Top Chef Recap

By Jason Lee

December 18, 2008

A bunch of underachievers live another day.

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This week on Watch What We Say: When women rule the world

As a gay man, I love strong women. There's something really inspiring about watching a smart, witty, confident and accomplished woman complete a task with finesse and draw the respect and admiration from others around her. I think this stems from an overall appreciation for seeing a non-male figure succeed in a hetero-normative world, which as you can imagine, is a heartening experience for a non-heterosexual person.

In any case, strong women are what this week's episode of Top Chef is all about – both in the kitchen and at judges table. The episode opens with two strong women that are coming from two very different emotional places. Ariane, no longer Underdog du Jour, is still giddy from having won the last two Elimination Challenges. While I still cannot quite bring myself to believe that she can win the entire competition, I'm starting to view her as a dark horse candidate for the finale, provided she keeps her confidence up and cooks the food that she knows how to cook.

On the other side of the spectrum is Jaime, who was on the verge of elimination two weeks ago and found herself narrowly edged by Ariane last week for the overall Elimination Challenge win. She is understandably frustrated at her inability to win a Quickfire or Elimination Challenge, though I would caution her against this. As we saw in last year's finale with Richard, sometimes when you get focused on winning a competition, you forget to cook the food that got you that far.


Not a strong woman but pissed off nonetheless is Eugene who in my opinion should have gone home last week but stuck around while his fellow teammate, Daniel, got the boot. He pledges to step it up and start cooking the great food that he's capable of.

Aaaaaaaaaand, we're off and running in our holiday Quickfire Challenge. Padma introduces the parameters of the competition: in the spirit of great American home cooks that manage to make simple, yet delicious holiday meals, cook your own seasonal dish by using only a single pot. Immediately, I love this challenge. Not only does it force the chefs to simplify (avoiding the all-too-often-seen mistake of including too many elements onto a plate, as seen last week with Eugene's "New" dish) but it's also reminiscent of a dish made by last year's contestant, Nikki, in the kids challenge in which she made a dinner of chicken and brussels sprouts in a single pot.

So who's the guest judge for the Quickfire? It's none other than home cooking auteur and media giant, Martha Stewart. Personally, I think I'd faint if Martha Stewart walked into a room I was in. She just seems like this mythic figure who incomprehensively combines both the affable, approachableness of a home cook with the shrewd, intimidating personality of a multi-billionaire who owns a global media conglomeration. She's definitely a strong woman.

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