had 15 minutes to make a good dish out of the ingredients. To tell them who was the best, they had David Chang, an Asian Cabbage Patch doll that was brought to life by magical fairies to make us barbecue sauce flavored soft serve ice cream (this is a real thing).
Chop, chop, chop; cook, cook, cook; boring, boring, boring. Everyone's working really hard and they all keep saying "push, push!" like they're at some culinary Lamaze class. Two of the teams made carpaccio, because there wasn't time to cook their lamb. Carpaccio is flattened raw beef that I believe only exists in the Top Chef universe because I have never seen it in the real world. It is one of those foodie snob things that we're all supposed to love and ooh and ahh over, but it sounds pretty nasty and reminds me of a Slim Jim you found underneath the sofa cushion after your fat cousin Earl had been sitting it on all day. The team with Richard Blais, beefcake Tre, smarmy Steven, and creepy van driver Spike win and each get $5,000. Congrats.
Then Padma breaks it down for them. "Listen, jerks. Each team has to go to one of four restaurants and you have to cook a dish in the style of that restaurant. The best dish from each place will be eligible to win and the worst dish will be up for elimination. And I'm sending two of you assholes home because I fucking can't stand another two months of standing here in these heels so we need to move this motherfucker along so I can get back home to lounge on my sofa and watch my nanny play with my baby."
Let the food snobbery begin. The teams head off to their respective food temples to enjoy a meal. Angelo, Black Tiffany, Fabio (the world's only Italian with a Jheri Curl), and a fat lump of flesh with a Jersey accent go to Má Pêche, David Chang's overly accented Midtown establishment. Angelo is all holding the food up to his nose before he eats it and then taking three bites and spitting the rest of the food out in a napkin because to actually swallow something so good is a profound insult to the food. At least that's what his mother, a member of a Julia Child-inspired cult, used to tell him as a child before she would tie him up and lash him with dry noodles. He is now a serial killer. Even Black Tiffany, who just wants to get her grub on, thinks that he's annoying and just wishes he would shut the fuck up about flavor profiles and corn and things being "straight up yummy." However, "straight up yummy" would be a great name for a comfort food show on Food Network.
Then we cut to Marea and chef Michael White comes in and Steven acts like they're great friends, like they are just the best of buddies because Steven pays to eat in his restaurant all the time. Oh yeah, they're like this! Then he serves them sea urchin that looks like infected snot on a baguette and Steven is like "this is a-mah-zing."
I fucking hate Steven. I hate his Stay-Puff marshmallow face. I hate his spread collars and his Italian knots. I hate that he thinks that he is fashionable, when he really just looks like an overweight American trying to fit in at a really cheap Roman disco. I hate that he pours wine from the bottom of the bottle like he's the winner of Top Sommelier even when he's pouring wine into a fucking red Solo cup that frat boys use for beer pong. I even hate the way he eats, all dainty-like, as if his manners are going to make the food taste better. I just hate everything about him. It's all so fake and affected and like a poor person's version of posh sophistication. He probably insists that you use a circumflex over the second E in his name: Stevên. That sums up his character entirely: an unnecessary accent.
Gay Dale, Casey, Jamie (who I still love), and the ghost woman Antonia, who is only visible once an hour and can't hold things in her phantom hands, go to Townhouse and giggle at David Burke's crazy sea creatures. Hootie-Hoo Carla Marcel, Straight Dale, and White Tiffany go to WD-50 and Janice from the Muppets serves them square scrambled eggs, the visual consistency of which makes me want to gargle with razor blades for an hour. Apparently Janice from the Muppets is not only a groupie but she is also an egg slut and she will sleep with any egg that she comes across. Good thing Gonzo has all those chickens around.
Cook, cook, cook; boring, boring, boring; and Padma shows up in a sea of champagne colored ruffles at the first restaurant. Riding in her wake, like the sea foam trailing Aphrodite, are Tom Cohostio, Tony Bourdain, and someone called Kate Krader. I am thoroughly convinced that this wasn't a new person, that it was Gail Simmons from 20 years in the future and she took a time machine back and wanted to be on Top Chef again. She went to the set and was like, "Tom, it's me. Gail! I'm here from the future. You know me, right?" And he was like, "Um, you don't look like Gail." And she said, "Would anyone but Gail know that special trick you do with your flavor saver?" And he was like, "Wanna come to judge a challenge and then after, when Padma is long gone, I can show Gail from the future her favorite trick?" And she said "Yes," and her knees got that quivering feeling.
