Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Top Chef DC Recap 12: Buzz Kill

We are one elimination away from the final four, who will be on their way to: Singapore! Any of the final five chefs could legitimately take down the competition, so this last preliminary week has pretty high stakes.


Quickfire Challenge

This time the guest judge is Dana Cowin, editor of Food and Wine magazine. The challenge is to select a wine and then make a food pairing, a reasonable enough challenge. Angelo claims to be totally "passionate" about wine, but that's normal Angelo noise. Kelly's husband is the sommelier in her restaurant, and professes to do pairings all the time. Tiffany, interestingly, claims that pairings are not her strong suit. The rewards for this challenge? A trip to London! Nice!

Quickfire Losers

Kevin (Saunter, -0.5): Kevin made a boo-boo, trying to produce braised pork in an hour. When this failed miserably he fell back to trying quail, knowing it wasn't going to stand up to his Tangley Oaks Merlot. And despite apparently cooking the quail perfectly, he was correct in his fears. Solid recovery, but still not good enough to avoid being one of the losers.

Kelly (Garthmeister J., -0.5): I'm not going to like, when Kelly said she was making wild boar tenderloin with a blue cheese emulsion, I immediately began salivating. Unfortunately Dana did not like the emulsion, and that was that. I still want to try some, along with the Federalist Dry Creek zinfandel the boar was paired with.

Quickfire Finalist

Tiffany (Saunter, +1): Despite claiming not to be awesome at pairings, Tiffany does well with her cocoa-and-black-pepper-crusted Wagyu tenderloin with spring risotto, paired with Two Hands Shiraz. She also beat out Ed and his Wagyu dish, so good on her.

Quickfire Winner

Angelo (All-Star, +3): Mr Passionate wins the challenge, and wins a free trip to see his mail-order bride in London. Angelo seemed bang-on with his thoughts about pairing foie gras with his Evolution white wine, allowing him to get back onto the podium. All-Star certainly hopes this is a sign of things to come.


Elimination Challenge

So, after creating wine pairings, what is the logical next step? Going to NASA, that's what! The chefs are told that they are also going to be able to cook for Buzz Aldrin, which is pretty awesome. Just one tip, chefs: don't tell Buzz that the Moon Landing was a hoax.

The chefs get to Goddard Space Command, and get to chat to two astronauts currently on the International Space Station, who talk about the food they get. Their challenge? Make a dish to tantalise the astronauts, and the winning dish will actually get made to be sent into space. They are given three tips: don't use too much sugar, don't use large pieces, and don't be afraid of spices.

For the judging, all of a sudden Anthony Bourdain is there. First thought: what? Second thought: yay! Bourdain rules, end of story.

Elimination Winner

Angelo (All-Star, +6): He's baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! Angelo adds to the list of chefs who have won both challenges in the same episode, and goes into the final four with plenty of momentum. When Angelo first mentioned that he was making braised short ribs, my first thoughts were "too sweet, too large". As it turns out, everyone seemed to make large items, and the sweetness seemed OK. Angelo did start on some douchetastic bullshit that Anthony Bourdain instantly shut down, but his food did all the talking required.

Elimination Losers

Kevin (Saunter, -1): While the other chefs went exotic, Kevin stayed at home, producing a New York strip with bacon-jalapeno marmalade and corn puree with crispy Vidalia onions. His thought was that astronauts would like a slice of home, but come on: who wouldn't want steak with bacon-jalapeno marmalade?! Bourdain seemed to poo-poo the idea of steak, but hey, if it's good it's good. It just wasn't good enough to win.

Kelly (Garthmeister J., -1): Another negative for Kelly. Once again she just seemed to be in the middle with her dish, pan-roasted halibut with artichoke and fennel barigoule and a salsa verde salad. Ripert digs the artichokes, especially since she admitted learning the technique in Provence. Unfortunately the other judges didn't think that her dish was original enough.

Ed (Daddy, -1): I was impressed with Ed going all-out Moroccan with his yogurt-marinated rack of lamb with eggplant puree and couscous croquette with hummus. Ripert didn't seem to like the dish, but Ripert seems like more of a pansy each week. Bourdain thought the dish was dead-on, but Ripert's concerns might have been enough to cost him the win.


Tiffany (Saunter, -1): Just... wow. Prior to this episode, Tiffany would probably have been my favourite to take down the title. It wasn't as if she made a poor dish, but her dish was just fifth-best. She made pan-seared Alaskan halibut with coconut curry, snow pea shoots, and jasmine rice. The dish was meant to come with mussels, but unfortunately they froze, which might have been enough to send her home. Just a shame; I was looking forward to seeing her cook until the end.


Points Table

Saunter: 38 (-1.5)
Daddy: 33.5 (-1)
All-Star: 25 (+9)
Gracie: 10.5 (ELIMINATED)
Garth: 9 (-1.5)

Wow. With Saunter losing Tiffany, and Angelo coming up big for All-Star, this competition just became wide open. Garth is going to need Kelly to run the table, but it's extremely possible right now that the eventual winner of this competition is going to be whoever owns the Top Chef. It's going to be exciting right to the end. Who has the edge? Probably All-Star; despite being third right now it looks like Angelo has his mojo back, and Singapore has to be in his wheelhouse.


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