Top Chef recap: 'Make Cornbread, Not War'

A kitchen war between Tom Colicchio and Emeril Lagasse leads to one talented chef's untimely elimination
Ep. 03 | Aired Nov 21, 2012

TIME IS NOT YOUR FRIEND Kuniko had blazes of glory in her brief stint in the Top Chef kitchen, but her lack of time management skills ultimately got the best of her.

David Moir/Bravo

Even though the Gray Team's meal came across as somewhat of a disaster, the judges at least said they liked it, probably to heighten the suspense for the Red Team's service. Like Emeril, Tom was being a lot of fun in the kitchen, keeping up a healthy competitive banter with the opposing team. Micah said, "Chef Tom is giving us the freedom to express ourselves within his own sort of plan." Translation: Tom was being kind of a bossypants.

But when Tom was away from the kitchen, the Red Team devolved into a war zone. Carla, you may call yourself a strong woman, but you should realize something by now: You are the problem. She began spewing invectives at CJ and Stefan for calling her "sweetie" and "honey" and bringing down the team's morale. Where was this fire when it was actually appropriate, when Wolfgang Puck was saying legitimately misogynistic things to her in the first episode? Despite the drama, the Red Team produced clearly superior dishes.

First of all, the turkey was infinitely better. CJ had packed three pounds of butter under the bird's skin, giving it great moisture. Carla managed to keep her finger blood out of her creamy carrot soup with perfect turkey meatballs. Bart the Knight impressed the judges with his fennel, Gorgonzola, orange, and pumpkin seed salad, although Padma thought it could use more refinement.

Josh presented the first misstep for the Red Team with his sweet potato ravioli with pecans — Emeril and Tom both agreed that the dough was too tough. I thought Micah's roasted Brussels sprouts with cranberries, bacon, and shallots looked delicious because, like guest judge Thierry Rautureau, I love Brussels sprouts. While Thierry wanted seconds, Dana thought it was all too greasy. Lizzie put things back on track with her half-butter, half-potato mashed potatoes. It's almost unfair — anything with that much butter would be delicious.

Neither of the desserts satisfied the judges. Stefan's panna cotta with orange cardamom crisp and candied pecans had too much cardamom, and Eliza's chocolate tart with white chocolate and mint syrup was a bit hard.

When it came to the Judges Table, it was clear that the Red Team won unanimously, and Carla beat out CJ and Lizzie with her carrot soup, proving that you can be difficult in the kitchen and still produce an uncomplicated dish. As for the Gray Team, it came down to Tyler, Kuniko, and Sheldon. The judges threw Josie into the bottom as well, blaming her undercooked turkey for the team's loss. But of course, she had immunity, so she was safe.

Sheldon clearly wasn't going home for his well-flavored greens, but I honestly thought they'd get rid of Tyler. First of all, they gave us his backstory — of fighting alcoholism in his past — and any time they give a contestant a fluff reel, there's a good chance that person's going home. Plus, the judges all hated his dish and he hadn't distinguished himself all that much in the first two episodes, whereas Kuniko had won twice last week. But Top Chef stuck to its policy of only considering the current week's performance, and Kuniko — whose name the judges keep pronouncing like a gas station — did exhibit a lack of focus in the kitchen, like when she let her chili oil burn last week and not finishing either dish this week. Too bad, though, because she was fun to root for.

Your turn: Do you think Tyler should have packed his knives instead? Do you hope Kuniko comes back from LCK? Were John Tesar's comments about Kuniko out of line? Is Carla out of control? Sound off below in the comments!

Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.

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