Thursday, August 12, 2010

Reactions to Top Chef DC Episode 9

A major flare-up and an elimination upset marked this episode of Top Chef DC, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Things start out peaceful enough as Amanda marvels over the fact that she's still in the competition and may have what it takes to go to the finals. Kenny, on the other hand, is not surprised at all that he is still in the running and quite confident of his success.

Off to the Top Chef Kitchen where the cheftestants find red and blue aprons laid out along with blindfolds. Everyone knows that this must be the dreaded Tag Team Cookoff Challenge. With two teams of four chefs, each chef will have 10 minutes to prepare a portion of one dish with 40 minutes total devoted to each team's dish. The chefs who have not yet cooked wear blindfolds so they have no idea what the previous team mates have done. The winning team splits $10,000. The teams shake out like this:

Blue Team

Red Team

Kenny and Tiffany go first. Kenny preps a mustard cream and some prawns. Tiffany preps some snapper. Next, Amanda decides to start pasta to go with the prawns and mustard cream, while Alex foolishly seasons the snapper. Kevin preps some herbs and toasts some parmesan for the blue team's pasta and Ed gets a poaching liquid going for the snapper. Finally, Kelly sears the prawns and plates while Angelo, not knowing that the snapper had been seasoned, re-seasons the fish. Realizing that the fish is now too salty, he adds dill and cilantro to balance the flavors and plates before time is up.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is the guest judge for the challenge. She loves the fresh ingredients of the blue team's dish as well as their ability to make al dente angel hair pasta. Although she also liked the red team's dish, ultimately the excessive amount of salt on the snapper gave the win to the blue team.

Now onto the part everyone was waiting for: Restaurant Wars! The two teams divide Redwood Restaurant to establish their own mini-restaurants. Since they will not be responsible for decorating the restaurant as they had in previous seasons, the focus will be on the food and each chef, even those working the front of the house, must be responsible for at least one of the dishes. Former food critic for the New York Times, Frank Bruni, is the guest judge and the Terlato Vineyards provides the wine.

There's the usual scramble for buying food and supplies. The red team seems to be grabbing anything in sight without a shopping list while the blue team is cool and organized. To bring order to the red team, Angelo decides to take charge (surprise!) and since Alex is basically worthless, they put him on food prep and working the front of the restaurant. Even during prep, Alex appears clueless about how to butcher meat or scale and debone fish. Meanwhile, the blue team is the picture of efficiency with Kenny taking charge (surprise!) and Kelly assigned the front of the house.

Let the Restaurant Wars begin! Red Team's restaurant is called EVOO (call your lawyers, Rachael Ray!) because it's supposed to have a Mediterranean feel. Blue Team's restaurant is called 2121 for the number of the Top Chef House. Their approach is "progressive American." Uh huh.

In the kitchen, Angelo starts to lose it and runs around the kitchen like a recently castrated capon. Out front, Alex is being a dick to the wait staff (surprise!). Once again, the blue team is rolling along smoothly, although Amanda appears to be struggling with the wood burning stove. Also, Kelly is out of her element as the front-of-the-house-runner, but is nice and helpful with the wait staff.

The doors open and the crowds arrive. For the red team, things immediately go south as Angelo is timing the tickets wrong and Alex is having to stomp out fires. He's schmoozing a table of diners when the judges arrive and misses his chance to make a good first impression. Alex also stumbles over explaining the dishes which come out, but the judges seem happy over all with the final product. The soup and Ed's turbot is particularly popular while the steak and lamb are deemed okay. The only bad dish is Tiffany's crudo.

Moving on to the blue team's restaurant, Kelly greets the judges warmly and knows the menu well. Unfortunately, Amanda is struggling with the grass fed beef, often overcooking it. The judges also feel that the corn soup is bland, the salad is overloaded with ingredients, and the steak is cut too thin to develop a crust. On the plus side, Kevin's halibut is cooked beautifully. As for dessert, the chocolate tart was good but the ice cream was blah, and the goat cheese was a salty "monstrosity."

