Top Chef D.C. Episode 13: And Then There Were Three…

ZOMG. We’re getting down to the wire. Just one episode away from the finale. Joining me for the penultimate (which is actually always better than any finale – really. Think about it for a minute. I’m totally right!) is aspiring cheftestant Ed Hardy. We’re chatting on delay again because I was at the US Open, watching Roger Federer serve up a big can of whoopa$$ to Roger Soderling.

Hey, Ed! First, why do you think they chose Singapore?

Padma tries to charm Seetoh with her impersonation of a giant prawn.
Padma tries to charm Seetoh with her impersonation of a giant prawn.

No one can argue with the cuisine of Singapore. It combines some of the best elements of different Pacific Rim cuisines along with some great spicy heat.

Does this give Angelo an unfair advantage?


Fine. Before we get into this at all, call it straight away — who won’t make the Top 3?

I’m “liken” Kelly to NOT make it to the top 3. Remember the trouble she had with never cooking Kung Pao before? She hasn’t really won anything, and she has made a living in the middle of the pack. Not a recipe for success.

They’re going on this street food tasting tour – and I’m starvin’ like Marvin. Kelly doesn’t look in her comfort zone, though. So perhaps you’re right. Let’s talk about Seetoh (Great name!). He has a book, not a blog and he comes off as so sincere, both of which make him less annoying than American street food writers, in my mind. If he lived in Brooklyn and blogged about the NYC streetfood scene, he might come off as annoying.

Seetoh seems to be all right. Better to be him than a washed-up host of a lame show about mediocre food trucks and their boring “race” around the country.

Ed smiles, knowing that his stoner food is the fastest way to at least one judge's heart.

Can you say a few words about the street food craze in general?

I LOVE the street food craze. I think it’s a reaction to the fusion craze and the molecular gastronomy craze. After those trends, some diners were confused and left looking for authenticity. Nothing is more authentic than street food.

There’s one dude there who’s been making the same dish every day for 40 years. Is this anything you aspire to?

Absolutely not. While I respect a guy that has the discipline to do something like that, it’s not for everyone. He would make an excellent line cook, but not a chef. Chefs have to have a curious, exploratory nature or else they don’t deserve to be called “chef.”

Kelly looks like she’s wearing cruisewear. Kevin is dressed like Dora the Explorer. Angelo rocks the shorts during the elimination challenge. Which would you choose?

Shorts. Definitely. Mario Batali does it, too, you know. I learned to cook in The South where the weather is comparable to Singapore’s. It is hot back there in the kitchen,  and you need to stay cool both physically and mentally. Every inch of skin you can safely expose makes life a little saner.  God knows Angelo needed as much sanity as he could get.

So once again, we have a New York/male-centric semi-final. What’s the takeaway here?

Despite Bravo’s plan to get maximum exposure in different TV markets, the pressure cooker and culinary nexus that is New York City prepares chefs to be cutting edge winners. I need to get back to my native land South of the Mason/Dixon Line. Maybe then Bravo producers will notice me.

Chef Tom is getting mad about them only doing four dishes. Ed has one in his back pocket. This is not cool. What do you pull out of your rear at the last minute like this?

Look, it made for good drama.  I’m sure the producers of Bravo sent Tom in there to feign disbelief about them only doing one dish. I would have had something., though. Obviously Ed’s banana fritter (I feeling dirty saying that!) was superior, but if I were flying all the way to Singapore to compete on Top Chef I would have done enough homework to have a second uncomplicated and quick dish.

Kelly stuck herself – and it’s gushing. Have you ever cooked on the fly with a bleeder?

Plenty of times. I’ve tried using the glove like Kelly, but it doesn’t really work. You just grab whatever tape you might have around and a piece of paper towel and wrap it tight enough to cut off the circulation. Girls think chefs are cool, and chefs with scars are really cool, so its a win/win situation.

I’m sure that’s how you caught your wife. There are so few plausible explanations. Speaking of catching, have you ever been prawn fishing? I don’t think Americans would eat as many shrimp if they knew what they really looked like with, you know, heads and faces.

I want to go prawn fishing! This looks cool. I think most Americans could probably get used to the idea that shrimp are just small lobsters no?

I don’t know about that. I’ve seen whole prawns served and I’ve eaten deep-fried shrimp heads (something that makes me deeply ashamed when I think of it), but I think they would be consumed less if they came whole and people had to behead their own shrimp. Anyway, people think Ed is a feminine hygiene product because of his sarcasm. You two have more in common than just a name it seems. Ha!

Ed’s woking on sunshine. He’s like the Cheshire Cat who ate Angelo’s mouse the entire episode. I thought it was hilarious how literally every second he was getting in little digs at Angelo. I would have done the exact same. Go Ed!

What happens when cockles don’t open? Are they bad/dead?

This is incredibly frustrating. Sometimes clams and cockles just won’t open, even when you know they’re cooked. They’re not bad or dead, just being incredibly difficult.

"Lady GaGa calls it my poker face."

Is Dana good or evil?

Listen lady, I want to try to have a career after this little side job as a TV critic. You say anything bad about the Food & Wine Editor and the next thing you know you’re getting chopped up like lamb sashimi.

Her expressions are throwing me off. When she tastes things, I sometimes think she’ll HATE it, and then she declares she loves it. I’d have to be on Xanax to work in her test kitchen. Anyway, the whammy in the EC is the wait staff. They’re seriously frustrating the cheftestants. Have you ever wanted to choke your wait staff?

All the time. Both as a professional chef and a professional diner. Many people who are waiters aren’t doing it as a career. It makes me long to work with some of Europe’s professional waitstaff. Some of those guys spend an entire career perfecting the art of waiting.

I agree. Give me a professional wait staffer or bartender. Please. So, I’ve been watching lots of tennis and Ed’s double win reminds me of Brad Gilbert’s book Winning Ugly. Like, it doesn’t matter how you get there, just get the W. Did Ed win ugly?

Nope! Ed won on talent. It’s pretty obvious that he’s emerging as the best overall chef here. Give him a chance to learn about a cuisine and he appears to be able to compete against people (Angelo) that are supposedly the best.

"I told myself I wouldn't cry."

Did you notice how hard Padma laughed at Tom’s “stoner food” comment? Anyway, Kelly’s out. You called it. I do think she’s better than Kevin in a lot of ways, but the judges probably got this one right. It bums me out, though, that someone like Tiffany didn’t make it. And Angelo is crying. Is this for real? Or is he only crying because he realizes that Ed could win the whole thing?

Angelo needs to get a grip. Also, I love how Kevin just stands there probably thinking about how he could be back in his air-conditioned hotel right now.

In Kevin’s defense, their accommodations did look pretty fly. Okay, well, thanks again, Ed. This week wasn’t as exciting as it could have been. No one was arrested for spitting on the sidewalk or caned or anything, but next week’s finale shows promise if only because of Hung’s return. And, before we regroup to root for someone in the finale, remember to root for Roger Federer to win the US Open.

I sure will. Roger Federer is to tennis what Thomas Keller is to restaurants.*

* Ed didn’t actually say this, but I imagine he would have said something like it if I really pressed him on it. Or threatened him with incriminating photos.

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