Then, ten minutes in, zing! Padma makes everyone shift their protein one station to the left. There's a lot of bleeping as the chefs try to move forward with something completely different.
Tiffany's foie gras with caramelized apples, toasted pecans, and brandy-caramel sauce nearly made me lick my TV screen, and Kevin's duck nuts meunière (smart!) with beet-and-licorice puree is something I'd actually order on a restaurant menu. Michelle called Stephen's frog legs with tomato grits "insipid" and also didn't like Alex's ostrich with mushroom duxelle. She said Andrea's boar (with risotto and dried cherries, almonds, mushrooms, and red wine) was undercooked. Andrea looks like she's having stabby thoughts.
Michelle liked Tamesha’s duck-tongue soup with lime and Sriracha, as well as Amanda’s llama with leek-date-and-bacon compote. Her favorite was Kelly's "creamy and delicious" emu-egg/goat-cheese omelet with an almond-olive-and-fennel salad. With the Quickfire win, Kelly handily proves the chef creed that you need to master the egg before you learn to cook anything else. She has immunity in the Elimination Challenge, and I'm thinking Kelly's got a lock on being in the final four.
The Elimination Challenge has a Cold War theme, so naturally I'm waiting for Reagan to rise from the dead and make them cook jellybeans sous vide, or for Alex to talk about how he'd like to bang Raisa Gorbachev. But, no. Instead, they're asked to make a dish that's best served cold . . . because I guess calling a challenge "Revenge"—which is what this ultimately could be about—would be too blatant. Two groups, determined by knife pull, will have two hours to cook. Group A will feed the judges and their competitors in Group B. Then, it's Group B's turn to serve their dishes to the judges and their competitors in Group A. Each team will nominate one person from the other team to be considered for the win and one for elimination. I predict shenanigans! Because Kelly has immunity, she doesn't have to cook and gets to dine with both groups, which is a fantastic advantage for her long-term prospects in the competition, right? That’s what she said.
For some relaxation, Champagne, and menu-planning time, they set sail on the Presidential yacht, the U.S.S. Sequoia. While part of me is happy they're doing something authentically awesome and historic, another part of me wishes they'd had to board the Odyssey for a few hours of jazz hands, '50s medleys, and desperation. Amanda talks about how vulnerable this challenge makes her feel. Angelo tries to influence others' dishes. (Basically par for course this season.) Later, the chefs shop at Whole Foods, where Tamesha buys scallops, and all I can think of is Spike's frozen scallops and the Jamie/Fabio "this isn't Top Scallop" debacle. Ruh-roh.
As they prep in the Top Chef kitchen, Amanda annoys Tamesha, Andrea shares seasonings with Tiffany, and Stephen fantasizes about putting Kenny and Angelo in the bottom two. Tom, Padma, Michelle, and Gail walk into the dining room with Group B to judge Group A's cooking.
Tiffany thinks Kenny's duo of grilled lamb—one as a salad, the other as a carpaccio, with black-eyed pea hummus in the center—is too chewy, and Angelo doesn't like the slimy okra in the carpaccio. Andrea says Alex's lamb, beet puree, and tzatziki just needs to be a little "more." Tamesha and Angelo criticize Amanda's congealed, undersalted (with bonus chunks of cartilage) chicken galantine. Stephen tries to smack down what he thinks is a lack of acidity in Kevin's surf-and-turf of tuna and veal, but Tom puts the kibosh on it by pointing out that the tomato and lemon were fantastic components of the dish. Angelo and Tamesha don't really love Ed's cucumber vichyssoise with a vodka-cured sockeye salmon on pumpernickel bread. They give Kevin the big thumbs up, and put Kenny into the elimination pool.
Group B preps their dishes, we get closeups of the chefs' knife skills, and Group A joins the judges to taste Group B's food. Amanda and Alex love Tiffany's fennel-and-pepper-crusted ahi tuna in gazpacho (yum) with a cucumber-arugula salad. Kenny and Ed think Andrea's trio of tartares—steak, tuna with chile oil, and mushroom-fennel with roasted beets—needed a little more seasoning. Kenny and Ed are as bored as I am with Stephen's chilled, sliced beef with crispy rice and jalapeno oil. Amanda thinks Tamesha's seared scallop with pickled rhubarb, cilantro, basil, and long pepper in a rhubarb jus is too spicy, and Tom calls it "strange." Amanda criticizes the Asian-ness of the group's dishes when she tastes Angelo's poached sockeye salmon with cilantro and chiles in pineapple tea, and Kenny says he has a hard time tasting the salmon. Up for the win? Tiffany (yay!). And up for elimination? Tamesha. So, duh. We know Tamesha is going home, right? 'Cause the wang-measuring between Kenny and Angelo can't be over yet.
The cheftestants spend time in the Stew Room telling each other what they told the judges about all the dishes. Padma calls Tiffany and Kevin to Judges' Table. Tom makes it clear they were selected by their peers for having the best dish and says the judges agreed with that assessment. Gail, Tom, and Michelle rave about both dishes and congratulate them on making food they wanted to keep eating. Tonight's winner? Kevin. And, the lucky dog gets six nights at a Hilton in Hawaii.
Kenny and Tamesha stand at the Judges' Table next. Gail tells Tamesha the long pepper was overpowering, and Tom thought the scallop got lost in all the acidic elements in her dish. Gail tells Kenny there were too many flavors diluting the bridge between his two lamb preparations. When asked why he thought he was up for elimination, Kenny says it's because the others see him as a threat. Michelle jumps in and says that it'd take her "until the end of the show" to talk about all the things she disliked about his dish. He's gobsmacked.
The judges deliberate before sending Tamesha home for her "shockingly bad" scallop dish. And now it's her turn to look gobsmacked. Through her tears, she says she regrets not taking more control over her dish. Meanwhile, Tiffany says Tamesha never should've put that much trust in Angelo, and that he sandbagged her.
Next week, we learn that Tiffany's engaged, which puts the whole Tiff-and-Ed-sittin'-in-a-tree edit into a whole new light; and, the cheftestants cook at the Palm, where food falls to the floor, dishes go missing, and Virginia Senator Mark Warner is a guest taster. Can you sense our enthusiasm yet?
>>For more Top Chef DC coverage, click here.
Follow the Best Bites Bloggers on Twitter at twitter.com/bestbitesblog