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S18.E06: Stumptown U.S.A.

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The chefs are transported into a magical kitchen forest for the week's Quickfire Challenge where they make a dish featuring mushrooms; the cheftestants will be paired up to create a surf and turf dish featuring local fish and game.

Original air date: May 6, 2021

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If Gabriel is right back on my screen next episode, I am going to be highly annoyed.  He’s not even that bad, but he’s awful compared to everyone else, so he disproportionately bugs me. 

I love mushrooms, so I was drooling over the QF offerings.  As has happened several times already, Dawn had the dish I most wanted to eat. 

Sara and Shota’s EC dish was so creative, I knew they were going to win.  I don’t love any of the four proteins in the top two dishes, but Sara and Shota and Gabe and Dawn did such interesting things, I wanted to try them.

I love that the conscious effort Maria and Byron took to honor the tribal traditions came through in the food.  I knew Maria was right about adding more mole sauce, but I also knew they were in no danger in going home because of it.

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21 minutes ago, BryroseA said:

If the reaction shot they showed in that promo - including Dawn grinning and pogo jumping up and down in excitement at the reveal of the returning chef - is accurate, I’m guessing it’s anyone BUT Gabriel. 😂

Same here, but I'm always wary of misleading editing, so I will not rest easy until I see someone else walk back into the TC kitchen.

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Did anyone else get the vibe that Tater Tot Tebow was having the "Thanks, Nelson, for screwing this up for me, I would have been safe if it wasn't for (anything) you did" conversation in his head?   

Also somewhat telling, or I like a good editing trick, that after elimination we saw the other chefs hugging Nelson and telling him how much they'll miss him and no one was hugging Tater Tot Tebow.  

Sarah and Shota made a great pair.  I would love to see more from them as a pair.  

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3 minutes ago, ALittleShelfish said:

Also somewhat telling, or I like a good editing trick, that after elimination we saw the other chefs hugging Nelson and telling him how much they'll miss him and no one was hugging Tater Tot Tebow.  

Maria called him an asshole, but in just enough of a cheeky way to make it sound jokingly innocuous -- it was excellent.

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4 minutes ago, Cotypubby said:

Yeah, but isn’t that pretty much true? Tom said Gabriel cooked the best piece of meat that had that challenge so they lost because Nelson screwed up the fish. I think it’s pretty crappy that the best food of the night goes home because someone else messed up. I hope Gabriel gets back in the competition.

Oh I definitely agree - and this might be one of the only competition shows I watch - but I don't recall seeing the camera capture *that* feeling so vividly.  I really felt like the editing was so focused on Gabriel and his arc in every single scene.  I enjoyed most of his food (minus the tots), I think he's v talented.  But I also am drawn to some of the other personalities more.  I know that isn't the point of the show though.

Edited by ALittleShelfish · Reason: trigger finger
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Okay, Dawn totally took both hands off the steering wheel while she was driving. What the hell?

Mushrooms make me violently ill, and I don’t like game meat, so these were not my favorite challenges.  I still liked watching the chefs have to work together to make coherent dishes out of such disparate ingredients.  I would love to be able to come up with creative recipes on the fly here in year 2 of the pandemic.

I like Nelson but I was willing to sacrifice him in the service of pykag-ing Gabriel.

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I don’t like Gabriel but he got VERY unlucky. Eliminated in a team challenge just when immunity is out because his teammate is not at his best due to a knee injury caused by the rigors of a previous challenge. And in a challenge where everyone has cooked good food but they’ve predetermined it’s a double elimination. Them’s the breaks. At least he gets $10,000 and a solid case for a future redemption appearance. 

Shota and Sara are totally doing it, right? I mean, I know nothing about their personal lives but I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we hear they’re planning a wedding by now. 

It was funny to see actual Olympic track athlete Dawn beaten to the punch to every appliances during the quick fire. 

Nelson was the most forgettable contestant, but I feel bad for his knee pain. 

