”It’s not how many dragons you kill; it’s who goes home with the princess.”

That is it. I am now officially hooked on the new season of Top Chef. I came home late tonight after closing the restaurant a little annoyed that I had to reviewcap this show. But then I popped the episode on and for some reason this episode captured me far more than the premiere. It probably had a lot to do with the hot dog themed Quickfire and the obviously poor quality of the food. It’s always more fun when the general consensus is that the food was meh.

Before we get into the challenges I just want to ask about the new BFF’s on the show, Fabio and Stefan. How much combined bravado can these two muster all while holding each other’s hand? They’re like those guy friends you had in college who were clearly not gay, but appeared to like each other a bit more than usual. I absolutely love their interactions, and Fabio has grown on me. Stefan is simply a pompous blowhard who has that one fatal flaw when it comes to perfecting your craft, accepting criticism.

Guest judge Donatella Arpaia came in to help with the Quickfire, which featured the cheftestants cooking their own version of a hot dog against renowned hot dog maven Angelina D’Angelo. Here’s the main problem, this was not a hot dog challenge. It was a sausage fest as it would be impossible to make an actual hot dog under the time constraints. I had initially imagined the chefs taking the hot dog and doing something with it, which is what Jill attempted. In my mind her dish was the only one that adhered to the hot dog challenge aspect. It’s just too bad it sounded awful. Not quite as bad as Stefan’s World Hot Dog though. Wow that was horrific sounding. Based on description alone I liked Rhadika’s Indian inspired lamb kabob and can see why she walked away with immunity.

The New American Lunch did exactly what I feared it would. You throw buzz words around and people flip out trying to wrap their head around the situation. Except for a few dishes I thought this competition was a failure. The cheftestants spent so much time trying to define New American in their heads they got it completely wrong. Personally I would have gone straight for Jamie’s chilled corn soup. That sounded classic, refreshing and delicious. Fabio’s Carpaccio wouldn’t have gotten my attention if not for the chemistry lab application to the olives. I’ve had many a Carpaccio and none have sounded so interesting on paper as that one. It could have been either Jamie’s or Fabio’s competition this week, but it went to Fabio. Great, now the European BFF’s are going to get all giddy and jump on their beds together tonight.

The twist this week was a particularly cruel one. First the chefs were cooking in Tom’s flagship restaurant, Craft, where the food would be expedited as if it were a normal lunch service. The second snag was that the diners were 50 chefs from NYC who didn’t make the show. Now that just added an unnerving quality, but the judges are well versed in the show’s intricacies and could ignore petty commentary. Tom especially shined in this episode as a very knowledgeable and encouraging chef. You can see with both his praise and criticism that he’s a man at the top of his game.

Ariane again finds herself in the bottom with a lemon meringue martini that all of the other chefs said was too sweet. And yet she does nothing to fix it, or redo the dish. Not any attempt, even a failed desperate one. I am astounded that she lasted through this episode. Hoseah just made some minor errors that were critical to his dish. He should never use an ingredient that he’s not sure of. If that crab comes in a can and you can’t taste test it, then come up with a new idea. Then there was Jill, who took that to a whole other level by incorporating ostrich egg into a soufflé. Oh my, when she couldn’t even get the egg open I knew it would be a long night.

One of the dining chefs commented that the soufflé tasted looked like dog food, and none of the judges were enjoying it either. In the end Jill was sent packing, and rightfully so. A bold and daring move only works if you are willing to execute in a similar manner.

Tune in next week when Ariane cries about not being good enough, makes a mediocre dish, and then someone else is sent home.

Top Chef recaps presented in partnership with Munch Monster.

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