After what felt like a two-month break between new episodes, Top Chef last night returned, offering a smörgåsbord of delights. Local girl Casey Thompson, executive chef at Shinsei, won the Elimination Challenge with what appeared to be the only edible dish -- Beef Carpaccio with Shiitake Broth, hell of a smart choice. And Downtown Howie, whose food must taste like sweat and anger, was sent packing after failing to cook anything for the Quickfire Challenge and serving up crap on a cracker during the adios part of the show.
Thompson's win -- her first, coming an episode after her pal and fellow Dallasite Tré Wilcox was, to everyone's great surprise, kicked off the island -- was overshadowed by Howie's getting the boot in his round, sweaty ass. The dude actually tried to quit before he was fired, to which the judges said, more or less, "No, Howie, you can't break up with us -- we break up with you." Damned if they were gonna have to put up with his bullying, bruising nonsense, only to let him off the hook without first dipping him in the boiling grease just for fun.
But, once more, we turn to Bravo's bravura blogger Anthony Bourdain for the final word on Thompson's long-awaited victory -- no small thing this late in the game, with the cheftestants down to a mere six before next week's road trip: "Winner Casey reminded us why she's still around and still dangerous after last week's slow motion Demolition Derby of a Quickfire Challenge," Bourdain writes. "She may wield her knife like a medieval pole-axe, but she's clearly got an extraordinary palate and a good eye for presentation." Awwwww, that's the sweetest thing ever.
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Could be she won because everyone else's dishes were too boring (Hung's 1981 salmon mousse on a cucumber), too enh (Brian's Ahi poke) or too inedible (Howie's tandem of shit and shingle). Hers was at least looked good and sounded tasty, more than you could say for the others who just wanted to avoid elimination this late in the game. Bourdain's on next week as a guest judge, incidentally -- and if there's a better guy on television at the moment, on any show on any network, I've yet to see him. Course, Bravo could always throw in a rerun instead -- how long does this show run, anyway, because it feels like this season's lasted longer than our family's Passover seders. --Robert Wilonsky