Edited by Fukui San
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Gabriel struck me as being sad and needy.  That type can come off as arrogant because of overcompensating for insecurities.  I hope he finds his path some day.

I was pleased to see that no one threw their partner under the bus for any shortcomings in the dishes.

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41 minutes ago, Yeah No said:

Is he really that bad, though?  Other than act a little too sure of himself in a couple of talking heads and being "affectionately" called an "asshole" by Maria I'm not seeing the awful he's been seen as by others.  Is there something I've missed?  Is he getting a very sanitized edit?  He never dissed anyone that I remember and has acted nothing but respectful of everyone.  He didn't even blame his partner for being eliminated when he well could have.  I thought that was pretty classy of him.  I've seen far worse on this show than him.

Gabriel's the most annoying this season, but if you put him on Season 2's cast he wouldn't crack the top 8.

Speaking of the old days, I'm trying to remember whether for group challenges back then did judges ask teams on the bottom "Who on your team do you think deserve to go home?" I remember they did that all the time for Project Runway, but I can't remember if that was a Top Chef staple too. They certainly don't do it now in Top Chef, and for that I'm thankful.

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10 minutes ago, Rammchick said:

Gabriel struck me as being sad and needy.  That type can come off as arrogant because of overcompensating for insecurities.  I hope he finds his path some day.

That's interesting because I don't see Gabriel as remotely "sad and needy".  He couldn't be as accomplished as he is if he were that bad.  

I actually think Maria's trash talking and snide comments toward Gabriel make her look like she's trying to make him look bad to compensate for her insecurities.  We already know about her self pity and drama.  Yet interestingly, no one calls her an asshole.

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As someone who got called out for half-jokingly referring to Gabriel last week as “meddling,” I think now might be a good opportunity to remind- if only myself- that it’s nearly pointless to try and psychoanalyze a person based on how they are portrayed on a reality television program.

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I guess I'm one of the few that hope to see Gabriel back. He doesn't annoy me and I think he cooks beautiful food. Nelson is indeed forgettable and I won't miss him a bit.

Oregon's tourism promotion department must be sighing at two episodes with heavy downpours! At least they got a pretty day by the end.

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Those poor chefs looked so cold. They should have let them wear their pretty blankets at judges table.

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Random thoughts

1. Gabriel just looked PISSED. Might be a little jerky, but he looked PISSED.

2. Again, it is clear that there are a few good chefs, but only Shota,  Dawn, Gabe and maybe Sara seem to be turning out inspirational food on a level we have seen in prior seasons....and noone seems to be throwing out really amazing stuff like in prior seasons. On the other hand, I might be somewhat jaded by coming off of an All Star season and maybe they will kick it up a notch now that they need to do more than just survive the weakest cheftestants (i.e. out run you, not the bear).

3. While I never really enjoyed the drama of the "house" in prior years, it doesnt appear that the fact that they are not living together is affecting the relationships (or lack thereof) between the chefs.

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Gabriel is absolutely still an ass even if he's less of an ass relative to previous seasons' asses. He can cook, but everyone had a good bake this week so someone was going home for good food, it sounds like even calling Nelson's fish "overcooked" wasn't completely accurate (only Gail said it) and Tom tried to pull back from that. Also glad to be reminded I can't cook fish for shit because every time I cook salmon/trout the albumin comes out. I mean how the hell do you cook it w/o that happening? I do think Gabriel handled his relatively tough elimination really gracefully (and IMO didn't blame Nelson as much as he could have), and Maria put it perfectly that he's a beautiful asshole, aka he was a competition asshole and not an everyday every situation asshole asshole. Also I'm not that bothered by him getting an unfair elimination when I feel like he should have gone home last week for super sad tater tots.

Chris is pretty unusual contestant I can't think of any previous contestant that had as many appearances in the top and bottom. Has he missed a single Judges Table? Maria must hate him he's getting CONSTANT feedback. LOL. I don't know if he or Avishar cooked the deer (which was highly praised) but the editors were so leading us to believe all episode that Maria/Byron were headed for the axe, only for Tom to be like anyway it's between Avishar/Chris and Nelson/Gabriel. 

