So, this makes three Top Chef wins for Abacus Chef de Cuisine Tré Wilcox; favorite much? We're essentially at the mid-point of Season Three, and no other "cheftestant" has emerged as a serious contender to the prize package, which includes $100,000 to blow on opening their own restaurant, or a fraction of a fraction of what the chefs will actually need to stay afloat longer than a month. We thought Hung would be a player; not even close. (Though not according to guest blogger Anthony Bourdain, who wrote last week, "I still think Hung is the guy to beat, the cook most likely to have a really good showing in the late stretch. If he doesn't trip himself up by over-thinking, overreaching, or by just tweaking out.")
Wilcox, flexing his muscle (literally, as he cooked in a white tank top), served bacon-wrapped shrimp served atop a bowl o' grits to the late-night Miami drunks who gathered around his team's roach coach. Not exactly the ideal drunk dish, but enough to impress the judges, among 'em guest Govind Armstrong, whom Wilcox really wanted to impress, as Armstrong is among the rare African-American stars in the cooking world. "I'm honored to approach this challenge for him," Wilcox said with great solemnity.
The Quickfire Challenge proved nearly disastrous for the other local chef on the show: Shinsei's Casey Thompson, for whatever reason, thought Cold Stone Creamery's frozen mush would mix well with Sriracha, the chili-and-garlic sauce commonly used as an Asian-food condiment. She got Armstrong to actually shudder, which made Thompson ... proud, that's the word. "That's a first," she said, as the dreadlocked chef tried to decide whether to vomit or orgasm. Turned out, he hated the dish; can't imagine why.
The entire episode was about as cruel as Thompson's ice-cream dish: The chefs were told they were getting a night off and out in Miami, and the women especially got all dolled up -- Thompson's green dress was particularly off-the-menu. Only when they got to their discotheque destination, they found out they were supposed to cook for the early-morning boozehounds filing out of the joint. A kick in the junk so late in the night; Thompson looked especially displeased -- pouty, that's the word.
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But it was a good gimmick, this tease of a night on the town followed by the cold slap of an Elimination Challenge that sent Sara packing, finally. Dunno how you fuck up miniature hamburgers and milkshakes, but when you do -- and you do it at a snail's pace -- it's time to pack your knives and maybe fall on one on the way out. C.J. once more emerged as a fan fave -- he's America's midnight-snack attack -- but Tre's the winner. Three firsts out of seven episodes thus far, which has to be a record. Next to be voted off the kitchen island? Gotta be Howie, right? Dude sweats on everything. --Robert Wilonsky