Step right up, ladies and gentleman and see the amazing Jamie. She will dazzle you with her torpor, razzle you with her snark, and defy the rational mind by advancing in a cooking competition without ever cooking a thing.
The show starts with the Swanson broth Quickfire Challenge, which is to make stuffing without using any utensils.
(Swanson’s fantasy of how I will react: “What a cracking good idea! I will use Swanson’s broth as a base the next time I make stuffing!”
How I actually reacted: “That reminds me. Mmmm. . .StoveTop.”)
I actually liked this challenge a lot more before they introduced the no-utensils catch. Just once I’d like to see them go head-to-head on a Quickfire that was all about skill, not gimmicks. But I guess I’m watching the wrong show.
Also, the winner gets immunity and 20 Gs. Not too shabby.
As usual, Fabio acts like the challenge is happening only to him.
“Ask-a chef to make a stuffing with no tools is like ask-a surgeon to do open heart surgery without tools,” he grumbles. Dude, get over yourself.
There’s a mad dash to the pantry, but Carla can’t deal with the rush, because she hates bad vibes, so she hangs back.
As such, she gets stuck with quinoa.
So all sorts of creative utensil swaps are being made. Fabio is grating cheese on an oven rack (which is a clever idea, but he seems inordinately pleased with himself), somebody else is using bacon as a spoon, people are banging onions with pots and pans. It’s all very primal and was one step away from involving scream therapy.
Turns out, you can’t cook quinoa in 40 minutes, so Carla is screwed, but she handles it with her usual equanimity.
“My dish is un-done-té,” she cracks, before offering guest judge Tony Mantuano some dental floss.
So the Bottom 3 are Carla, Tiffany, and Casey.
And the Top 2 are Marcel, with his raisin brioche stuffing and whole squab (show off!) and Tre, who has made some sort of spicy bread pudding with bacon.
Tre, who has two young daughters to keep in glitter, lip gloss, and Justin Bieber attire, wins and he’s very stoked about the 20 grand.
The Elimination Challenge takes place at the U.S. Open, which makes perfect sense because it’s late December. (Usually, they like to keep the illusion that these things are being taped in real time. This season, not so much.)
Also, not to be ungrateful, but of all the hot, high-profile tennis stars they could’ve gotten—Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokavich, Andy Roddick—they go with. . .Taylor Dent? (Cue the “you lose” game show music.) Nothing against Mr. Dent, boy has a wicked serve. But still. . . .
The cheftestants are split into two teams.
Orange Team is Mike, Fabio, Carla, Richard, Dale, Antonia, and Marcel.
Yellow Team is Angelo, Tre, Spike, Tiffany, Tiffani, Casey, and—for what it’s worth—Jamie.
They’ll be creating heart-healthy dishes that go head to head in matchups. First team to 4 points wins!
Team Yellow comes up with a “strategy,” that has to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. They will intentionally lose Round One by putting their weakest dish up against Team Orange’s strongest.
First of all, this is dumb because they’re assuming Team Orange is going to lead with their strongest suit. (That’s what we call a false syllogism.)
Second, it’s dumb because, hey, here’s a better idea!—try to win all the rounds. Just sayin’. . .
In the kitchen, Carla slices off her fingernail (what is this, Top Chef or the previews for Spider Man?) but totally Hooties-up and takes it like a man.
Jamie glowers in the corner, stirring and stirring and stirring her chickpeas, although they will never get soft.
So it’s time to go head to head—on an actual tennis court, no less—and Jamie’s chick pea concoction is still not ready.
She would seem the natural choice to go head to head and LOSE, but for two things:
a. She wants to wait until her chickpeas get soft (the Top Chef version of a cold day in hell).
b. Team Orange is not, in fact, leading with Richard “Amazin’ Blazin’” Blais, but with Fabio.
With that, Spike has an even bigger question mark over his head than usual.
They still decided to shove Jamie into the ring, but she refuses. So Casey says she’ll go.
Her grilled pork tenderloin is good, but the sides are too heavy.
Fabio’s whole wheat gnocchi is fluffy and delicious, like little potato pillows from heaven.
Team Orange: 15
Team Yellow: LOVE
Spike is pissed because the losing strategy only half worked. Yes, they lost. But they didn’t lose the way they wanted to lose. They lost in a different, worse way. (Or somethin’…)
At this point, it’s a big free for all.
