Thursday, August 26, 2010

Top Chef DC Episode 11 Recap

We're thankfully coming down to the wire here with season 7 of Top Chef! Only six cheftestants left, which means another four weeks before I am freed from this torture. It doesn't help that I already knew who would be eliminated this week, and next week. On with the show....

The cheftestants also seem to be ready for this season to end. Ed is actually cracking up. Somehow he managed to obtain a long yellow dress belonging to Tiffany and decided to wear it to bed one night. Though they are friends, Tiffany is a bit grossed out, especially after Amanda suggests that she count her underwear in case a pair is missing.

We also hear Kelly tell us for the umpteenth time that she wants Amanda to go home. And Inigo reveals that he's a bit insane: when he was younger, he would pray to famous chefs at a candle-lit shrine he set up in a room in his home.


On to the TC Kitchen: this week, the guest judge is Top Chef Masters two-timer Rick "Sustainability" Moonen, so a fish-related Quickfire comes to mind. But no! It's another ridiculously-themed challenge in which the cheftestants must be inspired by old food-related idioms. A bonus: the winner of the challenge will have his or her dish offered to customers of Schwan's Home Service.

Padma bids the cheftestants to choose one of several phrases from which to be inspired.
Love the props - a big stick o' meat and camouflage-print fabric.
Although oysters and clams would have worked too.

Kevin chooses "bring home the bacon," Tiffany chooses "spill the beans," Inigo takes "bigger fish to fry," Ed takes "hot potato," Amanda goes for "big cheese," and Kelly takes "sour grapes." Which seems rather appropriate for Miss Crankypants.

The chefs have an hour to prepare their dish. During this time, Ed thinks it's a good time to trash talk Amanda, who is running around looking for pepper mills and towels.


Meanwhile, Inigo seems to know something the rest of us don't know.


Time's up!  Padma and Chef Moonen return to taste the idiomatic dishes. Padma think's Ed's gnocchi with spring veg is a "lovely Spring dish," probably the biggest compliment she's ever given during a Quickfire tasting, when she's usually giving dirty looks and picking offending fish bones out of her mouth. They also liked Kevin's bacon three ways, although Inigo thought he missed the directive of the challenge. What? Inigo is on crack.

Dishes that were not as well received were Amanda's leaden mac and cheese and pork chop, and Kelly's chicken breast with the odd combo of grape sauce and brussels sprouts.

Rick Moonen wanted to lick Kevin's plate clean, but in the end the win went to Ed because his dish was probably more easily frozen.


For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants have to form one team and create six dishes to serve at a high-end concession stand before a Washington Nationals baseball game. Inigo is enthused because he's a big baseball fan and he's part Dominican. Which brings to mind, "baseball been berry berry good to me."

First, the chefs have a little pow-wow about the food. Kelly tries to take control of the situation, which annoys Tiffany and Amanda. And me.


After determining their dishes, the chefs take 30 minutes to spend $2000 at Whole Foods - not a difficult thing to do if you're a fan of cheese, believe me.

Then it's back to the TC Kitchen at the Hilton for three hours of prep.

Amanda wants to think outside the box and do something totally dangerous and stupid new and exciting by making tuna tartare. She decides that she should do all of the tartare-izing ahead of time because she doesn't know how much space she'll have for it at the ballpark kitchen. She asks Inigo for help on the best way to chop the fish, and he advises her. Everyone else thinks she's an idiot for doing so because he'll probably sabotage her.

Ed is trying to make several hundred fried thingamawhatsits and is running around and yelling at everyone.


Later, back at the house, the cheftestants discuss the upcoming ballpark situation. Who will take orders? Inigo volunteers because he feels Kelly is being "strategical." Which in DC is the use of "strategery." And we know that sort of thing only leads to unnecessary "wars."

The next day, he thinks better of it. He can't cook and expedite at the same time so tries to change the system to a new sort of clusterfuck by suggesting that everyone take their own orders. Kevin goes ballistic and yadda yadda zzzzzzz His anger management classes are obviously not really working for him. I want to punch his face in.


Eventually, Inigo decides to trust Ed to prepare his dish while he concentrates on order fulfillment. Mostly to shut Alpha, Jr. up, I'm sure.


While this is all going on, Tom Colicchio comes in with three tree-sized members of the Nationals, Adam Dunn, Matt Capps, and John Lannan. I gave up on baseball when that fucking fucktard Peter Angelos bought the Orioles in 1993 and proceeded to run my home team into the ground, so I have no clue who these dudes are or if they are any good. (Nats suck almost as hard as the Os, so I'm guessing no.) They wander through the kitchen area and Amanda desperately tries to flirt with them while hiding the fact that her tuna tartare has turned a scary shade of....grey. Inigo tells us he could have helped her with that, by telling her to mix the fish with some oil to prevent oxidation, but she's competition, and he's a douchebag.


Suddenly hoards of hungry baseball fans show up and start ordering Kelly's crabcake BLT and Tiffany's meatball sandwich. The judges enter and order one of everything.


While fish guys Moonen and Eric Ripert didn't want to eat Amanda's tartare, Tom compliments her vegetable accompaniments, saying they were well cooked. They think that Kelly's crabcake had too much salt. Tiffany's meatballs are a big hit, but Ripert thinks they are difficult to eat. Ed's fritters are crunchy on the outside, creamy on the inside and very good. Kevin's chicken is moist. And Inigo's sandwich has nice heat, but too much bread.


And now it's time for lots of commercials and the Fakeout scene:

Inigo is sprawled on his bed (wearing black velour pants that he probably won from Kenny during an arm-wrestling match), chatting with his fiancée on the phone. We find that they haven't spent much time together, but they talk for hours every night. And that she's Russian. Earlier in the season, we saw a photo of Inigo with his toddler-aged child, who appears to be Asian. So unless his fiancée is from Siberia, he's apparently a man-ho. /fakeout

Nope, not from Siberia....
The cheftestants are in the stew room, where Kelly is telling them that she still feels sick during judging even after all of these challenges. Padma slumps in and tells them that the judges want to see all of them. All winners? or all losers?

Once before the judging committee, there's a heated discussion about Inigo and his decision to expedite/change of mind/re-decision to cooperate. But then Tom calls them to order to discuss the important thing - food. Ed's fritters and Tiffany's meatballs are the favorite dishes of the day, but Ed's is most impressive and gets the win. Not only is he awarded a copy of Rick Moonen's "indispensable kitchen tool," Fish Without a Doubt, he also gets a trip to Australia, courtesy of Hilton.

Tiff and Ed are dismissed, leaving the other four to be picked apart by the judges. The complaints seem fairly minor -  Kevin's chicken is bland and his fries were soggy; Kelly's sandwich was too soft and needed a better vegetal crunch from harder lettuce or a slab of tomato; Inigo's sammy was too bready and sweet; and Amanda's tuna was gray.

In the end, Amanda's ugly fish was her downfall, and she was sent home. Much to Kelly's pleasure. And just about everyone else's too, I would imagine. Me, I don't care one way or the other. I guess, if I was forced to pick the person I'd most like to win, it would be Ed. Or Tiffany, but she doesn't make it to the final four. <---spoiler, highlight at your own risk.

Next week: NASA and Buzz Aldrin!