Sarah/Shota are pretty adorable food nerds together. I did for sure wonder if there was some hooking up that happened post production. 

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1 hour ago, nutella fitzgerald said:

I’ll bite. I find Maria to be incredibly tiresome. Whining about being in the middle and possibly being “too Mexican” has no place on a show where Avishar is still pleasant (if odd) even though he is at the bottom half the time and Gabe is absolutely killing it.

I agree. There's been much more complaining and finger pointing coming from her than others. I suppose we all view these edited personalities through our subjective lenses so I will not minimize the viewpoint of others but I would say that after this episode complaints about Gabriels meddling in other's food could be amplified  10 fold for Byron

59 minutes ago, AriAu said:

Random thoughts

1. Gabriel just looked PISSED. Might be a little jerky, but he looked PISSED.

 

I give him a pass for being pissed at being eliminated in a competition....losing stings

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59 minutes ago, blixie said:

I mean how the hell do you cook it w/o that happening?

I often do it wrapped in parchment and don't have that problem in that case. But I like my salmon on the "undercooked" side.

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3 hours ago, Straycat80 said:

I’m not understanding all the Gabriel hate on this board. There have been far, far worse personalities than him on this show in the past.

Oh, for sure.  He doesn't even crack the  Top 10 of most annoying contestants throughout the seasons.  For me, I find him very try-hard.  There have been several challenges where he has to tell the chef's how ~meaningful the challenge was to him.  It's almost like "please, please, LIKE ME!"  Maybe from his own insecurities--not in his cooking, but socially.  Nothing particularly damning, just irksome.

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But I like my salmon on the "undercooked" side.

Even when it's not over cooked the albumin excretes, like I poach it in not super hot water and out it oozes, so if that's cooking it hard and too much I am at loss how Nelson could get a crispy skin w/o the albumin issue. Even Gabriel's hindsight 20/20 solution didn't seem to really explain how it would avoid it only how it would disguise it (wrapping the fish in the crispy skin). LOL I guess that's why they are top chefs and I am not.  Oh and ATK seems to say contrary to Tom's assertion it isn't about how hard it's cooked though it's worse when it is overcooked. 

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I give Maria a pass on a lot of things because she’s doing this competition in a second language. While she’s fluent, I don’t think she “thinks” in English. So everything is just harder for her, translating in her head. That’s got to be completely exhausting. I think she just wants a day when every single thing is in Spanish.

Gabriel showed some low grade ego issues, but I also think he’s not as confident as he wants people to think he is. 

Nelson reminded me of someone and I realized, he’s Jesse L. Martin. 

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The Maria vs Gabriel seems really overblown.  Maria seems to really like Gabriel when Gabriel got cut, as she was choking up.  I do think Gabriel seemed to be really stressed out because he was the only chef from Portland.  He kind of fell into that trap of past chefs of host cities feeling pressure of representing their hometown.

Also both Gabriel and Maria even though they were a bit frustrated, they were both pretty classy after hearing the judges remarks and didn't throw their teammates under the bus.  When they probably had every right to do so.  Gabriel actually was comforting Nelson saying that the induction burners were kind of off when Nelson felt remorse of overcooking the salmon.

I like Gabe, but if we are going to get on Sara for always using yogurt, Gabe kind of needs to get out of cooking tacos and mole all the time.  Like I'm pretty sure there are other Mexican dishes other than tacos and mole (so he doesn't necessarily need to switch out of his cuisine).

Kind of felt like the lack of fryers/ovens almost felt setup for conflict in the quickfire challenge.  Like they couldn't add one more fryer machine?  Also, I was really concerned that someone like Dawn would have been screwed, when everyone was stacking trays in that woodfire oven.  Seriously all you need was one tray to slip, and that person would be serving burned pieces to the judges.

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8 minutes ago, seltzer3 said:

Kind of felt like the lack of fryers/ovens almost felt setup for conflict in the quickfire challenge.  Like they couldn't add one more fryer machine? 

