The Wife:

I’m glad that the benevolent glory of Eric Ripert was featured heavily in this episode. I generally don’t get through the previews for the upcoming episode at the end of the last, so if Ripert’s appearance was teased last week, I was too busy taking of my glasses and ducking under the covers to notice. So to me, it was a pleasant surprise to see the name of Ripert’s restaurant mentioned as the title for this episode. I like Ripert. He’s always a perfect gentlemen, and I am consistently amazed that he and Anthony Bourdain are such good friends when they are such polar opposites in terms of their demeanor.

And Ripert was indeed a perfect gentleman throughout his Top Chef appearance. For the Quickfire, he and Padma asked the chefs to display their skills at filleting fish. In round one, all the chefs were asked to clean and butterfly sardines in five minutes according to Ripert’s example. The two chefs who came in last in each round would be eliminated.

In the first round, those eliminees were Jamie and Carla, who butchered their tiny sardines within an inch of their lives. Fabio, on the other hand, emerged as the winner of the round, filleting those sardines hardcore. He defended his victory by chalking it up to his experience doing prep work at restaurants in Italy. He must be from the South, because sardines are a regional favorite in Southern Italian and Sicilian cuisine. This explains why my father is so damned fond of putting them on his pizza.

In round two, the remaining four chefs had to filled an Arctic Char in five minutes. Leah, as per usual, just gave the fuck up in the middle of this challenge, throwing her hands in the air and standing under the perpetual rain cloud that sits over her head. Hosea, who bungled his sardines, managed to redeem himself in this round, while Fabio faltered and was eliminated alongside Leah.

In round three, Stefan and seafood chef Hosea faced off against each other to skin and fillet freshwater eel in a challenge that turned out to be strangely homoerotic. Dude, no part of cooking is more like porn than watching two grown men nail an eel to a board and slowly massage the skin off the creature. Stefan, having skinned eels his whole life growing up in Germany, mastered the challenge and was awarded the win. Again, he was given no immunity, but an advantage in the elimination challenge.

You know, I'm going to take the classy route and not write any of the obvious jokes about how much Leah wants to get her hands on Hosea's eel. Shit! I just did.

You know, I'm going to take the classy route and not write any of the obvious jokes about how much Leah wants to get her hands on Hosea's eel. Shit! I just did.

Instead of announcing said Elimination Challenge right away, Padma and Chef Ripert invited the cheftestants to lunch at Le Bernardin, Ripert’s restaurant. I knew that this meant they would have to recreate the dishes they were served at lunch as their challenge, but I don’t know how many of them knew that. I would hope that, as fans of the show, they knew this was coming. But I think they all got a little caught up in gazing at Ripert’s hair so white it would make Jay Manuel jealous, and his impeccably tanned skin and his brilliant teeth. Ripert could be a postcard for the French Riviera, seriously. Carla was clearly caught up in how much better Ripert’s food is than her own, because she announced that she wanted to become one of Ripert’s dishes when she grew up. ‘Kay. That’s a strange comment for a grown woman to make, but I kind of sympathize, because when I was little, I wanted to be a washing machine. Carla clearly thinks exactly like I did when I was two.

At the end of their luncheon, Colicchio brought out the knife block and broke it to the chefs that they’d be recreating a Ripert dish. Stefan was allowed to choose which of the dishes he wanted to cook, and he chose the most familiar and “easiest” by Le Bernardin standards: the lobster with hollandaise. From the almighty knife block, Carla drew the escoban, Hosea the monkfish, Leah the mahi mahi, Fabio the red snapper and Jamie the black bass, which was her least favorite dish at lunch.

Each chef was given time to test out the dish, as well as a tray with every ingredient used in the dish when prepared in the Le Bernardin kitchen. They were also given the benefit of being graced with that gentle giant Eric Ripert’s expert palate. He offered to taste and critiqued each of the cheftestant’s dishes and offer suggestions, while still not revealing if they had made the dish correctly or not. However, there was one person who didn’t get the advantage of Ripert’s palate: Jamie. She took too long on her dish, so Ripert didn’t get to taste it. And I knew when that happened that this could only end badly for her. Sad face.

