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'Top Chef' recap: Jamie's hidden talents

December 23, 2010 |  3:14 pm

Tc photo 
I hope I never find myself inside a bank during an armed robbery, but if anyone happens to hold up Wells Fargo while I’m in there arguing over service fees, I know who I want to hide with — Jamie.

The “Top Chef All-Star” contestant did Doug Henning one better in Wednesday’s episode, as she tried to vanish — along with her apparently awful dish — right in front of both her teammates and the judges.
For the most part, “Top Chef” participants don’t have the opportunity (or, perhaps, the sneakiness) to resort to “Survivor”-like combat strategies, but Jamie and maybe one other contestant might have played a little dirty in the episode that sent Spike off.

The elimination challenge divided the remaining cooks into two teams, who then had to select individual contestants to face an opponent in a tennis-themed showdown. As in any match play team event, from academic decathlons to the Ryder Cup, there’s always a bit of strategy. Do you lead with your best competitor and hope to grab an early lead, or do you save your best for last and close with a flurry?
Jamie settled on a third option: Disappear.

She might not have been cooking chicken, but she behaved like one. At one point, the “Top Chef” cameras found her ducking behind a table as her potential turn approached, apparently in the hope that her teammates wouldn’t send her into the fray. We’ll never know how her dish would have fared, as her invisibility cloak kept her and her food on the sidelines. However wimpy the tactic (remember, she was already in the doghouse for heading to the hospital with a knife cut), Jamie was able to save herself, potentially at the price of Spike’s losing.

Richard called Jamie out for the cowardly act, and as Spike was packing his knives he remarked of her, “This is a competition, and at some point you’re going to have to compete.” We can’t imagine a lot of cooks are going to want to work with her down the line.

But if Jamie was following some dodgy rules, was Angelo actually playing dirty? Two of his teammates — Spike and Tre — felt that Angelo’s last-minute ministrations might have sent their otherwise-good dishes to the scrap heap. We’re never one to underestimate Angelo’s craftiness, but his culinary instincts are almost always unassailable, even if he appeared to have cooked Tre’s salmon just a bit too much.

These are all grownups, and they have doubtlessly watched enough “Top Chef” reruns to know that you can always refuse someone’s assistance if you don’t trust them. Or better yet, hide.

-- John Horn

Photo: Angelo Sosa, Jamie Lauren in "Top Chef All-Stars." Credit: Barbara Nitke/Bravo