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S17.E03: Strokes of Genius

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Comedic superstars Ali Wong and Randall Park swing by the Top Chef kitchen for a Quickfire Challenge tasking the chefs to make the wackiest fried rice they can; then, the chefs head to the famed Getty Museum to seek inspiration from the art.

Original air date: April 2, 2020

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The opening scene between Stephanie, Karen, and Nini was a nice start.  As was Ali complimenting Nini on her similar glasses; the mutual fangirling was fun.

I hardly ever eat rice, so fried rice isn’t my jam, but some of the combinations looked like really good hangover food.  I thought Karen’s was going to win, but, of course, I was not there to taste the top three.

I go to a lot of events at the Getty, and seeing it now, when I feel like I’m never going to be back there (or anywhere) until next year, was bittersweet.

It’s always interesting to me who gets inspired and how in these “create a dish inspired by …” challenges, who gets too caught up in their head, and who says “fuck it” and makes a dish then makes up a story to connect it to the challenge.

I really wanted the Rococo group’s food, especially Melissa’s -- that was a gorgeous bowl of food.  Malarkey’s was also impressive, but even without tasting the food, I was going to be pissed if Melissa didn’t win; she seemed a runaway winner of this challenge.

Karen being on the chopping block because of Kevin’s immunity kind of sucked; it’s not like she had a good dish, but his was pretty damn bad.  I took one look at it and said it screams “I have immunity”.  I was pretty sure Jamie was going to get knifed (the face of the chef who responded to the lack of jus like Jamie had insulted his mother was hilarious), and I’m relieved; I don’t remember anything about him, so it’s not about him, just about me not wanting to lose any of the others yet. 

Edited by Bastet
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He also said he tried something different since he did have immunity.  If he didn't have immunity he probably would have made a different dish.  

Oh those fried rice dishes - I think I wanted to try them all!

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15 hours ago, anniebird said:

If Kevin had joined a different group she would still have been on the bottom so his immunity didn't affect her at all

Of course it affected her.  Had he chosen another group, it wouldn't have, as she'd have been on the bottom of her Kevin-less group, but he didn't; he chose that group, and made the worst dish among them, but because he had immunity, she - with the second-worst dish - was eligible for elimination.

It wasn't some tragedy, nor would it have been even if she'd been the worst of the worst - not a scenario like Stephanie going home in her season for a good dish because that dickhead (Nick?) had immunity - which is why I said it "sort of" sucked; she still put out a bad dish.

15 hours ago, aquarian1 said:

He also said he tried something different since he did have immunity. 

I know he said that after the fact, but I didn't see anything daring, inventive, or take a bold chance because if it doesn't come out like I want, I have immunity, so this is the time to try this experiment about his dish.  It was ho-hum, just like hers, only it came out worse than hers.  Those stupid carrot slices?  WTF?

Edited by Bastet
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3 hours ago, Bastet said:

I go to a lot of events at the Getty, and seeing it now, when I feel like I’m never going to be back there (or anywhere) until next year, was bittersweet.

I live fairly close to the Getty, but have only been a few times. I should go once everything is normalish.

I thought the same thing after seeing all the restaurants in last week's Jonathan Gold episode.

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This type of art/movie/book themed dish is not my favorite concept.  Too forced and twee, like when Charlize Theron hosted an "evil" themed competition to promote her Snow White project.  Anyway, it's just me.

I did agree that the lobster won ton looked the most appealing.

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3 hours ago, spiderpig said:

This type of art/movie/book themed dish is not my favorite concept.  Too forced and twee, like when Charlize Theron hosted an "evil" themed competition to promote her Snow White project.  Anyway, it's just me.

I did agree that the lobster won ton looked the most appealing.

Not just you!

I agree about Michelle's dish.  Since the contestants were announced I've been cheering (if a person cheers in coronavirus solitude does anybody hear?) for her and Gregory.

 

Edited by Brookside
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10 hours ago, Bastet said:

I was pretty sure Jamie was going to get knifed (the face of the chef who responded to the lack of jus like Jamie had insulted his mother was hilarious), and I’m relieved; I don’t remember anything about him, so it’s not about him, just about me not wanting to lose any of the others yet. 

Likewise, I have no memory of Jamie from his season. His dish was apparently the worst, so I was okay with him going. That said, I didn't like this challenge, I found it too abstract. I'm simple, y'all.

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2 hours ago, Ashforth said:

That said, I didn't like this challenge, I found it too abstract.

