'Top Chef' recap: Buy me some peanuts and day-old tuna
Image Credit: David Giesbrecht/BravoNow that Alex is gone, somebody’s got to fill the crazy quotient in the Top Chef house, and who knew there was such a plethora of insanity this year? Shrines devoted to four-star chefs, Anthony Robbins books, cross dressing—I think we’ve hit the turning point, my friends.
Meanwhile, the cheftestants have apparently hit their boiling points because last night tempers were flaring. Stress ran high, baseball players ran tall, and gimmicks abounded.
Things got started when Padma and guest judge/Top Chef Masters alum Rick Moonen, who bears an uncanny resemblance to another chef Rick, explained that the cheftestants would create a dish based on a food idiom, which ranged from innocent (“sour grapes”) to racy (“hide the salami”). Since everyone forgot the show’s affinity for testicles and missed out on the opportunity for lame jokes, the salami didn’t make it in. (That’s what she said.)
Building on last week’s ingenious idea to disguise French onion soup as soup, Amanda decided to turn “big cheese” into mac and cheese. Yes, it had bacon and jalapenos and was clearly made with something finer than Kraft’s powdered mystery cheese, but methinks Amanda lacks the creativity gene. It was a miracle she didn’t serve an Oscar Meyer hot dog later at the Nationals game.
Lucky for us, we’re not the only haters. “She’s annoying,” said Ed. “She’s a slob. She has no technique. I think she’s just been lucky.” On the other hand, Angelo thinks she’s a dark horse. Side with the cheftestant who’s been doing extremely well recently or the one who worships cutouts of four-star chefs in a candle-lit room? That is a tough call.
Rick was with Ed on this one, calling Amanda’s mac and cheese a “sledgehammer to the gut.” Forget the heavy-handed ingredients; her crybaby voice was an assault on my ears, and rivaled Angelo’s vomit-inducing cell phone pillow talk with his Russian fiancée.
Elsewhere, forgetting Padma’s warning not to turn her sour grapes into, well, sour grapes, Kelly’s chicken bombed—surprising, given her ego confidence. Angelo, in hypermaniac mode from last week’s spot in the bottom, channeled some ancient Chinese traditions to brown nose his way into…a dish that didn’t even get recognized. I guess $5 Asian mystics can’t buy you much.
In the end, the win went to Ed’s “hot potato” gnocchi with spring vegetables, which sounded positively divine and won him a spot in Schwan’s frozen meal repertoire. I mean, who needs a trip to Paris anyway? But the prize was fitting because Ed is Mr. Potato Head, said the man who chants to himself.
Seeing as how everyone was starting to get testy, it was only natural that they’d be forced to work together for the elimination challenge, where they would put gourmet twists on concession stand food at a Nationals baseball game. Having been to my fair share of Cubs and Yankees games for the food, not the play, I know there’s nothing like nachos, hot dogs and Dippin’ Dots stretched over nine innings… and a bellyache rounding out the bottom of the ninth.
But before they got the food out, they had to get organized. Cue self-professed organizer, Kelly. It’s been quite some time since Controlling Kelly has come out, but last night she returned. Oddly enough, though, that wasn’t even their biggest problem.
At some point they realized oxidized tuna doesn’t serve itself and after everyone’s huffing and puffing, Angelo decided to take charge, maybe because that’s what one of the chefs in his shrine would’ve wanted him to do. The problem was, who would take care of Angelo’s food?
Ed offered to cook Angelo’s glazed pork, perhaps making up for “banging” Angelo’s girlfriend in college. But what Ed may have in the bedroom (sorry, gross visual), he lacks in math skills. He had to make 500 shrimp-and-corn fritters in three hours. It was stressful enough to make him yell at Tiffany, which was not cool by me. Tiffany FTW!
Elsewhere, Angelo told Kevin to chill out, which… was fair. Whether the Phillies fan was upset to be at an away stadium or just tired of Angelo running his mouth, Kevin was ready to bust a cap.
Oh, but there were some foul balls, too. But by foul, I actually mean foul: Forget the fact that tuna tartare is one of the weirdest things to serve at a baseball game, but the fish had oxidized and turn gray. It didn’t sit well (probably post-game, too) with the spectators, or the judges. Eric couldn’t get over the color and Rick said it took “baseballs” to serve tartare at a ball game. Padma was contractually obligated to laugh and also wear a Nationals jersey, which may be the best thing she’s worn all season. Tom, who seems to have some inexplicable soft side for Amanda, ignored the unpleasant hue and praised her vegetables.
Angelo clearly didn’t tell Amanda to coat her tuna with oil because he’s in it to win it, but if he’s that invested in first place, why the store-bought buns? Isn’t that TC blasphemy, like, oh, I don’t know, store-bought pastry dough? The bread totally killed any remnants of pork, making me question this alleged sandwich-owning business Angelo speaks of.
Tiffany made a sandwich too, but because she’s smart (and awesome), hers worked. Her Italian meatball sub was goopy and messy but in all the right ways, and it just so happened to be one of the more popular dishes alongside Kelly’s open-faced crab cake. Sure, the bacon was cut too thick and it was a bit heavy on salt, but the crowd didn’t mind probably, because it was excuse to drink more beer.
It came down to Tiffany and Ed, whose fritters may have disgusted the baseball players enough to pull a Wolfgang Puck but managed to wow every judge. It sounded like the appropriate balance of gourmet and indulgence for a concession stand, and it earned him the a double-header win that day, a cookbook and a trip to Australia.
In the bottom four, it was fairly clear who was going home. Kelly may have brought too much bacon home, but her crab cakes were above average. The real showdown was between Kevin, Amanda and Angelo, but Amanda’s fatal mistake to cut her tuna the day before was a flop these judges just wouldn’t let slip by, and off she went, left with a lone tear to wipe away. Do I even have to say it? “There’s no crying in baseball!”
But if you think about it, I think the real loser in all of this is Angelo’s fiance. No money for a visa and no extravagant trip. Sorry lady, all you have for now is speaker phone-enforced phone calls.
Next week we get yet another gimmicky challenge, this time at N.A.S.A. in an “out of the world” challenge (they’re so clever) starring Buzz Aldrin, whose already well versed in the world of reality TV. OK, seriously, how long until the (we hope) Michelle Obama challenge?
What did you guys think of the episode? Did Amanda deserve to go home? And just how bad was sandwich-shop-owner Angelo’s decision to use a hot dog bun? Sound off below!