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Top Chef DC: Episode 4—We’re Getting Sleepy
The Quickfire is all about cooking baby food for Tom's eight-month old son and Padma's two-month old daughter. Whatever the cheftestants come up with also has to taste good to Tom and Padmom, since they'll be judging this challenge. I personally would like to judge Padma's couture Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle T-shirt. The chefs are asked to do an adult dish for Tom and Padma, and a puréed version of the same dish for les enfants. There'll be two winners, and each will receive $10,000 cash (but no immunity). Arnold says he'd donate the winnings to an orphanage in Thailand, and Alex says he'd spend it on a "hooker and an eight-ball." I can't tell if I rolled my eyes more when Alex said that or when I saw the Swanson's broth product placement, 'cause nothing says "I love my kid" more than a box full of chemicals and preservatives.
We hear about Kenny singlehandedly raising his daughter, and we see cute photos of Kevin's daughter and Angelo's son. Not having won or lost a challenge, Lynne talks about being in the middle in the competition: "It's like the judges don't even notice you." And, I'm thinking: do these people never watch Top Chef? I mean, the minute you say this, the editors rub their hands together in glee and save it for the episode you're getting das boot. So of course, we know Lynne's going home. And now I'm bored.
Kenny's penang-curry chicken, butternut squash with mushrooms, mango, and carrot salad makes me want him to be my dad. Tim's lamb with mushrooms, shallots, and ginger looks kinda meh. Time-challenged Kevin doesn't fully plate his food and ends up serving a little slab of not-rested duck with carrots and a corn/banana purée. Kelly's roast pork loin with grilled peaches and ginger sounds good, but the lemon seed Padma finds in the puréed version is a big fat no-no. Lynne's chicken breast, sweet potato, and a yellow-and-orange-pepper-and-fruit compote gives me the croup just looking at it. Angelo's olive-oil-poached tuna with fenugreek broth, tomato, soy sauce, and honey sounds kinda faw-faw for baby food, even though I'd scarf it down. Tamesha's vegetable chowder with grilled salmon and licorice oil sounds fantastic, and if Kenny is willing to share in the parenting, she could be my mom.
Tom's least-favorite dishes were Tim's overcooked lamb and Alex's spinach/basil purée. Padma wasn't loving Kevin's duck (in its pool of blood) or Kelly's bland pork. Tom's faves were Lynne and Tamesha, and Padma liked Angelo's and Kenny's dishes best. They each get to pick one winner: Tom chooses Tamesha, and Padma chooses Kenny. So, those two are $10K richer, and I feel sorry for Alex's hooker who's gotta find another way to pay the bills.
On to the Elimination Challenge! The guest judge is Beth Scott, VP of restaurant concepts for Hilton Hotels and Resorts. Snooze-o-rama. Allegedly, the hotel chain wants a new signature dish for its menu—something healthy, yet sophisticated and easily executed in a hotel kitchen. Really, Top Chef? Are we that desperate for sponsor tie-ins that we're pretending people actually eat in Hilton restaurants? I don't even care enough about this lame challenge to come up with what I'm sure would be a really obvious Paris Hilton joke.
The cheftestants have to create breakfast, lunch, and dinner options and will compete "tournament-style, in teams of two" with all teams competing in the breakfast round, after which the judges will declare two teams safe. The remaining teams compete for lunch, after which two more teams are declared safe. The final three teams will "cook for their lives" (gag me), after which one team will win and one team will be eliminated. The chefs choose their partners and head off to Whole Foods for a 30-minute shopping spree on a $200 budget. Top Chef alums Spike Mendelsohn, Bryan Voltaggio, and Mike Isabella assist in the judging along with DC chef/restaurateur Nora Pouillon. Tom, Padma, and Ripert round out the panel.
With 30 minutes to cook breakfast, Ed and Alex's hollandaise-less (they ran out of time) and one-cakeless (they're morons) prosciutto/potato cake with egg and a lemon pancake doesn't impress. Angelo and Tamesha's egg, bacon, cheddar broth, and toasted baguette is something I want served to me on a tray in bed by Angelo or Eric Ripert. I'm not picky. Amanda and Stephen's poached egg with pancetta and a potato rösti with grape ragout and hollandaise sounds mouth-wateringly good. Tiffany and Tim make a creole-style crabcakes Benedict with a bacon-potato hash that Bryan thinks is pretty good.
Amanda and Stephen, and Tim and Tiffany are safe and don't have to continue competing. The other chefs move on to lunch.
Alex and Ed's pan-roasted scallops with ricotta gnudi and sauteed broccoli rabe is good, though Bryan offers constructive criticism on how to make it even better by puréeing the ricotta. Angelo and Tamesha's beef carpaccio with a jicama/Asian-pear salad with mint and cilantro and a kimchee vinaigrette looks and sounds good, but the judges think it wouldn't "travel well" in a hotel. Arnold and Lynne's tuna canneloni with forbidden rice, preserved vegetables, and tomato vinaigrette doesn't look easy to do in a hotel kitchen, and Spike agrees. The judges don't love Kevin and Kenny's hummus-themed pasta dish.
Angelo and Tamesha, and Alex and Ed are deemed safe. Kenny and Kevin stab them with their eyes.
Kenny and Kevin, Lynne and Arnold, and Kelly and Andrea are the final three teams competing in the dinner round, and before they even start, I know Arnold and Lynne are getting sent home. Right? Right. Focused and determined, Kenny and Kevin taste and taste and taste their dish as they go. Kelly and Andrea demonstrate great teamwork and solid communication. Arnold and Lynne are distrustful of one another. Captain Obvious is back in the edit bay, clearly.
Kevin and Kenny's braised shortribs with horseradish jus, squash, potato, and carrot confit are familiar flavors done well. Kelly and Andrea's braised shortrib with chevre-scented polenta, roasted shitake mushrooms, pearl onions, and citrus gremolata makes me want to lick that plate clean. Arnold and Lynne's pineapple/red-curry mussels with squid-ink pasta and coriander-cumin focaccia sounds like a good idea, but may not be right for this challenge.
Nora announces the winning team, and it's Kelly and Andrea. Not only is their dish on the menu at the Hilton (yawn) but the hotel chain has kicked in a little bonus: Kelly gets a week's vacation in Venice and Andrea gets a week in Barcelona. Lucky girls. You get to suck at two other meals and then get sent on an all-expenses-paid trip to Europe.
We're left with two teams: One is safe, and one is going home. Tom commends Arnold and Lynne for taking a risk, but the others criticize the fact that it doesn't sound like something they'd choose from a hotel menu. Eric wanted more horseradish in Kevin and Kenny's dish, and Tom wanted their shortribs to be better glazed. Kevin and Kenny stand together as a team and seem to be a united front.
It's no shock when we say goodbye to Lynne and Arnold. Lynne is sad to leave because she wanted to prove she's "the old beast" she once was and says she regrets letting a younger chef take the lead on a dish (so not cool, because it was her undercooked pasta that got their asses booted). In his farewell interview, Arnold forces me to do a shot because he uses the phrase "throws me under the bus." When he plays with his hair in the final shot, I realize I'm fine with him leaving, because it's been cliché city with that guy, and it's 2010. Pass me a can of Stereotype-B-Gone.
Up next week: Kenny and Angelo practically whip it out during a heated dispute, and Tim's ham-handed body slam knocks over Tamesha's dish. But you know Tamesha won't sue him, 'cause she's classier than that. (Oh no I di'in't) (but yeah I did).
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