Top Chef D.C. Episode 4: The Last Supper

"Angelo, there may be tension between us, but it is not
"Angelo, I just don't like you in that way."

We’re back with another week of “Top Chef: D.C.”, eagerly wondering who will go home and why. Would-be cheftestant Ed Hardy is tuning in with me, as usual. This week looks to be super-exciting because two contenders are going home. Sadly, this week proves to be not at all exciting. There’s a lot of cooking going on, but the drama is missing in action.

What’s also missing in action is money. Ed says, “Financial belt(way)-tightening is apparently the item du jour, as both Congress and Bravo cut back on expenses. It appears that corporations still have a little money, so Hilton rides to our rescue with enough dough to keep the lights turned on, but not much else. We get a completely forgettable corporate guest judge. I dub her ‘Nameless Hilton suit.’ Doesn’t Hilton have any notable chefs to send over?”[CP Note: Yes, and they are probably FUMING!]

As we regroup, everyone wakes up. Arnold is glad that he’s made friends with the grill, Andrea misses Tracey, and Timothy promises he’s going to finish the competition strong despite his slow start. Cut to…

The Quickfire Challenge…

At the Hinkley Hilton, the competitors are immediately unnerved when they don’t see a guest judge, just Padma and a smirking Tom and a bunch of baby toys. Tom has an 8-month old son and Padma has her new baby girl, so the chefs have to cook for Tom and Padma – and their kids, preparing a tasty adult meal and a puree version. Thankfully, the judges are smart enough not to bring their kids to be guinea pigs, so they’ll be assessing both the grown-up and infant food. I don’t know about you, but pureed food freaks me out. Like, if I’m eating pureed food, somehow my life has taken an awful turn and I’ve been institutionalized or something.

Ed says, “The QFC was confusing at best. I feel like there was some explanation that was left out. What was in the purees? (Obviously overcooked lamb or grilled chicken wasn’t a component of the puree.) How exactly were they supposed to complement and/or reflect the dish? Is the food actually meant for a baby (in which case it would be basically flavorless) or just a puree with some of the components of the dish?”

Anyway, there is extra incentive to win this QFC because two participants will walk away with 10 large! Arnold would donate his money while Alex would spend his on a walk on the wild side, probably somewhere off the Sunset Strip. I’m actually starting to like this guy.

The Dishes:
Kenny: Curried chicken, mango salad, confit of butternut squash and maitake mushrooms
Timothy: Sauteed lamb with mushrooms, shallots, and ginger
Kevin: Pan seared duck with baby carrots and corn, and banana puree
Kelly: Roast pork loin with grilled peaches and ginger
Lynne: Chicken with sweet potato and fruit compote
Angelo: Poached tuna with fenugreek broth, tomatoes, soy sauce, and honey
Alex: Seared duck with spinach, basil and mushroom and dill couscous.
Tamesha: Salmon with vegetable chowder and lobster stock, Thai basil, and licorice oil

The Drama:
Kelly has a lemon seed left in her dish, prompting Padma to recoil in horror, saying, “That may not be very successful in a baby’s mouth.” Lynne is flipping out because she’s never had a baby or baby food. Kelly asserts that you don’t need to have kids to win this challenge. Stephen silently (mis)judges Kenny’s diced apples. Kenny lost his wife and mother of his daughter in a car accident years ago. They show her picture and it makes you sad and TOTALLY root for Kenny, so shut up, Stephen! Alex is going all fancypants with his dish and Kevin winds up not getting to plate all his ingredients but manages to sit his duck atop a small pool of blood, which is as nasty as it sounds when you’re talking about poultry. Anyway, I think Kevin winds up crying or something. There’s no crying in baseball or cooking. Man up, yo!

Ed demonstrates what a chinois is -- and how it should NOT be used.
Ed demonstrates what a chinois is -- and how it should NOT be used.

Who failed it:
Ed said: “If I had to pick one I’d say Kevin for his bloody duck. As God as my witness, I didn’t know it was possible for that much blood to come out of a single slice of duck. Kelly left a lemon seed in her puree. For shame. She should have used a chinois.”
The judges said: Timothy’s overcooked lamb displeased Tom as did Alex’s “herbaceous” puree (I’ll bet Padma liked that!). Padma hated the blood on the plate Kevin served her and thought Kelly’s meat was bland.

Who nailed it:
Ed said: “VitaPrep was the real chef behind all those purees.”
The judges said: He liked Lynne’s dish, but Tamesha gets the win and $10,000 from Tom while Padma chooses Kenny over Angelo’s “elegant-looking” dish.

