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Top Chef Chicago: Local Debriefing, Episode Two

We'll get to the San Francisco Foursome and our thoughts on the second episode of Top Chef in just a moment, but before we do, we had to point out the continued polling feature brilliance by Bravo. Eater LA put it best: "It's almost as if the whole animal theme was conceived just so they could run this poll."

And now, to the local recap: the Quickfire Challenge saw the contestants going to the local farmers' market, with five ingredients to use, $25 to spend, and 30 minutes. It was the perfect challenge for the San Francisco bunch, all veterans of the seasonal ingredients game, and for the most part, they all represented well. The Elimination Challenge pitted the 15 chefs in five groups of three to cater a 200-person event at the zoo. As far as judges go, molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne presided as guest judge, Gail Simmons was as perky as ever, Padma was Padma and Tom's head was the shiniest it's ever been.

1) After weathering some piccata-related difficulties in the premiere, Ryan got back on track in the second episode of the season. His time at Myth Cafe undoubtedly helped him out with the farmers' market challenge, where his lettuce-radish-potato concoction won over Padma and Dufresne, earning him a spot in the top three.

2) It was a quiet episode for the Circa baldman with a permanent furrowed brow, but two moments stood out. First, we were utterly delighted at the sight of the giant, tattooed Erik traipsing about the market with a dainty little purse-like shoulder bag.

3) Later, after joining forces with Richard and Ryan on Team LION, Erik played the role of Richard's shopping bitch, which reminded us a bit of the dynamic between Goldfinger and Oddjob. Select quote from the cocky/confident Richard, talking down (up) to poor Erik: "Get me some tarragon!"

4) Ryan's celebratory dance at the Whole Foods register was ... interesting.

5) A thoroughly-confused Erik, on Richard's molecular gastronomy: "Crazy juices or something."

6) After some establishing plot moments in the beginning of the episode in which the Bravo editors reminded everyone that Zoi and Jen are.a.couple, the chefbians pretty much hung in the background for the majority of the episode. Zoi's Moroccan meatballs were one of the star dishes for Team Vulture and Jen's Team Penguin also fared well, with her teammate Andrew stole the spotlight with the overall win.

7) Padma moment of the night: at the end of the elimination challenge, she looks at the others, puts on her sex eyes, raising her eyebrows, smiles and says slowly "Let's go back to the judges' table!"

8) In the end, non-personality Valerie got eliminated in a snoozer of a deliberation. No San Francisco chefs ventured near the chopping block, but previews for next week's show see Zoi crying so look for more SF-centric plot twists next week.
· Top Chef Chicago: Local Debriefing, First Episode [~ESF~]

Your thoughts on the second episode and the season so far, in the comments.