‘Top Chef: California’ episode 11 review: The rise and fall of the Pink Dragon

Top Chef -Thursday night’s “Top Chef” episode may have been one of our favorites of the entire season, and there are a pretty wide array of reasons for that. Let’s start just with the concept itself: We always love it when the show chooses to press creativity and variety more so than everyone making one particular food. We want to see people out of their comfort zone.

The show really started this with the Quickfire in Oakland, where everyone came up with their own hilarious rap name in order to come up with some cuisine that was inspired by this said alter ego. What we had as a result of all this was some rather interesting and edgy food! The “Pink Dragon” Karen came up with a very nice rendition of hot-and-sour soup, but Isaac in the end had the best dish of all with barbecue scallops along with some grits. Every person in some way played up to their strengths, but did so in a way that was edgy and fun. Nobody seemed bummed out at the end of it, and that’s always nice to see.

We loved the elimination challenge, since it involved cooking not only food from different parts of the world, but also food that was from a particular point in time. At first, we were all about what Marjorie was doing with ancient India, but her bread apparently left something to be desired. Meanwhile, Amar staged a really epic comeback after struggling during Restaurant Wars; sure, his draw in French cuisine played somewhat to his strengths and his culinary-school experience, but it doesn’t really matter when you tackle something as challenging as what he did and deliver on it almost perfectly. We would gladly take everything that he had coupled with some of the Chinese food that we saw from Kwame. These two guys plus Carl were in the top three.

Unfortunately for Marjorie, she was in the bottom alongside Karen and Jeremy, which was somewhat ironic given that she’s been basically the bread-master of this entire season. While there were some pretty big misses in the last two elimination challenges, what made this one fun was that nobody necessarily did a terrible job. Honestly, we were surprised by the end result of Karen leaving. Her Japanese dish was knocked for having too many Chinese components, but going into the elimination it seemed like the judges were harsher on Jeremy. While he may have made a decent chowder, it was hardly the sort of chowder that Gold Rush era miners would have enjoyed. He probably strayed the most from the challenge, and that is sometimes trouble.

It’s times like these we wonder if past performances do, even unconsciously, play into decisions. Jeremy has struggled more as of late, but he was a beast in the early part of this season. While we’re sad to see Karen go, we’re really feeling rewarded as a whole here based on just how fun and entertaining this season is at the moment. Episode Grade: A-.

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