Thursday, August 26, 2010

Reactions to Top Chef DC Episode 11

Another day dawns at the Chef House. Ed rises in a glorious yellow dress supplied by Tiffany. Kelly is talking smack about Amanda and wishing her gone. Angelo, paralyzed by self-doubt, goes through all forms of self-motivating rituals to convince himself he can win.

Off to the Top Chef Kitchen where Padma is standing with guest judge, Top Chef Masters participant Rick Moonen, a.k.a. The Sustainable Mr. Limpet. For the Quickfire Challenge, each chef must create a dish based on a common expression involving food. The winning dish will be featured as part of the Schwan's Home Delivery Service, so it must be easily frozen. The chefs draw knives to see who gets what idiom and it shakes out like this:

Tiffany - Spill the beans
Angelo - Bigger fish to fry
Ed - Hot potato
Amanda - Big cheese
Kevin - Bring home the bacon
Kelly - Sour grapes

Everyone avoided the more risque "Hide the salami" because God forbid anything funny or clever should happen on this season. The chefs race about, scrambling to finish their dishes. Angelo is clearly rattled and Ed is struggling to complete gnocchi in one hour. Soon, time is called and Padma and Rick must taste the dishes. Rick is fairly poker-faced through the proceedings, but soon offers his judgment. On the bottom is Kelly for her chicken breast with brussel sprouts and grape puree, the combination of which Rick found too weird. Also on the bottom is Amanda for her mac and cheese with bacon, which Rick described as  "a sledgehammer to the gut." On the top end is Kevin for his light and balanced bacon three ways and Ed's potato gnocchi with spring vegetables and mushrooms, which Rick found light and well thought out. Of the two, Ed takes the win.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs must run a high-end concession stand at Nationals Park, home of the Washington Nationals baseball team. (They would have had it at Orioles Park, but there wouldn't have been enough people in attendance to sample their food). All six chefs must work as one team and produce six dishes. With 15 minutes to plan, Kelly immediately takes control and denies Amanda use of crab since she wants to make crab cakes. Eventually, they each come up with a dish and run off to Whole Foods to spend their $2,000 in 30 minutes.

Without crab, Amanda opts for making tuna tartare. Ed wants something fried, so he makes fried shrimp and corn poppers. With dim sum in mind, Angelo decides on making a sweet glazed pork bun served in a hot dog roll for the baseball feel. Kevin goes with chicken kabobs, Tiffany makes a meatball sub, and Kelly creates a crab cake BLT. During the 3 hour prep time, Ed begins to worry whether he'll be able to whip up enough poppers to satisfy the hungry customers. Amanda is lost on how to prep for the tartare, and chooses to chop up the tuna the day before. Angelo offers advice on how to do it, slyly neglecting to tell her to put oil on the tuna so it won't turn gray.

Back at Chef House, the chefs begin to wonder how they will organize their stand (taking orders, etc.). Angelo, sensing that Kelly is being "strategical," offers to take charge and expedite. The next day at the ballpark, Angelo begins to have second thoughts about his offer and decides that everyone should take their own orders. Kevin balks (nice use of baseball terminology there! -theminx) at the idea, saying that every restaurant has some sort of organization, and someone has to expedite. With Ed agreeing to plate Angelo's dishes, Angelo goes back to being expediter.

Service time arrives and hungry patrons begin to line up. Even three Nationals players stop by to try the food. The meatball sub and crab cake BLT are the big hits, and the patrons agree. Then Padma, Tom Colicchio, Rick Moonen, and special guest star Eric Ripert arrive to eat and judge. Overall, the judges are happy with the dishes, but of course there are issues with some.

Back at Judges' Table, all six chefs are brought out for critiques. To kill some time, Padma asks about how they chose to run the stand. This sets off a round of bickering over Angelo's indecisiveness and general douchiness. Padma and Tom look on like two disappointed parents while the producers rub their hands with delight that they might squeeze a little drama out of this dull series.

On to the food, Ed and Tiffany are called out as the top two. Tiffany's meatball sub was deemed messy but quite delicious with a strong touch of cumin seed. Ed is crowned the winner, though, for his poppers which were crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and very spicy. As the winner, Ed receives one of Rick's fish cookbooks and, more importantly, a trip to Australia.

As for the remaining four, Kevin's kabobs were judged to be difficult to eat with bland chicken and soggy French fries, Kelly's crab cake was too salty and the bacon was too fatty, Angelo's pork was too sweet and he did not put enough pork in the hot dog rolls, and Amanda's gray tuna was off putting despite decent flavor.

Of course, Amanda is the one asked to leave. This was a long time in coming and, while it could be argued that her dish tasted better than some of the others, her lack of skills and experience would not allow her to move on.

We're closing in on the final three. Who do you think it might be? Let us know what you think about this episode and the competition ahead.


Marsha said...

I'm hoping the final 3 will be Angelo, Ed, and Tiffany - presuming Angelo overcomes his nerves. I like both Kevin and Kelly, too, though. Really at this point, any 3 of those left would be fine with me.

Cliff O'Neill said...

The Sustainable Mr. Limpet!!!! Loves!