The chefs bake for Cookie Monster and his Sesame Street pals
Credit: David Giesbrecht/Bravo

Wednesday’s Top Chef was a feat of endurance for the remaining contestants who endured one of their toughest challenges yet – a late-night cooking competition at Target, where they built their cooking stations from scratch.

First, though, the chefs faced a decidedly more genteel task – to bake a delicious cookie for one of the pastry’s most iconic connoisseurs: Cookie Monster!

Yes, the beloved Sesame Street character was joined by Telly Monster and Elmo to judge the chefs’ Quickfire challenge. While some chefs (like Dale Talde) admitted they were a bit rusty in the cooking-making department, Antonia Lofaso was confident she could win.

Her gooey, chocolate cookie with caramel earned praise from the Sesame Street characters for its taste, though they weren’t exactly enthralled with its look. In fact, Elmo quipped that the cookie resembled a “cow chip.” Good thing it didn’t taste like one! But the delicious treat wasn’t enough to earn her the Quickfire win. That, instead, went to Dale.

Midnight Snack

Then it was over to Target, after midnight, where the chefs had three hours to case the megastore for cooking equipment and materials to set up their own cooking stations. Carts whizzed down the aisle as the contestants sweated and scoured the shelves, grabbing toaster ovens, blenders and linens. Oh, and they also had to pick out their food from Target’s grocery section. Their bounty would have to feed 100 Target employees, who trekked into the store for a 3 a.m. snack.

With the focus on setting up their kitchens, many chefs spent less time conceiving of their dishes. But what to make?

Let’s just say there was a preponderance of soups. Mike Isabella made a spicy coconut broth, while Angelo Sosa whipped up a too-thick and too-salty potato soup with bacon. Carla Hall, who’s been on a winning streak recently, was stymied by all the running around. Her curry apple soup didn’t have enough time to develop flavor, and the judges noticed.

Dale made soup too – spicy tomato soup, to be exact – but he also served a grilled cheese sandwich with steak, which he ingeniously pressed using a hot iron. The resulting sandwich had enough crunch and flavor to win approval from the Target employees and the judges, nabbing Talde another big win and $25,000.

Equally impressive: the (few) other chefs who decided not to make soup. Antonia’s soft-cooked egg dish and Richard Blais’s pork, prepared two ways, showed sophistication and resourcefulness – though not enough to outpace Dale this week.

In the end, it was Angelo’s time to go home for his sodium-rich soup.