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Top Chef Local Debriefing: Stand. Behind. Your. Dish.

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The juicy preview for last night's Top Chef episode had us on pins and needles. So much Antonia, so much Zoi, yelling, drama! Turns out Foxtail chef Antonia Lofaso had her first breakout Top Chef moment: Not only did she win the Quickfire and get immunity from elimination, but she gets on the poll! We also finally got to see where those tense "Stand behind your dish!" barbs from early previews were directed. There's some Ming Tsai, Gail's return to the judges' table, a guest cameo by none other than Nancy Silverton, and some stewing in the Stew Room. Let's jump right into this week's recap.

Quickfire: Antonia was beside herself to finally get to the palate test. An avid fan of the show, she knew it was coming, she studied past seasons, and finally got to put her skills to work in guessing which soy sauce, crab meat, butter and chocolate were top-grade vs. budget. Her strategy: Cleanse palate with water, use different fingers to taste. And it worked because she got a whopping 12 out of 15 correct, with Ryan and Jen right behind her. Immunity tastes so, so sweet.

Elimination Challenge: In four groups, the chefs had to create the first course for the Chicago Meals on Wheels gala based on the elements: water, fire, earth, air. Antonia is earth (as in "salt of the") with Zoi and Spike. Please remember that Antonia and Zoi's team last week had a losing dish. With immunity, Antonia could just sit back and ride the wave, but she jumped in head first and told Spike what he could do with his butternut squash soup; they agree on beef carpaccio with mushroom salad and sunchoke aioli. Water (Mark, Richard, and Andrew) makes poached salmon with faux caviar. Air (Jen, Nikki, and Ryan) makes duck breast with citrus salad and pomegranate Presecco. Fire (Dale, Stephanie, and Lisa) makes grilled shrimp with pickled chili salad and miso bacon. Lisa can't stop bitching, which makes Dale irate. If we were at our TiVo we'd count how many times Spike said butternut squash soup; he wouldn't let it go.

Outcome: Fire's shrimp wows the judges and Lisa wins a trip to Italy for making miso-crusted bacon. Don't ask: It's just the magical mystical powers of bacon. Ming Tsai gets a mouthful of fish scales from Richard's sous vide salmon, Air is barely mentioned, except that Nancy Silverton just didn't get the shot of Prosecco with pomegranate seeds (who did?), but Earth's dish is plum flavorless. If only Spike could've made his butternut squash soup! Since Antonia has immunity, she's golden (oh that really gets Spike), but Zoi doesn't fare so well. Somehow Richard squeaks by with his fish scale sous vide, and Zoi packs her knives.

Random Addendum: After Zoi leaves, seemingly out of nowhwere, Spike, Jennifer, Antonia, Dale, and Lisa went bonkers on each other in the Stew Room. Spike suddenly forgets he's there for TV, and tells Antonia she should've taken a back seat in the challenge, that she said she wouldn't make his blessed butternut squash soup. She actually said: "If you two are totally into soup, I'll make a fucking soup with you. I'm thinking it's not enough quality." And then the moment when she finally told Spike: "Stand behind your dish!" Dude, love it, live it. We're now officially 100% anti-Spike. The final moments were quite possibly the most enjoyable yet strangest two minutes of the whole ep, but we're still not completely sure what they were all bickering about. And why did Dale grab his crotch?
· Week One Debriefing: Meet Antonia Lofaso [~ELA~]
· Week Two Debriefing: Antonia and the Gorillas [~ELA~]
· Week Three Debriefing: Ego Taco [~ELA~]
· Week Four Debriefing: Let's Go To The Movies [~ELA~]
· Top Chef: From the Mind of Antonia Lofaso [~ELA~]

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