Kathie Lee Spits Out Top Chef’s Food on Live TV
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Tired TOP CHEF contestants are already showing the tell-tale signs of stress (sweating, cursing, and throwing down their towels), but no one falls apart more than frequent sobster Ariane. This shy restaurant owner/mommy may have finally found her self-confidence last week with her highly acclaimed turkey dish, but the question still remains: can Ariane keep the sunshine coming, or will she revert to her blubbering self?

This week, guest chef Rocco DiSpirito joined the show to push the contestants harder than ever before. The first to crack under pressure was surfer chef Jeff (a.k.a. “The Hair”). As usual, he had too many ideas running around in that pretty little head of his during the quick fire challenge. When asked to prepare just a bite of breakfast, he filled an entire plate.

To everyone’s surprise, Ariane held her composure and produced a stuffed French toast that made Chef Rocco moan. But, even with her new found confidence, Ariane was beaten. Flirty Leah (and her abundant self-assurance) won immunity for the second time in a row.

Chefs were then challenged to prepare a two-and-a-half-minute cooking demonstration for television, causing a panic in the kitchen. Only a few contestants had ever attempted to cook and talk through an interview at the same time. One by one, talented cooks plummeted to defeat with the demands of the challenge.

Soon-to-be-wed Alex thought he could stand out with a dessert dish, but poor time management left him with a soggy crème brulee, Team Rainbow’s last survivor, Jamie, served the judges an undercooked egg, and country hick Melissa’s shrimp were so spicy that Tom Colicchio coughed his into a napkin—yikes! Leah was her own brand of disaster (slow, unprepared, and wooden on camera), but the quick fire immunity kept her safe.

Some highlights: Ariane made an uncomplicated salad of tomatoes and watermelon. Though it was a simple dish to prepare, she executed it perfectly and came in on time—whew! Fabulously coifed Jeff did well, too, finding a perfect combination of blonde head shakes and cooking skill for the cameras. Fabio, worried that his accent was too thick for television, was a natural. His Italian pronunciations charmed the judges, and his presentation was effortless.

In a wonderfully evil twist (man, I love those), judges named the bottom three and the top three chefs but postponed final decisions until the following day. Potential boo-hooers Melissa, Jamie, and Alex had to sweat it out for the night.

The top three chefs, Fabio, Jeff, and Ariane, didn’t have to wait till the next day. They were woken up at two a.m. by Tom Colicchio for a special surprise: prepare the dishes again and have them judged live on The Today Show! Groggy but excited chefs stumbled to the kitchen to get chopping.

One by one, the Today Show hosts sampled the dishes. Ariane was given nods, and Fabio earned some yummy noises, but pretty-boy Jeff and his lettuce rolls weren’t so lucky. His jaw dropped as Kathy Lee spit his dish into the sink on live TV!

Jeff mentally curled up into a ball as Today Show hosts had an on-air voting huddle. Ariane was finally announced the winner of the day with supportive comments. “It wasn’t very original,” they said, “but good is good.” Yep, good is good. And watermelon goes down much easier than spicy lettuce rolls first thing in the morning.

Ariane, whose prize included a chance to cook on The Today Show again this week, claims that she is “back in the game.” Here’s hoping that she can keep her self-doubt in check and quit sobbing in the food for good. As for Alex and his undercooked crème brulee, he was sent home to enjoy his upcoming wedding, where he can leave dessert preparation to the catering staff.

Speaking of weddings, on next week’s show, the chefs will be creating something special for show judge Gail Simmons at her bridal shower. Picky Gail and a room full of her foodie girlfriends? Oh, yes…it could all go terribly wrong. In fact, I’m counting on it!

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