Shooting this week’s episode was one of the best experiences I have had in my years judging this competition. No, not because I was seated next to Charlize Theron, terrific as she is, but because the chefs delivered one of the finest meals I have ever had on Top Chef. From the first course to the last, they kept on bringing it. I know some viewers have wondered whether the chefs this season are as talented as many in seasons past. This episode finally answers that question with a remarkable seven-course yes.
The chefs’ high level of performance shows just how creative chefs can be when presented with an idea. Chefs can derive inspiration in so many ways, from seeing ingredients and imagining ways to play with them, from tasting the food of other chefs or from foreign locales, or, as here, from an idea. Here, the notion of playing off of evil and fear freed our chefs. Look, for example, at the handprint Paul put on the plate -- that would never have happened without this challenge, and it worked. It was the right counterpoint to his beautiful (and delicious) enchanted forest, and if it made Eric squeamish, well, that was the desired effect, right? Grayson’s black chicken “slaughtered on the plate”--– whoa. Sarah’s blood risotto -- fantastic idea. The chefs’ food showed that they clearly relished the challenge. And as a result, it was all really great.