The Elimination Challenge…

This week, the EC is supercharged. Two chefs will be 86d. Working in teams, they will help create easily executed, healthy-yet-sophisticated dishes that will wind up on Hilton Hotel restaurant menus. Representing the Hilton is Beth Scott, the VP of Restaurant Concepts for the chain, or Nameless Corporate Suit (as Ed called her). Competing in self-selected teams of two, they’ll create breakfast, lunch, and dinner concepts. The judges will determine who is safe at each level, starting with two teams at breakfast. The remaining teams go on to cook lunch, and two more will be saved. The three teams left cook for their lives for dinner and one team (two people) will be eliminated. Also, unbeknownst to the players, they’ll be judged by former DC-area cheftestants, including Spike Mendelsohn, Bryan Voltaggio (VOLT), and Mike Isabella (most recently of Zaytinya), as well as chef Nora Pouillon (Restaurant Nora) and Eric “Fishsticks” Ripert (I’m totally kidding about the fishsticks comment, Chef Ripert). They get 30 minutes to shop and $200.

"Mike, don't you think Spike's hat is totally played?"
"Mike, don't you think Spike's hat is totally played?"


The Team: Angelo and Tamesha
The Dish: Slow cooked egg, bacon, and cheddar broth.
The Drama: Angelo thinks Tamesha is really sexy and says something about her inner lion. She tells him “There is no way it’s gonna happen. No way!” I like Tamesha and they make an elegant plate in true Angelo fashion, but, despite a trip to Volt, Tamesha overcooks the eggs and Bryan Voltaggio is the first to notice it.

The Team: Arnold and Lynne.
The Dish: Tortilla Espanola with chorizo and bacon, olive-pear salad and papas bravas (or an omelette and fried potatoes, to put it simply)
The Drama: Cooking in a team is very challengeing for Lynne because she’s used to being the boss. I wouldn’t call an instructor a boss. You actually work for the students you teach, FYI. Tom calls their dish’s texture “strange.”

The Team: Alex and Ed
The Dish: Prosciutto potato cake, egg with lemon pancake, Bellini cocktail
The Drama: Ed misses plating a potato cake and he feels like a jackass. Alex is peeved, saying, “If you can’t get food on the plate, you don’t deserve to be there.”

The Team: Kenny and Kevin
The Dish: Poached egg on herb brioche, prosciutto, Manchego, and Spanish olive tapenade
The Drama: Kenny brings up his singular five-star hotel and five-star restaurant experience while shopping and his Q factor falls in my eyes. Spike calls out the dish’s lack of texture while Tom thinks there’s just too much going on, and it’s clear they’re headed to the lunchline.

The Team: Amanda and Stephen
The Dish: Poached egg, pancetta, potato rosti and grape ragout with hollandaise
The Drama: No one wanted to be paired with either of them, and Padma would have cooked the pancetta differently (I would love to see this woman cook competitively. Seriously. That’s a challenge, Padma!), but they manage to win it.

The Team: Tiffany and Timothy
The Dish: Louisiana-style crab cake eggs Benedict, asparagus, and bacon-potato hash in hollandaise
The Drama: Earlier, Tiffany, aware of Timothy’s poor past performances, notes, “If I go home it’s going to be because Tiffany Deryck made a bad move. I am not going home for anybody else’s mistake,” and, thus, she takes the lead and secures the win. She also proves something I always say: People love crab cakes. For this show, they’re to wins what dessert is to losses.

The Team: Kelly and Andrea
The Dish: Bacon, cheddar and wheat waffle with poached egg and mango, and a lime and mint yogurt smoothie
The Drama: Not a whole lot, but their smoothie was too sweet and the waffle too heavy, according to the judges.

"Spike was TOTALLY checking you out."
"Don't look now, but Bryan is totally checking you out!"

Who nailed it:
Ed said: Timothy and Tiffany kept it simple and played to their strengths. It bears noticing that they were using local ingredients, such as crab. as well.
The judges said: Amanda and Stephen and Tim and Tiffany win and get to sit out the rest of the day.


The Team: Kelly and Andrea
The Dish: Crispy skin red snapper, panzanella salad with mustard
The Drama: Andrea frets, rightfully, over serving fish to Eric Ripert. Padma says she’d have sent it back if she’d gotten this at Le Bernardin, to which Eric retorts, “I wouldn’t have sent it.” Plus, they used canned beans, at which Tom is aghast.

