Thursday, August 05, 2010

Top Chef: Season 7, Episode 8

Welcome to the Tiffany Show

Previously: They had to make a power lunch, but all we’re reminded about is who took the damn pea puree. Well, we know it wasn’t Andrea, because she is gone.

I never noticed the fireworks over the D.C. monuments. I wonder if they got that from the Fourth of July or if they specially shot them off for Top Chef. If they did, then we know who has the power in our nation’s capital. That’s right. Padma Lakshmi.

It’s morning time at the cheftestants’ townhouse and we go through the typical hand-wringing with our cereals. Kelly feels she needs to step it up after last week’s salt fiasco, Alex doesn’t care what people think that he’s a pea puree kidnapper, Ed is trying to move beyond puree-gate, and Tiffany really likes to powder herself, pretty much everywhere around her face and neck.

They head off to the Top Chef kitchen, where we see Padma with Chef Marcus Samuelsson, who you’ve probably seen compete several times on food shows like Iron Chef, Next Iron Chef, and most recently Top Chef: Masters. Padma says D.C. is the mecca for diverse cuisines from around the world, but you can always find Ethiopian food. And I just realized I have never eaten Ethiopian food, and here’s where I share another of my food idiosyncrasies, which is I don’t like to eat with my hands. So that whole slurping up food with bread in the middle of the table is not my idea of a complete dinner.

Quickfire. They have to make their own dish inspired by Ethiopian cuisine, which is why Chef Samuelsson is there, telling them about berbere spice, some kind of spongy bread (which you use to slurp up the food) and spicy stews. Then they have 1.5 hours to cook, which is a quickfire-cubed challenge.

They all start grabbing protein and talking about making “wat” and if the editors didn’t type out that word, I would have thought they were like “what am I making?” This is also pick-on-Alex day (not that he doesn’t deserve it) because Kelly’s talking about how aggressive he is after he grabs the pressure cooker out of Kelly’s reach.

We also find out that several chefs have cooked Ethiopian food before, including Angelo, Kenny, and Ed. And Kenny is confident as usual. I’m kind of getting tired of him telling us that he’s confident. We get it. You’ve got game. Now win a challenge.

You can tell how some of them don’t really know much about Ethiopian food. Kelly asks if they have nuts in their cuisine, Amanda has no idea about the spices she’s using (why is she still here?) and Tiffany says there’s no Ethiopian in Texas so she’s just going to make a stew with Ethiopian spices.

Tasting. Here’s how it went down.

Kevin made a braised chicken with chickpeas. Chef Samuelsson feels the heat.

Stephen made a stew with lamb meatballs and yogurt sauce. Padma licks her finger. I bet she likes to eat with her hands.

Alex offers up a beef and lamb tongue stew that looks vaguely like kim chee to me. Padma says it’s not very spicy.

Kelly did a leg of lamb “wat” with cauliflower yogurt. Samuelsson says the heat comes through. I’m starting to think Ethiopian food is spicy like Indian food.

Amanda has her stewed goat. Chef Samuelsson actually calls it modern and wonderful.

Kenny, of course, shows off with a duo of lamb. Samuelsson says it has lots of deep flavors.

Angelo did a chicken “wat” with egg and Chef Marcus asks if he’s sure he’s not born in Ethiopia. I just noticed that this episode they’re really showing the reactions of the fellow cheftestants to the comments being made. This group of cheftestants seem really catty. (I know. Kettle. Me. :P )

Ed made a stewed lamb with beef tripe that Samuelsson calls well balanced.

Tiffany brings up the rear with her beef goulash with poached egg. Chef Samuelsson says it has good flavors.

Samuelsson says his least favorites of the group was Kevin, Stephen and Alex. His favorites were Amanda (really?), Angelo and Tiffany. Everyone is expecting Angelo to be named the winner, but Chef Samuelsson chooses Tiffany’s not-very-Ethiopian goulash. But a good stew is a good stew. Tiffany gets immunity.

Commercials. 5 React gum looks more like tiny disk drives. Like I would chew that? Oh, Alaska Airlines has a sale to Hawaii. I want to visit!

Elimination challenge. Chef Samuelsson and Padma rolls in a chalkboard with a map of the world and flags of various countries. Padma says they’re taking a culinary tour of the world and each cheftestant has to choose a country and make a dish for 100 people at some diplomatic center, serving up diplomats and ambassadors. Everyone looks all impressed, but really an ambassador is code for big campaign donor.

They draw knives to see what order they’ll pick their country, and Tiffany picks No. 1. Boy, it really is her lucky day. She picks Mexico. The rest of the selection is as follows: Kelly (Italy), Amanda (France, such an easy pick since most chefs learn to cook French), Kenny (Thailand), Alex (Spain), Angelo (Japan), Kevin (India), Ed (China), and Stephen (Brazil).

