Top Chef Recap

By David Mumpower

December 23, 2013

Justin remembers that while he may have lost, he still lives on the same street as Mardi Gras.

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Previously on Top Chef, another exceptional challenge performance led to the elimination of someone who cooked rather well overall. Travis was banished to Last Chance Kitchen due to a raw biscuit. Otherwise, the judges offered universal consent that the food presented by the bottom group was delicious. Ergo, the people who finished at the top of the challenge must have delivered outrageously great cuisine.

That premise goes double for Nick, whose food was so tasty that actor and guest judge Anthony Mackie quipped that he wished he could be Nick’s daughter. That is the hallmark of a perfect plate of food. Nick appears to be ascending at the perfect moment. He has now won consecutive challenges, one of which was as the executive chef of the winning team during Restaurant Wars. At this point, Nick is challenging Nina as the strongest competitor.

The episode begins with Nina lamenting the absence of Travis. She refers to herself as the last Gossip Girl alive, which is presumably a huge surprise to Leighton Meester and Blake Lively. Nina recounts the connection she shared with buddies Bene and Travis. Their conversations rarely involved Top Chef. I would note that the lack of focus on the competition itself could be the causality for Travis and Bene being eliminated.

Brian has a different thought. He recognizes that there are only eight chefs remaining. In the earlier portion of the show, there could be a dramatic difference in performance between the worst dishes and the middling ones. Now that the herd has been thinned, the margin of error between first and last place can be as simple as the degree of doneness of a biscuit. Any chef would gulp at the thought of such a demanding performance yet the players face it every challenge now. This season of Top Chef may be the most tightly bunched one in the history of the show. How the eight chefs handle the ever increasing pressure could easily determine the final outcome.


After these moments of paranoid introspection, the chefs arrive in the Top Chef Kitchen for the Quickfire challenge. They are greeted by Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, whom the world knows as Questlove, leader of The Roots, Jimmy Fallon’s house band. The Grammy Award winning musician also happens to be the owner of a New York restaurant named Hybrid. At least he did until early November when the critically celebrated chicken joint closed. Ergo, this segment is a bit awkward in hindsight. Nobody knew that at the time, though.

In fact, the joint starts jumpin’. Questlove’s presence is quickly followed by a drumline of musicians. The players all start bouncing as the marching drummers bring in the noise and funk. Bringing up the rear is a wheeled table full of drumsticks. These are (well, were) the signature dish at Hybrid. Did I mention this segment in hindsight?

The Quickfire challenge demands that the chefs craft the most creative chicken dish possible. There is a mad scramble for the various parts of the bird. In the scrum, Shirley collapses. Nick demonstrates his honah as a gentleman by catching her then helping her back upright. Shirley rewards his nobility by…taking the protein he wanted.

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