Even though I like art (and even took a couple courses in Art History in college) I had a lot of trouble keeping the different styles separate in my mind, and remembering the "signature details" of each (other than neoclassical which I had a good idea of in my mind).

Edited by dleighg
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I love Top Chef. I've watched and rewatched every season and can't wait for Thursday nights but so far am a little disappointed with the challenges. They seem too forced and too complicated - last week it was hard to keep up with the sheer number of restaurants the chefs visited. This week it was the barrage of artistic styles to remember. Maybe my mind is mush from being cooped up for so long, but KISS, please.

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This reminded me of the Quickfire in Hung's season in which the visual of the food was key. He was stuck with items only from the cereal aisle of the grocery and made a cracked out Smurf Village. I wanted any one of the chefs to just freaking GO FOR IT like that. They all seem so tentative with what they are putting out. 

Yukon Cornelius (thank you for that, whoever coined it) did go for it in the fried rice quickfire, and that's why he won. 

I was really hoping that someone, anyone, would make a dish where all the main components were various blobs of cream colored mush with a few odd green bits and a dark red streak of sauce all on a black plate only to find out it's something like banana puree, pear puree, mint and a raspberry glaze. All of the food looked too much like FOOD. 

Edited by BlackberryJam · Reason: Typos
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10 hours ago, MerBearStare said:

I know Malarkey isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I cracked up when he said of Lee Ann's dish, "More is not better and that's *me* saying that." At least he's self-aware.

I actually really liked Malarkey in his season.  No one was going to beat Hung that season, but Malarkey was every bit as good as everyone else that season.  
 

Malarkey is definitely over the top and I think he’s probably going to rub a lot of chefs the wrong way.  I’m not sure if that’s because of his personality or the fact that he’s been hugely successful.  

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Maybe someone can explain Malarkey's "grilled raw roasted" carrot to me, because I'm having trouble picturing the technique.

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Another vote for overly contrived challenges . Inspiration from local restaurants, fine . Inspirations from fucking museum art ? Just let them cook dammit. 

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I side with the camp that doesn't like these contrived challenges to make art or improv or a book into a dish, but you cold tell who has the game figured out and knew that this was a time to survive and fight another day...yeah, I'm looking at you Bryan Voltaggio and Gregory. Cook a dish, concoct some story and move on.

What was with Nini's earrings in the QF-I get that she has her own sense of style, but I think those were more than a little over the top for a chef or a chef-testant.

Malarky has been really, really successful...he knows it, the chef-testants know it and this week the guest judge knew it since he was on the same broadcast network cooking competition show with him. Loved Ludo saying...."zoo ziss time, you ur competing" but hated Malarky's "we were on a little show called The Taste with Anthony Bourdain." For all the talk about Bryan V being a little too accomplished to be on TC Regular since he was on TC Masters, don't forget where Malarky has been!

By the way, let's hope they bring Ludo back a lot....great blend of ability to describe the dishes and critique, along with a healthy dose of snark....and not just because of the accent.

And, Karen had no real right to complain about the impact of Kevin's immunity since he didn't cause her to be there, unlike team challenges where the bad dish caused the whole team to be there and resulted in a good dish going home. That was obviously the case with Nick Elmi's dish getting Stephanie sent home in Boston. Karen's dish was bad in its own right and if Kevin had picked another team, she would have been on the bottom anyways..

Edited by AriAu
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1 hour ago, Tess23 said:

I love Top Chef. I've watched and rewatched every season and can't wait for Thursday nights but so far am a little disappointed with the challenges. They seem too forced and too complicated - last week it was hard to keep up with the sheer number of restaurants the chefs visited. This week it was the barrage of artistic styles to remember. Maybe my mind is mush from being cooped up for so long, but KISS, please.

This is one of the reasons I like the recently completed Tournament of Champions on FN even though I can't stand Guy Fieri.  They had one gimmick - the Randomizer - and it managed to produce a unique challenge in every contest.   And won by

Spoiler

Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson!

As for LeeAnn, I'm beginning to wonder if she's not the same caliber as the rest of the chefs here.  It's kind of the old school/new school debate over in the Survivor forum.  Top Chef was a different animal when she was first on, brand new and finding it's way.  There were no James Beard nominees then.   And IIRC, the years when she worked behind the scenes, her job was to test the challenges, to prove that they could be done in the time allotted.  That's not the same thing as producing a winning dish every week. 

