Last night, did you randomly feel like putting your glasses on your forehead at exactly 9 p.m.? Did you suddenly taste truffle on the back of your palate, seemingly out of nowhere? Did the ground beneath you quake with fear that someone on television might be disappointing everyone else in the room, just by showing up? Don’t worry. It wasn’t a psychotic break. And it wasn’t fracking. It was just fracking John Tesar’s smirky face once again returning to Bravo’s Top Chef.
And I, for one, couldn’t be more excited to see him on this show again. When the episode started, I was as pumped as Peter’s parents when he came home for Christmas and he brewed all that Folgers coffee. And it started off just exactly and wonderfully like every other Top Chef season: there were the montages of all the chefs walking down the streets of Charleston with purpose and knife bags, a close-up of a chef chopping vegetables and his tattooed-knuckles spell out “foie gras,” then a sweet chef talking about how excited she is to “have this opportunity,” then another young chef sweating through his Newsies hat. It was all the perfectly sweet set-up to have Tesar ruin. Like a long, sweeping shot of downtown Tokyo just before Godzilla rolls in with Mothra to atomic-breath it all up.
Without missing even one second, Tesar’s first moment on screen has him walking into the stew room and immediately throwing a little dig at Brooke Williamson, another returning chef on the show. All the other chefs exhaled loudly like pouty kids and then Williamson said in an interview, “John is like my step dad. Sometimes you’re happy to see him, and sometimes you just roll your eyes at him.” Things were looking pretty perfect.
But then, something awful happened: Tesar said he was “a kinder, gentler Tesar” now. Before you freak out and throw your sous vide machine out the window yelling, “What the faux kimchi? I did not sign up for teddy bear Tesar!” know this: We have heard him say these things many times before. The last time he was on Top Chef, in 2012, he gave us the same line of organic, grass-fed bull. And a few episodes later, he was being his smiling, cocky, turdbasket self, just like we want him to be on this show. Just drink in this cuddly act for an episode, and fret not. He’ll do his job. He knows why he’s on TV.
When it was time for the QuickFire, where the chefs are given a short amount of time to create a dish of the judges’ choosing, Tesar lost with faux kimchi shrimp and grits. Tom Colicchio called the dish “one-dimensional” and “scattered.” Tesar’s eyes called Tom Colicchio all of the best four letter words. The moment they announce that Tesar has made the worst dish and will be forced to compete in an elimination round, you can pause the show and see exactly when “kinder, gentler Tesar” dies and “burn it all down” Tesar is awoken from minutes of slumber.
Back at the house, Tesar still tries to shake off the frustration. He tries to build friendships by calling everyone “brother.” He tries to use some young person lingo by saying, “You gotta suck ’em up, Brah!” And everyone uncomfortably nods. Because they know he’s in human-just-bitten-by-a-zombie mode. He could turn at any moment.
Katsuji Tanabe (the contestant who says “botter” instead of “butter” and basically makes talking sound way more interesting) finally takes Tesar aside and gives him a pep talk. Tesar is trying to get his mind right for this elimination round, and Katsuji tells him to relax about the whole thing. He says, “Just get in his head. You know what to do.” It was like Professor X talking to Wolverine when Wolverine is worried about all the wolverine-ing he’s been doing lately. Katsuji told Tesar to harness his turd superpowers, and you could immediately see Tesar’s game face.
In the final elimination challenge, which took place on a plantation for some unknown horrible PR reason, Tesar defeats his competitor in an oyster challenge when he reveals that he had a boatload of truffles in his pocket. It was the ingredient mic drop heard round the Top Chef world. All the chefs started chanting “make it rain, John!” as he shaved truffle on top of whatever else happened to be in that bowl he put together. I think there were supposed to be oysters in there, but it literally could have been nothing but a Cheeto and a bandaid and he would have won with those truffles on top.
Tune in next week, when Tesar surely can’t make it through a whole episode without smiling as he says something awful to another contestant. (Don’t forget to drink every time Tesar makes someone cry.)
Good luck, Tesar. We’re only watching until you get kicked off, and we think the Bravo executives know that. So, you’ll probably win! And when you do, please climb to the top of Reunion Tower and make it rain truffles on our great city.