Before we get into tonight's episode: I'm still hearing frustration from fans about our decision to send Jennifer packing last week, including some viewers who think the judges broke the rules. At the risk of being the butt of still more sausage jokes (ahem), gimme a quick second, here:
First, to my knowledge, there is no Top Chef rule book. If there is, I hope Andy Cohen never makes me read it. We base our decisions on whose food tastes the best, and who responds most cleverly and appropriately to the challenge. And that's how it should be. I'm not interested in some rigid, black-and-white system that hampers our ability to use our judgment and experience to make difficult, nuanced decisions and to be as fair as possible.
It was a little unclear in the episode whether Antonia and Lisa used any of the featured ingredient, Polish sausage, in their dish.* Many people were sure that they did not, and thus, that they defied the challenge and should go home. While there is no such rule, per se, clearly, ignoring the terms of a contest is a great way to piss off the judges and get a plane ticket outta here. But what if a chef decides to think outside the bun, to do something conceptual? What if A&L had reinterpreted the idea of Polish sausage but used, say, higher-quality meat and more interesting spices? What if they made their own sausage with chunks of lamb, rosemary, fennel, and something Polish (I dunno -- you got me) instead of whatever-the-heck kind of ground animals are in actual Polish sausage? That, too, would have meant they didn't use the actual ingredient. Yet, it would have shown creativity and effort.
*As it happens, this is all moot. They did use Polish sausage. Not much. Not enough. But they did. Case closed.