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Top Chef Local Debriefing: Antonia's Twofer

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Eight weeks in, half way there, and It's too bad that the Top Chef episode where Antonia wins both the QF and the elimination challenge, with immunity no less, was outright boring. Oprah's personal chef Art Davis was guest judge, they used microwavable rice, cooked with kids, and turned out some pedestrian family-style meals for under $10. Even the kids lacked that spark of personality, and kids, you know, say the darndest things! But we learned: Antonia's joke repertoire includes "poo" knock-knock jokes and little kids in chef hats choke her up; Richard wants to "make babies?little Blaises," wears pink Crocs, and is all about the color coordination; Mark is as insecure as a kiwi in a bowl of fruit; Stephanie's starting to break; Tom is both odd and endearing around kids; and everyone, even the guest judge, is tired of Lisa's bad attitude. But they're saving Andrew's "culinary boner" for next week! On to the recap:

Quickfire: At the top of the show, right away you know Antonia, Mark and Stephanie are going to figure prominently in the end result because their all highlighted: A fired up Antonia's back in it to win it, Stephanie's confused, Mark's confusing. In the most blatant product placement yet, the cheftestants had to cook an entrée in 15 minutes, but they could use—hey!—the Uncle Ben's minute rice. Guest judge Art Davis was not the pinnacle of "speed and efficiency", the root of this challenge, but we digress. Everyone seemed to fall on what they know, except for Stephanie who attempts a Korean-style rice pancake (and fails miserably). The other two losing dishes were Mark's unseasoned-because-he-didn't-taste-it miso-glazed turkey breast, and Lisa's. Antonia culled a childhood favorite and made rice salad and skirt steak. The simple dish wowed Pads and Art and she has immunity. Say it all together now: Make it taste good, stand behind it, and voila!

Elimination Challenge: The chefs had to cook a full meal for four people using only $10. Now we all know $10 doesn't go far at Whole Foods, so the shopping was probably the most entertaining thing of the night. They alllll went for chicken (our question is how did they all get so much chicken from WF when a pound generally hovers around $8-9?); Antonia shaved off bok choy leaves to lose an extra 23 cents; Mark felt brilliant for making veggie curry; Stephanie was at odds with herself; the WF checkers showed an unusual amount of excitement. Earlier, single mom Antonia cracked jokes with her daughter over the phone, only to burst into tears when kids in chef hats walk into the kitchen to help with meal. (She's a mom, come on.) Only one kid cut himself (that we know of), Richard likes the color coordination of his and now wants to "make babies," Mark can't pronounce his kid's name, Lisa scares us she must scare her kid; Spike made another soup.

Outcome: Because, as Gail said, "she knows what she's doing, this is real life for her," Antonia's wheat noodle stir fry with chicken and vegetables won the challenge. (What...NO PRIZE? Not even an Oprah cookbook or something?) Judges also liked Nikki's simple roast chicken meal, and Andrew's dish because he got kids to eat fennel. Bottom three: Stephanie's soggy cous cous and tomato-peanut butter sauce; Lisa's undercooked, underseasoned chicken was "disgusting," per Padma; and Mark. Poor, poor Mark. He was so sure he was in the bottom because Tom doesn't like him (hanging out with the kids too long, mate?) when in fact it's because his vegetable curry had no protein and it wasn't particularly good. The Kiwi packs his knives, tells those he left behind to "rock on, rockers," and goes. Next Week: Wedding! Exhausted chefs! Dale screaming 'Fuck' really loudly! And Andrew's oddly placed claim to having a "culinary boner right now."