Previously on Top Chef, Wesley went home in Richard Blais’ restaurant. Which is significant because Wesley just took over Blais’ other restaurant. We’re now down to enough cheftestants where who is going home is getting pretty easy to pick, as three weeks in a row viewers could totally guess halfway through the episode who was being sent home—even in last week’s elimination Quickfire—so much that the show, unlike the delicious food, is getting stale.

That’s why this week, we should expect something completely random, like Kwame, who has been one of the top competitors, being sent home. Something crazy. I swear I haven’t watched ahead to see if I’m right. (Am I right? Oh, hell is Kwame sent home? Wait, don’t tell me.)

Anyway…Hollywood, here we come.


Last week, Karen won the challenge and is happy she’s in the top ten. See, look how happy Karen is.


She has hit her stride, but she reminds people “you have to bring it, every day.”

Kwame tells the other contestants he wants to hang out with Padma, and he wants to buy her a dog. A dog. He wants to buy Padma a dog. A Yorkie.


Then he asks if that’s weird. Yes, it’s weird.

The chefs are back in Los Angeles, and former Top Chef contestant Antonia Lofaso is judging the Quickfire.


She tells this year’s crop that she thinks she threw up before every Quickfire. She’s the Donovan McNabb of Top Chef! I hope it didn’t get into the food. Eh, I’m not eating it, so what do I care? This Quickfire has each chef picking one item, and they are the only ingredients all ten chefs will get to cook with. I hope they all pick salt.


They each have 20 seconds to get an ingredient, so they aren’t doing it all at once. Damn it, Top Chef. That’s the kind of drama we love.

Phillip grabs New York prime. Isaac picks chicken. Chad grabs a jalapeno. SOMEONE GET SALT.


Jeremy isn’t a moron…he’s a Morton. (He gets salt. And it’s K for P, so there’s that too.)

Marjorie picks vinegar. Karen gets olive oil. Kwame takes garlic. Amar gets mushrooms. Carl goes for vegetables, getting tomatoes and Jason ends the pick with celery.  CELERY. WHAT IN THE HELL CAN YOU DO WITH CELERY THAT YOU CAN’T DO WITH BASIL OR CILANTRO OR CUMIN OR…I’m way too angry about celery.


Isaac, who chose chicken, goes with the New York strip, which annoys everyone (including me) because why waste an ingredient on chicken if you aren’t going to use it when you already had a protein.

Jason loves celery. He tells us how much. Everyone else seems to hate it, and hate him. Congratulations, Jason. You are the celery of this competition.


Carl took all the tomatoes. People are upset with Carl.


Let’s count the number of dishes that used celery. Jason says everyone will use it. So far, here’s one, as Kwame made fire-roasted chicken with tomato sauce and celery.


Jason used the celery too. Duh.


Amar made chicken with a tomato celery vinaigrette and mushrooms. Three for three.


Marjorie…salad with steak and, yep, celery.


Chad, by the looks of it, is celery free. Hot damn, Chad. He picked the jalapeno, but Padma thinks he needed more of it.


Isaac made…um…I don’t know what Isaac made other than carpaccio because THE BRAVO ADS ARE ON TOP OF THE WORDS. Come on, guys, people actually read that stuff.


It needed more acid. Phillip used celery. And beef, which he picked. His tartare worked.


Jeremy also did a raw preparation, using a meat slicer. I can’t tell if that’s just jalepenos or celery as well, but there’s some generic leafiness, so let’s say yes.


Karen went heavy on the celery, and used too much meat for her salad.


Carl went heavy on tomato and used raw jalapeno, but he doesn’t look to have any celery. I’ve lost count. I think that’s seven yes and three no. Dammit, Jason. Antonia doesn’t like his dish because it has too many tomatoes.


Isaac and Karen were on the bottom.

Jeremy’s sliced beef and Amar’s chicken and tomatoes were the tops, with Jeremy winning the challenge! Amar, your thoughts?


