Hammer Time History Lesson on ‘Top Chef’ (UPDATED)

The cheftestants head north to meet MC Hammer and Jonathan Waxman in Oakland

Seven remaining cheftestants venture north to Oakland for this week’s “Top Chef,” after being pretty thoroughly tested. Phillip “Man Bun” Frankland Lee was eliminated after a bruising Restaurant Wars, and then went on to lose in “Last Chance Kitchen,” so the show now lacks a real lightning rod. While his cockiness grated on some viewers, Lee’s confidence certainly contributes to his running two successful Los Angeles restaurants—there’s a brain working underneath his trailing tresses. Even so, things def got too close for comfort when it was down to Lee and Amar Santana vying to avoid elimination.

Tonight, historic rap figure MC Hammer, an Oakland native, shows up to judge the Quickfire challenge, and chef Jonathan Waxman, who’s influentially cooked through a few American food eras himself, is guest judge for an elimination challenge of dishes from food history. In this preview video it sounds like the chefs even do library research for their assigned eras. I wonder how far back we’re going, and where… New York City for early 19th-century Delmonico’s, Europe for 1970s Nouvelle Cuisine? Or maybe California Gold Rush sourdough and hangman’s fry. Or, most likely, something far more outlandish—it is reality TV, after all.

(Earlier “Top Chef” Taste of Orange County posts are here.)

UPDATE: At first, things looked dicey—Issac Toups gained immunity with his winning Quickfire dish. But, the elimination challenge ended in the best possible way when Amar’s classic Belle Epoque squab dish sailed to first position—his first big win, and an important one. Chef Karen Akunowicz, one of two remaining female competitors, was sent to “Last Chance Kitchen” after her take on Japanese buckwheat noodles missed the mark, but Jason Stratton beat her in a teppanyaki-off to continue his second-chance success streak.


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