The cheftestants go off to Whole Foods to shop, and we hear from Kenny again talking about always being in the middle. Then they throw out some personal information to make us like him better. We learn he had cancer. Oh. No. The C-card. Well played, editors. Now I can’t say anything bad about him.

Stephen doesn’t know anything about Brazilian food other than he went to a steakhouse with his wife, so he decides to make steak and rice. That’s like Ed going to a Chinese restaurant and deciding to make chow mein.

They return to prep at the Top Chef kitchen, and I’m kind of curious about some of the dishes because they can’t cook it at the reception so it has to be something that can be served at room temperature, which is why Kelly is making beef carpaccio.

One of the dumbest things I’ve heard yet: Ed says he’s feeling comfortable cooking Chinese because he has dated several Chinese girls. Oh. My. Gawd. He decides to make tea-smoked duck potstickers.

Tiffany, who has immunity, chose Mexico because it borders Texas so she’s very familiar with the cuisine. She’s making tamales, which I love, and she’s going to give it a boost in chicken meat, which I would like too.

People are still talking down Alex, who’s going to make some Spanish tapas like torta. He doesn’t really help his situation by running around like a tall chicken and then he falls after tripping on one of those rubber mats. He’s so geeky.

Tom arrives and does his inspection but it was really boring. He visited with Alex, Tiffany and Kevin but we didn’t really learn anything, and he didn’t really say anything. Tom is really phoning it in this episode.

Commercials. The commercial with the lab puppy is so cute. I want a dog. What? It’s for Ultra toilet paper. I don’t get how a Labrador puppy is supposed to make you think of soft toilet paper, like we clean ourselves with animal fur. Gross, yeah? Oh, another stupid animal commercial, this one for Baskin Robbin’s pink bubblegum flavor. And who doesn’t associate pink bubblegum with … a weird sheep?

Ed is sweating a lot and he runs around saying “cho cho cho” which I really don’t know what that means. They all pack up their stuff and head home.

At the townhouse, we get to hear Kevin talk to his kids on the phone. He says he has to stay focus and stop being a jerk, and then the editors show when he nearly whacked that older guy who I forgot already. Kelly gets a care package from her husband and she gets some stuffed animals (what? Is she 12?) but she gets really excited about the bottle of Jack Daniels.

The next morning, they head to the Meridian International Center, which Kelly says is one of the most beautiful buildings. Did she use to live there? She was talking about the Palm restaurant last week. She’s like a major D.C. tourist.

They start prepping their space, and Amanda is worried that her beef bourguignon is going to dry out, so she cuts the beef pieces smaller? What? How does that help it from not drying out? I would think smaller pieces would warm up faster. I don’t get why she’s still here.

Stephen adds broth to his rice and the heat cooks it up and dries it out, and now it’s overcooked. So he’s worried about going home for bad rice. Tiffany is the only one doing last minute prepping as she’s chopping vegetables as condiments for her tamales. Everyone else is busy plating.

Hey, since this is a diplomatic episode, I wonder if they’re going to have Secretary of State Hillary Clinton make an appearance? Let’s see.

The guests start to arrive, and they start going to the stations. The judges arrive and it’s Padma, Tom and Gail along with Chef Samuelsson still there. But they’re also joined by Jose Andres, who’s a major chef with one of the most expensive and exclusive restaurant in D.C. called Mini Bar. I saw Anderson Cooper do a 60 Minute piece where Chef Andres made him eat a glob of air that was supposed to be cotton candy. Crazy.

The judges go to a few tables to pick up dishes and then they go and eat and dish. First round includes Ed, Alex, Kevin, Stephen, and Kelly. Her carpaccio actually looks nice with that pretty salad on the side.

Jose says cold dishes are very difficult to make, and they show some Italian guy who likes Kelly’s carpaccio. Ed’s dishes had lots of flavor, but Chef Jose feels like it really doesn’t represent China, although they show a Chinese ambassador who says it was pretty authentic. Padma likes Kevin’s curry-like dish, but they don’t have an Indian guy to comment. Of course, Tom doesn’t like the overcooked rice in Stephen’s dish, and some Swedish guy says it’s like something you’d pay $5 for at the food court. Ouch, pretty critical from a guy who just paid $0 for the dish.

The judges go for the second round, which includes Amanda’s beef, Angelo’s tuna sashimi, Tiffany’s tamales, and Kenny’s tamarind-braised pork in cold noodle salad.

Gail says Amanda’s bourguignon is missing the beef, and Jose loves the color of Angelo’s tuna, but really, do you really cook sashimi? It’s really just raw fish with some dressing. Tom’s pretty down on it even though the flavors are clean. Everyone loves Tiffany’s tamales, which Chef Jose says the dish “says Mexico and when you eat it it keeps telling me Mexico.” Yeah, pretty talkative dish, if you ask me.