Jeremy seems smiley, though. He says he’s going to get drunk because he has immunity. So that’s nice.


Top Chef premiered ten years ago. Padma tells the chefs that MySpace was the top website in the world and Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes. Ten years ago I was making Photoshops of ESPN the Magazine putting high school basketball players on the cover for college recruiters. Do they even make magazines anymore?

Also…has anyone checked on Tom from MySpace lately? Tom, are you okay? And, Jeremy, what was your MySpace photo at the time?


For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs have to tell the story of where they were 10 years ago. Kwame was probably 11 years old, so I hope he just opens up a can of Chef Boyardee and serves it cold.

Actually, Kwame says he was just starting high school 10 years ago and drifting away from his dad, so he doesn’t know what to make. He’s not fond of reliving that time of his life. Really, is anyone? Does anybody want to go back to freshman year of high school? That’s awful.


Ten years ago Marjorie started working with Mike Isabella. She was “green” in the industry, so she’s making a green dish. Clever.

Jason was eating celery 10 years ago. He also made a trout dish and expected perfection and was a “crazy, raging bitch who yelled at everybody” which TOTALLY doesn’t seem like him now, no. No, not at all.

Ten years ago Karen loved her girlfriend and pasta. And she was poor, so poor they boiled water to heat the house instead of using the heat. I wonder what the water bill was like.

Everyone is drinking except Chad, so cue the “I quit drinking sentimental music mix” for a testimonial. Or, by the looks of this, the start of a power ballad music video.


It’s time to cook and everyone is high fiving, except Jason who is proud not to fit in, but finds himself quieter than he is at home. He’s off his game, or something. He’s terrible whether he’s quiet or not.

Jeremy is making pasta because he loves his mom and 10 years ago they did a road trip to find her real parents and his grandmother made pasta. That touching moment was followed by Isaac saying, “something about hacking through a spine just makes my day.” Only by Bravo!


He talks about Hurricane Katrina. He’s making duck gumbo. Yeah, he wins the “10 years ago” challenge.

Marjorie is trying to make green curry without lemongrass, so she grills lemons and it tastes the same as lemongrass. That’s good to know, actually. Damn.

Carl’s story is boring, which feels more boring after Chad talks about his time in the Navy ten years ago. He was honorably discharged and lived on the beach and he’s making ceviche.


Micael Voltaggio is one of the judges. He will not mess around. They visit Phillip, who says this. Phillip says this. To Tom Colicchio and Michael Voltaggio:

“I thought I was going to come in here and just do my food my way, and on Top Chef they want us to cook food that make the judges happy.”


Tom? Tom, are you there?

“Really learning the palates and navigating that is what I’ve taken the most.”


Tom? TOM?!


Tom tells him they aren’t looking for anything in particular other than a good dish. Phillip is a putz.

Amar met Michael 10 years ago, and they reminisce about knowing each other so long. Amar is making a lobster dish he learned from his former boss, Gerry Hayden, who at the time of taping was sick with ALS. Tom talks about how Chef Hayden was still working in his restaurant despite being confined to a wheelchair.


Chef Hayden passed away at age 50 in early September. It was nice for Top Chef to keep in as much as they did during this episode.

There’s no way to transition out of that without being a jerk. Kwame is making jerk chicken, he’s thinking about his dad and isn’t into it, and then…yeah, that’s blood.


The cheftestants are cooking for 10 chefs, including a few who competed on the show before.

Marjorie is up first, and she cooked halibut just because she felt like it. They liked her ability to adapt with the lack of lemongrass.


Chad made shrimp ceviche. Gail Simmons is there, and tells Chad his dish shows maturity.


Isaac made duck gumbo and he talks about Katrina, which, let’s be honest, helps sell the story of his time 10 years ago. They liked his dish. Tom says, “all things considered, it was really, really good.” I wonder now what things he was considering. That sounds like a qualification, so were there issues with his dish or an ingredient he couldn’t find? We may never know.


