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Top Chef Local Debriefing: SF Foursome Down to a Trio

Following a bit of a local snoozer last week, the entire quartet of San Francisco cheftestants were front and center in yesterday's episode of Top Chef Chicago. The third episode of the season centered around the theme of street food: the Quickfire Challenge requiring the 14 remaining chefs to make the humble taco suitable for upscale dining (Richard—whose faux hawk is growing by the week—won immunity with his jicama wraps), and then the Elimination Challenge pit a pair of teams against each other in a neighborhood Block Party cookoff. Since the chefs got to divide forces amongst themselves, all four San Francisco chefs—whose camaraderie really came through in this episode—were on the team that opted to eschew fancy food in favor of Americana comfort food, a decision that ultimately proved disastrous. Ted Allen made his first appearance of the season, Padma spilled marshmallows, and Tom was bald. Also, it's now been about twelve hours since the episode aired, and we still don't understand one thing: what the hell was Geraldo Rivera doing there?

And now, the highlights from our beloved San Francisco Foursome:

1) During the quickfire taco challenge, Ryan used the adjective "clean" for the 143rd time, and Erik used a variation of "soulful" for the 244th time. Sadly, Ryan's squash tacos weren't clean and Erik's chicken tacos weren't soulful and both local boys found themselves in the bottom three again.

2) Guest judge and "Mexican cuisine master" Rick Bayless slammed Erik's tacos as too downscale for the task, to which Erik responded with the quote of the episode: "I don't think fine dining and Mexican go together, so he can go screw himself."

3) For the second challenge, the chefs had to go door-to-door and beg for groceries, prompting NYC chef and silly hat-wearer Spike to describe his team's strategy for procuring said ingredients: "We immediately send Ryan in because he's a pretty boy and he speaks well, so he'll just say 'Hi, I'm tall, dark and handsome.'" Lo and behold, Ryan starred, charming those quaint Middle Americans.

4) Ryan on the tattooed giant's own door-to-door skills: "We'll send Erik to the door and he'll say [in a low growling voice] CAN I HAVE SOME FOOD NOW?"

5) When twitchy Andrew compared the door-to-door fiasco to "running around like New York City rats," a lightbulb went off in Eater LA's head.

6) Erik does corn dogs, which he says he's perfected at Circa, only to have them get very soggy by dinner time. Turns out that maybe, that wasn't a great advertisement for Circa.

7) Ryan made a Waldorf salad, leading to the best exchange of the episode, between Ryan and an eavesdropping Tom. It roughly went something like this:

Ryan: My grandma used mayonnaise, but I'm using white balsamic.
Tom: But mayonnaise keeps it fresh.
Ryan: [worried, blank stare]
8) Zoi got stuck with making pasta salad, immediately regretting not making a fuss about the group decision, because, as Erik put it, "she got the shit end of the stick." Tears ensue, but Erik's defense of her at the judges' table was the feel-good moment of the ep.

9) Jen's sliders were the only dish by the SF4 that didn't come under scrutiny (yes, we've hopped on JB Bandwagon). The three cheftestants facing elimination: Erik, Zoi and Ryan. At this point, we started to think San Francisco might lose someone here.

10) Outcome: Zoi bleeps her way to safety and Ryan is way too good of a character to be sent home already, so it's Erik that is asked to leave the kitchen. And if you're wondering how his hometown took the news, the answer is: not well.
· Top Chef Chicago: Local Debriefing, Episode Two [~ESF~]
· Top Chef Chicago: Local Debriefing, First Episode [~ESF~]