Team Top Chef

Ep 8: Author Daniel Handler and Lucha Vavoom keep it interesting.

on Sep 12, 2013

Hello, my little Nacho Libres! Can you believe there are only five chefs left?! Only two episodes left?! I can't. And just as a tune-in alert, after the Top Chef Masters on September 25th finale, we're off for a week, then we're back with Top Chef in New Orleans on October 2nd!

The Top Chef Masters walk into the kitchen, only to find Curtis next to "a strange guy." With an accordion. That guy is Daniel Handler aka Lemony Snicket, author of the very popular A Series of Unfortunate Events book series. Although Daniel is our guest, he won't be the one issuing the Quickfire Challenge. That honor goes to Doug and his "replacement killer" sous chef, Paul -- as Sang creepily refers to him. Paul is killing it in Battle of the Sous Chefs, so his moniker is earned.

Doug and Paul check out the pantry, and a great idea strikes Doug -- screw over, Sang! So, they select the one ingredient Sang doesn't allow in his restaurants -- ketchup. I have unfortunately yet to dine at Father's Office, but y'know what? I'm OK with the lack of ketchup. Don't get me wrong -- I love ketchup, but I don't need it. In fact, I'll only consume certain brands.

As a sidenote, my favorite burger in New York, April Bloomfield's lamb burger at The Breslin isn't served with ketchup, and I don't ask for it. (They'll give it to you, if you do.) And as another sidenote, my friends and I hit up our favorite steak frites place this week -- Le Relais de Venise -- and they don't allow ketchup or butter for your bread! Don't even ask for it. So, my friend brought her own. I wonder what Sang would do if a customer did that! (P.S. Check out Sang's Twitter background -- you're in for a fun surprise.)

Anywaaay, the chefs get pretty creative with their ketchuping. In fact, Doug goes so far as to emulate a concept that "set the world of Kyoto miso soups on fire." He says this with total sincerity. First of all, I didn't know there was a world of Kyoto miso soups, nor that they could be set on fire. Ultimately, though his dish didn't set Lemony Snicket's world on fire. And boy, did Lemony not set Curtis or David Burke's world on fire. Geez. In the end, Doug loses at his own game, Sang ends up in the top group, but Jen takes the win and $5K more for her charity. As the only female chef left in this "boys' club" (her words, not mine), she feels she's being underestimated. And she's right. 

Although Doug's plan backfired, he still has immunity going into the Elimination Challenge, and what a colorful challenge it is! The chef have to cater a Lucha Vavoom Mexican burlesque event... for 300 people. That's 600 plates a chef, people! But fortunately they all have their sous chefs' help... for now. The chefs head to the Mexican market, and Bryan shows street smarts by asking one of the market employees how she likes her guacomole. Always ask a local. That's the best way to find the best food anywhere. Bryan's making beef tongue. While some people may find tongue off-putting, I grew up with the stuff. To be fair, I don't think I realized what I was eating at my young age, even though my mother would literally put the giant tongue right on our dining room table. But, at that age, everything's a euphamism. David's confident in his theme because he "lived with a Columbian girl for many years... ex-stripper." Why has this man not written a memoir yet?!