Throughout last night's episode of Top Chef, there were several moments when we stopped, paused, and wondered why Alice Waters wasn't the guest judge. After all, so many of the classic elements of the Waters manifesto were present: children in the kitchen, simple preparations, family meals. Then we remembered that Ms. Panisse would probably never be found on a reality show on cable, and Uncle Ben's Ready Rice—ready in 90 seconds!—is almost assuredly not locally grown. For that matter, a $10 budget isn't exactly Waters territory either.
As for the show itself, we believe the mothership put it best: "The ongoing shitshow that is Top Chef Season 4 ensued last night, reaching all-time lows in both product placement and child exploitation." Art Smith reigned as the guest judge, and —in the most blatant shill of the season so far, the Quickfire Challenge gave the chefs only 15 minutes to concoct an entree using Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice (ready in 90 seconds). Antonia's rice salad ended up winning immunity, and then it was off to the Elimination Challenge.
Elimination Challenge: The chefs were given the tiny budget of $10 (and at Whole Foods!) and had to create a healthy, simple meal for a family of four. After some bitching by Richard about how expensive food is "these days" and some senile grocery store wandering by Stephanie, the chefs pulled some decent meals together, with the help of children sous chefs.
Judges: Along with the aforementioned Art and Padma, Gail Simmons made another appearance, and solidified any theories that she was a kindergarten teacher in another lifetime. And while we understand why Tom spent the cooking portion in the kitchen with the kids (and made some funnies about onions sweating; oh, Tom), we still have no idea why Tom had to eat his meal while standing up in the kitchen by himself. Can anyone explain this?
Cringe-Worthy Moment: It's so obvious, but it has to be pointed out: "I wanna go home and make some babies ... some little Blaises" —Richard, grinning creepily.
Questions We Never, Ever Thought We'd Ask: Why is George Costanza on a dancing reality show with Jessie Spano? Bravo, Bravo.
The Winners: Nikki, for her Art Smith-approved "one-pot wonder" roast chicken; Andrew, for using fennel and fruit with his chicken paillard; and single-mom Antonia, who took top honors for her chicken stir fry.
The Losers: Scary Lisa, for her unseasoned beans (she scared the judges once again into keeping her around); Stephanie, for her dubious use of peanut butter and tomatoes; and Mark, the hobbit lookalike who decided it was a good idea to make a protein-less curry.
Outcome: Finally, after accusing Tom of not liking him, Mark packed his knives, sloppily. Watch his exit video for this insight: "It's clear to me that Padma is Yoko Ono resurrected [Ed. Is Ono dead?]. And she split the band up and that's what she wanted..." He also called out Dale and Richard as the probable winners.