I also felt that the whole "stump town" thing was stupid. The tall chefs were put at a disadvantage..... for what reason? 

And in case anyone was wondering, as I was:

Stumptown was coined in a period of phenomenal growth in Portland after 1847. The city was growing so rapidly that the stumps of trees were left behind until manpower could be spared to remove them. In some areas the stumps remained for so long that locals whitewashed them to make them more visible

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This was the sort of Top Chef that has kept me around for all these years.  Show me the smelts and antelopes; make me want them.

 

1 hour ago, AriAu said:

 ...

3. While I never really enjoyed the drama of the "house" in prior years, it doesn't appear that the fact that they are not living together is affecting the relationships (or lack thereof) between the chefs.

What?  How did I miss this?  That's huge, psychologically.  No one has chronic residual resentment against the guy who snores like a chainsaw?  Where is everyone living?  And with whom--are there roommates?

 

 

19 minutes ago, dleighg said:

 ...  But I like my salmon on the "undercooked" side.

Oh yes, me too, sister.  Just past translucent.  I can't order it in restaurants anymore because it will be sawdust in my mouth.

**************

 

Tom looked cold.  I enjoyed that, for some reason.  :  )

.

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What?  How did I miss this?  That's huge, psychologically.  No one has chronic residual resentment against the guy who snores like a chainsaw?  Where is everyone living?  And with whom--are there roommates?

For Covid reasons, they are in a hotel and it is my understanding that each person has his or her own room. I might have read it in the build up to the season when they talked about Covid protections like a bigger kitchen (altho they are still literally running into each other), separate plates for each judge in quickfires etc....

As I said, i didn't care about the house drama, but I did like seeing who did the cooking in each house since it gives you some idea which cheftestants like to cook and which ones the others respect etc....

Does mean we miss out on drunken hot tub scenes...wait, this isnt The Bachelor

Edited by AriAu
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I agree Gabriel had a classy exit. I still won't miss him. Heh, but as someone said he doesn't crack the top ten of a-holes of all time. I don't think he even cracks the top thirty.

A lot of those dishes really appealed to me. And I love mushrooms so I liked the quickfire, as well. I noticed Shota and Sara did almost the same thing in the QF -- schnitzel and katsu are like kissing cousins. Are Shota and Sara??? 

Speaking of which, I adore ton katsu, but it's so hard to find anymore. Everybody's doing chicken katsu, which is not the same. The katsu sauce is really strong (and I love it), but it stands up better to the pork.

Gawd, that scenery was gorgeous. Cold though! I loved Dawn wrapping Maria in the blanket.

 

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So I JUST defended Maria in the last episode thread, but I have to say, I did not like her calling Gabriel an A-hole. Talk about punching down, when a person has just been eliminated...struck me as really unnecessary. And then yes, she seemed like she was crying and trying to affectionately joke but....Maria, don't make me feel bad for Gabriel, when I just pleased to see him go. Someone upthread just mentioned that English is not Maria's first language so I'll consider that. Regarding Gabriel-he's nowhere near the worst person to ever grace Top Chef, and I bet he's pretty nice. I think the camera captured him trying to LEAD or maybe that's just his personality, I'm sure he's used to being in charge of his kitchen. But on camera, with a collection of peers and not underlings, it comes off as bossy or entitled. I think with Maria and Dawn we saw chefs confident enough to dismiss him. And Jamie was not, took his direction (her choice) and was eliminated. Interesting that all three of those interactions were women. I'm a woman so I noticed those interactions-did he also direct the men? Anyway-I don't think he's a bad guy or a conscious choice on his part to condescend to women. But I think viewers saw it and it turned many of us off. In a season that seems full of lovely people, he just hit a few wrong notes.

I think Shota is quite the hot dish. He is so, so appealing. And when he is not cooking scary hot dogs, his food is also really appealing! Sara with the smelt is a bit of an odd duck but she also seems really talented. Another comment upthread said they thought we were not seeing cooking on the level of past seasons-but I feel like the chefs are more accomplished than in past seasons. My favorite episodes are ones like this, where everyone performs really well and the food all looks like something I'd love to try. 

