After a week with only an elimination challenge, Top Chef returned to its quickfire roots this episode with a little help from Padma and Gail’s mothers. Some production assistants wrapped every single item in the pantry in tin foil (Reynolds Wrap, to be exact for product placement purposes). The players were split into two different teams, and the mammas were set loose on a shopping spree to get their ingredients and materials with the only caveat being everything picked had to be used in one way or another. Thanks to some inventive uses of ingredients Carlos, Travis, Patty, Brian, Bene, Nina and Nicholas shared the victory and ten thousand dollars.
For the elimination challenge, the chef-testants were randomly divided into teams of two and asked by Glee star Lea Michele to make two spooky-themed Halloween dishes for a costume party she would be attending. As a vegetarian, she requested no meat, plenty of cheese and something with some fun about it. Everyone listened to the no meat instructions, but there were more than a few chefs who completely ignored her suggestion about the cheese.
After sampling all of the dishes, the clear standouts shockingly enough were team Travis and Carlos and team Patty and Nicholas. The latter made butternut squash cannoli and lemon arancini, while the former made vegetable ceviche and goat cheese fondue with fried zucchini. In the judges’ minds, all four of the dishes were able to showcase the ingredients and the season while proving there’s more to vegetarian dishes than just salads. In the end, Travis and Carlos were declared the winners, giving each some much needed jolts of confidence.
As for the less exciting side, the judges forced team Brian and Bene and team Nina and Michael to take the walk of the shame to the back room to be read the riot act about their dishes. Brian and Bene’s theme of spooky spa cuisine (which included 2 bland salads) didn’t offer Lea any of the cheesy goodness she wanted, and while Nina’s candy corn gnochetti with kale pesto was a home run, she failed to help Michael with his arancini which turned into a disaster.
There was plenty of talk throughout the episode about the judge’s potentially getting rid of two players because of the team element, but ultimately, they decided to stick with one and sent Michael packing. He mostly spent his time in the middle of the pack throughout the season, but without any big moments, it was hard to find reasons to save him when he needed them.
The Top Chef Power Rankings are an ordered compilation of weekly lists put together by TV Blend writers Jessica Rawden and Mack Rawden. Each week after viewing the episode, they each rank the competitors in order. Nineteen points are given for a first place vote, and this week, seven were given for a last place vote. Five competitors have already been eliminated; therefore, those people automatically occupy the bottom slots. Here is how this week’s voting panned out, complete with analysis on how the contestants might fare moving forward.
#1) Shirley Chung (38): Shirley made worm pasta this week. It seemed to go over well enough with the judges, but it didn’t have enough positive kick to it to land her team at the top of the heap. With most of the other favorites underperforming, however, she more than did enough to keep herself in position as the favorite.
#2) Carrie Mashaney (36): I don’t know what happened to Carrie this week. The ash coated vegetables and black garlic mushrooms she and Stephanie made were raved about by Tom and Lea, but apparently, they didn’t gain universal support because the ladies failed to make the winners’ circle. Still, it’s hard to consider someone’s performance less than when there’s a legitimate case they should have been singled out in a good way.
#3) Justin Devillier (34): Normally, doing the exact opposite of what the judges tell you to do is a fundamentally bad idea. Lea told the chefs she hates beets, and almost immediately afterwards, Justin decided to make his pasta with some beets in order to get a really interesting red color. Fortunately, his take on her hated ingredient was enough to keep him out of the bottom.
#4) Nina Compton (31): Nina had a rough week this week. She wasn’t particularly happy to be paired with Michael and she didn’t work well in the kitchen as part of a team. This landed her in the bottom, but thankfully, the judges seemed enthusiastic about her dish. While teamwork can sometimes be they key to Top Chef success, ultimately, a chef must stand by his or her cooking, and this week Nina succeeded despite some personal challenges. If she keeps cooking the way she has been regardless of what else is going on in the kitchen, she should keep moving forward in this competition.
#5) Carlos Gaytan (29): Carlos entered the competition with one of the more impressive pedigrees among this year’s Top Chef competitors. However, his first few weeks on the show did not go over quite as well as one might expect. This week, he turned things around with a cheesy dish that had Lea Michele gushing and earned him honors as one of the episode’s two best dishes. Hopefully, with a win under his belt, he’ll be able to settle into a rhythm and do well moving forward.
#6) Stephanie Cmar (29): Stephanie is a good chef. She puts together very inventive and interesting dishes (see her and Carrie’s “doomed shrooms” and “freaky leeky”). At some point, she’s going to find the right challenge and the right mix of flavors to vault herself above a few chefs on this list and prove she has a legit chance of winning, but until that happens, she’ll remain a half step below the best of the best.
#7) Brian Huskey (25): Brian took a little bit of a dive in the rankings this week after he tripped and faceplanted with his idea of spooky spa cuisine. I have no idea why he thought that would appeal to a woman clearly interested in having some fun and proving you don’t need meat to create excitement. Luckily for him, however, he escaped the guillotine and will have a chance to prove himself next week.
#8) Sara Johannes(24): Here’s yet another chef that’s dropped like a stone in the ratings lately. Like two of her fellow competitors, she had the “brilliant” idea of making arancini and shaping it to look like an eyeball. Her version with Moroccan spices went over well enough, but it was certainly never in contention for a space in the top.
#9) Nicholas Elmi (23): Now, this is what I’m talking about. Most of the other chefs in the middle of the pack here may have disappointed, but for Nicholas, this mini-climb is actually evidence he could be better than expected He’s been worse than mediocre throughout the competition, but this week, his butternut squash cannoli was a hit with judges and landed him a near win. Here’s to hoping those good vibes continue.
The Dark Horses
#10) Travis Masar (21): Travis was atrocious last week. How the hell he didn’t go home is beyond me. He basically poisoned his entire team with bad ideas about Vietnamese food. Fortunately, if you’re not deemed the worst of the worst, there’s always the chance to redeem yourself, which he did this week when he partnered with Carlos for the victory.
#12 Patricia Vega (18): Patty’s ranking on this list may not seem too impressive, but she’s actually moved up a few slots this week, thanks to getting inspired by Lea Michele’s Halloween party and making a dish that landed her in the top. The judges loved her arancini, and while she didn’t win, she did prove that she has some skill in the kitchen this week. Considering Patty’s track record, I’m pretty sure she won’t win the Top Chef competition this year, but at least she can say she cooked a few dishes she is proud of.
#12) Louis Maldonado (15): Louis landed in the bottom of these rankings this week, and it’s sort of a shame, because his work certainly wasn’t his worst ever. He made an interesting severed finger dish that totally won the judges over for presentation and was at least alright tasting. However, he remains one of the few chefs that has consistently been one of the judges’ lesser favorites. He’s never had a wow moment and he’s made a few huge missteps that have almost sent him home. Hopefully, the severed finger dish is just one step toward Louis getting his game together and succeeding on TV.
#14) Bene Bartolotta (15): Ughghg. Bene, Bene, Bene. Who makes a tomato salad and thinks that could possibly win? Even if it’s done perfectly, that’s a middle of the pack dish at best. This week, it was far from perfect, and it came within a wink of sending Bene home. Apart from a random high moment or two, he’s disappointed far too many times thus far, and if he doesn’t get his act together, we won’t be seeing him for very much longer.
Here’s a look at how each of the two ballots shook out:
Photo Credit @ Bravo