Top Chef Chicago: Episode 3...What's in Your Pantry?

We think the good folks at Bravo might be reading our minds. Just when we are enjoying some great kitchen tours and thinking it's time to bring back the cupboard challenge, Top Chef sends its contestants into a neighborhood in Chicago to poke around people's kitchens (we wish we could have seen more of one charming, all-white kitchen filled with fresh fruit) and cook a block party buffet using what they find.

Note: We reveal the winner and loser after the jump.

Before the contestants went door to door in the neighborhood, they had to impress guest judge Rick Bayless in the Quickfire challenge by creating an upscale taco. There was quite a bit of debate on the show as well as on the blogs about how upscale Mexican food should (or could) be. We think Mexican can be elegant, but we're not sure a taco is the best ambassador for illustrating the point. It felt as though Richard won the challenge simply because he made his taco — wrapped in a jicama "shell" — look fancy, regardless of how it tasted.

On to the elimination challenge. The chefs divided themselves into two teams, red and blue, and had to use their pantry finds to create food for a neighborhood block party. The red team immediately decided on classic american food, which, honestly, sounded good to us. We've never met a corndog we didn't like.

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But upscale won again. The blue team, who still had some duds on their side (Nikki's lifeless mac-n-cheese?), impressed the judges with their Sexy Drink and fresh fruit dessert. Both of those were Stephanie's dishes, so she won the challenge. At least she redeemed herself with the sugared won-ton on top of the dessert, since a chip mishap almost sent her home last week.

As for the loser... Erik was eliminated because his corndogs didn't weather the trip to the block party so well. They were soggy once they were served. Fair point, but we are starting to get frustrated with chefs being axed because their food doesn't travel well. Valerie had the same problem last week.

These contestants aren't full-time caterers. Can't we let them serve the food hot from the kitchen?

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(Images: Bravo)