'Top Chef' recap: Cooking for the kids and Kass
There’s a place called Washington, D.C. where there are fat cats, along with bulls and bears, and people saying things like “senate majority” and “sexual relations.” In this land, things are blue and red, and there are a lot of white buildings, where famous stuff happened.
Oh? What’s that? You’ve heard of this place? It’s where who lives?
Well, I’m with you, but apparently the Bravo producers are not because they want you to know that their new home turf is all politics and bad puns like “bipartisandwich,” which elicited a collective groan in the Top Chef kitchen. But I’ll leave the filibusters to Padma.
The D.C.-isms continued with assistant White House chef Sam Kass, who announced the day’s quickfire challenge. Side note: Does anyone else think Kass would make a rather handsome and astute regular judge? There’s something about his shaved head and him telling Kenny that a tomato is actually a fruit… it was working for me.
Kass wisely refused to utter the word “bipartisandwich,” leaving Padma to explain that the chefs would have 30 minutes to work in teams of two to make a sandwich.
But here’s the catch: The chefs had to think of as many puns about their dish while making their dish. Well, no actually, the catch was that they had to wear red and blue aprons (get it??) that were joined at the hip.
And it did turn the kitchen into quite the cuckoo house. Without two hands for the can opener, the cheftestants hacked away at cans with knives, while Amanda clutched greens with her chin for dear life.
They all seemed to pull it together without losing any digits, but Teams Stephen/Jacqueline and Tiffany/Lynne were Kass’ bottom two. The former lacked creativity (white bread is TC blasphemy, apparently) and the latter’s saltimbocca had a funky texture. Add saltimbocca to the list of things I’ve never heard of and things people on TC use to sound really cool.
In the top were Teams Angelo/Tracy and Kenny/Ed. Angelo vs. Kenny. I’m already bored of this rivalry. I was bored of this rivalry until I saw what Angelo had in store later in the day. Anyway, though Kenny and Ed had a beautifully seared tuna, the prize went to Angelo and that girl who helped him. Tracy was psyched to work with him because 1. She knew she’d get immunity and 2. She has a crush on him. Well, by the end of the quickfire, he had his arm around her. Score! Oh wait, she’s a lesbian. D’oh.
Kass loved Angelo and Tracy’s flounder marinated in “liquid sex,” I mean fish sauce, so the two won immunity which meant they could turn off their culinary powers the rest of the day.
They had to cook for 50 middle school children, who are way better arbiters of food than Tom, Padma, Gail or even Eric are, thanks to their totally visceral reactions. (One kid wanted to throw up after eating Stephen’s sweet onion rice.) The catch was, their budget was $2.68 per child, which is the same amount the local public schools get, which is pretty sad. And for funsies, Kass deducted $4 from the $134 total to account for the labor and supply costs that are also used for the $2.68. So… ramen noodles for lunch?
“When I go out, I spend $134 on myself,” Arnold said. Something tells me part of that $134 is spent on drag queen bingo and karaoke to the Spice Girls. But anyway…
In their lunches, the cheftestants needed a main course, side dishes, and dessert with vegetables and fruit incorporated. Each person on the team of four would be responsible for one dish, but there were no knives to be drawn this round. No, they just picked each other, and I’m assuming that, looking back, Arnold would’ve sooner gone without a stylist than worked with Kelly.
You see, Colorado Kelly became controlling Kelly. “This is actually my idea,” she told the other cheftestants about her pork carnitas. “I’m ultimately responsible for the carnitas,” she told Tom. Well, Kelly, we really ought to give you a James Beard award for your pork tacos.
And while Kelly was in Kelly world, Angelo was similarly in his own universe of hair gel, peanut butter and immunity, explaining that he turned a rock into a wheel. What? Dude should’ve been explaining to Kenny that tomatoes have seeds and therefore are a fruit instead of lauding your own praises for squeezing out a very unappetizing sweet potato puree.
When there wasn’t any agenda pushing — and don’t get me wrong, this is a good agenda to push — Angelo was concocting devilish plans to sabotage Kenny via his immunity, while disastrous decisions abounded elsewhere in the TC kitchen. Amanda chose a sherry jus for her chicken, while Jacqueline added two pounds of sugar to her pudding. A healthy lunch for children with alcohol and obesity-inducing sweets sounded about right.
Kevin seemed to be the only one to get “it” and be creative about it. His melon kebab with yogurt — in the form of fluffy whip cream — was genius. Angelo definitely did not get it, making an overly fancy peanut butter and celery dish that proved he was born a grown man and was never a child. Kids like bright, shiny things; not words like “tuile cup.”
When everyone headed back to the TC headquarters, Arnold spearheaded what I wish could’ve been a real revolt against Kelly. But with Jay and Silent Bob, a.k.a. Tiffany and Lynne, that wasn’t going to happen. Kelly, on the other hand, was “flabbergasted” by her alleged bitchiness, still believing that her oat tortillas and braised pork were the bee’s knees.
Sadly for my new Kelly dislike, she ended up winning the elimination challenge, where Kass had, as Andrew would say, a “culinary boner” for her carnitas. But Kelly’s whole team was in the judges’ good graces for creating the top menu of the day.
Seeing the bottom teams was, topically enough, like a Real Housewives reunion what with all the uncalled-for interjections and smack-talk. More please!
First, out of nowhere, Stephen, of Stephen/Amanda/Jacqueline/Tamesha, bashed Team Angelo/Tracy/Kenny/Ed for their lack of vegetables. Then Ed retorted with Amanda’s preposterous use of sherry. Then Angelo pleaded the fifth on whether he did a measly celery cup because he knew he had immunity. And finally, between the judges, Tom likened Amanda’s chicken to “a turd.” So really, this was the best part of the hour.
We could’ve pondered for ages if Angelo deliberately tried to throw Kenny under the bus, but he saved us a lot of time by telling Tracy, “I don’t like Kenny.” Well, I guess that mystery is solved.
But Angelo’s tactics didn’t work in the end, even though both Kenny and Ed were in the bottom four. Amanda and Jacqueline were also there, and even though I could’ve sworn that alcohol Amanda would get the boot, Jacqueline was sent home. I chalk it up to the double whammy of last week’s atrocious chicken liver mousse and this week’s banana pudding. I guess the proof is in the pudding. Padma, that one is mine.
Next week, the cheftestants cook a picnic, Alex is a slob and most everyone sits around smoking cigarettes. Until then!