Each week we’ll watch chef Jason Stratton display his mad skills and sartorial flair in the show’s 13th season.
Previously, on Top Chef: Flowy cardigans! Sauce stencils! Jason’s reluctant Thai food!
The chefs sardine themselves in two mini vans and drive to Palm Springs. In Jason’s car, the chefs discuss WTF to expect once they arrive. Jason’s assessment is succinct and on point: “Lots of gay; lots of old people.”
“All my friends go down to Palm Springs,” he interstitials to the camera. “It’s kind of the gay mecca. We go spend the weekend and sit in the sun and drink white wine spritzers.”
The mini vans deliver the group to a pair of adventure jeeps which in turn rattle them along the San Andreas faultline. It’s blazing hot outside, so scorching that the chefs see a desert mirage of Padma and Jose Andres surrounded by what looks like futuristic weaponry. Oh, wait—it’s the quickfire.
Padma talks about Palm Springs’ love of clean energy, which explains all the footage of windmills interspersed with the chefs’ ride over here. It also explains why Jose Andres agreed to spend a day in high desert’s direct sunlight (and unlike Padma, he can’t wear really short shorts to keep cool). In addition to being a great chef and a man who says hilarious things in a charming accent, Andres is an advocate of using solar cooking devices in disadvantaged countries. The devices scattered around are solar-powered ovens and stoves. The chefs have 30 minutes to cook a dish using one of these.
The solar stoves resemble a single burner in the middle of a satellite dish, but seem reasonably straightforward. The tube-shaped little ovens, however, are tricky buggers. Giselle didn’t realize you can’t put liquid inside; her oven literally explodes into a bunch of glass shards.
Jason makes an ensalada rusa with crispy potato and asparagus, “One of the classic dishes of Spain for a very important Spanish chef.” Meanwhile, Phillip and his man bun wander off and start picking up rocks off the ground. “At my restaurant I like to plate on things that aren’t necessarily a plate,” he says. Well, aren’t you a goddamn visionary. I bet you have a communal table, too. Also, it’s going to take more than a quick dip at the water pump to get those rocks clean.
Jose Andres likes Jason’s ensalada rusa, but he doesn’t end up in the top. Neither does Phillip (or his man bun). He served sausage and a raw oyster on top of his rock plates, a dubious idea in bazillion-degree desert heat. “It was like snot on a rock,” snips Padma. He’s on the bottom, with Giselle and Grayson. Wesley wins the quickfire.
“Here’s to staying on par in your elimination challenge,” says Padma. Oh, lord. I’m bracing myself for a TON of tortured golf puns. The chefs are split into two teams to cook a four-course (get it?) progressive meal…to be served on the golf course…without a kitchen.
We see virtually zero Jason as chefs team up and shop for food; I can’t even figure out what team he’s on or who he partners with. But as the chefs go back to the hotel pool to unwind, we get some footage of him sandwiched in the hot tub amongst a bunch of rowdy dudes. No, no…it’s the opposite of what you’re thinking:
“Generally I’m a pretty gregarious open person, but there’s a lot of bros being loud,” Jason tells the camera. “It frankly reminds me of high school and that irritates the shit out of me. I’ve worked in kitchens that are very macho and that’s not my kitchen. I feel a little out of step, a little out of sync.”
Ugh, that’s a bummer. I’m curious to see if this is a one-off bit of Top Chef emoting or if Jason ultimately bonding with the bros becomes a theme over the season.
It’s a new day in Palm Springs and Padma is ready to hit the links in one of the dumbest tops conceivable for a woman who is supposedly playing golf. That fabric does not look breathable. And who wears a crop top to golf…especially when you’re also eating two four-course meals while you’re at it. The weird architectural fabric panels will seriously mess with her swing. Okay, I’ll stop now.
The judging part gets a little confusing because there are two groups of judges and two teams preparing each course. So it’s lots of back and forth and around. They start off with Jeremy and Karen’s halibut ceviche, which Jeremy keeps cold with a cool little hack—stacking the bowl atop another bowl of ice.
Ah, okay! Jason is partnered with Marjorie for the second course. They’re up against Grayson and Angelina. And, uh oh…both teams are grilling shrimp.
“Today I’m feeling better,” our man tells the camera. “I’m just ready to cook. I know Marjorie is going to nail the grilling of the shrimp. I just think we have a more compelling dish.”
The judges are meh on Grayson and Angelina’s shrimp with chorizo and corn hash. Marjorie and Jason’s grilled shrimp with summer squash, roasted eggplant puree, and tomato celery salad earns some emphatic positives from both sets of judges.
After the first set of judges criticize the overcooked corn in their competitor’s dish, Grayson makes “an executive decision” to not swap in fresh corn for the second judge cohort. Surely she won’t regret that decision later, right?
The winner: Jason’s team wins but Jeremy takes the ultimate prize. This must have been some ceviche; I’ve never seen so many rhapsodic declarations directed at raw halibut…and I love ceviche.
The loser: Grayson is, at last, sent knife packing. She shakes everyone’s hand, throws Angelina under the bus one last time, and departs in a cloud of bleeped-out cussing.
Next, on Top Chef: Chrissy Teigen says the word succulent! Art Smith’s big fat gay wedding! And…uh oh. Looks like Jason is involved in some Phillip-related drama.
- I don’t recall chefs ever making tweaks to their dishes based on a first round of judges feedback. Seems a little cheat-y.
- John Besh, Mary Sue Milliken, and Douglas Keane joined Jose, Padma, Tom, and Richard Blais to judge (and to golf). Not too shabby.
- Has Jose Andres ever done an appearance on Sesame Street? He would kill it.
- This show might be the only time you ever see Jason Stratton wearing a baseball cap.