The Surgeon General showed up on this episode of Top Chef, so you know immediately that they’re going to be forced to cook some healthy stuff this time. And sure enough: Padma announces the meanest news ever: “Let’s make vegetarian, healthier versions of classic comfort foods! Whilst running!”
Vegetarian food is great. It’s fine. I understand why people are vegetarians, and I understand the benefit of eating vegetarian meals regularly even if you’re not a vegetarian all the time. That said, I have a message for vegetarian food: You stay the crap away from my comfort foods.
When I’m sad and I need a food hug, broccoli is not who I’m calling. I am speed dialing a bigass bowl of Texas chili and there is nothing any bean can do about that. Baby arugula is delicious, but it’s never gonna be fried chicken. Or a bowl of Tom Kha. And don’t tell me Tom Kha doesn’t need the meat in it—Tom Kha without the a meaty protein is basically just coconut milk and ginger. You just served me the worst White Russian ever.
But, worry not, everything will be fine because 1) We’ve got a group of fancy chefs involved in the creation of the dishes, so they’ll make amazing things and 2) This is a television show– just eat a double bacon cheeseburger, a whole pan of lasagna and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s while watching the episode and laugh at the people who have to say that “Tofu sloppy joes taste just as delicious as the ones from your high school cafeteria days!”
John Tesar gets to create a vegetarian hamburger. I swear this season is fixed. “Challenging” John Tesar to make a hamburger is like challenging Padma Lakshmi to show off her glorious cleavage. It’s like challenging Dirk Nowitzki to shoot a basketball into a hoop while also being a pretty nice guy in general. It’d be like challenging Pecan Lodge’s beef rib to be delicious. This isn’t a challenge—it’s an exhibition. It’s what Oksana Baiul does in the off-season.
Now, if they had added a “no name-dropping” clause to the challenge, Tesar would be screwed. While he’s making his veggie burger, he references a time that he saw Richard Blais make a veggie burger, and how inspiring that was for him. I try to paint a picture in my mind of this tender moment when Tesar and Blais are hanging out, and I just can’t get it to click into a reality. First I just see Blais on TV and Tesar talking at him from home. “Oh, that’s a great idea, Blais. Way to ruin the humble hamburger with your vegetables, bro.” Then, it’s Tesar holding a Batman and a Superman action figure, and making the two talk to each other.
Tesar as Batman: “I can’t believe you’re making a burger with vegetables, Superman Blais—that’s stupid!”
Tesar as Superman Blais: “Whatever, these cranberries and nuts taste just like ground beef, Tesar Batman!”
Tesar as Batman: (punch Superman Blais in his Superman Blais junk)
Needless to say, the QuickFire challenge goes fine for Tesar. So does the elimination challenge, when he pan-broils some chicken with watercress, sunchoke and peas. (Worth noting: Sunchoke has been highlighted by multiple chefs in multiple dishes this season, so now you should drink every time someone uses a sunchoke.)
Tesar did not explode during this episode, but I’m still holding out hope that a classic Tesar bitchfit is on its way, based on the teaser for the next episode. In about 30 seconds of film, we see a chef named Emily get upset, Tom Colicchio wears a weird shirt and is very interested in something—and he never leans in unless there’s a fight—and the crying girl calls out Tesar directly.
We get a flash of Stinkface Tesar, which is a tick that happens to him when he hears something that isn’t ideal. Makes him look like he smelled a fart for a second. And this fart-smell face—that’s the beginning of greatness for all of us.
Tune in next week, when eight out of 10 chefs incorporate sunchokes into their dishes, Gail Simmons and Padma Lakshmi drink coffee together and talk shit about Colicchio in Vanderpump-Rules-style breakaway, and Tesar voms 365-day dry-aged Oscar Mayer bologna on everyone’s faces.