Top Chef California: Episode 4

By Jason Lee

January 12, 2016

The nicest person in the world, according to her.

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Happy New Year, everyone! Hope you all had a great holiday season filled with good food and minimal family drama. With the return of Top Chef: California, here’s hoping we have more of the former and less of the latter.

In a season marked by the promise of California road trips, up and down the coast, the cheftestants eschew travel for this Quickfire, sticking in Palm Springs to visit an awesome-looking date farm. Seriously, it looks so cool. Date trees apparently resemble stunted palm trees, with bundles of unripe dates that hang clustered like bananas - of the same greenish hue but the size of nectarines. After gathering up cartons of dates, and with some minimal bitching by Angelina who (you may remember) narrowly avoided elimination for the umpteenth time last episode about how she’s a Chihuahua who turns into a pit bull when cornered, the cheftestants head to the Culinary Arts Academy. There they find Padma standing next to model Chrissy Teigen.

Cue sophomoric gawking and ogling by Kwame. I’m surprised. He’s reverts to something very akin to a middle schooler who just saw his first female nipple since breast feeding. I almost expect to see cartoonish pools of drool on the floor of the kitchen.


Chrissy rambles on about how much she loves dates - those sweet, sticky, and succulent things - an opening that Padma can’t pass up, attributing those same characteristics to Chrissy. Padma and Chrissy giggle conspiratorially in heterosexual pornographic fashion and the producers (those smart people) cut instantly to Kwame.

But we’re here on business after all. The cheftestants are asked to cook a dish inspired by their best date that also highlights dates. “Take us back to that special night,” Padma entreats them. Thirty minutes later, the cheftestants offer up the dishes that they hope will take the judges to that special place. Most struggle, though, with incorporating enough date flavor into their dishes. “Where are the dates?” Padma asks over and over.

In the end, the three chefs that impress Chrissy the least are Carl (who did an unimpressive date milkshake, harkening back to when his now-wife brought milkshakes to a date after he got his tonsils removed), Chad (who did a dish inspired by his daddy-dates with his daughters, but incorporated too much bitter orange flavor into his fish dish), and Philip (whose tuna crudo with peach lacked date flavor).

On top are Isaac (who incredibly put together a chicken ballotine in 30 minutes), Jason (with a beautifully charred carrot and date dish), and Giselle (who did a take on a recent blind date by doing a light sweet and spicy date salad). Jason is deemed the winner and gets immunity. He’s thrilled, believing that this win will put him in a stronger light with the other cheftestants.

First comes love, then comes marriage, Padma intones ominously. Palm Springs, she notes, has a history of hosting big weddings and this week’s episode is no exception. Joined by Art Smith (Oprah’s big, gay personal chef), Padma informs the cheftestants that they’ll be catering a reception for a big, gay wedding. Or, weddings. Twenty-five couples, in fact, including Art, who’ll be renewing his vows with his husband.

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