Top Chef D.C. Episode 3: Waxman On, Waxman Off

"What is the green herb?"
"What is the green herb?"

The cheftestants return in week 3 of Top Chef D.C. — and so does Chef Ed, who is watching along. Ed Hardy, as you’ll recall, is an aspiring cheftestant. Eater interviewed him as he auditioned for this past season and he even has a “Why Isn’t Ed Hardy on Top Chef?” Facebook fan group. The previews for this episode indicated that the contestants would be cooking for a group of Capitol Hill interns, and it turns out that’s a job Ed had before the call of the kitchen lured him away from politics. Ed comments, “I promised I wouldn’t do this but I have to: Bravo, what were you thinking? You passed up a thousand chances to make me look like an arrogant ass on cable TV. Instead of Arnold’s line about his sister, you could have had Ed saying ‘Cook for Capitol Hill interns? Hell, I was an intern.’ Speaking of interns, have you seen a more sorry bunch of folks that should be among the brightest and the best? These are our future leaders of America? They could hardly manage more than a few syllables: ‘Mmm, tast-tee.'” Okay, Ed’s getting ahead of himself. Focus!

The show opens with sleepy cheftestants bemoaning Jacqueline’s exit. Amanda battles survivor guilt while Kenny gets a note of encouragement from his girlfriend. Meanwhile, Angelo vants to be alone. He sits outside talking about how he doesn’t like to be on the bottom and that he’s mad at Kenny for not standing behind his teammates. This makes him want to isolate himself from everybody. Is that a threat or a promise?

The Quickfire Challenge…

Johnny Iuzzini, the executive pastry chef at Jean Georges, is in the house along with Gail, shilling for the soon-to-air Top Chef: Just Desserts (which they’ll cohost) and to act as guest judges in what we can all assume is a dessert QFC.

Since desserts are notorious for tripping up the competitors, it’s no surprise that they’re not all that psyched about it. But, the thing is – all they have to do is make a pie from scratch. This seems innocuous, but the cheftestants immediately begin complaining and bemoaning their lack of experience with pie. What gives, Ed? “The pie test is a great challenge because everybody can make pies. I can, Johnny’s Grandma can, heck, even Caroline can make a decent pie. [CP note: It’s true. I can.] So allow me to veto any attempt to dodge responsibility by folks who complained that savory chefs shouldn’t have to make pies. (Angelo, I’m looking in your direction),” Ed says, pointedly.

Kelly, who would like everyone to know that she opened her own restaurant at 26, immediately claims a station and Arnold immediately hates her for it. Angelo has never cooked a pie (probably because there isn’t pie on the Xie Xie menu), but he says, “This is not a pie challenge,” and turns it into a curry challenge. Hey, whatever works for you, dude. Amanda doesn’t really like pie. Tracey makes a top-secret pie. Lynne boasts, “As an instructor, I don’t need recipes to do desserts.”Alex struggles with an unwieldy almond crust that he wants to fill with tapioca (Um, eww?). Cheftestant Ed laughs at him, saying, “He is a slob. He has no technique. I could go on for an hour.”

"Yeah, I mean, your hair might be a bit much, but we're really here to talk about the pies, Johnny."
"Yeah, I definitely think that's one of your hairs in there, Johnny."

The Pies:
Kenny: Bananas foster pie with currants and Chinese five spice
Amanda: Apple pie with rosemary and bourbon, hazelnut crust
Stephen: Curried apple-date pie with saffron
Kelly: Spiced raspberry and dark chocolate ganache tart
Arnold: Kalamansi and key lime pie parfait with Korean soju
Angelo: Sweet potato pie, curry spices, crumble crust
Tracey: Blueberry almond crunch pie with light cream and almond brittle (after ruining her first attempt)
Tiffany: Peach cobbler with cornmeal crust, buttermilk-lemon crème anglaise (Ed says, “The fancy-sounding crème anglaise is really just the base for vanilla ice cream.”)
Lynne: Mango pie with a basil and vanilla crust
Ed: Banana cream pie with salted peanuts and celery spuma
Alex: White chocolate tapioca and chever pie with almond curst and raspberry puree

Who failed it?
Ed said: “Kenny’s pie looked tasty. Kelly’s chocolate pie looked good, but wasn’t it more of a tart? Also, I wonder if she had practice?”
The judges said: Tracey’s attempt was too thin on top and the crust was burned. They didn’t like Alex’s “quiche.” And, Ed was chastised for his “muddled” banana cream pie.

Who nailed it?
Ed said: “Everyone. A lot of ugly pies. But if I have to name someone it must be Tracey. Two attempts and both were terrible. I know that we Eds have to stick together, but please Ed, for the rest of us Eds (Ed Asner, especially), try to relax a little and not try to hit a home run every time.”
The judges said: Kelly gets a nod for her pie. Stephen is praised for the surprising flavor combo he came up with, but Kenny wins, impressing Johnny with simplicity and big flavors.

Wondering “What would Ed do?” Find out how he’d handle this week’s QFC on his blog.

The Elimination Challenge…

The chefs have to cater a summer picnic cookout for Capitol Hill interns at George Washington’s estate and garden Mount Vernon. They’ve got $400, time to shop, three hours to prep, and a Weber grill for service. They scramble for ingredients, scaring their fellow Whole Foods Shoppers. Kevin gravitates toward flank steak, in a once-in-a-lifetime moment, Tracey decides she’s in the mood for sausage, and Arnold is doing a lamb meatball. This time it’s personal for Kenny because he’d spent a good deal of time bonding time at the grill with his late father. Awww!

