OMG. I can barely bring myself to do this recap. Although playing with various ethnic cuisines should seem exciting and interesting, I can't help but consider this episode of Top Chef the Worst. Episode. Ever. (Or at least this season.) Why? Because nothing happened. Not even any manufactured drama like last week's "Pea-gate" to liven things up a little. How am I supposed to be funny when all I'm given is a whole lot of incompetence and an astonishing lack of knowledge about various ethnic cuisines from a group of people who claim to be professional chefs? Makes me mad.
But I shall do my best to entertain you despite the crap material I have to work with.
As usual, we see the nine remaining competitors rise and shine. Kelly is upset that Andrea - her partner in crime for two challenges - has been sent home. She was on the bottom last week as well, and plans to step up her game by using a lot less salt. Alex the Pervert feigns innocence by claiming he didn't know Ed had made that damn pea puree.
Meanwhile, Ed isn't angry about the situation at all. Because there probably wasn't even a situation.
At the Top Chef Kitchens, the cheftestants gather to find Padma with Top Chef Masters season 2 winner Marcus Samuelsson. Marcus apparently owns a joint called Red Rooster. We heard this repeatedly during Top Chef Masters, and now his graphic says it again. But the place ain't open and won't be until October. If then. In any case, it sounds like the big brother to a chain of fast casual burger joints. (Yum!) Or the cousin to a chain of seafood restaurants where the best thing on the menu is...biscuits.
DC is one of the most diversely-populated cities in the US, and the home to many types of ethnic fare. But most predominant, at least these days, is Ethiopian cuisine. Hence the presence of Samuelsson, who really should be back in NY working on that restaurant.
Kevin tells us that Samuelsson is not only famous for cooking Ethiopian cuisine, but also for making Southeast Asian cuisine. Really? Southeast Asian? Surely you're thinking of Inigo and his "Chinese" cuisine. What Marcus Samuelsson is most famous for is Swedish-inspired cuisine, as served at his restaurant Aquavit. Which no doubt Kevin would consider an upscale Ikea, if he even realized Ikea was Swedish.
Today's Quickfire Challenge is to create something Ethiopian-inspired. Samuelsson gives them a quickie lesson in the cuisine - he mentions berbere, injera, and the stews called "wat," and leaves the mostly-befuddled chefs to get down to business.
Inigo has experience with Ethiopian cuisine.
What? That word - I do not think it means what you think it means.
Ed and Alpha also have experience with the food of Ethiopia, but the rest of the gang is pretty much clueless. Particularly Kelly, who has never eaten it, and Kevin, who has never made it before. He thinks Inigo makes "Chinese" food, and Samuelsson is famous for SE Asian food, so there you have it. One ethnically-clueless motherfucker.
Eventually, time is up. Marcus and Padma wander around the room, tasting the chefs' fare. Although he seemed a bit douchey on Top Chef Masters, Samuelsson was actually fairly complimentary as he judged the dishes.
However, Kevin, Stephen, and Alex the Pervert fall short of expectations. Not that there were any. On top were Amanda, Inigo, and Tiffany. Though she called it a goulash, Tiffany's dish pleased Marcus most. She wins the Quickfire and immunity in the next challenge...
...which of course involves still more ethnic cuisine. Padma and Marcus wheel in a giant chalkboard decorated with a rather childish map of the world with several countries highlighted. Each cheftestant must create a dish that is inspired by one of the countries. They will make 100 portions to be served at a party for diplomats, ambassadors, and other dignitaries at the Meridian Center.
After drawing knives to determine the order of country-picking, Tiffany ends up with first choice and excitedly picks Mexico. Being from Texas, she's very familiar with the cuisine. Amanda takes France because all of her culinary training has been in French cuisine. Then Alex the Pervert takes Spain, Kelly goes for Italy, Ed takes China, Alpha goes for Thailand, Inigo takes Japan, Kevin goes for India, and Stephen gets stuck with Brazil.
They will not be able to do cooking at the Meridian Center, so they have to do all of their prep and cooking that afternoon, after a 30 minute/$200 trip to Whole Foods.
At the store, Kevin reveals that he doesn't know shit about Indian food. But he's going to make things up as he goes along and do a lot of praying.
Back at the TC Kitchen, with two hours to cook, Kelly and Inigo wisely choose to make cold dishes. Amanda is making Boeuf Bourgignon - a dish that certainly takes more than two hours - with a side of pommes fourchette. Which of course makes me think, "fork you."
And I can smell it in the air - despite Kevin's complete idiocy when it comes to ethnic cuisine, Stephen is the one who's gonna lose.