Fabio served his version of Le Bernardin’s sourdough-crusted red snapper in a tomato-basil consomm against a version from the restaurant’s kitchen. The judges remarked that his crust was a little too dark, but not quite burned, and that all of the flavors in the dish were right. I still think Fabio should have gone last week, and this week I think he got very lucky in drawing the most Italianate of Ripert’s dishes.

I think Leah also got lucky in drawing the most Asian-inspired of Ripert’s dishes. She drew the mahi mahi with miso ginger sauce, but, in true Leah form, still managed to fuck it up. Her sauce was too gingery, but also too bland and her fish appeared oily, probably because of all the butter she whisked into the broth at the last minute. Still, I’ll wager that although she failed, her familiarity with cooking Asian cuisine at least saved her a little bit. Too much ginger wasn’t right, but at least ginger is a tolerable flavor, even in excess.

Stefan then served his lobster, which was spot on with the Le Bernardin lobster, even if his hollandaise was a little thicker than Ripert’s. That’s why you make hollandaise by hand, dude. Don’t use a freaking blender for that shit!

Hooty-Hoo Carla served up her oil-poached escoban with potato crisps and a red wine béarnaise to much delight. Even though her potato crisps were a little short of crispy, Eric Ripert was impressed that she figured out the correct sauce, which was not really a béarnaise at all, but something entirely different. Colicchio found it very loyal to the original dish.

Hosea served his za’atar spiced monkfish with black garlic and the judges found that his use of za’atar was far too overpowering. What’s worse: his fish was overcooked, and that’s bad news for someone who hails himself as a seafood chef. Ripert found Hosea’s dish to be the least precise recreation so far.

And then the doomed Jamie presented her sautéed black bass with blanched celery, fully knowing that her celery was overly blanched and, therefore, too salty because the blanching liquid had reduced. I believe Eric Ripert called her celery “hardcore,” perhaps unaware that being hardcore is kind of a compliment. Or maybe he actually loves over-salted celery. Who knows. Everyone agrees, though, that while it’s too salty, the fish is sautéed well.

I only like celery that is as 'ardcore as I am.

I only like celery that is as 'ardcore as I am.

At Judges’ Table, Padma calls in Fabio, Stefan and Carla. I do not know why Hooty-Hoo is suddenly on a roll like this. She’s been nothing but mediocre or even terrible for most of the season, until she got that super bowl boost of confidence and now she’s somehow in the Top 5. This is just wrong to me. The good news is that she didn’t win, even though Toby Young made a super lame joke about how much he liked her dish, giving it the compliment of being “Pablo Escoban.” Uh . . . yeah. I’m going to go with having your food compared to a Columbian drug lord is NOT A COMPLIMENT! Toby Young really makes me miss Gail.

Not surprisingly, Stefan was given the win and the best prize ever: a copy of Ripert’s new book, On the Line. And the chance to shadow him at three of his restaurants for a week. And a stay at the Ritz. And to be Eric Ripert’s plus one at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine show. Hot damn! What a fucking treat! This is probably the best prize I’ve ever seen on Top Chef, and that includes the culinary trip to Italy that Rocco DiSpirito gave away last season, courtesy of Bertoli.

Sadly, Jamie, Leah and Hosea were then summoned to the table and criticized for their collective failures. Jamie and Hosea were able to tell the judges exactly what went wrong with their dishes, even though they ran out of time to fix them. And then there’s Leah, who honestly couldn’t figure out what the fuck she did wrong. Colicchio criticized her for not paying enough attention to notice that the miso on her dish didn’t need any butter because there was no fat in it at all. The judges ask each other what’s worse: knowing what your mistakes were and not being able to fix them, or not knowing at all. I had hoped that they would choose the correct answer to that quandary, which is, of course, not knowing you did something wrong at all, because as a chef, you should know how your food failed. But no, the ousted my hometown girl, Jamie.

She really deserved to go further in this competition than either of the remaining women in the show. Leah has clearly given up, even though she told the judges otherwise. I think her actions speak louder than her words, especially because she mumbles a lot. She should have gone home. For the second week in a row, I think Top Chef has made the wrong choice. Fabio got really lucky this week, but he really doesn’t stand a chance of winning against Stefan, who is my current pick for the win. Next week, I really hope Leah goes. I hate her far more than I hate Hooty-Hoo. At least Hooty-Hoo is funny.

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