They eat some food, talk some shit, and then it's time to go to the next restaurant. When they get outside, Padma is looking left and right down the street and doesn't see anything. "Where the fuck is my Town Car?" she screamed. "I'm sorry, Ms. Lakshmi," a timid PA replied. "But we thought it would be great if you could hail a cab?" "Excuse me!" Padma screamed. "A cab? Do you know who I fucking am? I am Padma Motherfucking Lakshmi. I do not take cabs. I come out here at 10 in the fucking morning so we can go to all these empty restaurants and you make me eat all this motherfucking food when I'm still trying to take off the baby weight and I should be at home having Special K and strawberries and watching my nanny play with my baby. But noooooo, I have to go to fucking WD-50, where their idea of breakfast is putting an egg in a rocket ship and sending it to outer space to poach it in zero gravity and then letting it rain down in little astro bits onto my plate. That's not eating, that's licking gold fucking sand off a plate! And then, I come out here, wearing a dress that is held up with only double-sided tape and my rather considerable willpower and you want me to raise my motherfucking hand in the motherfucking air and hail a motherfucking cab?! I requested a town car. A personal town car. So, I'm going to raise my hand for one quick second and you better get the fucking shot and if there isn't a black motherfucking Lincoln pulling around the corner by the time my arm is at my side, I will use my rather considerable willpower to make sure that you are on the next motherfucking WD-50 shuttle to space. Do you hear me?!"
So, cab, restaurant, food; cab, restaurant, food; another Padma blowout, cab, restaurant, food. And we're at judges' table. The winners go first. There is Beefcake Tre who made a commendable salmon. We were a little disappointed. We were hoping to watch Tre handle a huge slab of beef and then whip up a salty sauce again this week, but he just made some fish. Tom Cohostio took out his crystal ball and summoned ghost woman Antonia and then he thanked her for her pea and carrot puree thingamabob. She then returned to the spirit world for another week. Angelo was commended for putting white chocolate on marinated fish and said, "Thanks. White chocolate is the only thing that keeps me from killing again." Creepy. However, it was Straight Dale who won for his egg dumpling and pork belly that impressed Janice the Muppet Egg Slut. Way to go, Dale.
And then the losers. Of course Stevên was one for something he called Coho Salmon Condito. Of course Stevên made a fucking "Coho Salmon Condito." Would he make anything but that? Never. Fabio made some disgusting looking lamb thing that I believe he grilled in the oil from his own hair. Gay Dale made veal and French toast with popcorn because he thought he was cooking for a schizophrenic eight year old girl. White Tiffany did something with frozen melons. Let's get one thing straight, Tiff, frozen melons are never a good idea. No one ever touched a woman's melons and was like "those melons are so cold I just want to stick my face in them right now." No, cold melons are gross. We want our melons at least room temperature. Thanks.
Gay Dale and Stevên are sent home for good. Bye guys. Gay Dale is sad that he fucked up and he seems honestly a little broken up that he didn't do better. That's OK, Dale, we still love you, even though there is way more of you to love these days. Stevên, well, at least he admitted he wasn't as strong a chef as he used to be. But don't worry, Stevên hasn't become so self-realized to admit that his whole life—his wardrobe, his manner of speaking, his very profession—is a complete fraud. No, this only made him double down on the illusion. As he packed up his knives, he knew he had the choice to take off that stupid polka-dotted tie forever and go back to who he truly was. To call his mother on the phone and tell her that he was coming back to the nameless town in Ohio that spawned him. That he was going to take over the local diner and cook eggs and bacon and maybe even the exotic scrapple for the guys before they head off to the factory or the job site or whatever blue-collar occupations were left in the town. He would lean against the counter with his arms folded over a greasy apron and joke about broads and bitch about the Reds and ask about how their kids did in the high school football game on Saturday. He could have done that. He could have searched for the authentic. But he didn't. He straightened his tie, pulled back his shoulders, picked up his little unnecessary circumflex, and strutted out with it firmly on his head, hoping no one would bother to peer underneath it.