Top Chef
Into The Fire

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Keckler: C+ | Grade It Now!
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Food, Fire, and Frog Legs

A few more cheftestants roll up, including Ilan who is a line cook in New York. Given his Ted Allen-y looks, I think I'm just going to have to call him Ted Ilan. Why does Ted Ilan want to be Top Chef? "Because [he] wants to win one hundred thousand dollars, [he] wants to be in Food & Wine, [he] wants to be famous." Not feeling the fire with this one.

In the cheftestants' LA loft, Marcel of the Heat Misered, Wolverined, overly-Flowbee'd hair arrives and calls dibs on an upper bunk. People. I know I said I was done with the Billy Joel lyrics, but I can't resist one more: Marcel combed his hair in a pompadour, like the rest of the Romeos wore! Ahhhh, I feel much better now. Okay, can we discuss the quarters? Hideous! Those metal-framed bunk beds with their burnt sienna blankets look like they belong in a youth hostel. Yipes. Marcel is a "master cook" at the Las Vegas-based Joël Robuchon at the Mansion, which I think most people just call "Joël Robuchon," because, really, who has the time? So I should tell you that Joël Robuchon is really quite huge, culinarily. First of all, he's French, and that could pretty much say it all, but he was also named Chef of the Century by the prestigious (and very French) Gault Millau guide. He has a bunch of restaurants (some in France, some in the U.S., at least one in Japan), and he's just a very special guy. Back to Marcel, who tells us he's very into the Molecular Gastronomy movement. This is the smears, foams, and pompous weird mad scientist tricks trend that, quite honestly, leaves me cold, but which can be traced back to Ferran Adrià at El Bulli in Spain, where you might be served walnuts with tweezers to dip them into a freeze-dried aioli, stuff that changes their molecular structure the moment you put them in your mouth, spaghetti noodles made from Parmigiano-Reggiano, and ice cream air. Yes, they will serve you air. And you pay will for that air.

Back in the loft, Ted Ilan arrives, and Marcel says, "I'm gonna have to stake my claim." Just pee on your bed, Teen Wolf. That'll stake it. We meet a few more of the chick chefs, who don't have bunk beds but do seem to have a kitchen in their room. Odd. I mean, I'm pretty food obsessed myself, but that doesn't mean I want to sleep in the same room as a stove. Or smell rotting crap deep in the garbage disposal the first thing in the morning. We meet Elia, who was born in Mexico City and is a room service chef at Mandalay Bay in Vegas. She says that back in Mexico, cooking "is for women who want to get married and never work again," but she has decided that "smart people" do what they like to do, not what the world thinks they should do. I like her already. Plus, sexy accent.

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Top Chef

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