Top Chef DC 10: I Spy
For this episode's Quickfire, they chefs are confronted by noted molecular gastronomist Wylie Dufresne. Man, that's quite the name. I bet poor Chef Dufresne has spent most of his life spelling out his name to people on the phone, who still manage to mangle it. Also: do you think Chef Dufresne was called "Wylie Coyote" as a kid? I sure do.
Anyhow, Chef Coyote, Super Genius, has set up a crazy challenge for everyone: each chef is assigned an identical "mystery box", from which they all have to produce a dish. But wait! Before you go claiming that Top Chef has just ripped off "Chopped" (or cooking competitions everywhere), there's a twist: new "mystery boxes" will appear throughout the challenge, which need to be incorporated into the final dish. Crazy! Insane! Loud noises!
For their troubles, the winner of the challenge will get 10k. Is it me, or have they really been throwing the money around this season? Not that I'm complaining, but I definitely noticed.
Contents of Box 1: fish, beans, unlabelled can (which turns out to be hominy)
Box 2: squid, black garlic
Box 3: ramps, passionfruit
Box 4: jicama
Amanda (All-Star, -0.5): From those "wonderful" ingredients Amanda came up with crispy skin striped bass, squid fricassee, and leek and mushroom fondue. Chef Coyote asked her whether she used oil or butter during the challenge (Amanda said she used both), and the apparent motive behind the question is because her dish was indeed extremely oily. Urgh. Nothing worse than oily passionfruit. Deduction: All-Star.
Alex (Saunter, -0.5): This almost isn't fair anymore. Can we just shoot Alex in the back of the head and put him out of his misery? We all know Stephen was shitty, and hung around waaaaaayyy too long, but at least Stephen didn't have other chefs talking about how much he sucks every episode. Alex? Alex has that in spades. I mean, can you imagine being him, and watching the aired episodes? Has to be embarrassing. Also embarrassing? Alex's rockfish with fava bean puree, ramp fondue, and sautéed squid. During the challenge he repeatedly said he didn't have a concept of the dish, was going to prepare everything separately and then put it together at the end. And he did it all terribly, and it showed. The end.
Kevin (Saunter, +1): During the challenge it always seemed that Kevin was the first chef to the next Mystery Box, ready to take on the next challenge, and this enthusiasm seemed to show in his dish. He produced pan-seared rockfish, hominy puree, and jicama and passionfruit salad (which actually sounds great), and even added red pepper flakes into the squid marinade for some extra zing. A confident Kevin is a dangerous Kevin. Watch out, chefs.
Tiffany (Saunter, +3): Besides Confident Kevin, you know who else to watch out for? Tiffany. This woman is a one-chef wrecking crew right now, and is going to have to be considered one of the favourites. For this challenge she produced a fish stew with hominy, fava beans, saffron, and black garlic, and collects another ten grand. Good for her.
So wither the Elimination Challenge? Why, CIA Headquarters in Langley Virginia! The chefs are required to draw knives for a dish, which they are then required to "disguise". In this context "disguise" seems to be some kind of combination of "re-imagine" and "decontruct". The dishes will be presented to a number of CIA employees, including Director Leon Panetta. The winner, besides not getting eliminated, will also win a trip to Paris. Hurrah! The losers will be water-boarded.
Kelly (Garthmeister J., +2): We haven't heard too much from Kelly recently, but here she is, back on the podium. Interestingly Kelly professed not to know how to cook Asian food, or at least Kung Pao Shrimp, but came up with the clever idea of looking at the ingredients of bottled Kung Pao sauce to get an idea of the flavour profile. She disguised the dish as a soup, which seemed to go over well, despite her screwing up the rice and having to scramble at the end. Garth will be pleased.
Ed (Daddy, +2): Ed was given chicken cordon bleu, and decided to make it "inside out". I actually think he could have gone a lot of different ways (you have chicken breast, ham, and cheese... GO!), and went for the easiest of disguises. But the reason he was a finalist is because he cooked the shit out of that chicken. Good job Ed, even if you fail at disguises.
Tiffany (Saunter, +6): Can Tiffany be stopped?! All signs point to no! Tiffany produced a wonderfully deconstructed gyro, which everyone raves about. And in the span of a single episode Tiffany has a trip to Paris and $10k for her upcoming honeymoon. Solid choice for her to decide to come on this show. In addition, Saunter is in danger of running away with Fantasy Top Chef if Tiffany keeps this up.
Amanda (All-Star, -1): Amanda is assigned French Onion soup, and cleverly decides to disguise it as... soup. Good show. She also manages to fuck up the soup, which is just adding insult to injury. Back a few episodes ago, didn't she say she was some kind of French food expert? Too bad for her, since she seemed to be so into the spy thing, but now the CIA knows her food sucks. Though, since they are the CIA, they probably knew that already.
Angelo (All-Star, -1): Wow, Angelo. Just a completely lack-lustre episode from him. Perhaps he misses his sparring partner Kenny? Or is this just a gradual regression from his hot start, due to lack of confidence? Angelo was meant to "disguise" beef wellington, so he made them into mini-pizzas with the dough of the pizza being pre-made frozen puff pastry. Yes, the exact same component that helped the hippy chef get eliminated in the very first episode of this season. Now, that wasn't the sole reason the hippy got zapped, but that doesn't stop every chef from saying Angelo should be gone for that junk. I guess Angelo should count his lucky stars that someone is around with a worse dish. And to be frank, I think Amanda's was worse as well.
Alex (Saunter, -1): Finally Saunter loses her first chef, but unfortunately for Garth, Daddy and All-Star the chef eliminated is Alex. He was meant to disguise veal parmesan, and managed to come up with an interesting idea, but then managed to completely screw up the execution. Want to know a reason why that might have happened? Because he's only been cooking for 6 years; his first job was a videographer. Would have been awesome if we knew all that before, since he would have been picked last in the Fantasy Top Chef Draft, deconstructed borscht or no.
Saunter: 37.5 (+8.5)
Daddy: 25.5 (+2)
All-Star: 18.5 (-2.5)
Garth: 12 (+2)
Gracie: 10.5 (ELIMINATED)
Thanks primarily to Tiffany, Saunter has leaped out to a 12 point advantage - and she isn't going to be bleeding points thanks to Alex. All-Star is the only other person with two chefs remaining, but it might be better for him if he lost Amanda, as it's hard to see her contributing too many points to the positive side of the ledger. Of more concern is the tailspin Angelo seems to be in; if he doesn't watch out he might not go much further. Daddy and Garth have to be happy overall with Ed and Kelly, respectively, but both need to pull out challenge wins to keep them with a chance of taking the comp home.
We have a new leader in the Bravo Top Chef competition! Louddownunder has leapt into the lead, due to savviness and remembering that she can change her team each week. For those of you still in the comp, remember to substitute your eliminated chefs with cooks still in the competition. Though if you actually had Alex in your team, you deserved to lose. Badly.