Casey at the Plate

Casey Thompson: It's my pantry, and I'll cry if I want to, cry if I want to.
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Casey Thompson, executive chef at Lynae Fearing and Tracy Rathbun's Shinsei on Inwood Road, may be an evil genius. Dunno much about her, other than what the editors have chosen to show of Thompson during the early going of Top Chef's season three, but her performance last night was astounding; her cooking too, at least during the Quickfire Challenge, where the winner gets immunity during the second-half Elimination Challenge.

Because, see, Casey won the Quickfire, where she and the remaining 12 "cheftestants" had to pair an appetizer with a Bombay Sapphire cocktail. Casey and fellow Dallasite Tre Wilcox of Abacus were among the tops in that contest -- and Thompson won with a French Toast Baguette with Pecan Crusted Foie Gras & Raspberry Sauce. That meant she wouldn't be going home by episode's end. And she just might have without immunity, because her tuna tanked.

For the Elimination Challenge, the contestants were divided into teams of three, with each team preparing one course of a four-course tasting menu for some uppity food snobs. Thompson was screwed from jump: She wound up on a team with Howie and Joey -- the two guys who apparently were led to believe Top Chef was a Sopranos audition. Joey especially doesn't seem to enjoy being in the kitchen; both are always barking about how it's a competition, yo, and how they're gonna moiduh duh udder guy. Howie's got talent (he's won an Elimination Challenge) and passion, but maybe both guys just like being around sharp knives.

Thompson and the barkin' brudahs didn't mesh well; they kinda hated her, and she barely tolerated them, disappearing at least once when Joey and Howie were about to serve the dishes. (What was she doing in the walk-in, anyway?) But the animosity and tension didn't stop Bravo from running a promo wherein they asked viewers to log in and vote on whether Howie and Joey wanted to hate on or date on Thompson, the subtext of which was more than a little friggin' icky.

Her tuna tartar served in a bird's nest looked unpalatable; apparently, it tasted like it appeared on TV, and head judge Tom Colicchio all but suggested that if Thompson didn't have immunity, she mighta been going back to Texas four episodes in. Howie and Joey were furious with her, insisting Immunity Girl had willfully tanked because, well, she could. Thompson, though -- and here's the evil genius thing -- she began to bawl. Like, tears streaming down her face -- because she felt so, like guilty, y'all. And just like that, the other contestants were like kitties at her feet, purring their consolations at the prettiest girl in the room.

Fortunately for Thompson, there was another team that had an equally disastrous showing: the dessert team, which sent cutie-pie Camille home after it turned out she didn't know squat about a pineapple upside-down cake. So Howie and Joey were spared, if only so they can stare and glare at Thompson for another week -- you know, hate or date, yuck.

As for Tre Wilcox, he was barely heard from this week. The missus and I thought he looked down, like almost getting the boot during the barbecue challenge a couple of weeks ago sucked the fire out of his coals. But it was interesting to see one of his teammates address him as "chef" during the show -- like he was the boss, bigger and better than anyone else in the kitchen. --Robert Wilonsky

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