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top chef\'s eugene

Guess what everybody: Before he was on Survivor, Ken was even dorkier than he is on the show. And he wore — gasp — braces! Did he get them removed prematurely to appear prettier on television? This is the level of intrigue we got from this season’s recap episode.

In addition to his braces, Ken’s audition video gave us a peek at the oversized novelty checks he’s won in various video game competitions. Cool! Hey, did you know that the 90-pound guy’s strategy is mind games? Who knew! Watching horrible filler like this is the one time I rue national holidays.

Top Chef didn’t let us down though, giving us a Thanksgiving-themed episode that had the chefs cooking sans ovens outside a concert venue. Before that, Leah won the Quickfire challenge with her chilled soup spin on tuna tartare. And she was described by a fellow contestant as having a nice rack to boot!

Leah’s prize was selecting her co-chefs for the Turkeyday challenge, thus forming Team Sexy Pants. Radhika was among her picks, but Eugene was one of the snubbed who comprised Team Cougar.

Although he seemed excessively bitter about not being chosen, Eugene proved himself worthy when he built a makeshift grill for his pork out of a chafing dish. When one has only microwaves and toaster ovens at one’s disposal for Thanksgiving, a bit of MacGyver-style rigging is nothing short of inspired.

Eugene’s pork and resourcefulness did indeed earn accolades from both the Foo Fighters and the regular judges, with Tom Colicchio calling the dish one of his favorites. While Eugene remained safe, his grumbling continued because his team was outshone by challenge winners Sexy Pants.

Let’s not forget that Radhika’s  vegan stuffing was particularly admired by the judges, though her part in making them was glossed over; perhaps they were confused because it wasn’t Indian inspired.

I’m knocking furiously on wood as I type this, but all three of Top Chef’s Asian American contestants are establishing themselves as strong competitors so far. Asian chefs who don’t specialize in sushi, noodles or (for the most part) curry? It’s a whole new culinary world.

On Blush, Nolan was in an episode-long bitch-off against dramatically coiffed competitor Maxi. Both makeup artists are talented and see one another as a major rival, but as far as I’m concerned, Nolan’s got the pants competition in the bag. Periwinkle in this episode, dayglo yellow in the last? He’s got a closet of technicolor skinny jeans that I’m loving.

In making up twins, Nolan fell short in creating enough of a distinction between good and evil, but he redeemed himself with his glittery showgirl look. The top favorite of the judges, Nolan’s glam girl transformation was described as the reason that people go to see Vegas shows. The Maxi catfighting can have no happy ending, but armed with a make-up brush, Nolan is undoubtedly a winner.

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