Team Orange’s Dale (edamame dumplings) goes up against Team Yellow’s Tiffani (sashimi of sea bass) and Tiffani wins!
Team Orange: 15
Team Yellow: 15
Team Orange's Marcel (cauliflower cous cous with yellow fin tuna) goes up against the unstoppable Angelo (smoked tuna, yuzo gelee) and Angelo wins. (Guess that unstoppable part was a clue.)
Team Orange: 15
Team Yellow: 30
Needless to say, Marcel is not happy about this. He grouses that Angelo always plates on a spoon. Yes, Marcel, that’s why Angelo keeps winning. Because of the spoon.
Next, Team Orange’s Antonia (diver sea scallop) goes up against Team Yellow’s Tiffany (tuna salad with fennel and warm lentils). It’s a close call, but Antonia wins.
Team Orange: 30
Team Yellow: 30
Next Team Orange’s Richard against Team Yellow’s Spike.
Spike admits that he’s peeing his pants a bit.
Angelo, in his inimitable way, decides to “help” by adding some yuzo gelee to Spike’s dish.
(A note on Angelo: As I said during his season, I don’t think he’s a saboteur. But I DO think he’s a Nosy Nelly. Stick to your own damn gelee, dude.)
So Spike’s Tomato Tamarind soup with shrimp (now with yuzo gelee!) goes up against Richard’s Thai bouleh with lamb. (By the way, Richard is about at smugly pleased with his play on the word tabouli as Fabio was with his use of the oven rack as cheese grater.)
And. . .Richard wins.
Team Orange: 40. . .one point from the win.
Team Yellow: 30
Now, during all of this, Jamie, who continues to stir and stir and stir her rock-hard chick peas, has done the math. If her team loses, she won’t have to serve her chick peas and go head to head at all! It’ll be just like that time she got a paper cut and went to the emergency room and wasn’t held even slightly accountable and her teammate went home!
So yes, Jamie is rooting for her own team to lose. Nice.
It’s Team Yellow’s Tre (Nosy Nelly “improved” his salmon with parsnip puree) up against Team Orange’s Carla (African groundnut soup.)
And. . .Jamie’s dream comes true. Carla wins so Team Orange wins! Jamie will not have to serve her un-done-té garbanzo beans.
A brief interlude of drunken Cheftestant dance (the less said of it, the better). . .and it’s judgment time.
The Top 4 are Fabio, Antonia, Carla, and Richard.
The judges note that this was some of the best food they’ve had over 7 seasons.
And. . . Carla wins!
Please note the fact that Team Orange had been very skeptical of Carla’s soup, claiming it wasn’t sophisticated enough for those snooty tennis types. (Have they seen Arthur Ashe Stadium at 11 pm?)
Burn, Team Orange, burn!
Even Carla can’t help but to indulge in a little private gloating.
“I feel vindicated,” she says. Hell to the yes.
Now, the Bottom 4:
Casey, Tiffany, Tre, and Spike.
Richard looks at Jamie sideways:
“You gotta a story going now,” he says.
“I’m trying not to be offended by your comment,” she replies. “What exactly is my story?” ( As if she doesn’t know.)
Blais is getting nervous: “I’m saying, it’s an odd story,” he stammers.
“Because I haven’t cooked?” (Bingo!)
“Yeah,” he says sheepishly. (“Damn straight,” says maxthegirl, staring Jamie right in the eye . . .uh, through her television screen.)
So. .. Tre’s salmon is horribly overcooked and he should never have let Angelo prepare the main component of his dish and is just damn lucky to have immunity.
Tiffany made “flaccid salad.” (Also a great band name, btw.)
Spike made bland shrimp and blamed Angelo’s gelee. (A stretch.)
Casey’s dish was “too much of a good thing.” (Frankly, if I’m ever up for elimination, the critique I want to hear is “too much of a good thing.”)
There’s talk of Nosy Nelly Angelo and his devious ways. And Tiffany dispenses some good old fashioned wisdom: “At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your own plate.”
And. . .Spike is spiked.
Alas. I’m going to miss that boy and his perma bedhead and his silly hats and his hipster patois.
“Am I still the best of the best?” he ponders. It seems rhetorical, until he answers his own question: “You bet your ass I am!” Stay golden, Spike.