Justin Stephens/Bravo
October 15, 2009 12:00 AM

Top Chef was all about the pairings on Wednesday’s show -… and we’re not talking about a partner challenge. This week, the chefs had to match a pinot noir with a pork dish and cook for a large crowd at an event with a tough guest judge to boot. All in all, a pretty satisfying episode packed with plenty of drama outside the kitchen too.

Quickfire: That exacting judge was Charlie Palmer who announced this week’s Quickfire challenge. Palmer may be recognizable to foodies — but the restaurant mogul was also very familiar to Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, who have both worked for him before. The other chefs were equally daunted and warned about his demanding palate. As for the challenge, the competitors had to create a dish that would pair perfectly with a snack food. (Think onion rings or chips!) Among the best: Bryan, who made a steak dish that Palmer termed “safe” but still loved; Kevin, whose green bean dish was harmonious with his onion snacks; and Eli, who won the challenge in the end. Less successful: Robin, Ash and, not surprisingly Jennifer C., who knew she overcooked her pork.

A Fractured Family: By now it’s obvious that most of the chefs don’t love Robin. She incidentally, plays off their loathing with a zenlike calm -… and an active morning pilates routine. So it feels little redundant to see the younger contestants still hating on the redhead. We get it: She talks a lot and many don’t feel like she should still be in the competition. But is that an excuse … – Eli, we’re talking to you — to bark at her in the house kitchen? The southern chef, who admitted he lives at home with his parents still because he doesn’t have to pay rent, screamed at Robin, “you’re not my mother” after she offered (maybe a little passive aggressively) to clean up after him. Cue the snickering other chefs as Robin responded that all she wants to be is his “civilized housemate.”

Elimination: Before all the “family” tensions rocked the Top Chef house, Palmer dished out their elimination challenge: Pair a pinot noir (which they got to taste) with a pork dish and serve a tasting portion for 150 hungry guests at an outdoor charity function called “Pigs & Pinot.” The chefs drew their cuts of meat randomly -… and then got cooking. Kevin has been winning up a storm, and the Atlanta-based chef explained that as a pork-lover, this challenge was especially dear to his heart. (He even has a pig tattoo!) Also passionate: the Voltaggio brothers, who were clearly feeling the heat to impress their former boss. Remember last week how supportive Bryan was of his younger brother … who placed in the bottom … rushing to his defense? This week, their rivalry flared up as the two battled over saran wrap while finishing their prep.

Winners: This week’s top 4 very well could be the chefs who make it to the finals. They were: Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, Jennifer and Kevin, all of whom impressed the panel of judges, which included Palmer and Food & Wine editor Dana Cowin, with their pairing skills. Best of all, Kevin got “deep into that wine,” as Tom Colicchio said, and won the challenge with his terrine dish.

Losers: Less delicious: Robin, whose thin cut pork felt slimy; Laurine‘s rillette, which Cowin said resembled “cat food”; and Ash‘s cold, clammy pork tenderloin. Fresh from an embarrassing Judges’ Table last week … – remember that “Picasso paintbrush” comment, anyone? … – Ash was given his marching orders. … -Brian Orloff

Tell us: Did the judges make the right decision? Who are your predictions for the finals? Justin Stephens/Bravo

You May Like