"Let's just see how good Tom would be without his sous chef."
"I swear I can feel my pores clogging."

Arnold whines about not having a sous chef – even to Tom at one point. Tracey babbles to herself as she struggles to grind meat, scaring Stephen. Her sausages turn into patties. Timothy and Amanda are making ribs. Angelo is – shocker! – doing Asian. Kenny says, “Again?” Again. Alex and Amanda fight over an oven. Ed is unnerved when Colicchio questions his busy dish, wondering, “Do I have too much #$%@ going on?” Stephen is confident because “Fish is what I do.” Except if he doesn’t do it right. Like if the fish is dry or the bacon wrapped around it isn’t crispy. Amanda is running around screaming and it’s stressing Tiffany out. Back at the house, wine is poured, cigarettes are smoked, and the boys grill Amanda about her rib prep in a totally sexist way.

Service is pretty smooth even though Arnold has no idea how to light a grill and Tracey doesn’t understand that you don’t “turn down” a charcoal Weber. Everyone seems impressed with Jonathan Waxman (Barbuto), whom Padma calls the Obi-Wan Kenobi of Top Chef Masters and is supposed to be famous for grilling, according to one of the contestants. Um, no. He’s famous for having worked at Chez Panisse and Jams. Anyway…

"Tom, I am not telling Jonathan that I think 'Craft' is a better name than 'Jams' so stop asking!
"Tom, I am not telling Jonathan that I think 'Craft' is a better name than 'Jams.' Let it go.

The Dishes:
Tracey: Italian sausage slider, tomato, cucumber and red onion salad
Angelo: Vietnamese lettuce wrap, smoked egg salad
Kenny: Harissa marinated pork loin, quiona, grilled eggplant
Timothy: Pork two ways —  dry loin and wet baby back ribs, grilled vegetables
Lynne: Leg of lamb with ras el hanout, zucchini “spaghetti” with balsamic onions
Arnold: Sesame lamb meatball with tabouli salad and gazpacho
Kevin: Grilled marinated flank steak, rice and beans, and tomato and avocado salad
Stephen: Bacon wrapped sea bass, ratatouille and olive pine nut couscous
Ed: Spiced tuna loin with lentil hummus
Tamesha: Marinated skirt steak with caramel soy glaze and fennel citrus salad
Alex: Grilled pork butt with lemongrass glaze, polenta, and cucumber salad
Amanda: Dry-rub baby back ribs, grilled asparagus, bacon hazelnut vinaigrette
Kelly: Bison burger, watermelon, and tomato salad
Tiffany: Tamarind glazed wild sockeye salmon, Israeli couscous
Andrea: Spicy root beer glazed skirt steak, potato salad

Who failed it?
Ed said: “Um, everyone? It’s Mount Vernon. The home of our first President. No one thought to include cherries in their dish?”
The judges said: Timothy, Stephen, Tracey and Kevin are hauled in. Stephen’s unappealing bass, uncharred bacon and greasy, flavorless couscous are “inedible.” Timothy’s pork two ways was underseasoned and the zucchini was lame. Kevin’s safe Puerto Rican food makes Gail urge him to step it up. Psychic Tracey, who isn’t shocked to be in the line of fire, is sent packing thanks to using too much uncrushed fennel seed and undercooking her burgers.

Jonathan, who would make a better Princess Leia -- me or Padma?
So, Obi-Wan, who would make a better Princess Leia -- me or Padma?

Who nailed it?
Ed said: “So somebody had to win I guess. And in our first real head-scratcher of the season our winner is Arnold, who had learn to start his grill by copying Kenny.”
Judges said: Arnold, Amanda, and Angelo are brought in. Ed is praised for his bold and bright dish. Amanda killed Waxman with the asparagus and the ribs. Angelo’s dish had good flavors, but it’s Arnold’s flavorful lamb that gets the win.

Wondering “What would Ed do?” Find out how he’d handle this week’s EC on his blog.

Cutting quotes:
“Being on the bottom sucks.” — Angelo
“I really wanna be the guy on top.” – Stephen
“My grandmother’s not a pastry chef and she can make a pie.” – Johnny
“Your ganache is nice and smooth. You have a great emulsion.” — Johnny
“What is the green herb?” — Padma
“I’ve never taken advantage of an intern.” – Alex
“I had a problem with cocaine and pills and eventually anything I can get my hands on.” – Amanda
“I’d wanna eat the ass out of this pig all day.” –  Alex
“I’ve never been to prison. I don’t know what those rules are.” – Tom
“My sister’s been an intern which basically means you’re somebody’s b@%$* for a while. I’ve never been the b@%$*.” – Arnold
“Maybe that bird knew something that we didn’t.” – Padma
“If that’s what you call Italian food then it’s almost insulting to Italians.” – Tom

Side dish: Ed’s father was an executive chef (with a FANTASTIC moustache). Everyone loved Amanda’s ribs. Tracey is psychic/clairvoyant. Also, Chef Ed Hardy says, “By the way, the Top Chef set is at none other than the ‘Hinkley Hilton’ in front of which John Hinkley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.”

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