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Edward Kafka

Hugh Acheson analyzes Edward Lee's psyche.

By Hugh Acheson

Texas is still big but the Top Chef population has shrunk after the first cuts. This episode is titled “The Heat is On.” This summer in Texas was hot. Real hot. And in full drought, but still sweaty, not dry like you’d think. 110 F pretty much everyday. The heat will take its toll this season. You can be sure of that. 

How to Watch

Watch Top Chef Season 21 Wednesdays at 9/8c on Bravo and next day on Peacock.

Onwards to the episode:  

The Bubble Room is already an anxious lot, with Edward leading witty repartee, comparing the room to a prison cell. Edward, thinking the whole thing is a ruse, also imagines a dismal scenario, one in which they are being held in the room but there are no spots left. This Kafkaesque drama is shortly proven to not be the case. But listen up, Magical Elves, I think that may be another reality show….

If Chris McCrary succumbed to the beauty of Padma in the first episode, with some unsettling hyperbole, then Chaz decides to play wingman. Chaz goes so far as to tell us that he had a picture of her up in his locker at school. The creep war for Padma is on.

We meet all the players in the third grouping before we get to see the Bubble Group do battle. The Bubble Group is getting restless, with Edward talking about how he’s going to have to kill everyone in the room to get a blue chef coat. I try to send him happy thoughts and remind him that he could really just buy one at

Austin Andrew gets mushrooms and looks in-control. But he is speaking authoritatively to his poached eggs… “Aw, you bitch.” Conversations with food often reveal the lunatic in the room. 

Paul Q gets cooking with trout. He seems confident when I approach and is creating smart, simpler food, arguably the most difficult food to pull off.  

Kim gets lamb, which she is treating with a simple Italianesque preparation. She looks like Dexter’s sister. 

Paul gets the coat. Much deserved. The street cart overlord from Austin has massive skills. Good job, Paul. Andrew bubbles through to the next challenge, unless Edward has his way and kills everyone in the Bubble Room. Kim overcooks the lamb and is done. She leaves with honor. 

Berenice gets short ribs which is another doozy. Tough muscle. Her dish was fine but one-dimensional. She is honorable in defeat. 

Jonathan has Brussels sprouts. I love Brussels sprouts. Jonathan says Tom and I are “lurking around.” I admit it. It’s my job. I skulk too.

Fatty Crab Chaz is doing risotto. I remark to him that risotto has brought down many, many chefs on TC. He doesn’t want to hear this, but the writing may be on the wall. He says that Italians make risotto, “all night.” Twenty minutes seems more accurate, but if you have to caress each rice kernel like they were miniature Padmas, then yes, it may take a while.  He also says something like, “Am I a Navy Seal or a GI Joe?” We hope you are just a person cooking risotto. Don’t aim too high.  Laurent arrived via France in L.A. and has stayed for good. I can’t quite figure him out. Lots going on at his station. Maybe too much, but who knows. He’s an odd bird. 

Chaz strikes out and has nothing. He must face the C.O.B.R.A. Commander, played by Tom. GI Joe loses. Jonathan is out with his Brussels. They failed to sing. Laurent somehow finds himself on the Bubble. Berenice has no luck with her short ribs. She’s out too.

Lindsay has veal osso buco, and the time is limited so this could be difficult. To save time she is running away from Tom. Lindsay doesn’t know it, but Tom Colicchio is fast. He will catch her. Sometime. She seems not as intent in running from me, but is not the most engaging talker during competition. All business. I will lurk elsewhere else.

Ashley is using oxtail in an homage to the Filipino roots of her husband. Love the idea, but oxtail is like the veal, it likes long cook times, so into the pressure cooker we go. Pressure cookers are great for some foods, but if you have never really used them they can be terrifying to everyone in a 15-foot blast radius. This should be interesting. Ashley is heard saying, “Shit, who can I ask to help me?” Ashley might need to be reminded that one person wins Top Chef

Beverly is trying her hand at octopus. We are shown her scrawled mantra of “I CAN, I MUST, I WILL.” She reminds me of the YouTube toddler: “I like my hair, I like my house, I like my Alisons…," but she rocks the octopus. Good job. It was really, really good. A little tough, but come on… she had one hour. 

Beverly and Lindsay forge through. They rocked it. Ashley doesn’t, but she tried hard to pull off an admirable dish. Oxtail is a hard one. 

Somewhere in this is a brief scene of the Moto Boys being very excited about bunk beds. You have got to love these guys. And Keith… how are you going to fit that man on a kid's bunk bed?Bubble time. Edward decides that because he was unable to kill everyone in the Bubble Room, he will attempt to hack off his own thumb. Lots of blood ensues. Forge on, Edward! You now have seen how important medics are on Top Chef. They rule.

They cook whatever they want, and everyone seems to want to cook shrimp or scallops… except that crafty Edward.

Molly. Overcooked shrimp is noticed by Tom… and by everybody else. I think even Molly knew as soon as she put it on the plate. I ain’t got nothing else to say. She was a great presence. Cruise on. Out.

Andrew cooks mussels with Ric Flair. I mean with flare. Spanish flare. And he does. Sadly he decides to ad a corn panna cotta that just didn’t work. Andrew, you will rock again. But not today. Out.

Laurent. Busy again with lots going on. Scallop ménage a deux. Tartare and seared. Too much weird. Out.Edward. With one thumb. Duck rocks. Great custard. Really fun dish that explains who the guy is in so many ways. Kentucky is in. In.

Janine. SO CLOSE. Atlanta almost rocked through. Her scallop was perfectly cooked which is much better than I can say for my first episode of TC Masters. She was classy and cool in a very close race. Out.

Grayson. Who doesn’t like bacon-wrapped shrimp? In. 

To house. Party time. Word to the wiseL: it's hard to cook hungover. 

Last Chance Kitchen begins… what? Janine and Andrew are given another chance to come through to the end…. 

I need my own drink. 


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