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Right.  I think this is the third time, out of six challenges, Lee Ann was "Oh noes!!"  😮

 

I loved that show "The Taste" and I had completely forgotten Brian Malarkey was one of the judges.  At the time, I thought he was a little bit out of his league, sitting next to Bourdain, Nigella and Ludo (and then he was replaced by Marcus Samuelsson in Season 2, a better match.)

Still, that show was seven years ago and Malarkey hasn't let the grass grow under his feet.  Now he's standing out in the crowd in the opposite way.  It's a little awkward when the highly-credentialed guest judge walks in and immediately salutes his colleague.

 

The challenge was messy.  Voltaggio was criticized because the judges didn't like the element he chose to emphasize from his art genre.  Doh!   But then he won anyway.

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5 hours ago, Brookside said:

I agree about Michelle's dish.  Since the contestants were announced I've been cheering (if a person cheers in coronavirus solitude does anybody hear?) for her and Gregory.

Melissa?  I really like her.  She seems super good-natured (and we share a surname!), but I want to buy her a barrette for her hair.  She keeps running her fingers through it to get it out of her face, which.  No.  Please, no.

2 hours ago, AttackTurtle said:

I actually really liked Malarkey in his season.  No one was going to beat Hung that season, but Malarkey was every bit as good as everyone else that season.  
 

Malarkey is definitely over the top and I think he’s probably going to rub a lot of chefs the wrong way.  I’m not sure if that’s because of his personality or the fact that he’s been hugely successful.  

I love that most people just call him "Malarkey" (though not "MALARKEY!" which is what my brain bellows every time he's onscreen).  I know there are two Bri/yans this year, but I just have the feeling that it's a usual thing, not something everyone's adopted to keep them straight.

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5 minutes ago, Lovecat said:

I love that most people just call him "Malarkey" (though not "MALARKEY!" which is what my brain bellows every time he's onscreen).  I know there are two Bri/yans this year, but I just have the feeling that it's a usual thing, not something everyone's adopted to keep them straight.

when he was on "The Taste" he was one-name Malarkey, a la Bono, or Sting 🙂

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9 minutes ago, dleighg said:

when he was on "The Taste" he was one-name Malarkey, a la Bono, or Sting 🙂

I have only the faintest of recollections of that show, so thanks for the reminder.

Last night's Sniff and Sneer had extra Sneer, with Ludo along for the walkthrough!  He's just so snarkily...French 🙂

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1 hour ago, Quilt Fairy said:

 

  Reveal spoiler

Top Chef winner Brooke Williamson!

As for LeeAnn, I'm beginning to wonder if she's not the same caliber as the rest of the chefs here.  It's kind of the old school/new school debate over in the Survivor forum.  Top Chef was a different animal when she was first on, brand new and finding it's way.  There were no James Beard nominees then.   And IIRC, the years when she worked behind the scenes, her job was to test the challenges, to prove that they could be done in the time allotted.  That's not the same thing as producing a winning dish every week. 

I agree about LeeAnn. She seems to be way out of her league, here. Every week is a huge struggle. Was glad that Eric didn't try to put an African spin on his dish and did well. I love West African cuisine but that doesn't always work for some of these challenges.

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Might be the only one here, but I do find Ludo to be one attractive man minus the arm tats, and facial piercings.

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4 hours ago, AriAu said:

Malarky has been really, really successful...he knows it, the chef-testants know it and this week the guest judge knew it since he was on the same broadcast network cooking competition show with him.

Malarkey got fired and replaced by Marcus Samuelson on that show so I wouldn’t use that as an example of how successful he is.

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I've always liked Leann but I have no idea how "good" she really is. In that first season she finished fourth, one spot above the glorified sommelier. In her return season, she had to withdraw due to altitude sickness before we could really assess her.

In general, the casting really didn't kick into gear until the fourth season. Before then it was decidedly a mixed bag.

Looking at her wikipedia, I'm reminded that she appeared on Iron Chef America and won against the worst Iron Chef, Marc Forgione.

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I don't particularly care for LeeAnn. Her food has never wowed or interested me. I'm sick of seeing her be out of her depth every week.

Spoiler

If the previews from next week are anything to go by it seems like she's flapping around and running into trouble again.

***

Melissa's plate was gorgeous and I think she was previously eliminated in an artsy challenge so it was great to see her win this one. 

Also thought Gregory's sounded really yummy. That group was very strong in general despite Stephanie's undercooked pasta.