Judgment time - The red team is chosen as the winning team and Ed is proclaimed the winning chef with his pan poached turbot with eggplant caviar, black olive jus, and fennel and onion saffron fondue. As winner, he receives a trip to the Terlato Vineyard. Of course, this means that the blue team is the losing team. Although Kevin is praised for his halibut, everyone else is criticized for their respective dishes. Bruni compared Kenny's salad to Hamburger Helper, and his poor cheese course is called "a horror show." Instead of addressing the shortcomings of their dishes, Kenny goes on the attack saying that the red team was disorganized in the kitchen. Kevin joins in, saying that Alex did nothing for the red team.

With one of the front runners out of the way, it's anyone's game. Will resentment toward Alex build? Who will emerge as the new alpha male (or female)? Share your thoughts with us.


froggy said...

Totally shocked about Kenny!!!

Anonymous said...

I am totally shocked about Kenny being eliminated. I think Bravo do not like Black Chefs. They have systematically, on this show, as in other Top Chef episodes, eliminated all of the Black chefs first. What's up with that. Watch out Kevin and Tiffany. I no longer wish to continue to watch the show. Good luck to Kenny and I love you man!

Dave said...

I'm totally not shocked about Kenny. He made two bad dishes, with the cheese dessert being totally terrible according to the judges!

MoHub said...

I am totally shocked about Kenny being eliminated. I think Bravo do not like Black Chefs. They have systematically, on this show, as in other Top Chef episodes, eliminated all of the Black chefs first. What's up with that. Watch out Kevin and Tiffany. I no longer wish to continue to watch the show. Good luck to Kenny and I love you man!

OMG! When are you folks going to learn that race is not a factor? And what are Kevin and Tiffany? Croatian?

Anonymous said...

I'm not shocked about Kenny at all. He's been in the bottom several times. And both of his dishes were HORRIBLE! If the red team had lost, then I agree that Alex should go home. But they won so he was safe. Regardless of what the blue team thought. Blue lost. Kenny did 2 poor dishes.

MoHub said...

I am sure that if the Blue Team had won, there is no question Alex would have been PYKAG'd. However, that's not how it worked out. He'll go soon enough, and hopefully, Amanda will follow.

As often as chefs with subpar performances have skated by in team challenges on the tails of the rest of the winning team, chefs with good dishes have been branded losers by being on the losing team. Think Carla and Ariane in the Foo Fighters Thanksgiving challenge and Kevin in this week's Restaurant Wars.

A chef on a losing team may be safe from elimination, but even if his or her dish is the best of both teams, that chef cannot take the win if he or she is on the losing team.

Unfortunately, those are the rules, however much they may suck.

Katie said...

It saddens me that, even though the blue team had their act together in the kitchen, the red team won. If the judges knew how crazy they were in the kitchen and how rude Alex was being to people, do you think their minds would have changed? The food is most important, but their behavior just rubbed me the wrong way.

I think Amanda should have gone home. When you put it all out there, you have this: 1) Kenny making two dishes and leading the team in a very professional way and 2) Amanda just cooking a steak. None of their food was very good, but I still think Kenny should have come out on top between the two of them. The judges are only proving that you can take a back seat at Restaurant Wars and slide right on through. There should be some recognition given to Kenny because of the great leadership he provided.

theminx said...


There are many chefs who are crazy in the kitchen. Gordon Ramsay comes to mind. But that does not affect the food that comes out of his kitchen. As Gail said, diners don't care about kitchen drama - we only care about what the food is like and how WE are treated.

Also, Kenny appointed himself team leader, and he made two atrocious meals. Amanda overcooked steak but made a good sauce. Usually the person who leads the team ends up going home, and in this case, food was much more important than leadership.

MoHub said...

theminx said...

Usually the person who leads the team ends up going home, and in this case, food was much more important than leadership.

Three other team leaders went home for Restaurant Wars: Tre in season 3, Dale in season 4, and Radhika in season 5. With Kenny, that's a tad more than half—not really enough to establish a statistical pattern.

Lee Anne, Sam, and Jennifer all survived RW leadership to cook another day.

theminx said...

Having done statistical work for several years, I know that statistical significance doesn't even need to be as many as half.

And I shouldn't have to clarify my statement to say that the team leader isn't merely sent home for the fun of it, but is sent home for committing errors.

Jen was just lucky last year that Laurine's front-of-the-house performance was egregious.