Top Chef: Things That Make You Go Bam

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photo: izik/flickr

The end is near. The final four cheftestants arrived in New Orleans last night and met up with guest judge Emeril Lagasse, the only guest judge we can recall not meriting a Hosea testimonial about the chef's importance. The only person who remarked on Emeril's credentials was Jamie-Le-Bernardin-bores-me, who showed up with other recent losers Leah and Jeff in hopes of winning their way back into competition via a crawfish Quickfire. Naturally Leah had never worked with crawfish before, necessitating one of her special I-don't-what-I'm-doing-aren't-I-cute-faces.

Jeff had worked with crawfish before and he sailed to Quickfire victory. Proving himself a snooze-worthy judge, Emeril didn't really critique the Quickfire dishes. Rather, like an elementary school teacher on track-and-field day, He said "in my eyes, all your dishes were winners," before pronouncing Jeff the actual winner. Jeff also looked cuter than we remembered. Maybe it's just been all these weeks of Hosea, but Jeff is easy on the eyes. In fact, all cheftestants looked good last night. Everyone had better hair and they looked as if they had slept recently, save for Team Euro. Fabio debuted a sort of thick faux hawk that could be appreciated for its audacity but not its aesthetics. Stefan looked a little chunky. After the Quickfire, it was time for an intense series of Korbel sponsor shots as the cheftestants celebrated. God, there's nothing like celebrating a reality show win with Korbel.




Then they had dinner at Emeril's Delmonico. The whole Emeril thing felt increasingly odd as the episode progresses, especially when he interacts with Colicchio, Padma, and Gail. (Yes, thank god, Gail is back. Let us never speak of Toby Young again.) There's a divide between the show's foodie elitism, and its typical guest judges, and Emeril's bam-bam populism.

Stefan was phoning it in and slipping in the ranks last night. Is Bravo trying to prepare us for his not winning, or, more likely, to create some sort of suspense since it's seemed pretty obvious for a while that he would be the eventual winner. Either way, Stefan is back in full asshole mode as the cheftestants prep for the elimination challenge, catering a masquerade ball. Speaking of which, when was this episode actually filmed? They keep referring to Mardi Gras, which is next week, but it's hard to tell if this is now close to real time or just another awkward faux seasonal Bravo tie-in.

In the end, Carla triumphs with what seemed to be her most deserved win yet. Her oyster stew and shrimp and andouille beignet truly looked like the best dishes out there, and they struck the right balance between Creole and Carla. Stefan and Hosea both attempted gumbo; have they not seen this show before? It's always a mistake to tackle the super traditional local dish and then serve it to the locals; still they fared better than to be expected with the gumbo. It was almost a bummer that Carla so hit it out of the park, as Jeff cooked well, but he had to win the challenge to stay around. He didn't, and he had to head home with Fabio, who really stuck around longer than he deserved to. We're down to the final three now--Carla, Hosea, and Stefan--and it's a pretty random bunch. The preview promises plenty of baldie-on-baldie confrontation in the finale, so it should be interesting. If we've learned anything from Carla, it's that when you cook with love, anything is possible...or something like that.
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