Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top Chef DC 8: Nobody Likes Brazil

Nine chefs to go. Though there are still some weaker chefs left in the competition, the top two chefs (Angelo and Kenny) seem to have come back to the pack a little bit. The next elimination is an important one; with eight chefs remaining the next episode should be Restaurant Wars. Who won't make the cut?


Quickfire Challenge

This week there is no pre-pubescent Congressman to regale us with tales of ethics violations. Instead we get a Real Life Chef, and one we have probably all heard of, Marcus Samuelsson, famous for his Ethiopian and Asian cuisine. Angelo may have actually ejaculated when he saw Marcus enter the room. Washington DC has a ton of Ethiopian restaurants, so the challenge is... cook something Ethiopian! Marcus gives some quick pointers, which may or may not help.

To be honest, this seemed like a bit of a cop-out of a challenge, but what do I know. Some of the chefs are going to have a big advantage on knowing what spices to use and what techniques to use, while some chefs maybe confused that Ethiopia actually has a style of cuisine.

Quickfire Losers

Kevin (Saunter, -0.5): Poor Kevin. Sometimes high, sometimes low. I'm willing to cut him some slack; Kevin seems a little at sea when he is out of his comfort zone. His dish of braised chicken with chickpeas, a cucumber mint salad, and yogurt didn't seem particularly Ethiopian-y and was pinged by Marcus for not being bold enough, which is a criticism we have heard before. This lack of balls when he's not cooking something in his wheelhouse could definitely prevent him going deep. GET SOME BALLS, KEVIN!

Alex (Saunter, -0.5): Alex went for beef and lamb tongue stew with cabbage and potatoes. OK, big ups for using tongue, but I have no idea where the cabbage came from. His stew is too dry, but we all know the real reason he failed; he couldn't steal Ed's pea puree. Zing! Alex definitely is in the lower tier of chefs, and I can't see him lasting too much longer. Saunter just has to hope that he doesn't drain too many points before he gets zapped, or that he at least can cheat his way to a few more victories.

Stephen (Gracie, -0.5): Oh, Stephen. Is it worse to crash and burn in the first couple of episodes, and claim you just fucked up and were unlucky? Or is it worse to limp along for episode after episode, stinking up the joint and generally producing shitty dish after shitty dish? Stephen is definitely testing this theory, and is making me think it is better to burn out rather than fade away. So, let's talk about this particular crappy dish: lamb meatballs and yogurt sauce, which looks terrible, and apparently the meatballs are dry. What makes this worse is that Stephen claimed to have been anticipating this challenge, due to the number of Ethiopian restaurants about the place... so does this mean he could have been even worse if he wasn't anticipating it? Or was he just lying, so we would think his Sherlock skills were better than his culinary skills (which apparently wouldn't be hard)? Whichever it is, he just sucks.

Quickfire Finalists

Amanda (All-Star, +1): The biggest surprise of the challenge was Amanda managing to deliver with her stewed goat on grilled injera. While preparing the dish Amanda admits that she has no idea what she is doing, and no idea what the spices are, but still manages to deliver something that impresses Marcus. I think Amanda is a mediocre chef who subscribes a little to the Alex-like "throw crap at the wall and hope something sticks" style of cooking, but there is one thing she does have in spades: and that's balls. Chefs like Kevin could take that from her, at least. But watch out, or she will cut you, just to watch you bleed.

Angelo (All-Star, +1): No surprise: Angelo producing one of the top dishes. Big surprise: Angelo did not win the the challenge. Angelo produced berbere spiced doro wat with egg, mango yogurt, and mint on steamed injera... I mean, that sounds like it should be appearing on an Ethiopian menu. Marcus goes as far as to ask if Angelo was born Ethiopian, and then they both make out with each other. Tell you what though, Angelo is not calling Marcus back after not getting awarded the victory. Fucking Angelo.

Quickfire Winner

Tiffany (Saunter, +3): I have been quietly singing the praises of Tiffany for a little while and she finally delivers, impressing Marcus with her beef goulash with poached egg, currants, peppers, and yogurt. Perhaps this victory can help slingshot her to greater heights. If nothing else Saunter has to feel right now that Tiffany is her strongest chef remaining. Tiffany now has immunity (but no monies) for the win.


Elimination Challenge

In continuing with the international theme, Marcus and Padma wheel in a map of the world, with nine countries highlighted. The chefs have to draw knives for picking order, and then select a country; they will then have to produce a dish to serve to 100 people based on this nationality, in a venue without electricity. This caveat is a little reminiscent of the challenge last season, where the chefs had to prepare a dish out on a ranch over fires; in that episode, the chefs who tried to get away with ceviches so as not to have to use the grills were punished. Could something similar happen here?

