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Top Chef Recap: New Judge Toby Young Skewers the Chefs

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Virginia Sherwood/Bravo

After too many dismal dishes on the last episode, we learned that two chef-testants were going to be eliminated at the end of last night’s challenge. Time to step it up, stand by your food and seriously woo Tom, Padma and the new judge in town, British author and food critic Toby Young, who will be subbing for Gail for the rest of the season. We soon learn Toby, the author of the best-selling tome How to Lose Friends and Alienate People, really does have an expertise in that subject matter as we witnessed him verbally slice and dice the chef-testants apart during judging.

The mood in the kitchen was ominous from the get-go. The ever-cocky Stefan officially crossed over to jacka– territory: “I can run circles around that guy,” he scowled, referring to Hosea, who won the last challenge. Meanwhile, an eternally intense Jamie continued to whine about never winning and Gene wasn’t exactly exuding the aloha spirit either. In the spirit of New Year’s diet resolutions, Padma introduced a sugar-free dessert Quickfire challenge judged by famous pastry chef Jean-Christophe Novelli. The sweets must “taste so good, we’’ll think there’s nothing diet about it at all,” says Padma.

Stefan’s sugar-free chocolate mousse got kudos, Fabio’s granola-and-oat tart was undercooked (but he laid the blame on Jean-Christophe for being French. Is this Euro thing is getting old or what?), but Rhadika emerged as the winner with a bread pudding made with whole wheat challah and scored immunity.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs were challenged to cook family-style. The catch: it was going to be a blind tasting, meaning the judges and “critics” won’t know who cooked what. We later learn that the “critics” are… the chef-testants, divided into two groups, Team A and Team B!

Gene served up a fried red snapper with daikon fettucine and a tomato-basil sauce. Kooky Carla tried to listen to her inner voice, which said vegetarian, but then second guessed herself and plopped a scallop on top of a pea risotto. Speaking of scallops, Jamie cooked, yep, scallops again. “This is not Top Scallop!” screamed Fabio. Not that his undercooked lamb won over any of the critics.

During the judging, Rhadika’s (who can thank her lucky stars for winning the Quickfire) soup elicited this yowser: “I have found the weapons of mass destruction and they are in this bowl,” bemoaned Toby. Jamie’s fail-safe scallops wins (now let this be the end of her whining for the remainder of the season). But poor Melissa’s fish tacos were deemed to taste like “cat food,” according to Toby. This gave us pause that Toby has been hitting the cans of Fancy Feast. But it would explain his ultra catty comment, which won Bravo’s viewers’ vote for being his nastiest comment of the night.

In the bottom three: Carla, Gene and Melissa. Carla was spared, while Melissa and Eugene were sent packing. With their departures, it seems the judges have truly skimmed the fat off the competition. –Alyssa Shelasky

Tell us: What do you think of new judge Toby Young? Do you agree with the judges’ elimination choices? And does Fabio have a point about Jamie constantly cooking scallops?

Virginia Sherwood/Bravo