Top Chef Chicago: Were You Surprised?

Since the elimination challenge centered around tailgating at a Bears game, we'll go with some football terminology to describe our reaction... Quarterback sneak? Blitzed? It came out of left field? OK, it wasn't a complete shock, but we really did think we had the outcome pegged until Padma opened her mouth. What about you?

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

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Two things about last night's episode delighted us. One, after a few episodes of high-concept, Richard-esque food, we were happy to see them pairing beer with food (in the Quickfire) and grilling casual, satisfying dishes we could see ourselves cooking once the weather turns warm.

Two, they finally worked alone. Every contestant could cook his or her own food without succumbing to a bossy partner or being able to hide behind more talented team members. Everyone seemed to be having fun, finally.

The food got better, too. Did anyone else notice how many positive comments were flying around at the tailgate? The judges were positively giddy when talking to the top three: Antonia, Dale, and Stephanie. We wish Antonia had won — her jerk chicken sandwich with banana and pineapple sounded right up our alley. But you can't beat ribs at a football game, we guess, and Dale won the challenge with his Indian-style pork ribs.

As for the loser, we thought it was going to be Nikki, hands down. Her cooking seems to be the kind that's always satisfying but rarely inspiring. We feel she's squeaked by a few times by being on winning teams. And yes, Ryan served inappropriate, unfriendly food to a football crowd (poached pears?), but we thought they'd keep him around for entertainment value.

We were wrong. How about you?

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(All images: Bravo)

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