Best line from last night: “You’re a tool and a douchebag.

That simple brilliance came from Candice’s mouth when she was dressing down Stephen for being too snobby to even fathom making food for kids.  That, indeed, was the challenge for this episode of Top Chef: make a dish for a group of kids at the local Girls and Boys Club.  What’s the challenge in that?  Well, how about making a dish out of one of the most sickeningly ugly fish around: the monkfish.  Not only that, the panel of judges showed the group of kids a dead monkfish so they knew what they’d be eating.  Harsh!  But, that is the point, right?  To make things difficult for these chefs is what the show is about.

This challenge changed my thinking completely about the contestants.  The last two weeks, I stood behind the more competent chefs and most of them truly let me down with their complete and utter inability to adapt to a different sort of clientele (kids) when they had to.  It was like asking a bunch of whiny kids to make gourmet dishes for adults.  They had no idea how to cater to kids or what kids even like to eat!  Come on!  Come back down to Earth, people!  Stephen offered up cantaloupe soup.  WHAT?!?!  There were just absolute absurd suggestions from the chefs.  What made this better was that there were two teams as opposed to single chefs.  One team (blue) ended up being technical powerhouses with Harold, Dave, Lee Anne, Brian, and Tiffani.  The other team (red), who were less culinarily inclined, included Stephen, Miguel, Andrea (who returned to replace the exiting Cynthia, bless her and her father), Lisa, and Candice.  After a long round of bickering (mainly between Stephen and Candice) the red team slid right into the groove with the assistance of Lisa’s absolute and rigid leadership.  Why did she take control?  She has kids!  She knows what they love in texture and flavor!  The blue team, however, was leaderless.  They basically floated through the challenge not exactly knowing what they were going to do.  Someone’s got to run the show here, folks!

As the kids began eating, somewhat apprehensively, they appeared to be very surprised that such an ugly, slimy thing could taste so good.  The blues made cereal-crusted nuggets while the reds made “monkeydogs,” which basically were like corndogs.  What I think really made the show was the interaction that Lisa, Miguel, Candice, and Andrea had with the kids.  They made sure that they were enjoying the food and that they were enthusiastic about eating more.  They played.  They cheered.  They had fun with the kids.  The ONLY one to do this from the blue team was Brian, because he felt very close to these kids.  He grew up playing with other kids in Girls and Boys Clubs.  It was nice to see him so happy.

That’s why it was so sad to see Brain go.  Yes, the kids overwhelmingly chose the red team and their “monkeydogs.” Someone had to go from the blue team, and since Tiffani won immunity for her QuickFire Challenge victory (Tomato Succo and Octopus Frit), Brian or Dave was teetering on getting the kick.  Brian was chosen primarily for his apparently over-cooked carrots in maple.  This was too bad because Tiffani truly deserved to get her ass thrown to the curb for her terrible attitude towards the clientele.  From Tom Colicchio’s blog:

I understood Tiffani, Harold, and Stephen’s objections to this week’s challenge – after all, they’re young and hoping for a chance to dazzle the world, just as I was when I was starting out. It took me years before I developed the confidence to cook simply, letting nuance, technique and flavor steal the show. But I’ve been cooking for one fairly demanding kid for twelve years now, and I’ve never needed to relax my standards to make him happy. And while Dante has been known to avoid anything green and to dine happily on a bread basket and three Sprites, for the most part he likes food that tastes good and doesn’t gross him out. I think he would have been happy with both the monkey dogs, or the monkfish nuggets. But one thing is for sure—he would not have liked being dismissed as a waste of time.

I think this says it all, frankly.  How disappointing.

So, now, who fits into my rankings?  I’ve lost Harold because of his inflexibility.  I’ve gained Lisa because of her improving skill, presentation, and her apparent leadership capability.  But, frankly, right now Miguel is the man!  He’s got it all!  Just keep the shirt on, and you’ve got my vote!

Next week:  I hope Stephen goes, but I think Candice probably will finally take the dive.

Bon appetit!

For bios, episode rundown, and voting, check out the Top Chef Website.