Top Chef Week 10: Olympics Edition

Last week’s episode of Top Chef was an Olympic theme. I, too, am old enough to remember when we were supposed to have the Olympic games. Melissa won a blindfolded dessert Quickfire challenge, and Stephanie took home the elimination challenge and tickets to the Olympics with an ingenious dessert. Karen was eliminated for a duck dish, and could not pull through in Last Chance Kitchen. Kevin Gillespie, came back in Last Chance Kitchen and re-entered the competition.

Knives Packed

Karen Akunowicz – Although the name Karen became a meme online during this season, Karen bucked the trend. A terrific chef and take no prisoners competitor, she was told to pack her knives and go for a second time this season. She was sent to Last Chance Kitchen once and came out on the other side. Now, she has been sent home again for a good dish. It is disappointing to see her go, as I was rooting for her. Kevin beating her in Last Chance Kitchen is not necessarily surprising, but it still hurts to see her go. It is sad, but I am glad someone on TV could be the Karen we need in our world. Good work Karen! Where she’s from they call her chef too!

Power Rankings

6. Brian Malarkey

I am amazed that Malarkey has managed to make it this far, but he also deserves some credit. He has been able to use his front of house and business skills to make his way further than we expected, but he may be running out of tricks. He did not have a bad week, but it certainly could have gone better. He has only been on the winning end in Restaurant Wars, and has been in the bottom five times, including two weeks in a row. He is the wild card remaining, so it is not impossible that he can come back. I think this next week could be his last.

5. Stephanie Cmar

Stephanie had a huge week. It started at the beginning of the episode with a story about her brother. It was fan favorite material, and she cried through it with Gregory. While that kind of foreshadowing can go both ways, thankfully it went positively. In the blindfolded part of the elimination challenge, she was able to sniff and correctly guess the most ingredients. Even though she did not win, she absolutely killed it in the elimination challenge. Their challenge was to make a Kaiseki meal, and she made a panna cotta inside of a lemon. Did someone say “Chef’s kiss?” Kaiseki is abut simplicity and emphasis on nature. It is hard to nail the challenge as well as Stephanie.

So why is she so far back? Mainly because she has struggled throughout the competition. This week was her first elimination challenge win, and she has only won one other Quickfire. While she certainly has the capability to challenge for the Top spot, she still looks to be on the outside looking in.

4. Kevin Gillespie

We all knew Kevin would be back. After being in top 3 for most of the competition, he slipped up during Restaurant wars for making questionable decisions while running his restaurant. Those questionable decisions and weeks in Last Chance Kitchen are keeping him out of the top 3 for now, but I think Kevin should pick up right where he left off. Kevin is one of the strongest in the competition, and I think he is going to be dangerous as the competition continues.

3. Bryan Voltaggio

Daddy Bry is starting to find his groove. He moved through the middle for most of this season, but he has started to slowly pick it up. Elimination challenge win last week, and in the top again this week with a nice Kaiseki appetizer. Bryan has the chops for this competition. The question is whether he can beat out those around him.

2. Melissa King

Melissa is truly the Ned Stark of this competition. After winning the Quickfire she was given a huge advantage: she could pick not only the course she would be serving in a Kaiseki six-course meal, but what everyone else was responsible for. Instead of using this to her advantage, she gave everyone what they wanted. She went onto explain that she believed she wanted everyone to serve their best meal and that everyone could be judged fairly she would be okay with going home. This came after last week in the campfire challenge where she let everyone else stomp all over her for ingredients while she just took what was remaining and made a bad salad.

Melissa is one of the most talented chefs in the competition. She might even be the most talented this season. She is going to need to play the game if she wants to win. To quote Herm Edwards, “you play to win the game!” So play it! It comes with the territory.

  1. Gregory Gourdet

Greg had a rough week, but even his bad days are my good days. He continues to be the best in the competition, and is still a lock for me to make it to finale.I just want his jacket. Is that too much to ask?

Best Padma Look

Top to bottom Denim look. I am into it.

Fan Favorite Moment

Stephanie talking about her brother. To see her genuinely shaken by it in the morning and then killing both challenges after that. Just unreal. My pick at the moment.