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I thought it was cool that Melissa's first restaurant job was at the Getty*. Whenever we go (ha! I've only been four times), we go to the actual restaurant, because the food there is amazing.

Yeah, Kevin's "art" dish look gross and sounded disgusting. Melissa's look gorgeous and sounded damn tasty.

*I love the Getty for putting their art on walls that are not white. All those pretentious types who say they have to have white walls for their art are wrong IMHO. The art looks so much better with a color behind it. There's this awesome James Ensor painting that is really grounded by the dark wall it's hung on.

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4 minutes ago, carrps said:

Yeah, Kevin's "art" dish look gross and sounded disgusting. Melissa's look gorgeous and sounded damn tasty.

Last week Kevin's dish looked gross and sounded disgusting (to me) and yet it won.  

There are still so many chefs that they didn't go into detail about most of  the dishes.  For example, I heard Melissa say she was making her wonton wrapper, but I didn't know it was stuffed with lobster.  I was pretty sure she was going to win, though, when Ludo said it was almost a Michelin star dish and he'd be happy to serve it in his restaurant.  Nobody was going to beat that. 

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5 hours ago, biakbiak said:

Malarkey got fired and replaced by Marcus Samuelson on that show so I wouldn’t use that as an example of how successful he is.

I was just about to come here and say that.  What I remember about Malarkey from The Taste (what a ridiculous show with its little spoons) was that he giggled a lot and wore so much thick pancake makeup and lipstick that he looked like a clown.

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5 hours ago, biakbiak said:

Malarkey got fired and replaced by Marcus Samuelson on that show so I wouldn’t use that as an example of how successful he is.

I don't think that necessarily is an example of his success but Tom basically signaled him out as probably the most successful of the Top Chef alums--at least financially--in that he started quite a few restaurants and then sold them them for quite a bit of money.

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57 minutes ago, Irlandesa said:

I don't think that necessarily is an example of his success but Tom basically signaled him out as probably the most successful of the Top Chef alums--at least financially--in that he started quite a few restaurants and then sold them them for quite a bit of money.

Padma's quote from that night on WWHL with Tom and Gail was, "He's probably richer than the three of us." 😄

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5 hours ago, Fukui San said:

I've always liked Leann but I have no idea how "good" she really is. In that first season she finished fourth, one spot above the glorified sommelier. In her return season, she had to withdraw due to altitude sickness before we could really assess her.

In general, the casting really didn't kick into gear until the fourth season. Before then it was decidedly a mixed bag.

Looking at her wikipedia, I'm reminded that she appeared on Iron Chef America and won against the worst Iron Chef, Marc Forgione.

Season 1 of top chef was kind of hilarious trainwreck cast looking back.  We had a nutritionist (Andrea), a sommelier (Stephen), a culinary student (Candice, who I think was still in culinary school), hotel chefs (Cynthia), a decent mom cook (Lisa), and Caterers (Cynthia/Ken?),  None of these would even be casted in seasons after S3.  Out of the cast, Harold, Tiffany, and Lee Anne were the only real contenders to win.

In fairness to Leanne, she did win her way back to the competition in S15.  And she got in the top 3, in the challenge, she withdrew the day after.  So she does have the capabilities of keeping up with the current group.  And it really sucks she's viewed as a lightweight this season.

That being said, Lee Anne's current dish was a hot mess though.  Not only was the dish complicated, it was really unnecessary. Lee Anne made 3 purees.  Why would someone make 3 purees for one dish?  Why?!  Why?! 3 PUREES?!

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2 hours ago, seltzer3 said:

Season 1 of top chef was kind of hilarious trainwreck cast looking back.  We had a nutritionist (Andrea), a sommelier (Stephen), a culinary student (Candice, who I think was still in culinary school), hotel chefs (Cynthia), a decent mom cook (Lisa), and Caterers (Cynthia/Ken?),  None of these would even be casted in seasons after S3.  Out of the cast, Harold, Tiffany, and Lee Anne were the only real contenders to win.

And Dave. Who could forget, "I'm not your bitch, bitch!"

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16 hours ago, BlackberryJam said:

This reminded me of the Quickfire in Hung's season in which the visual of the food was key. He was stuck with items only from the cereal aisle of the grocery and made a cracked out Smurf Village. I wanted any one of the chefs to just freaking GO FOR IT like that. They all seem so tentative with what they are putting out. 

This is my favorite Quickfire Challenge ever.  Hung realized that he was limited by his aisle in the grocery store and decided to do something fun.  That Smurf Village was epic.  

