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Top Chef Local Debriefing: Antonia and The Gorillas

We would X out the cheftestant sent home last night, but she's already cut off the page, still proving our point.

As alluded to in the Tom=Bear poll, last night's Top Chef episode had an animal theme, which we'll get to along with a debriefing from the local angle, i.e. Antonia Lofaso. But first, a summary: In the Quickfire Challenge, the contestants had to make one dish with five ingredients, using the local farmers' market for inspiration. Antonia was mesmerized by the 500 things she could get at the market, but still skated along safely in the middle; we never even found out what she made. But, alas, we catch a glimpse of the Antonia to come in the Elimination Challenge where the 15 chefs teamed up in threes to cater a 200-person event at the zoo. Molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne presided as guest judge, Gail Simmons was as perky as ever, Padma was Padma, and Tom's head was shiny as ever.

And away we go...

1) The chefs pull knives with animal names. After others pulled vulture, penguin, lion, bear. When Antonia pulled gorilla she realized they weren't eating the animals: "It's illegal to cook gorillas." Instead they had to use ingredients from each animal's diet. Along with Antonia, the two Chicago chefs, Stephanie, winner of the first episode elimination challenge, and Valerie, who can't seem to get a word in edgewise, are Team Gorilla.

2) Obviously the stronger and more confident personalities, Antonia and Stephanie steamroll right past Valerie. They make four hors d'oeuvres: Antonia takes lamb and edamame lettuce cups; Stephanie makes banana bread and crab salad; Valerie, black olive blinis with mascarpone and root vegetables. Antonia expresses concern about Valerie, whether she can pull it off, but she doesn't fight it. It's on bitches!

3) A moment with contender Spike at the Whole Foods: After "molesting" the produce section, he dropped something and another cheftestant slipped on it. He walked away laughing. Dick.

4) Setting up at the zoo, Antonia "feels removed" from Valerie's dish because it's not something she'd eat and prorbably realized it sucked; but when Stephanie's celery chips didn't hold up, she was right there to help with suggestions. Strategy or know a lost cause when you see one?

5) Wylie and Tom at the gorilla table, Valerie describes blinis. Wylie: "Sounds delicious." Tom after a taste: "Sounds." Later, Wylie raves about Antonia's lamb, as do Gail and Padma. The banana bread saves Stephanie because her liquid crab salad sucked, and she knew it.

6) Judges table: Team Gorilla and Bear are bottom two. Out of three worst dishes, two come from Antonia's team, but not her lettuce wraps. Tom asks if she were to hire Valerie or Stephanie based on their dishes, who would she choose. Without skipping a beat: "Stepahine." Meanwhile, at the bear table, Dale and Nikki fight over who's ultimately responsible for the stuffed mushrooms that looked like bear scat.

7) With this many chefs still in the pool, there's only so much room to highlight individuals. They usually get sound bites from the top and bottom players of the episode, but whoever gets the bio in the beginning of the ep most likely ends up on the chopping block. It's classic Top Chef. At the top of the hour, the two Chicagoans were shown working out side-by-side, with Valerie saying how she hoped to team up with Stephanie at some time. Unfortunately that team wasn't the best recipe because Valerie had to pack her knives and soggy blinis and go.
· Top Cheffage: Mega-Recap Week 1 [~ELA~]
· Top Chef Chicago: Meet LA's Antonia Lofaso [~ELA~]