Top Chef

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Chinatown Breakdown
execution, since it's bland. And how is he not pumping out eight million of those things? Just drop the chicken in the fryer and throw three per plate, squirt of condiment, and go. Susur likes the dressing on Tiffani's salad, but Gail complains about the mix, because her plate is all sesame and nothing else. The judges' complaint about Carla's food is that it looks good, but the filling just tastes like rice noodles. The judges finish tasting and look around, and they realize that none of the diners have any food yet. Blais interviews that no one is pushing food out the way that they should because they're all being so particular about plating. Meanwhile, the diners are all like, "WTF?" or whatever the Chinese version of that would be.

Back in the kitchen, Jamie and Antonia are working on that second dish. Antonia tastes it and says that she thinks it needs more seasoning, but Jamie thinks it's fine as is. She dumps the beans back in the wok for more seasoning, I guess. Can't you season without additional cooking time? Now it seems like the beans are going to be overdone and saturated with the sauce, but not necessarily more seasoned. So apparently the carts are all being used (to do what, I'm not sure, since the diners still don't seem to have any food), and now Mike, Dale, and Tre are bringing food out to the judges. What are Carla and Casey doing? No clue.

The judges are given Jamie and Antonia's long beans with Chinese sausage, and the beans do look overcooked and wilted. If you hadn't told me they were beans, I would have thought they were roasted asparagus, because that's what they look like. Dale and Angelo made cheung fun (a type of spring roll) with xo shrimp, and then alone, Dale made sweet sticky rice with Chinese bacon wrapped in a banana leaf. That seems like a complicated plating, but if anyone could handle it, Dale could. Tiffany made spicy pork with vegetables on a steamed bun, which seems pretty authentic to dim sum. Tre's cold dessert is called orange ginger dessert with fresh water chestnuts, toasted pine nuts, and Thai basil. He serves it in a hollowed-out orange rind, which seems fussy for dim sum type service.

The diners are still not getting much food and they have resorted to just grabbing their own plates off the carts as they come around. I'm still not quite sure what Carla and Casey are doing, since every time they show a cart, one of the restaurant's servers is pushing it. Antonia is stressing about having to serve Casey's food as well as her own, because her own is taking a lot of her time. So did she just not do Casey's food? Do it poorly? This is not really explained. Padma notes that no food is coming out of the kitchen and Gail worries about revolt. The diners are not happy at all.

But the judges have to taste the dishes they've been given. They think Dale and Angelo's dish has the perfect amount of spice, and Dale's rice that he made solo is perfectly cooked. Tom even goes in for seconds. Maybe he should offer some up to the poor diners at the other tables. Jamie and Antonia's long beans are overcooked and greasy, and poorly seasoned. Tiffany's bun is authentic and has great flavor. Tre's dessert isn't cold enough and thus is too runny.

Tre runs downstairs and says that he'll run a tray up if they give him one, since there seems to be a problem with the carts. Tiffany yells that they don't have any food to put on the trays. Casey notices that her dish doesn't seem to be coming out, and when it rarely does, it doesn't look good. She heads into the kitchen to troubleshoot, and finds that they were heating her food in the fryer instead of the wok, as she instructed, and apparently, Tiffani has taken over cooking it instead of Antonia? I don't know. Back upstairs, Tom remarks that they were told that the whole point of the challenge was speed, and instead of dim sum, they are serving "slow sum." We see Tiffani wandering around the kitchen with three plates at a time, and Antonia starts yelling at everyone to hustle a little bit. Padma asks Tom to go down to the kitchen, because diners are leaving.

Tom enters the kitchen and asks who's running it. No one seems to be listening and they're all trying to avoid eye contact. Carla captures the feeling in the room when she interviews, "When your daddy shows up where he's not supposed to be, you know you're in trouble." Tom tells them to plate forty orders at a time instead of three and get some food out. Angelo, Dale, and Marcel stand around and have a conversation and Antonia walks by and asks if they're done, and tells them to get to work. Love her. You know who would have kicked ass in this challenge? Jen. I miss old non-crazy taskmaster Jen. Antonia thinks Dale would have been a better leader, but Marcel points out that Dale was cleaning out his shoes instead of cooking. Dale counters that he was sending out plates by the dozen instead of the pair, and he thinks people should be called out for their slowness, but no one has the balls to do it. Upstairs, Tom and Padma are still appalled at the lack of food, and one Chinese diner comments that she only had enough to feed her children and not herself. Dude, when you have to perform food triage in a restaurant, there's a problem.

Tre walks out with the final tray of judges' food. Casey made a play on chicken and waffles, which is a Chinese chicken foot with scallion pancakes. Antonia made a yummy-looking shrimp toast with pickled scallions and mushrooms. Suddenly Mike is there, and he serves his own pork and prawn dumplings with spicy soy sauce and Jamie's scallop dumplings with water chestnuts and Chinese chives, which have the lamest presentation ever. She just flopped two dumplings in a steamer and that's it. No sauce, no herbs, nothing. Lame.

Mike's dumplings are spicy enough, but Susur thinks they are too salty due to excess soy sauce. Susur, expert on Chinese food, says that the chicken foot needs to be cooked in hot oil, but this one wasn't deep fried properly. Interesting, since Tiffani was trying to fry them and Casey told her not to. Padma points out that even the desperate diners are leaving the chicken feet untouched. The judges think that the wrapper to filling ratio is off in Jamie's dumplings: there's too much wrapper and not enough scallop. You can tell just by looking at them. They look deflated and sad, kind of like Jamie this season. The cheftestants finally get their food out, but it's too little, too late. Everyone is kind of deflated. Even the random interstitial emphasizes this, as the cheftestants discuss how humiliated they are.

The cheftestants report to the Stew Room. They sit there mopily and debrief on what just happened. Antonia talks about how each cheftestant was looking out for him or herself, and no one seemed to have any urgency to just push food out the door. Tiffany explains that they were all sort of confused about who was dealing with Casey's dish, and Antonia says that she only took on that responsibility because no one else stepped up. Two things here: on the one hand, Antonia said she would do it, and she should have either done it, or gotten someone else to take over if she absolutely couldn't. But if no one would take over, it's on her. Second, it kind of sucks that Antonia, who was already doing one and a half dishes, was supposed to also do Casey's food, when there were a few people who only did one dish and probably could have helped. Like Tre. Or Tiffani, Tiffany, Fabio, Marcel, and Blais. I thought Blais was doing two dishes, but we barely got to see one. I will give Tiffany a break because she seemed to take on the role of filling the carts and sending them upstairs. The only other people exempt from helping out, in my mind, are Carla, Mike, Dale, Angelo, and Jamie, because they all took on dual roles. Usually Antonia is first to call people out, though, so we'll see what happens.

Padma comes in and asks to see Casey, Antonia, Carla, Jamie, and Tre. So this is obviously the losers, though they don't usually go first. Jamie faces the judges with her normal crossed arms. Padma tells them that the whole poi

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