Jason is next with his trout dish he used to scream at people about. It does not, repeat does not, include celery. They don’t like his dish, or the seasoning, or anything with the fish. He would have yelled at himself, for sure.


Next is Amar and Karen. Karen made orecchiette with pork ragu and broccoli rabe, which she pronounces “RAH-bay” not “Rob.” As someone who grew up going to Philly every weekend, where a pork sandwich with broccoli rabe is staple fare, this frustrates me. Probably like how I pronounce ricotta annoys people. Tom likes it, but the rest of the table finds it luke warm. In quality, not temperature.


Amar’s lobster gives the producers another chance to talk about Gerry Hayden. The judges love it, and Amar knows Gerry would be proud. (Getting a little smoky in here.)


Carl did a fricassee of veg with snails and eggs. He had no story, he just cooked good food. Gail is in love with the dish.


Phillip makes ceviche mixto and says “it’s very lime driven,” which further illustrates his inability to talk like a real human being in any situation. It lacked brightness or freshness.


Phillips says he tasted every piece as he was plating. Tom? Thoughts?


Phillip is getting frustrated, but he’s blaming the judges, even though they are different judges every week.

Jeremy made lobster ravioli, and tells the story of meeting his real grandmother. The salmon and the lobster didn’t work together. “Jeremy, it’s good you had immunity,” Padma tells him. Yeesh.


Kwame makes jerk brocooli with corn bread pudding, and you can hear in his voice he hates it.




He held that pose for at least 10 seconds.

“Kwame this is just confusing the hell out of me,” and the rest of them hate the dish. Voltaggio says that Kwame has an emotional connection to his food and his emotions got the best of him.


Time for judges table, and earlier in this recap I said the show was getting predictable so at this point I think it would be the predictable choice to get rid of Phillip or Jason, but with how bad Kwame’s dish is, I might have been right and again, I swear I didn’t watch ahead.

Tom says someone is going home for a bad dish. But first the good dishes, where Marjorie, Chad and Carl did the best. I’m surprised Amar didn’t make the cut.


They liked Marjorie’s “green” idea, and Tom asked what color it would be now. She said green still, offering, “I think then I was pretty green as a cook and now I’m pretty green as a chef.”

She should win just for that answer. And…she does! Not so green anymore. She has two wins so far this season.


The losers are Kwame, Phillip and Jason. That seemed clear. Kwame got in his own head, and it hurt him with the judges. Phillip wanted to embrace his former self and give everyone a great ceviche. Tom clearly hates Phillip.


They share a little tension because Phillip still keeps trying to figure out the panel instead of just cooking.

Jason calls his lack of seasoning unforgiveable. Gail throws him under the trout bus. (There’s a school joke there somewhere.) Tom asks if Jason feels tight, like there’s no joy in the game for him. As they go to break, Jason looks like he might explode.


Tom ends by saying that too often we forget about the motional side of cooking. We see the “macho” (my favorite word) side of cooking, with knives and fire and we forget everyone is fragile.

Padma…sends Jason home. Which is, again, predictable given the arc of the season.


There are nine cheftestants left. Here’s a quick power ranking.

  1. Marjorie – two wins, including this week
  2. Chad – he’s right there at the top and his beard is boss
  3. Isaac – he wasn’t in the top three this week, but he’s easy to pull for
  4. Carl – he’s bland, but his food isn’t
  5. Jeremy – they really seem to like him, though his immunity may have hurt him this week
  6. Amar – a darkhorse now, but expect him to go up these rankings
  7. Kwame – last week he was probably at the top of the list, but this week really hurt him
  8. Karen – she won last week, but she almost got sent home the week before
  9. Phillip – it’s hard to believe he’s still around. Tom HATES him.

Next week…Instagram is judging the food! Yay?


About Dan Levy

Dan Levy has written a lot of words in a lot of places, most recently as the National Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. He was host of The Morning B/Reakaway on Sirius XM's Bleacher Report Radio for the past year, and previously worked at Sporting News and Rutgers University, with a concentration on sports, media and public relations.