What I have been reading and Watching

Hi everyone. I have read and watched too much during these past couple weeks to write about, so I thought it would be best to put some of my favorite things I watched and read in a post. Let me know if you have other suggestions.

Movies

The Crying Game – The Crying Game is a bizarre story, but is surprisingly effective. Stephen Rea is the main reason I decided to watch this film. He was married to prominent IRA activist Dolours Price. The film takes some incredibly weird turns, but I am surprised by how affecting I found the film to be. It’s on Netflix and I would recommend if you are really bored. B-

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – Ang Lee’s beautiful film about sacrifice and growth is still quite good. The performances here are great, but the film is mainly about the cinematography and choreography of the fights. It is excellent and a really fun watch. I think this movie definitely could have more to say, but it is a really well-made film. B

Television

Hillary – The Hulu docuseries is an interesting look at Hillary’s life. The documentary is divided into two parts: the 2016 election and a chronological look at her past. I found the latter to be more interesting, as they ask tough questions about her time as a first lady and show how important she is as an American figure she is. The 2016 election is less interesting to me, but it is through no fault of their own. It simply has been rehashed and debated too much.

The documentary is certainly biased toward Hillary, but it does a good job of giving counters to many of her assumptions. This is a film that is dedicated to her story, so naturally, she will look more sympathetic than others. However, I think this is a good docuseries, that understands the subject. For anyone with a passing interest in politics, you should watch. B

Devs – This is probably the best show I have seen on the nature of free will. Too often shows that tackle these subjects aim for complexity. This show aims for slow understanding. The showrunner is Alex Garland, who wrote Ex Machina and Annihilation, two films that I adore. Devs is a slow-burn, but it is too the show’s benefit. Its approach gives it time to analyze the ideas behind the show, and give it a melancholic feel necessary to the story. I cannot describe the show without giving away important details, but if any of these topics interest you, watch it. A-

Breaking Bad – The hallmark show is definitely overrated, but is still a great watch. The ending is phenomenal, and while certain sections of this show lag, Breaking Bad really becomes a beautiful study on what lurks beneath. Every performance in this show is excellent, Anna Gunn and Aaron Paul are the two standouts to me. Bryan Cranston is obviously terrific as well. While The Wire is still the best show of all time in my book, this is a great watch and should be on everybody’s list. A-

The Leftovers – This is peak pandemic watching. The premise of the show is that 2% of the world’s population disappears all at once. The story picks up three years later, as people are left to try to figure out what happened and avoid it happening again. This is not a show interested in explanations, but rather in how people deal with and attempt to explain the unexplainable. The Leftovers loves ambiguity and uncertainty, which will frustrate plenty of viewers. Nevertheless, I think it is beautiful. I still have one more season to go, but I cannot recommend it enough. If you are into bleak storytelling, it is hard to get bleaker than this. Damon Lindelof is the head writer, and he does a phenomenal job. A terrific watch and my only regret may not be rating it highly enough after the final season.

The Plot Against America – One of my favorite books is now an HBO miniseries. David Simon and Ed Burns, the men behind The Wire, recreated the alternative history into an extremely real story of not doing the right thing when needed. Simon and Burns nail the characters, and the performers really bring the nuance forward. It is a necessary tale of anti-semitism and of poor leadership in times of crisis. Sounds familiar?

Mrs. America – The first three episodes of this show dropped on Hulu a few days ago, and all of them were excellent. The story about the figures in the women’s liberation movement is a terrific story about how women fought to gain respect amongst their colleagues on both sides of the feminist movement.  I will have more as the show continues, but a great watch as well.

Top Chef – Top Chef is the best. I love it. It’s just so fun. If you need a cooking show fix, this is the one. Fun, fast, and incredibly high stakes, Top Chef is what every cooking game show hopes to be. It is terrific. Watch it. Seriously.

Books

Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe – The definitive book on the troubles in Northern Ireland. A searing account of the violence and anger that defined generations of violence. It is a terrific and well-researched story.

A Dance with Dragons – The last of the Game of Thrones books. I have read many books in between when I have gotten bored, but this is one of the most entertaining books of the series thus far. I cannot wait to let you know what I think of the conclusion!