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Top Chef Chicago: Episode 5 is a Chef Smackdown

Who writes these polls?

Based on last week’s clips, we were expecting a whole hot mess of drama to go down on last night’s Top Chef. While most of the episode contained the usual array of bitchiness and bad food, producers made us hold out until the end for a measly two minute "smackdown" that included bugging out, swearing, and screaming which, let's face it, ended up feeling a little bit contrived. Up ahead, a summary and then let’s check in with our NYC 6, who nearly lost another member last night.

Summary: Last night’s Quickfire was the “palate test,” which was a welcome break from some of the ridiculous cooking challenges of the past few weeks. This week’s guest judge was “East Meets West” celebrity chef Ming Tsai, who rolled up rockin’ a yin/yang necklace. After bragging considerably about her excellent palate, Antonia ended up winning. For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants broke up into teams of three to make first courses for a catered meal at the “Meals on Wheels” ball. Dishes were inspired by the elements, and Lisa, of team Fire, was awarded the win (and a trip to Italy) for making miso-crusted bacon. Then, as promised, Spike, Jennifer, Antonia, Dale, and Lisa completely lost it on each other at the end, probably the most enjoyable yet strangest two minutes of the whole show.

Let’s take a look at the misadventures of our NYC crew last night:

1. Lisa: After feeling a little ‘shaky’ during the quickfire, Lisa was unhappy with the ideas of her team members, and was a sourpuss for the entirety of the show. Her team eventually decided on some spicy shrimp and bacon dish that ended up winning the EC. Bonus weirdness: Lisa expressed interest in “knocking the pants off” Ming Tsai with her Asian cooking skills.

2. Spike: Spike gets more despicable with each episode and this week he was at his worst. He skated by the QF and was placed on “Team Earth” with Antonia and Zoi. After rocking an almost inconceivable hat, kind of baseball cap meets Vietnamese rice farmer, he suggested that immune Antonia should “take a back seat” since they clashed over what dish to make. Later after losing but avoiding elimination again, Spike went off on Antonia for not letting them make butternut squash soup.

3. Dale: Dale did OK in the QF, was on the winning Team Fire in the elimination challenge, and has been coming off as a strong chef in the last couple episodes. Lisa shot down nearly all of Dale's ideas at Whole Foods, and his shining moment came during the final scene when he called her out for being “negative” and dropped the S-bomb 12 times in a row.

4. Andrew: A relatively calm Andrew did OK in the QF and was part of Team Water with Richard and Mark. Tom called them out for acting cocky and predicted that they’d screw up. Meanwhile Andrew basically admitted that he felt threatened by Richard, but their dish which was covered in scales almost sent Richard packing.

5. Mark: Frodo was stoned as usual this week and on losing team Water for the EC. When asked about his role in creating the sous-vide salmon dish, he was completely dumbfounded before responding that he “believed parsnip and vanilla would go well with sous-vide salmon.”

6.Nikki: Nikki had very little airtime this week, doing OK in the QF and on mediocre Team Air during the EC. Her silly pom-tini drink pissed off TC and most people watching.

Highlights: Richard’s bad jokes “bouncing off” Colicchio, everyone screaming and crying during the last minute of the episode, Jen almost breaking a chair, and Spike and Antonia’s newfound rivalry.

Outcome: Zoi, who has been in the bottom more often than not, was finally sent home for an unseasoned mushroom salad.
—Kelly Dobkin
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