Top Chef Chicago: Grab Your Popcorn (or Tapioca “Caviar”)… It’s Movie Night!

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

MARK (right): OK, Ryan, so we’re creating a dish based on one of our favorite movies. I’m thinking…

RYAN: Dumb and Dumber, right?

MARK: Er….

RYAN: Old School!

MARK: Huh? What about Bad Boy Bubby?

RYAN: Or the one with the kid! And the b.b. gun! And the glass leg lamp! C’mon, what’s that movie?

Not exactly verbatim, but pretty close. And yet… Dumb and Dumber they were not. They actually made something impressive based on A Christmas Story. We’ll get to the cooking after the jump.

And, as always, we reveal the winner and loser below…

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

First, we will get out of the way what we suspect people are griping about this morning. Richard did work for Daniel Boulud and did end up doing well in the quickfire and winning the elimination challenge. Despite Boulud’s little speech about not playing favorites (Ryan also briefly worked in his kitchen), working for him must have at least given Richard a leg up in knowing what Boulud’s preferences and expectations were. Then again, the caliber of contestant gets better every season, and we’re sure it’s fairly difficult to find ones whose paths wouldn’t overlap with certain chefs or each other.

So, in the elimination challenge, each team created a course based on a favorite movie — to be served to movie critic Richard Roeper and actor Aisha Tyler, among others. We loved this theme. It was fun, and it’s something we home cooks have certainly done, especially at Oscar parties.

The winning team, helmed by Richard, chose Charlie and the Chocolate Factory — surprise! — and created a smoked salmon with faux caviar, made from tapioca pearls, and white chocolate. We understood Zoi’s frustration when she said backstage, “If that’s what they want, then see you later.” We hear ya, Zoi. A little is fun. A lot is alienating to the average cook.

We preferred Ryan and Mark’s quail and egg roll, inspired by the family’s Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant in A Christmas Story. So witty and down to earth. We also liked Stephanie and Lisa’s savory caramel sauce over steak. Inventive, but not crazy.

Manuel took the fall for the Good Morning, Vietnam spring roll he created with Spike. It was Spike’s dish, but Manuel did choose the unappealing sea bass, something that wasn’t discussed. Manuel seemed like one of the good guys. His goodbye speech couldn’t have been more sweet or humble, which made it sad to see him go.

As far as the quickfire challenge, where contestants had to display technique, we were a bit bored. Yes, knife skills are important, but it seemed a bit showy. We would recommend watching Padma’s video, though, as she was actually kind of refreshing the way she chatted about it.

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(All images: Bravo)