Top Chef

Nachos, popcorn and hotdog bun soup? 'Top Chefs' serve up a mess

March 3, 2011 at 9:22 AM ET

By Liane Bonin of

Five chefs remain – and one of them is Tiffany. Huh. Richard can’t believe Dale went home last week, neither can Tiffany and for that matter, color me stumped, too. What no one says (except for Tiffany) is that everyone was pretty sure she was packing her knives last week, as she’s seemed to be circling the drain for a while now. I’m not saying she isn’t talented, but some of her dishes have seemed, if not inedible, a little rough. At this stage in the competition, the bar has been raised awfully high and I’m just not sure she’s firing on all burners, so to speak.

Anyway, the chefs are wandering around the apartment, trying to sort out what those infernal judges are up to. Antonia thinks Padma’s going to show up at the apartment. Two seconds later, Padma shows up at the apartment. Zoinks! Padma orders everyone up to the roof and reveals the Quickfire will be taking place at Ellis Island.

Or so she implies. The poor little chefs climb aboard the ferry to Ellis Island only to discover, mwhahaha, the Quickfire will actually be taking place on the ferry. And they have to make something edible out of the disgusting crap that passes for snacks on the ferry. I’m sorry, but I don’t think this is even fair. I mean, anyone who’s been to Ellis Island has seen the snack bar and, unless so starved they’ve started to eyeball their own foot as a food source, walked (or weaved) right past it. Richard says blech, and I agree. Seriously, this is like asking the chefs to make a meal out of what they find in a garbage disposal.

The poor little chefs wait for the horn to blow, signaling the beginning of the challenge, then scurry like rats to find something that isn’t entirely disgusting with which to work. Richard pulls an MRE (meal ready to eat) bag out of his kit, which he plans to use to cook his food while everyone else battles over the microwave. I can’t decide if this is crafty or cheating on Richard’s part. But I guess it’s just a cooking apparatus and thus really no different than a special knife or other gizmo.

The ferry arrives at Ellis Island and Padma boards with guest chef Dan Barber, co-owner of Blue Hill. Wow, Dan is really taking one for the team on this challenge. He’s all about sustainable food and now he’s going to eat what looks like school lunch leftovers.

Richard makes little hot dog banh mi sandwiches which don’t look half bad. They don’t look half good, either, but considering what he’s working with, good job. Tiffany makes nachos and popcorn — oh, she dresses up the popcorn with some dried fruit. Wow, that’s what I call trying, Tiffany. Mike makes hot dog bun soup, which he admits he wouldn’t feed to his cat. Carla makes an orange salad with a sprinkling of dried fruit and rosemary essence. Where’d she get rosemary essence? Clever, Carla. Antonia made a cheese sandwich. Although it looks kind of tasty, Antonia isn’t going to win points for originality, either.

On the bottom, Tiffany’s nachos and Mike’s soup. Richard, Antonia and Carla are on top. The winner is… Carla. Go, Carla! Richard is bitter, because he feels Carla just made stupid orange salad. Don’t be a baby, Richard. If you haven’t learned that the judges always choose what tastes best over originality, you haven’t been paying attention.  

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