The wild card of the countries is Brazil, which all the chefs profess to wanting to avoid, and lucky Stephen is the one who gets stuck with it. Also of note is Angelo gets his pick of the Asian countries, despite selecting in the middle of the pack.

Man, Stephen is so screwed.

As a bonus, along with Marcus we get the wonderfully insane Jose Andreas as a guest judge. If you want to get a better idea of Andreas, check out the No Reservations episode about DC (I believe it is in Season One). Most of No Reservations is available on NetFlix Watch Instantly, so Go Go Go! Look, it's Anthony Bourdain, awesome food, and an insane Spaniard. What more could you want?

Elimination Finalists

Kelly (Garthmeister J, +2): Kelly delivers with her beef carpaccio. I was initially concerned about her attempts to produce a dish that would not require heat at the venue, but those concerns were immediately evaporated once people started tasting the dish. Garth needs Kelly to keep delivering, but the jury is out on whether she can elbow her way into the top four.

Kevin (Saunter, +2): Despite never having cooked Indian food before, Kevin strikes gold with his stewed chicken with leek and parsnip puree, mango and cucumber salad, and lentils. This is a neat recovery from his Ethiopian failure, and will hopefully encourage him to not wilt when faced with a challenge that he is unfamiliar with.

Elimination Winner

Tiffany (Saunter, +6): Tiffany! Again! Tiffany was fortunate enough to be able to pick her country first, and selected Mexico. Being from Texas, she was confident in her ability to deliver a top dish, and duly did so with her chicken tamales with queso fresco and tomatillo sauce. What else does Tiffany get? $10k, which makes up for not getting anything besides Immunity (which she clearly didn't need) for winning the Quickfire. Maybe the producers felt she deserved something? Tiffany's win also means that Saunter has had two of her chefs in the top of the Elimination Challenge for the last three weeks, including the winner each time!

Elimination Losers

Ed (Daddy, -1): Oh Ed. Ed, Ed, Ed. What to make of this chef? I still feel he has top four potential, and could even take the whole competition out, but he keeps occasionally appearing on the bottom. The problem seems to be that Ed "overpromised, but underdelivered" with his tea smoked duck breast with crispy pot stickers in Szechuan jus. He and Tom also have a conversation regarding the fact that he should have rendered the fat from his duck first, and it is just clear that they speak the same culinary language. WHY WERE YOU HERE, ED?! To be honest, I'm surprised Amanda isn't here instead of Ed, with her dry beef bourginon. Perhaps her sauce ruled, and that was enough to keep her off the bottom, or perhaps the producers like the drama.

Alex (Saunter, -1): It's one thing to have to cook the national cuisine of a guest judge, when everyone else is doing it, like in the Quickfire. It's another thing to have to cook the national cuisine of a guest judge, when you are the only one doing so, which Alex had to do here with Spain. And it's yet another thing to have to do it, when the guest judge is insane, like Jose Andreas is. And it's yet another thing to completely SUCK at it, which Alex did. His braised veal with red wine sauce, olive and tomato salad, and a jamon torta is described as a "little nightmare" by our fantastically deranged guest judge. Alex is a shifty sort, however, claiming he knew the dish was bad (which seems to be a lie, based on his comments through the episode), and that he got over-excited by the chance to cook Spanish food... but Tom sees through that line of bullshit and informs him that, no, your dish just sucked. If Alex somehow makes it through the next couple of episodes, I am going to be shocked.


Stephen (Gracie, -1): And BOOM goes the dynamite. This elimination has been on the cards for most of the season. It was never going to be a question of "if", but merely a question of "when". Stephen's marinated flank steak in a chimichurri sauce with black beans, and rice was marred in particular by fucked up rice. Urgh. At the very least, Stephen's reputation will not continue to be tarnished further by crappy dishes. Gracie will be glad, as now the bleeding will stop, though she is now fully hitched to the good ship Kenny.


Points Table

Saunter: 26 (+9)
All-Star: 19.5 (+2)
Daddy: 18 (-1)
Gracie: 12 (-1.5)
Garth: 10 (+2)

Another scorching week from Saunter catapults her into a decisive lead. Garth, Gracie, and Daddy are on deathwatch, as they all have a single chef remaining. All-Star has two chefs remaining, and while Angelo is his big hope he will want Amanda to keep her shit together, and not drain too many points along the way... and hopefully pick up a few too.

But it's Saunter with all three chefs remaining who is in pole position. Alex is definitely the weak link, and might not be long for the show, but Kevin and Tiffany can definitely put up some points, and Tiffany is also beginning to loom as a dark horse contender.

But what will happen after Restaurant Wars?!


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