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I'm a woman so I noticed those interactions-did he also direct the men? 

He took the lead on the movie challenge a team with Nelson/Shota/Sara/Jamie, he had no real advice for the guys but questioned or directed the choices of both women: Sarah/Jamie. And when he was paired with Nelson again he was deferential to his ultimate detriment. So again I'm not getting why other people aren't getting that he often behaved like a putz, and it's perfectly reasonable to dislike him/not root for him.

I think the chefs are not up to like the Las Vegas or the last round of All Stars, but I also think they are significantly off their game, quite a few mentioned, the emotional/financial/professional struggles that everyone went through with covid, but also that they straight up haven't cooked "professionally" in a commercial kitchen for like 10 months.

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2 hours ago, seltzer3 said:

Kind of felt like the lack of fryers/ovens almost felt setup for conflict in the quickfire challenge.  Like they couldn't add one more fryer machine?  Also, I was really concerned that someone like Dawn would have been screwed, when everyone was stacking trays in that woodfire oven.  Seriously all you need was one tray to slip, and that person would be serving burned pieces to the judges.

I think the four fryer baskets and that small wood-fired oven in the TC kitchen are probably perfectly adequate most of the time, but this just happened to be a challenge where the majority of the 10 chefs wanted to use one or both, since they know that deep frying and high-heat are great ways to cook mushrooms. 

1 hour ago, AriAu said:

For Covid reasons, they are in a hotel and it is my understanding that each person has his or her own room. I might have read it in the build up to the season when they talked about Covid protections like a bigger kitchen (altho they are still literally running into each other), separate plates for each judge in quickfires etc....

As I said, i didn't care about the house drama, but I did like seeing who did the cooking in each house since it gives you some idea which cheftestants like to cook and which ones the others respect etc....

Does mean we miss out on drunken hot tub scenes...wait, this isnt The Bachelor

They have a whole floor of the hotel, so they each have individual rooms as sleeping quarters, but they do have a common lounge space, and we’ve seen them there chatting, like at the beginning of this episode when they were sitting around and talking about Jamie and her sound effects. 

2 hours ago, seltzer3 said:

Also both Gabriel and Maria even though they were a bit frustrated, they were both pretty classy after hearing the judges remarks and didn't throw their teammates under the bus.  When they probably had every right to do so.  Gabriel actually was comforting Nelson saying that the induction burners were kind of off when Nelson felt remorse of overcooking the salmon.

To be fair, although the judges felt Gabriel cooked the meat exceptionally well, Nelson’s overdone steelhead wasn’t their only criticism of the dish, just the biggest one. They felt there wasn’t enough tying the parts together, and Gail in particular said a couple of times that having more than a dribble of the berry jus on the dish would have helped, and that’s something that was on both of them (unlike Byron’s insistence on not adding mole to his and Maria’s plate).

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14 hours ago, Fukui San said:

I don’t like Gabriel but he got VERY unlucky. Eliminated in a team challenge just when immunity is out because his teammate is not at his best due to a knee injury caused by the rigors of a previous challenge. And in a challenge where everyone has cooked good food but they’ve predetermined it’s a double elimination. Them’s the breaks. At least he gets $10,000 and a solid case for a future redemption appearance. 

Do we know if immunity is off the table going forward or was it just for this specific challenge so they could do the double elimination psych out immediate LCK to bring one of the two back?  If it's the later and next weeks quick fire winner gets immunity no matter how much you don't like Gabriel I think that's just unfair and sucky all the way around.   

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I'm still pondering those individual hotel rooms.  Excellent.  I feel that has a lot to do with the unusual camaraderie we're seeing this year. 

I think I can take on anything if I have a chance to get off by myself at the end of the day, recharge, clock some good uninterrupted sleep.

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As far as Gabriel and Nelson's dish goes, it seemed safe. Like an ordinary restaurant dish. The other chefs were so much more creative. I think that played into the decision.