Commercials. Ewww, Randy Johnson in a commercial for Geico. I hate him since he ruined the Yankee’s World Series dream after 9/11 when he was with the Diamondbacks. Yeah, I can hold a grudge.

OK, the mini Top Chef clip is about Angelo putting plastic wrap over the toilet and the guys get a good laugh out of it. It’s like a frat house.

Back at stew room Kelly says Alex’s dish didn’t scream Spain. Padma comes in and asks for Kelly, Kevin and Tiffany.

Of course, they’re the top three and Tiffany talks about how she wants to win this even though she has immunity. Kevin says he didn’t know anything about Indian food and everyone but Padma says something about his dish. Tom says you don’t have to do authentic food, just good food. Chef Jose Andres is there to name the winner, and he picks Tiffany. Wow, she. Is. On. A. Roll. Tiffany, can you pick up my Lotto ticket?

Wow, and Tiffany wins $10,000 in this challenge. And even Chef Andres, who picked Tiffany, is surprised. “That’s a $10,000 tamale?” he says to Padma. Top Chef is in a really giving mood this episode because they are also matching that same amount to give to Chef Andres’ favorite D.C. charity. I bet this was all negotiated to get him on this episode.

She goes back and sends the bottom three, which turns out to be Alex, Stephen and Ed (Tiffany’s buddy).

Gail says Stephen’s rice was “broken and mealy” and that chimichurri is more Argentina than Brazil. Tom says doesn’t matter where, his food was just not cooked properly. Padma asks what Alex thought about winning last week and now being on the bottom. He says he screwed up and got so excited about cooking Spanish food that he didn’t edit himself. I’m not really sure what that meant. Tom says the food didn’t remind him at all of Spain.

For Ed, apparently the duck was too fatty.

When the three head back to the stew room, they joke that Ed’s the one going home, which is a light moment for awhile. Not sure why everyone thought it was funny that Ed would be going home.

The judges deliberate some more, and Gail is still stuck on Stephen’s mealy rice. Tom says he wanted more smoke flavor in Ed’s duck, and everyone’s talking about the poor technique of everyone. Back in the stew room, Kevin’s surprised that Ed’s in the bottom three, and Ed is embarrassed to be in the bottom three with Alex. Now that’s hitting bottom.

Commercials. Those Snickers commercials are so clever. First Betty White and now Aretha Franklin. I want to see one with Dick Van Dyke. He’s still alive, right?

Judgment time. Tom says in most cases they saw inspiration in the dishes but cooking technique fell short. Stephen: ricey mess. Alex: sloppy. Ed: Fatty duck. Tom does the Padma head turn, and Padma sends Stephen packing. He says he’s honored to have been part of the process, and actually looks pretty happy to be leaving.

He jokes about winning a free trip to Vegas (which is where he’s from). He really does look like he enjoyed his time on the show. I’m just glad he’s off the show because now I won’t get him confused with Ed.

Next: It’s restaurant wars, and Angelo has Alex on his team and he’s not very hapy about that. Amanda has to recook a dish and Kevin says someone didn’t do a beeping thing while a guest judge calls it a horror show. Is it Oct. 31 already?

Top Chef airs every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Bravo. Check your local listings. Photos courtesy of the Bravo TV website.


Anonymous said...

Great recap. I was happy to see Tiffany's grand slam wins and so glad to see Steven go, couldn't figure out why he was still there. I usually look forward to restaurant wars but this season, I'm just hoping it doesn't turn out to be a dud like the rest of the episodes so far.

Anonymous said...

Are you watching the Next Food Network Star? I'm finding it far more interesting and better edited than Top Chef, which seems a little tired these days. -- David

Carolyn Jung said...

Nice to see Tiffany in the limelight. This season hasn't had too many clear-cut stars. But she may be one in the making yet.

Single Guy Ben said...

David, funny how when I recap Next Food Network Stars it's boring, and now that I'm recapping Top Chef, NFNS gets interesting. I have been watching the show and I think what's different is that each of the contestants in that show are so different with very interesting personalities. On Top Chef, most of the cheftestants seem alike. But maybe now that we're getting near the end, we can focus more on their personalities, if they have one.

Jenster said...

Ben, I look forward to your weekly Top Chef posts. As with everyone else, I agree that the participants are fairly bland this season, but the food keeps bringing me back.

I was glad to see Steven go but can't believe Alex is still there, but I suppose they need a loose-cannon in the mix for drama.

I had a good laugh too when Ed was making smoked tea duck and pointed out that he dated a few Chinese girls. All my dates ever learned from me was that I wanted to get Italian food. However, the guy IS from Queens, NY, which has a large Asian population, so I imagined he's eaten in some pretty authentic Chinese places there, as opposed to the fake stuff at PF Chang. ;-)