Raise the horns!  Stephen is gone!  Stephen is gone!

Man, does it feel good to say this.  Although, I am just a bit sad to see him go.  In all of his stuffiness and absurdity, he did provide some great comic relief for Top Chef, however unintentional it was.  He did go out with a bang, though.  From Tom’s blog:

Stephen truly believes that he will single-handedly “raise the bar” for the rest of us. And indeed he may – to heights of culinary and oenophilic rapture that mere people can’t hope to appreciate. And when that happens, there may be diners somewhere who will happily pay to be hectored, lectured, and reminded of their inferior knowledge. But if those guests are out there, in twenty-five years on the job, I haven’t met them.

Top Chef is now truly reaching the boiling point.  Last night’s challenge was a clever twist on the typical catered wedding reception.  Yes, the remaining crew knew that they were to create a menu for about 100 guests, but what they didn’t know until the challenge was revealed was that the married couple was two gay men.  This raised the bar considerably.  Allow me to interject my personal opinions about marriage receptions.  Usually, they’re very boring, unattractive ceremonies with, at best, bland food.  I dislike wedding receptions greatly unless they’re done right.  And to define “right,” you could say that I have a gay man’s perception regarding this.  So, here we are with Harold, Lee Anne, Tiffani, David, and Stephen, a catering plan drawn up by Lee Anne (as chosen by the grooms to be), a $3,000 budget, and 16 hours to get it all done.  Anyone have any No-Doz?

So the dishes were planned out and Lee Anne was at the helm.  She seemed excited that her menu was the one that took the Quickfire challenge, but seemed rather afraid to take on the entire aspect of catering the event.  The dynamics became excruciatingly interesting with the time crunch.  Harold ended up basically having a grocer sell him some sashimi-quality fresh salmon that didn’t meet flavor standards.  Since no one is a pastry chef or baker, they resorted to using boxed cake mix spruced up for the wedding cake (Tom Colicchio didn’t seem to take to this too well).  Stephen ran around, avoiding the hot seat in the kitchen because he knew the ship was going down for the wedding.  In such a short amount of time, I’m not really sure the best caterer could have done well under the circumstances.  Dave, however, because of this very experience, handled the catering so well that, if there were a “winner,” he would have taken the night’s crown.  Dave ran with it and saved what life was left in the entire production and impressed many with his offerings.  Harold came crashing down with his lukewarm salmon.  Tiffani was caught red-handed with the cake mix.  It was all just a fiasco.  And there we have Stephen, not in the kitchen trying to keep it afloat but in the reception room instructing the servers in the history of the varied wines he chose and how to serve them properly.  He wasn’t gone for a short time, as he led everyone to believe.  Stephen obviously stayed the hell away from the kitchen and probably knew that he was going to get axed.  How can you forget Tom’s words when he says: “You’re here for Top Chef, not Top Sommelier.”

I thought that because Lee Anne headed the kitchen, she was going to get the boot.  She even claimed responsibility for the entire fiasco, which was received reasonably well by the grooms, but they had no obvious favorites and seemed a bit let down.  When the judges returned, Stephen took the fall for his obvious avoidance of the kitchen and his responsibilities therein.  Farewell, Stephen, I’m so glad you’re not Top Chef.

I think Tom put it best in his blog entry for this episode when he said:

For me the moment of truth came when I asked Scott (or was it Scott?) which part of the meal he loved and he couldn’t answer. In other words, the meal was just a string of mediocre dishes. Interviews with guests led to the same conclusion – everyone was under whelmed. I felt personally let down – even embarrassed – because I had traversed the room promising a great meal, and the chefs didn’t deliver. I held every one of them responsible.

So, with no clear winner from last night’s episode, I can’t really say where I feel next week is going to go with the remaining chefs.  I can say, though, that I want Tiffani to go down next.  Also, I think Harold is going to take it all in the end.  He’s the steadiest there.  Dave is too emotional.  Lee Anne…well, she’s a possibility.  Tiffani is a snake…sssssss.