 

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4 minutes ago, carrps said:

As far as Gabriel and Nelson's dish goes, it seemed safe. Like an ordinary restaurant dish. The other chefs were so much more creative. I think that played into the decision.

The judges really made it sound like if the fish were cooked better it would be a middle of the pack dish, though.  So to my ear it definitely sounded like they were basing their decision solely on the cook on the fish.  It may not have been technically overcooked as in dry and cotton-like, but it may have been more done than they prefer.  Sort of like a steak being done medium/medium well rather than medium rare, and we all know how judges on these shows seem to want everything medium rare.  Considering how well they thought everyone did overall, a little misstep like that could be the thing that sends someone home.

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6 minutes ago, rlc said:

No one has mentioned Tom’s hat!

he looked kind of adorkable

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Sara wanting to own a high end cannery was the most Sara thing ever.

Except for maybe a high end organic goat yogurt farm. 

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14 hours ago, Chyromaniac said:

As someone who got called out for half-jokingly referring to Gabriel last week as “meddling,” I think now might be a good opportunity to remind- if only myself- that it’s nearly pointless to try and psychoanalyze a person based on how they are portrayed on a reality television program.

And that includes Maria!  It was clear she was joking with Gabriel......

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6 hours ago, BlackberryJam said:

I give Maria a pass on a lot of things because she’s doing this competition in a second language. While she’s fluent, I don’t think she “thinks” in English. So everything is just harder for her, translating in her head. That’s got to be completely exhausting. I think she just wants a day when every single thing is in Spanish.

Gabriel showed some low grade ego issues, but I also think he’s not as confident as he wants people to think he is. 

Nelson reminded me of someone and I realized, he’s Jesse L. Martin. 

Nelson in no way reminds me of Jesse....from someone who has watched every episode of Law and Order at least once, and saw Rent, and watches the Flash....like HOW??!!  

Gabriel made no real impression on me one way or the other. I just want Jaimie back.  I can't be bothered to analyze everything they say.  In these unnatural environments away from family during COVID I am sure emotions are running high. 

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7 hours ago, staphdude said:

 

I agree. There's been much more complaining and finger pointing coming from her than others. I suppose we all view these edited personalities through our subjective lenses so I will not minimize the viewpoint of others but I would say that after this episode complaints about Gabriels meddling in other's food could be amplified  10 fold for Byron

I give him a pass for being pissed at being eliminated in a competition....losing stings

This amuses me. How do you know she is finger pointing, etc. any more than anyone else? It kills me how everyone thinks they know people from highly edited footage of a show on people they've never met.   

Gabriel may be confident and tries to speak with authority, but some of these people come in from running their own restaurants. I am sure it is hard for them to move away from directing people.   

I am also sure this environment leads people to have self doubt and be more emotive than usual. 

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As someone who suffers from gout I love a good mushroom but have steered clear of them since my first (and only) bad attack. I wonder if that had anything to do with Nathan’s knee? It’s the most painful thing EVER I have had in my life, and I have had a few pretty intensive surgeries. I had a meniscus tear repaired and it went right there not my foot. I am not thin but I a man not obese, it’s a family curse that SUCKS! 

Side note, Gabe seemed ok to me...besides the “I worked for Tom” at the beginning, he hasn’t bothered me. 

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16 minutes ago, seamusjameson said:

Tom's hat...please pack your knives and go.

I don't need to see it again, but it looked cozy and I was amused by it ;). Maybe he'll break out some more in future episodes (preferably also funny, rather than dapper). They're clearly doing a lot of outdoor dining, presumably for Covid reasons. . 

Edited by akr · Reason: typo
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I liked Tom’s hat, too. He also wore it in Italy last season. It makes me smile because it’s revealing a bit about how he wants to think of himself. In Italy, it seemed like the kind of thing a worker—a craftsman or tradesman—would wear. I think that’s how Tom likes to think of himself—not so far from Harold Dieterle’s ‘I’m a cook.’

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