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13 hours ago, susannot said:

I was just about to come here and say that.  What I remember about Malarkey from The Taste (what a ridiculous show with its little spoons) was that he giggled a lot and wore so much thick pancake makeup and lipstick that he looked like a clown.

I mostly remember his ridiculous high-water pants.  I remember asking on TWOP when that became a thing.  I actually liked the concept of that show although its execution was spotty.  I think Tom has said there would be no point to blind tastings on Top Chef because they'd know who did what anyway, but I'm not buying it.

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11 hours ago, seltzer3 said:

We had a nutritionist (Andrea)

When Lisa was describing the brisket she was making and said prunes were the ultimate Jewish ingredient and threw in "helps you poop!" it totally reminded me of Andrea and made me LOL.

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10 hours ago, ProudMary said:

And Dave. Who could forget, "I'm not your bitch, bitch!"

Yes.  The interesting thing was that Dave was able to hang with with Harold, Lee Anne,  and Tiffany, even though he probably would not be casted in recent seasons of Top Chef.

 

One other thing I noticed about the quickfire challenge, was how they were talking about weird ingredients to use for fried rice.  Spam was one of the ingredients.  Spam is not a weird ingredient to use for fried rice, a lot of asians use Spam in fried rice (especially with Hawaii/Pacific Islanders) .  Same with hot dogs.  So it didn't surprise me that all the chefs ran for the spam bowl.

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Something that wasn't obvious to me from the editing: were the chefs provided with (cold) cooked rice to use? Seems they must have been for a 30 minute challenge.

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8 minutes ago, dleighg said:

Something that wasn't obvious to me from the editing: were the chefs provided with (cold) cooked rice to use? Seems they must have been for a 30 minute challenge.

Yes, you could see the quart containers of them on each work station. 

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Also, glad that Melissa won this challenge, total vengence for her past sucky elimination.

For those of you guys that didn't remember.  Top Chef Boston had a F4 elimination challenge.  The challenge was to be paired up with an artist, and visually represent (color/shape) of their artwork.  All of the other chefs got paired artists who were pretty straightforward.  Like this.
image.png.5143f2bb4f81d7974a9218b909e9b764.png

 

Melissa, on the other hand?  Got paired up with this aloof artist, who liked to paint abstract things, as well as bright blue and bright pink (which doesn't exist in natural food).  The artist didn't even seem to understand that he was supposed to collaborate with Melissa.

image.png.201d683d1edfb4dd839be8e4ba09a3f0.pngimage.png.58dfddc446d421e61e4a01d1d2a2d117.png

So to the surprise of no one, Melissa gets criticized by the judges for her food not replicating the artist(she made a tortellini, lol).  Then gets eliminated in probably one of the most bull**** ways, because there is no real way of her replicating this artwork .  Which is saying a lot with a lot of messed up results on Top Chef.

 

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4 hours ago, seltzer3 said:

 

Also, glad that Melissa won this challenge, total vengence for her past sucky elimination.

For those of you guys that didn't remember.  Top Chef Boston had a F4 elimination challenge.  The challenge was to be paired up with an artist, and visually represent (color/shape) of their artwork.  All of the other chefs got paired artists who were pretty straightforward.  Like this.
image.png.5143f2bb4f81d7974a9218b909e9b764.png

 

Melissa, on the other hand?  Got paired up with this aloof artist, who liked to paint abstract things, as well as bright blue and bright pink (which doesn't exist in natural food).  The artist didn't even seem to understand that he was supposed to collaborate with Melissa.

image.png.201d683d1edfb4dd839be8e4ba09a3f0.pngimage.png.58dfddc446d421e61e4a01d1d2a2d117.png

So to the surprise of no one, Melissa gets criticized by the judges for her food not replicating the artist(she made a tortellini, lol).  Then gets eliminated in probably one of the most bull**** ways, because there is no real way of her replicating this artwork .  Which is saying a lot with a lot of messed up results on Top Chef.

 

Thank you -- NOT -- for reminding me of this. It steamed me up all over again. Harrumph.

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"Top Chef Boston had a F4 elimination challenge.  The challenge was to be paired up with an artist, and visually represent (color/shape) of their artwork."

I like these art-themed challenges (Project Runway does them as well), although I know they can be problematic.  When I used to read the Wall Street Journal, I enjoyed the Flower School feature (do they still run this?) where floral designer Lindsey Taylor does an arrangement inspired by a work of art.  Her arrangements were beautiful without being too literal.

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