Ed claimed earlier that he wasn't angry about the pea puree fiasco, but he is now slamming Alex the Pervert every chance he gets. He's calling him a spaz, which seems entirely plausable. Earlier in the episode Kevin calls Alex the Pervert the weakest competitor, saying that his method of cooking is a lot like tossing darts and hoping they land on the board. Or something like that.
Ed reveals that he knows about Chinese food because he's had a few Chinese girlfriends. What's with Ed and talking about girlfriends? He told us on an earlier episode that he "banged" Inigo's girlfriend back in college, and now he's bragging about his ethnic-attracting prowess. I'm starting to suspect that he's really....gay.
Tom comes in for his Sniff 'n' Sneer and asks Kevin if he thinks Padma will go extra hard on him because he's making "Indian" food and she would know. Kevin wets his pants a little.
Back at the house, we see Kevin talking to his kid and wife on the phone. Foreshadowing? He's getting a serious Loser Edit this week. Kelly gets a very nice care package from her husband which includes stuffed animals and a bottle of Jack. She shares the hooch with her housemates who raise a toast to her thoughtful hubby.
The next day, the cheftestants head to the Meridian Center with a mere 30 minutes to light their cans of sterno and get their food plated and ready to go. As soon as time is up, the crowd comes rushing in for food. Along with the usual suspects of Padma, Gail, and Tom, the guest judges are Marcus Samuelsson of the mythical Red Rooster, and Jose Andres, the delightful chef and owner of several delicious DC-area restaurants including Douchey Mike's former place of employment, Zaytinya.
As she bends forward to serve her food, I notice that Kelly has big chunky blonde highlights in her hair Has she had them the whole time?
Kevin's Indian-inspired curry-esqe chicken dish is surprisingly good and gets praise from the judges. Stephen's lame attempt at Brazilian food doesn't do well at all. Alex's interpretation of Spain just about insults Jose Andres. Kelly's carpaccio is very good. Amanda's boeuf is too dry. Inigo's fish is masked by too much seasoning, although one of the dignitaries thinks something like it could be found in one of the finest Japanese restaurants. This dignitary is from Austria. Tiffany's tamale is a huge hit, particularly with a dude from the Bahamas. And Alpha's flavors are as subtle as a beige velour bathroom.
Finally, we get the only amusing moment in the whole show - the fakeout scene. We see Inigo wrap the toilet bowl in plastic as a practical joke. Stephen wanders into the bathroom, somewhat drunk, then pops out laughing, mumbling something about his nuts hitting something when he sat down. The boys all laugh like 8-year-olds. But the funniest part is that Alex the pervert's bed looks to be about 10 inches from the bathroom door, so he probably is treated to all sorts of aromas and noises during the night. Ha! /fakeout
We then see the cheftestants in the Not So Glad Anymore and Hey Kelly! Pass the Jack Stew Room. Padma drags herself in to mumble that the judges want to see Kelly, Kevin, and Tiffany.
Have you noticed that this season has little or no consistency among the cheftestants? Kelly was on the bottom last week and now she's on top. Kevin won two weeks ago, was on the bottom last week, and is once again in the top three. This is Tiffany's second top placement in a row, but she has largely been in the middle for most of the competition.
Kevin "I don't know nothing about nothing" was praised for his made-up curry chicken dish. Even Padma enjoyed it. And Kelly's cold beef dish pleased Chef Andres.
After raves over her tamale, Tiffany is given the win. But that's not all - she gets a bonus of 10K from Dial Nutriskin, with an additional matching amount going to Jose Andres' favorite charity, DC Central Kitchen.
Alex the Pervert, Stephen the Bottom, and Ed are brought out to get lectured about their food. While Stephen has ended up on the bottom many times yet has so far managed to escape elimination, Ed and Alex the Pervert were both in the top two in the previous Elimination Challenge. See? More topsy-turviness.
This week, Stephen earned his bottom spot with mushy overcooked rice. Gail remarks that his use of chimichurri sauce is more appropriate for Argentinian food. Oops. He probably really meant to make molho de churrasco. Alex's poor rendition of Spanish tapas is "like a little nightmare" to Andres. And Ed overpromised and underdelivered by presenting duck without a crisp skin.
Overall, however, Stephen made the most mistakes and was finally given the boot. He takes it all pretty well. Apparently he was very well-liked among the chefs and even if I though it was high time for him to leave, they will probably miss him. But do I care? Not a bit.
You know, I'm really going to miss The Next Food Network Star. So much more entertaining.
Next week: Restaurant Wars!