Early wake-up calls, airline food, the humorous quips of Anthony Bourdain -- what's not to like about "Top Chef" as it gets down to the top five? Oh yea, that would be Padma.

Early wake-up calls, airline food, the humorous quips of Anthony Bourdain — what’s not to like about “Top Chef” as it gets down to the top five? Oh yea, that would be Padma.

Using technical terms such as soft on the tummy, repeating the words of other judges and giving the quickfire trophy to the one chef who provided her with a little wake-up nip, Padma clearly had it in for CJ when he declared she had made a fantasy come true by waking him early in the morning. Padma reacted with the expression of a blow-up doll. And if she even understood CJ’s sexual innuendo, in the front lobe of her brain she knows she likes men tall enough to look her in the eyes, providing they are standing on hundred dollar bills. But enough about “Top Chef’s” weakest link.

Suddenly the show looked like it ran out of money. Padma was left to handle the quickfire challenge by her lonesome for the first time because no chef would or could show up at the Fountainbleu Hotel at 6 a.m. to watch the chefs cook with Breville blenders. (That’s most of the corporate sponsors in the first segment).

The top six then distributed their Continental Airlines tickets to take a Continental flight to Newark. (Continental promo footage was used to make sure the viewer didn’t think they were just whisked away to some Dade County airline hangar or used a different airline).

Not content to see the lights of Manhattan in the distance from the EWR, several contestants vowed to bring their A game. And then Padma, allowed beyond security apparently without a ticket, informs them they’ll be creating food for, yes, Continental Airlines’ first class.

They meet the chef who actually oversees the airline meals. Can you imagine having a job in which 90% of the people don’t like what you do? I have had the occasional OK first/business class meal, but it’s pretty rare.

LYFORD: Was that a blowup doll expression or more Tim Burton’s corpse bride? Anyway, Padma should never be allowed to judge anything on her own. When’s the last time she actually formed an opinion beyond “You’re right Tom, this is undercooked.” And she has a cookbook? Huh? And it’s considered a “prize” for a challenge winner? That’s hardly worth waking up for. Plus if I heard correctly, she “compiled” the recipes, she didn’t create them. How hard is that to do for chrissakes? I was ready to just hit the mute button every time she was on.

As far as the airline challenge, once again I’m left wondering how this task translates into real world relevance for a top-notch chef. All due respect to the man who oversees the airline operation, but I don’t think you hold that job if you have metropolitan executive chef skills.

GALLO: Much as I liked the idea of serving Continental Airlines flight attendants while on an airplane, I thought the trade-out would never end. While Padma got in a plug for her book, Bourdain never got to shill for his show. Bourdain is the funniest judge though, calling broccolini “something that was found in Bob Marley’s closet” or that lobster had the texture of “doll head.” Is he just more comfortable with the camera than other chefs or are the other cooks just humorless?

LYFORD: I’m beginning to wonder if Tom Colicchio has a sense of humor at all. Every time CJ said something sarcastic and humorous he just looked perplexed. Bourdain is hilarious, if too often more blunt than he needs to be. Couldn’t he be Padma’s permanent replacement?

GALLO: Colicchio delivered some good commentary again. But I don’t know that it makes me want to eat at the new L.A. edition of Craft any more than I want to fly Continental.

LYFORD: I do want to eat at Craft. Do you think we could expense it and call it research? Colicchio is most useful in his visits to the kitchen during prep. I only wish he’d discussed at judges’ panel the importance of his question to each chef about what the biggest obstacle was for them in this challenge. Casey is the only one who got it, replying that placing everything in one dish and heating it together is the aspect that would derail the most contestants. Hung’s answer that the biggest challenge was other people moving his saute pans just shows how clueless he sometimes is.

GALLO: The broccolini was the downfall of CJ, the man who has never been to Manhattan, is burned out on cooking in Venice, Calif., and fantasizes about sipping mai-tais in the morning after a night of furious lovemaking with Padma. I kinda hate to see him go. You?

LYFORD: He and Dale were the life of the party and the show won’t be the same without him.

GALLO: Has Casey gone from situational reliever to star of the staff in the last month or what? She seems to even be aware of it as well. She has humility working for her, too. And lately she has been making dishes that look like they would be interesting to eat. Her biggest competition now, appears to be Dale and he usually has one or two flubs per dish.

LYFORD: Casey is the one to beat. But have you noticed how she’s morphing into a Jennifer Aniston look-alike? Dale too often shoots himself in the foot, Hung doesn’t play well with others, and Brian should have been gone two episodes ago. I think Sara is Casey’s biggest competition.

GALLO: Who you calling big?

Top Chef: Miami - Episode 11

Bravo, Wed. Sept. 12, 10 p.m.
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