Given that this week’s episode of “Top Chef” was one long, shameless plug for the upcoming “Snow White and the Huntsman” movie, it seemed appropriate to take a moment and come up with some dwarf names for the Bravo show’s final seven cheftestants. But really, I just found myself wanting to name most of them Dopey, except maybe Sarah Grueneberg of Spiagga in Chicago, whom I’d call Sweaty.
Her impressive perspiration was once again on display during this week’s Quickfire Challenge, which gave the chefs 30 minutes to prepare a sophisticated dish made from three ingredients they would pick from a conveyor belt. The first items on the belt would be the least useful—Pop Rocks, Goldfish crackers, Saltines, etc.—and the better stuff would come later, when there was less time left to work with them, according to guest judge Eric Ripert of New York’s famed Le Bernardin.
In a fantastic display of can-do attitude, Ed Lee of Magnolia in Louisville, Kentucky, tells us: “I have no idea what’s going on, but I know it’s going to suck for us.”
The best part of this segment is watching Chris Jones of Chicago’s Moto repeatedly try to grab a bucket of lobsters but fail to do so because he can’t move fast enough to catch them on the fairly slow-moving conveyor. “Those f-ing bastards,” he grunts. (Dude, you’re only ten feet away from the belt! Pick up your pace!) Eventually, on his third or fourth try, he manages to snatch one wriggling crustacean.
Paul Qui of Uchiko in Austin makes one of the worst dishes: mussels in ginger with bitter melon broth and some component made with Wonder Bread. Eric Ripert takes a bite and makes a face like he has smelled baby poop.
Beverly makes black eyed peas with tofu and curried Rice Krispies but fails to get the cereal on the plate when time is called. Had she managed to get that ingredient plated, “you would’ve won this by a mile,” says host and judge Padma Lakshmi, wearing an unfortunate and bunchy gray jumpsuit. But Beverly misses out on immunity, which instead goes to winner Lindsay, who made bouillabaisse in fennel and Pernod broth.
Next up is the Elimination Challenge, in which the chefs are tasked with creating a gothic feast fit for a queen. “Queen Latifah?” Chris J. wonders. Nope, it’s actress Charlize Theron, who stars as the Wicked Queen in “The Huntsman.” Sarah nearly cries. Ed’s head is “a-spinning.”
Each chef gets $250 to spend at Whole Foods on ingredients for “wickedly beautiful” dishes. Ed thinks maybe he should get pig’s blood and spray it on everyone. Chris J. is thinking maggots and worms.
The next day, the chefs have two hours to each prepare a course for Charlize, Padma, Eric, guest judge Emeril Lagasse, and head judge Tom Colicchio. Ed’s dish is the first course: Tuna tartare with black garlic ponzu and Asian pear vinaigrette (and fried fish scales), which has a dark and a light sauce that are supposedly battling like good and evil over the tuna in the middle, or some such nonsense.
“You put good and evil together and you get a politician,” Tom says, inspiring the fakest giggles ever uttered by Padma and Charlize.
Paul is next, and offers up foie gras with bacon, pumpernickel, pickled cherries, and beets, with a “bloody” handprint on the plate. “I love this. So beautiful. And so scary,” Charlize says. Eric winces, and says he hopes Paul wore a glove.
“It’s a beautiful love song,” Padma says, making me wonder if the ladies took some ecstasy before the meal. “A beautiful murder song,” Charlize coos. Who knew she was so method?
And now for the usual dinner table patter:
“We have eight dwarves,” Charlize says, of “The Huntsman.”
“Is that a union issue?” Tom says.
Padma: “If there was an eighth dwarf—”
Charlize: “—it would be Tom.”
Tom: “At least I’m not Dopey.”
The world: (rolls eyes)
Beverly serves seared halibut with red curry coulis and forbidden black rice, telling us that there’s some sort of “bleedingness” going on on the plate. Eric loves that there’s pineapple somewhere in the dish, and Charlize says her fish is cooked perfectly. The judges are really effusive tonight; there’s little in the way of criticism so far.
Lindsay is next, with seared scallop over “witches’ stew” and dragon beans.
Emeril: “The smell is just—”
Charlize: “That’s exactly what I was thinking!”
Huh? What? Does it smell good, or like a witch’s ass? Seriously, lay off the wine and MDMA, folks.
Sarah brings out a risotto (REEEEEEEE-ZO-THO), of which she says she is most proud, along with lamb heart. And Grayson does a black chicken with beets, quail egg, and foie gras. “I wanted it to look like a chicken got slaughtered on the plate,” says Grayson. “The egg symbolized the baby that was inside her.”
For dessert we have Chris’s take on the poison apple, which is a mix of apple and cherry pies with puffed rice topping and a blast of liquid nitrogen smoke. The judges, who normally think of Chris as too gimmicky, are also in love with this dish.
All seven chefs are called before the judges’ table and told how wonderful their dishes were. “This is one of the greatest meals I’d had the pleasure of eating,” Tom says. But somebody has to win, and this time it’s Paul, who gets two tickets to the world premiere of the Huntsman movie. Um, yay?
The bottom three chefs are Beverly, Sarah, and Grayson. Sarah, once again, appears to have cooked her reeeezotho improperly. After Padma tells them, “This is very difficult for us because all of you have done well,” the judges’ happy buzz promptly wears off, and the criticisms kick in. Probably prompted by a producer, the chefs each defend their dishes and themselves.
“I have something very special in my heart,” Beverly sniffles. “I’m doing this for my family . . . I have so much to offer.”
Sorry, Bev, but that’s not enough. She’s told to pack her knives and go. Amazingly, she doesn’t even shed one tear at this news. What the hell? After all the crying throughout every episode, you don’t give us the waterworks at your dismissal? You don’t dissolve into a mess of sobs? Pfft. I feel cheated.
Next week: Head-to-head battles, and Chris throws a chair, yelling “get the bleep off my bleep!” Look out!