This post is brought to you by Buitoni. Delicious BUITONI® pastas and sauces combine freshly made pasta with simple ingredients to create authentic, extraordinary Italian meals.
And then there were six! This week on Top Chef, the finalists made cookies for Sesame Street characters and cooked a late-night meal inside a Target store for 100 hungry employees. Tears were shed, tempers were lost, and someone was sent packing in one of the most shocking eliminations yet.
[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]
For this week's Quickfire, Padma asked the Top Cheffers to create the "world's best cookie from scratch." The challenge was judged by three Sesame Street characters: Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Telly. I totally would have loved this when I was four! But now, not so much.
The Muppets were cute for about two seconds, until their screechy voices started overpowering everything that was going on in the kitchen. If I learned anything tonight, it's that it's really hard to concentrate on the new Richard Blais/Mike Isabella bromance with Elmo screaming in your face every two seconds.
Also, I'm not sure who was voicing Cookie Monster for this episode, but it didn't sound like the character at all. Maybe it's just me, but I thought Cookie Monster sounded like a drunk Russian guy who never made it past the third grade. "Me just kind of throw stuff in bowl and mix and hope for best. Now shut up and pass Stolichnaya. Me want cookies and vodka."
Carla and Angelo went the traditional route and made chocolate chip cookies, while Tiffany and Mike made shortbread variations. Blais, on the other hand, whipped out his liquid nitrogen (yawn) and made the grossest "cookie" of all time: frozen milk with slices of zucchini. Yum! Now what hungry Muppet handler wouldn't want to eat that!
The Sesame Street characters tasted the cookies (insert eye roll here), flung them all around the studio, and somehow decided that their favorites were made by Antonia and Dale. They liked Antonia's chocolate cookie even though Elmo said it looked like cow sh*t on a plate, but gave the win and the $5,000 bonus cash prize to Dale. They loved the sweet/salty combo of his no-bake pretzel and potato chip cookies with salted caramel chocolate ganache.
Tonight's elimination challenge was probably the one of the most difficult ones yet. The chefs were dropped off at Target at midnight, and had three hours to prepare a meal for 100 Target employees using only the food and the supplies in the store. They couldn't even use their own knives! The horror!
As soon as the doors opened, the show turned into an episode of Supermarket Sweep. Everyone was running around like crazy, filling up their little red carts with everything they could hold.
After the 900th product shot, though, it really just started feeling like a painfully long commercial for Target. It was 25 minutes of blatant advertising, that unfortunately stopped just short of Giada showing up and mentoring the chefs wearing only spa-git-tee and see-thru spatulas from her exclusive line (which no one made any mention of, by the way).
And for the record, I would lose my blogging card if I didn't mention the ridiculous black socks that Angelo had pulled up to his kneecaps. Poor, poor clueless Angelo. Did he think he was going to cook - or to practice corner kicks on the field with David Beckham?
After they loaded their carts up and picked out their food, the chefs set up folding tables in the middle of the store and started preparing their meals. That is, everyone except Carla. She was wandering around the store like a lost Martha Stewart, aimlessly searching for tablecloths and napkin rings while everyone else was already cooking. That ended up hurting her, because she made a soup that didn't have enough time to really come together.
If Fabio was still in the game, he definitely would have been screaming: "Come on guys! This is Top Chef, not Top Soups!" Most of the chefs went the easy route and used crockpots to make soup dishes. Dale, however, won the "most creative use of a small appliance" award of the night by using an iron to make rib eye grilled cheese sandwiches. He said the idea was inspired by his poor days living in the dorms as a college student, and I must say it got the job done!
Earlier today, Paula Deen sent out a tweet saying she was going to be the guest judge for tonight's Top Chef challenge. Unless she grew a penis and suddenly transformed into an Asian male, that wasn't the case. Tonight's guest judge was actually famed chef Ming Tsai, and he was joined by Anthony Bourdain, Tom Colicchio, and Padma. Wouldn't it have made sense to have Giada be the guest judge this week, though? Or was she too busy zesting lemons and over-enunciating words in the mirror?
The judges ended up liking the inventiveness and cleverness behind Dale's grilled cheese sandwich, and it just tasted really good. The evening was going along swimmingly, until Ming Tsai decided to tell a joke: "I think Dale is trying to become an Iron Chef!" You know... because he used an iron. You could literally hear audible groans coming from everyone at the table, as they awkwardly shifted around in their chairs. It was as if the joke caused them physical pain, and this look on Bourdain's face summed it up perfectly. Don't quit your day job, Tsai:
This was a tough challenge that left the chefs mentally and physically exhausted. They didn't leave Target until after 4 AM, and headed right back to the Top Chef kitchen for the elimination.
The best dishes of the night went to Antonia, Richard, and Dale. Antonia made Parmesan eggs on garlic crostini with almond, tomato, and apple salad. Bourdain said it was "ballsy" to serve eggs to 100 people, and the judges said the dish just worked. Golden Child Richard Blais made a pork tenderloin with green chilies, apples, braised pork ribs, and corn pancakes that everyone loved.
The win ultimately went to Dale... AGAIN!
His sandwich had a great crunch, and Bourdain called it the "ultimate late night stoner comfort food." Dale won $25,000 - the largest cash prize ever given out during a single challenge in Top Chef's history. It was, of course, provided by Target.
The worst dishes of the night were prepared by Tiffany, Carla, and Angelo. Tiff used a prepared, pre-blended spice mix that overpowered her entire dish. Carla's soup was two-dimensional and desperately needed a protein. And Angelo's braised potato soup was thick, heavy, and way too salty.
In the end, though, Angelo was eliminated from the show. I didn't see it coming! I thought he would be there until the final three, but at this stage in the game you can't get away with serving salty food. Even at 4 am.
What did you think of the show? Was it Angelo's time to go? Stay tuned for next week's episode, when Paula Deen will be the guest judge. Get your butter ready, baby!
This post may contain links to Amazon or other partners; your purchases via these links can benefit Serious Eats. Read more about our affiliate linking policy.