Top Chef Recap

By David Mumpower

December 4, 2013

At least he's got a cool name.

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Previously on Top Chef, Patty’s claim to the throne ended when she forgot the chili threads, thereby rendering her food unbalanced. Her watermelon dish was far too cold without hotter flavors to neutralize the iciness. Patty had been up for elimination several times before so this turn of events was not particularly surprising. It does continue the theme this season of great chefs struggling because their skill does not translate well to the mercurial nature of Top Chef. Bene was eliminated for similar reasons, which does not bode well for a couple of current contestants who are struggling, particularly Sara and Louis.

Sara is aware of the problem at the start of the episode. She informs Shirley that “I’m starting to think I’m a gooch.” Is that one of the muppets? A movie theater candy? No, a gooch is bad luck and Sara believes that her presence has cost her teams in every challenge thus far. Sara, that’s not bad luck inasmuch as a performance issue. She does announce the following: “I don’t like to be in the middle. I hate to be on the bottom.” Taken out of context, this statement may be the filthiest thing ever said on Top Chef.

The other noteworthy aspect of the first scene regards Patty. While the chef may have been voted out by the judges and then eliminated by Janine in Last Chance Kitchen, the news is not all dreary. Her peers note that Patty has only been cooking professionally for three years. Dayam! Anybody that green in the kitchen who lasts this long in the competition is destined for greatness as a chef. Keep your head up, Patty. Also, maybe try crying less.


The Quickfire challenge features the star of stars in New Orleans, Dr. John. Malcolm John "Mac" Rebennack, Jr. is a 73-year-old musician who has a doctorate in boogie woogie blues. He also has a real (albeit honorary) doctorate from Tulane in the field of Fine Arts. Dr. John is a multi-time Grammy Award winner whose ascension was prophesied by Miles Davis’ 1957 release, The Birth of Cool. Dr. John is cool like Fonzie. Yes, like everyone else in the south, I’m a fan.

The challenge requires the chefs to create their own hot sauce. There is occasional interference from Dr. John, who behaves like a talking doll. Occasionally, the nattily dressed artist (Did you know that crimson and silver pinstripes match? Neither did I.) comes out of his hypnotic state to say things like, “I know y’all gonna do a hip maneuver.” The man has one demand for the challenge: the hot sauces must feature “hip tang”. Dr. John has made a career of stringing random words together so I cannot argue with his mercurial blend of genius/madness. It sure is fun to watch him try to relate to the youth of today, too.

Even though many of the chefs have never crafted a hot sauce before, the challenge proves to be remarkably easy. I guess that’s why the condiments aisle at my grocery store is overflowing with hot sauces. Dr. John is a discriminating connoisseur of the magic fluids, though. Anyone who fails to achieve the appropriate level of hip tang is informed that they will never be at one with the blues. Honestly, the hysterical portion of the segment involves Padma Lakshmi thriving in a rare situation where she can be the straight man to his charismatic musings on life and food. After one incoherent review, she clarifies for the contestant that “I think that means he likes it.” Padma speaks jive.

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