By People Staff
Updated November 20, 2008 12:00 AM
Credit: Virginia Sherwood /NBC(2)

On Wednesday’s Top Chef, the remaining 15 contestants were forced to reckon with one of the Big Apple’s most iconic street foods: the hot dog. In the show’s opening Quickfire Challenge, the competitors had to create a signature hot dog in 45 minutes. As a twist, their creation would be compared to a classic dog prepared by a legendary vendor, Dominick’s truck, from Queens.

With two uber-competitive European chefs in the kitchen for this challenge, there were bound to be some lost-in-translation moments. And hilarity.

Italian chef Fabio Viviani offered one of the night’s earliest chuckle-worthy moments with his earnest (and heavily accented) confession. “I love hot dog,” the chef said. “Do I know how make hot dog? No, I have no idea how make hot dog! I know how make sausage.” Meanwhile, Finnish chef Stefan Richter took a more global approach to the challenge, cooking up what he dubbed the “world dog,” complete with Cheddar cheese from the States, Irish tartar sauce, Italian meat and a German beer. Other chefs adopted an equally diverse approach, including many who questionably brought the hot dog into a sushi context. Others, like Radhika Desai, were more successful: She offered an Indian-spiced kebab dog that impressed guest judge Donatella Arpaia, and won her immunity.

As for those Europeans, well, Arpaia and Padma Lakshmi were thrilled with Fabio’s dish, semantics aside. His hot dog–sorry, sausage–earned points for his Mediterranean flavor. Meanwhile, Stefan was panned for his mishmash of cultures and flavors. “I wouldn’t want to go anywhere around the world for that hot dog,” Arapaia said.

Then, the chefs were presented with their elimination challenge–another all-American task: The contestants would split into three groups of five to prepare a three-course New American lunch at head judge Tom Colicchio‘s flagship eatery, Craft. The twist? They’d be cooking for Top Chef hopefuls–chefs who auditioned for this season and were denied. Yeah, that was going to be a tough crowd.

So, the group split in three, and hit the kitchen. The groups were: Appetizers: Jamie, Hosea, Fabio, Melissa and Leah Entr es: Stefan, Alex, Eugene, Jill and Jeff Dessert: Carla, Ariane, Richard, Daniel and Radhika

After cooking their dishes, diners ordered three courses and filled out comment cards. They also addressed the cameras and–predictably–had little positive to say about the food. Neither did the judges, as it turned out. Much of the food was underwhelming–and Colicchio said he felt that the group effort seemed dated and unsophisticated–taking American cuisine back in time.

But there were bright spots: Jamie‘s cold corn chowder earned praise for its texture and subtle incorporation of mint. Carla‘s pastry impressed Colicchio. And Fabio’s beef Carpaccio dish with its “spherical olives” won over the judges, nabbing the Italian chef his first major win in, interestingly, an American-themed challenge.

In the bottom: Ariane‘s too-sweet lemon curd dessert caused Padma to spit out the custard into her napkin. Hosea‘s tinny, treacly crab dish bombed. And Jill‘s ostrich egg quiche was the chef’s undoing. Actually, her lame-brain failure to defend herself–even Gail Simmons said Jill’s defense of her gluey, tasteless dish was among the lamest in five seasons of the Bravo show … may have helped shove her out the door. Seriously, didn’t she seem out of her element? –Brian Orloff

Tell us: Did Jill’s dish seem to be the worst, or did Ariane deserve to go for making Padma spit out her food? And is dressing up a hot dog in anything other than a bun, mustard and saurkraut just wrong?

Check back for our exclusive Q&A with Jill.

Kelsey McNeal/ABC (2)