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'Top Chef': What's with all the catfighting and fooling around?

July 15, 2010 |  6:00 am

11 What's about to boil over on "Top Chef" isn't necessarily in the kitchen.

They--and that could mean the show's contestants, and that could mean the show's producers--have hit that point where the chef's personal conduct is getting almost as much screen time as the cooking. Some of this season's food might be under seasoned, but the scheming has never been spicier.

Episode five opened with some bizarre behavior. Angelo continued to hit on Tamesha with all the subtlety of a meat grinder, making the strange (and, frankly, gross) claim that she possesses "an inner passion...that's really something that I'd really like to extract from her."

It made us long for the comparatively palatable flirting between Hosea and Leah two years back.

Later, Angelo and Kenny fought to become the show's alpha male, with Kenny boasting, "No one's going to beat me in that area." Ed, when he wasn't swooning over Tiffany, complained about Alex, "He's just annoying."

The women, naturally, were about as impressed by the strutting peacocks as you'd expect: if this were a dish served in a restaurant, they'd not just send it back but leave the place altogether. And who wants to eat food from a chef who admits he's had crabs (and not to eat), as Angelo did?

"This is a train wreck," Andrea observed accurately. "Because it's really difficult to work with all these people."

But don't pity the onlookers. Shed a tear for the crabs.

In what played liked a "Red Asphalt" negative impact film for impressionable shellfish ("Don't go near those traps, or this is what could happen to you!"), a truckload of crabs were abused so badly in the episode's quickfire challenge that you'd be tempted to write a big check to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or hijack one of the show's Toyota Siennas and stage a liberation raid.

Alive and kicking, the crabs were dusted with seasonings and thrown into the oven to bake to death. They were cleaved in two while still squirming. Tossed into a saute pan clutching for something to hold onto. Jammed into a pressure cooker that became an instant tomb. I've never been happier I'm allergic to shellfish.

Ed won the quickfire--"I feel I'm coming out of my shell a little bit," he said, without a pinch of irony--and thus achieved immunity from the elimination challenge, a family-style dinner prepared at a Virginia farm touted as organic and humane (do they take crabs as boarders?).

Timothy, who has shown flashes of mediocrity, was sent home for failing to master potatoes and turnips. Kenny finally won an elimination challenge, meaning that the battle between he and Angelo will only grow fiercer in the weeks ahead.

If that can keep Angelo focused on his food and not his rico suave, that would be a good thing.

--John Horn

Photo of Kenny killing some "Top Chef" crabs: David Giesbrecht/Bravo