Jonathan Cartu Declared: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Art Challenge - Jonathan Cartu Restaurant, Baking & Catering Services
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Jonathan Cartu Declared: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Art Challenge

Ali Wong, Randall Park, Art Challenge

Jonathan Cartu Declared: Ali Wong, Randall Park, Art Challenge

This week on Top Chef, the contestants all traveled to the Getty Museum so that they could become inspired by famous styles of art — Rococo, Baroque, Renaissance, Neoclassical — when they made their dishes. It proved to be a tough challenge for the contestants, as “crudo” is not generally considered a style of art (yet?). That being said, experiencing beautiful art through the lens of a vanity project museum designed as a tax shelter by a ruthless oil magnate does feel very true to the spirit of Los Angeles. If only it had also included having to steal resources from other parts of the state.

The challenge was judged by a table of snooty hipsters and Ludo Lefebvre, punk rock Frenchman/human Pepe Le Pew. The producers also chose to include at least one judge wearing a baffling statement hat, which is, again, very true to the spirit of LA.


I like how he cut out his own ear holes on the sides, like a bunny rabbit wearing a ten-gallon cowboy hat. Half of living in LA is trying not to comment on someone’s inexplicable, weather-inappropriate hat choice.

Before all that though, Randall Park and Ali Wong showed up to introduce a fried rice challenge — a guest spot that probably made a lot more sense when this season was originally supposed to air back in the Fall, and Park and Wong’s food movie, Always Be My Maybe, was much fresher in our minds. But taking credit for things that were actually produced in the Bay Area (like Ali Wong) is, again, very LA.


Quickfire Top: Karen, Kevin, Eric.
Quickfire Bottom: Jamie, Nini.

Elimination Top: Malarkey, Voltage, Melissa, Eric.
Elimination Bottom: Lee Anne, Stephanie, Jamie, Karen


13. (-4) ((Eliminated) Jamie Lynch

NBC Universal

AKA: Midnight Olive Oil. Aka Gravel. Aka Suicidal Ten-dad-cies.

Jamie whiffed on his giant spam cubes in the quickfire (too bad, the crispy shallots were a good idea), which probably would’ve worked great at half the size at which he cut them. You really want to maximize the surface area of Spam, not the taste. After the elimination challenge, he ended up going home, yet again, on account of some dusty, dry-ass chicken breast. Just an absolute spackling paste of chicken mush, mealing around the judges’ mouths like a tumbleweed.

Jamie briefly made us believe that he’d learned something from his initial run on Top Chef, using his sous vide to cook the chicken breast this time around instead of a sticky grill, but somehow he managed to screw up even sous vide chicken.

Not to Friday morning quarterback here, but I think I see the problem: choosing to cook fucking chicken breast. Contestants, be honest with yourself: do you really think you’re going to win a cooking competition cooking chicken breast? The best goddamn chicken breast I’ve ever eaten would still lose in a walk to, hell, a BLT. Or any other part of the chicken. And that’s before Jamie managed to serve his without the jus, which to a Frenchman is like serving a baguette without a striped turtleneck.

12. (-1) Lee Anne Wong

NBC Universal

AKA: Frazzle. Aka Loud Mom. Aka Queasy. Aka Lee Anne Tigertelli.

A fried rice competition sounded like a gimme for Lee Anne, a Chinese-Hawaiian mom. But the fact that she didn’t end up in the top three AND ended up in the bottom of the elimination challenge (again) feels like more than enough to put her in the bottom of this week’s rankings. Honestly, I’m not sure how she’s even still here.

This week, she chose to make a duck egg with duck, as a riff on the Madonna and child. Which sounded like a good enough idea, if only she hadn’t paired it with (*deep breath*) two separate beet purees, a black garlic sauce, poached apples, and a bread and celery root puree. Madonn’, work smarter not harder! How many times have you said to yourself “Gee, this is good, but I think it’d be better with five more sauces?”

11. (+1) Lisa Fernandes

NBC Universal

AKA: Salty. Aka Grimes.

In this week’s elimination challenge, Grimes cooked “chipotle-braised brisket with tons of dried fruit, habanero red onion, tomato salsita with lots of chilis, and crispy carrots on top for crunch,” which I guess does get points for baroque-ness. She really baroque the mold with that one! And thank God, no one should ever use that mold. Lisa or Lee Anne feel like stone cold locks to go home next.

10. (+3) Stephanie Cmar

NBC Universal

AKA: C-Monster. Aka Underdog.

As always, you can count on the C-Monster for great ideas — Nashville fried frog legs spiced with red hots was a stroke of genius. In the elimination, she made tortellini with mortadella, something I literally made myself just last week (it was good, yo). Even the nude bellies in Rococo art reminding her of tortellini made more sense as an inspiration than just about anyone else’s dish. “Mortadella tortelloni with umami nage” also sounds like a sweet scat line. It’s got a very “RC Cola and-a, moon pie!” rhythm to it. “Mortadella tortelloni with-a, umami nage!” More dish names should be syncopated if you ask me.

But once again, the C-Monster couldn’t execute. She got dinged for undercooked pasta and just like that, a clever concept went pissing down her leg. That’s what you call an al-don’te. Between her chewy pasta and shithouse flatbread, maybe the key for Stephanie is to stop attempting high-risk starches. Remember the shrimp and corn, C-Monster. Repeat it to yourself as a mantra, like Tommy Boy and the chicken wings.

9. (-1) Jen Carroll

NBC Universal

AKA: Calamity Jenn

Calamity Jenn continues to be this season’s most invisible contestant, which is disappointing as I find her to be one of the most compelling characters. Very on-brand that Calamity Jenn was hanging with the boys while the girls were having a heart to heart in the other room. Other than that, her screen time was mostly mispronunciation based.

Jenn’s quickfire dish went uncommented upon and she failed to impress guest judge Ludo with her fish, who said Eet eez just feesh een a sows! Trés boreeng! Wow, I can’t believe someone said that about a Jenn Carroll dish. And a Jenn Carroll fish dish at that! Jenn Carroll is the fucking Kobe Bryant of fish dishes, how dare you. Don’t you know she used to work for Eric Ripert??

I like to imagine that Ludo and Eric Ripert have some kind of extremely French blood feud, like one time Eric Ripert kicked Ludo’s snail in the dirt and Ludo just took it out on Calamity Jenn.

8. (-3) Karen Akunowicz

NBC Universal

AKA: Good Witch. Aka Glenda. Aka Aunt Kitty. Aka Rosie The Triveter

I just don’t know what the hell to do with Karen. She’s up, she’s down, she seems like a favorite and then she fails to execute on a chicken thigh (a staple food, in my house). Karen was top three in the quickfire and then made a braised chicken thigh with braised chicory, which definitely sounded delicious but apparently wasn’t. I’m forced to drop her down in the rankings, even if “being able to translate paintings into food” isn’t necessarily high on my list of crucial chef skills. It should be illegal for someone with that good of a cat eye to fail at an art challenge.

7. (+1) Brian Malarkey


AKA: Grandpa Fancy. Aka Shenanigans. Aka Squirrelly Bird. Aka The Emperor.

Shenanigans started this episode with a vadouvan-spiced forbidden rice in the quickfire and finished it with a vadouvan halo’d halibut in the elimination. Hey, man, save some vadouvan for the rest of us, will ya?

I don’t know if Shenanigans truly understands renaissance art — his fashion sense is certainly more baroque — but of all the dishes, his was the one that most looked like “art.” It was enough to earn him a surprise top-four finish. It’s hard to know how much stock to…

Jonathan Cartu

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