Top Chef
Top Chef Holiday Special

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Keckler: B- | Grade It Now!
It Came Upon A Sniff And Sneer

Tre goes first and unwraps cheese balls. Ah, those were such a staple at our Christmas table when my grandfather sent us the deluxe Hickory Farms box! Said boxes also came with those awesome strawberry candies, which, in retrospect, is an odd thing to pair with cheese and meats, but totally made sense to me back in the day. CJ selects a present and unwraps a packet of smoked salmon, which Betty promptly steals. CJ goes back to the tree and unwraps a can of black truffles, which Tiffani steals. CJ goes back to the tree and unwraps a nutcracker. "How appropriate!" Tiffani guffaws. CJ also got some walnuts. "You know, the last time someone stole my nuts, he was a urologist and he had a degree and this time I was pretty sure no one was going to do it," CJ tells us. Hee. Meanwhile, I had one of those random wonderings I have when trying hard to avoid work, and I wondered if CJ's urologist uses CJ as a marketing ploy. "Yeah, you know Top Chef's CJ? I derocked him." Although, if CJ's urologist wanted to go with the whole food angle, he could say he "shucked his Rocky Mountain oysters." Marcel steals Tiffani's black truffles, and Tiffani unwraps sweet potatoes. Sandee unwraps a full hank of prosciutto ham. Stephen steals Tiffani's sweet potatoes because, as he explains to us, he wants to do something "experimental." Tiffani unwraps caviar, and Josie steals the truffles from Marcel. Marcel unwraps toro (fatty tuna belly) and is psyched about "this incredible, like, fish product." Do you think he knows what it is? Finally, Santa reveals himself to be a Père Noël in the form of Eric Ripert. Okay, I love him, but is he EVER at Le Bernardin? Maybe not, actually.

The thirty-minute timer starts the Food Flurry. The only interesting things to note are that Betty is doing something unmentionable with smoked salmon and raisins, and Josie can't find a can opener for her truffles. She uses the corner of her knife to (not really) open the can, and starts draining the juice inside. Time ticks down and food is plated. Finally, we see that Josie did get the can open, but she forgot to put her sauce on the plate. And this is why she was kicked off in the fifth round of her season.

Padma and Ripert start with Sandee's prosciutto-based dish. She has a trio: cherries that she rehydrated with chile and port wine, a seared center cut of the prosciutto with juniper berries, and an apricot-mustard sauce/chutney. Are they all supposed to be eaten together? And if it's separate, how do you eat a sauce as a component of a trio? Plus, it looks oddly messy -- there are white tendrils that almost look like rice noodles. CJ did a take on the Chinese prawns with walnuts dish by roasting the walnuts and then combining them with sautéed apples and shrimp. Relegating his cheese ball to a mere side dish, Tre presents his sage-encrusted chicken breast (can it really be "encrusted" if it's a fresh herb? I always think of encrustations as also using breadcrumbs or nuts or something to make a, you know, crust) with asparagus (done in some way that Bravo doesn't want us to be privy to) and a cheesy rice pilaf. It's a safe dish. Okay, it's boring. It's a BORING dish, Tre! Step it up, dude! Moving on to Betty's gaggy dish, Betty explains -- speaking in the third person to make up for all the missing Brians -- that "[we]" did some sautéed leeks with Granny Smith apples, golden raisins, and then put the smoked salmon somewhere on this and topped that with arugula and an orange-mustard vinaigrette. Wow, way to completely shout down the salmon's flavor. We get to Josie, who rabbit-tooths at the judges and explains that she couldn't find the can opener (except we saw that she got the can open anyway!) and at this point, Padma's acting coach told her to act "outraged," so Padma is all, "WHAT?! You didn't use the TRUFFLES?!" Josie hems and haws that she was able to use them, but only at the end. Okay, so then what's the problem? Josie seared a scallop and served it with an egg -- I think it was fried and then she cut a round out of it, keeping the yolk and some of the white -- pine nuts and shaved truffles. So, the truffles are there? I guess it wasn't the exact way she wanted to use them? Josie tells us she hopes Ripert can overlook the "lack of truffles." But there isn't a lack! Because they're there! Shaved?

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