The Team: Alex and Ed
The Dish: Sea scallops with ricotta gnudi and broccoli rabe
The Drama: Alex keeps a close eye on Ed and takes control of the plating. The Volt criticizes the gnudi’s texture.

The Team: Angelo and Tamesha
The Dish: Slivers of beef, jicama-Asian pear salad with mint, cliantro and kimchi vinaigrette
The Drama: Angelo is all kinds of tense, barking commands at Tamesha like she’s his sous (“Wider chiffonade, please!). Someone thought the dish needed crispy shallots (but those probably aren’t on the menu on Xie Xie).

The Team: Arnold and Lynne
The Dish: Tuna cannelloni with forbidden rice salad and tomato vinaigrette
The Drama: Arnold desperately wants to avoid dinner, but this complicated dish misses the mark.

The Team: Kenny and Kevin
The Dish: Chickpea pappardelle pasta with grilled chicken and tahini sauce
The Drama: They’re both mad going into the challenge, baffled that they didn’t get a pass. Kevin trusts Kenny’s instincts, which proves to be a bad idea.

Who nailed it:
Ed said: [Ed failed to comment because he was busy drinking bourbon and clowning around with the chinois.]
The judges said: Angelo and Tamesha and Alex and Ed are safe and excited, most of all Angelo, who cackles victoriously and restates that he wants Kenny gone.

One way or another, Angelo vows to make sure Kenny is eliminated.
"One way or another, Kenny will be eliminated. Oh, yes...he will!"


The Team: Kelly and Andrea
The Dish: Braised beef short rib. Polenta, shitake, and citrus gremolata
The Drama: Andrea brags about her F&W Best Chef something or other from a million years ago. Kevin and Kenny are dissing the women’s short ribs. What is it with men’s meat chauvinism on this show? They don’t think that women can cook meat? Amanda smoked the boys last week and I have a feeling Kevin and Kenny are about to get served and not in the good way.

The Team: Kenny and Kevin
The Dish: Braised beef short rib, squash, potato and carrot confit, and tempura horseradish
The Drama: Kenny is heated. Kenny and Kevin taste their sauce 50 times. Kevin doesn’t like that Kenny doesn’t consult him every time he adjusts the sauce.

The Team: Lynne and Arnold
The Dish: Pineapple red curry mussels with squid ink pasta and foccaccia
The Drama: Lynne must’ve seen “The A Team” because she’s got a bad attitude and Arnold is not feeling it all. Lynne’s oven gets turned down by Kevin and Kenny. She and Arnold bicker over when to cook the fresh pasta, which turns out to be undercooked despite her assurance that fresh pasta cooks in one minute. Maybe those who can’t do really do teach!

Who nailed it:
Ed said: “This episode reveals that when pressed against a wall and at wit’s end chefs go for the short rib. It’s what we eat, it’s what we love, even if it’s, ‘Been there, done that.’ That said, I’m stunned that Andrea and Kelly won with this. It’s on a thousand different menus in America.”
The judges said: Kelly and Andrea, who win a trip to Italy and Spain, respectively (at a Hilton, ‘natch).

"Padma, just because you're nursing doesn't mean you're still eating for two."
"Look on the bright side, Eric. It's easy to stay slim when the food is this bad."

Who failed it:
Ed said: Ed is speechless so he hasn’t said anything. I think he’s catatonic. Or just drunk. I’ll call a doctor if he starts drooling.
The judges said: Kevin and Kenny get VERY lucky as Lynne and Arnold lose the challenge and leave the show, though we’ll probably see them again as a finalist’s sous chefs.

Side dish: Shame on Lynne, blaming herself for letting a younger chef take the lead. You cannot judge a chef by her or his age. Amanda and Kevin argued over the idea of telling people how to eat food, with Kevin asserting that guests sometimes need instructions. Andrea has never left the country (or the 80s, judging by her hair).

Cutting quotes:
“It’d be nice to win 20K. Maybe buy myself something. A hooker and an eightball, please.” — Alex
“I’ve never fed a baby before. I practice making babies but I don’t make baby food.” — Alex
“Holy @$*%balls. I won 10,000 smackeroos. How you doin’?” — Tamesha
“Ed screwed the pooch pretty good.” — Alex
“I know I’m hitting flavor, texture, temperature at the highest level.” — Kenny
“I came to prove to myself that I can still be the old beast that I used to be.” — Lynne

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