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'Top Chef': Finally, a shocking exit


The surprises in the eighth season of “Top Chef” have been few and far between. But Wednesday night the judges blew the lid off the pressure cooker, sending finals favorite Angelo out the door for a potato soup that even Tom Colicchio, who has a seemingly spiritual connection to sodium chloride, found too salty.

You can’t say it was the wrong call, although Tiffany (a mushy jambalaya) and Carla (an insipid apple soup) must have assumed it was really their turn to exit. In a challenge that felt far less gimmicky than some of this all-star season’s sillier tests (having to make stuffing with neither cutlery nor utensils comes to mind), the remaining seven cooks had three hours to assemble a kitchen, shop for and prepare a meal inside a Target for 100 store employees. In the middle of the night, with no apparent sink and ingredients—let’s be honest about Target’s groceries for a minute—that don’t exactly include baby asparagus, heirloom tomatoes or organic celery root. And good luck finding a chinois on Target’s shelves. 

Given that professional chefs typically cook at incredibly high heat on both the cook top and in the oven, the lack of searing flames compelled several contestants to run for cover and make soup, which seems both safe and stupid. The food the judges deemed the most enjoyable came from chefs who somehow found a way to cook pork two ways (Richard), grill cheese sandwiches (Dale, who brilliantly used a steam iron, perhaps set to “linen,” to brown the top half of his bread) and poach eggs (Antonia, or did she fry them?).

Dale won the elimination challenge (and a $25,000 prize), a nice double after taking the Quickfire for his pretzel and potato chip shortbread cookie.

Angelo decided to make a deconstructed baked potato, or as he called it when served to the judges, baked potato soup with bacon, onions, sour cream, potato skins, scallions and grated cheddar cheese. It looked good enough, but apparently tasted like salty Spackle.

Angelo claimed that his palate was so fatigued he couldn’t detect how thick and off the concoction was, but what was Mike’s excuse? He was working incredibly closely with his bff, and while he counseled Angelo that the soup was a bit thick, Mike didn’t stage the necessary culinary intervention.

The happiest guy at the end of the night? Richard. We assumed they would keep Angelo around, if only because he’s been strong all season, with two wins (two more than Tiffany) and several top finishes. With Angelo knocked out, it’s a bit like losing Duke in your NCAA pool in the Sweet 16. Who can beat Richard now?

It’s hard to make a really strong case for any of the other remaining chefs.

Carla always seems thisclose to serving nothing but air on a plate, Dale’s lack of range is sooner or later going to be a problem, Tiffany has more bottom finishes than any of the remaining chefs and Mike — well, we can’t quite figure out why he’s even still around. Maybe it falls to Antonia, then, to beat out Richard. With Angelo gone, we have no idea who else might be able to.

--John Horn

Photo of Angelo Sosa in "Top Chef":  David Giesbrecht/Bravo 

Comments () | Archives (8)

A shocking exit, yes, but "finally"? Jennifer Carroll early in the show's run wasn't shocking? Okay, I know I'm nit-picking here, especially since you've come over to my position on Antonia. NOW this will be fun, and don't understimate Dale either.

I don't think you've given Dale enough credit. The man goes from winning dim sum challenges, to complicated WD-40 fare, to basic soup & sandwiches. I think he has shown m0re range and matured considerably from season4 than people give him credit for.

So, Dale's salt lick last week didn't send him home but Angelo's salty Spackle did? Judges, where's your consistency?!

I don't blame Mikey for Angelo's soup. He didn't say it was not salty enough. He said, "It was missing something" and Angelo thought that meant salt. But Carla's apple water got through? Seriously.

Oh, salty Spackle. *snort*giggle* /apparently I'm a 13 year old boy...

I knew that it was over for Angelo the minute that he put both salt and bacon into the soup to give it more flavor. That was basically giving a double dose of salt since bacon is so salty.

I do like Richard, but I wonder why you think he is the leading candidate to win. Has he won any of the final challenges yet. He is consistent, but he also consistenly overthinks and stresses himself out so much.

The Quickfire challenge was the best one ever. How did you miss mentioning the great comedy from the Sesame Street characters?! I thought it was the most entertaining segment all season.

Man, good point the competition is getting pretty weak. I wouldn’t mind if Antonia or Dale left next. They are not worthy of the title of Top Chef and frankly they’re getting annoying. I’d say Angelo had more skill, but wasn’t much better in the personality category. I’m sad to see his Bromance with Mike broken up though.

Muppets! Muppets! It's like you went on a trip to Hawaii and forgot to take pictures of the Ocean. Dude -- muppets!

I disagree with Mr. Horn about Dale having a "limited range." He has won 3 elimination challenges for a dim sum dish (Chinese), Sunny Side Up Egg Dumpling, Braised Pork Belly, Milk Ramen with Bacon, Beef, and Pork (Fine Dining-Continental), and Rib Eye Grilled Cheese Sandwich & Tomato Soup (Casual Dining-American). What is limited about that? He also won a Quickfire Challenge that consisted of prepping a fish and and cooking a gourmet dish from the fish parts to Anthony Bourdain. So far, Dale has won 7 challenges (4 Quickfires and 3 Eliminations). Richard has only won 5 (3 Quickfires and 2 Eliminations--and 4 of those challenges were shared with other cooks whereas Dale won 6 of his challenges by himself!). So far, I think the record speaks for itself that Dale has been a far superior (and more diversified) cook than Richard. I think the problem with Richard is that he doesn't follow the rules (he was told not to make a chocolate & banana fondue and HE DID!) and he was discouraged from making a zucchini cookie (and HE DID!). He's not thinking smart because he's not thinking about his audience. Whereas I believe Dale is thinking smart (making fish tacos for an outdoor event) and being creative (using potato chips for a shortbread cookie and irons for a ribeye grilled cheese sandwich). At this point, I'm predicting Dale will win it all.


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