Top Chef Recap: Episode 11—Making Concessions
Before heading to the Top Chef kitchen, Kelly tells us it's time for Amanda to go home (amen, sister), and Angelo tells us when he was young he had a shrine with photos of four-star chefs that he'd light candles around and pray to. The Ralph Macchio and Rick Springfield shrines in my seventh-grade locker did not make me the star I so desperately wanted to be, so maybe Angelo's Tiger Beat collage of Auguste Escoffier, Fernand Point, and Paul Bocuse photos (sans lipstick kisses, let's hope) will bring him the extra-special luck he so desires.
Padma tells us that Chef Rick Moonen (RM Seafood, Las Vegas) is guest judge for tonight's Quickfire, which is all about food idioms, and Amanda nods and pretends to understand what the word "idiom" means. Each cheftestant gets an idiom around which to create a dish, with the winner's replicated and sold by frozen food distributor Schwan's.
Tiffany's "Spill the Beans" of pan-seared cod over stewed beans, Swiss chard, and bacon looks delicious and like it would be easy to freeze. Angelo's "Bigger Fish to Fry" chili-crusted tilapia satay with Asian tartar sauce, sambal, and Sriracha seemed to pack in a lot of flavor.
Rick says his two least favorite dishes are Kelly's "Sour Grapes" pan-roasted chicken breast with brussels sprouts, raisins, and red-grape sauce, and Amanda's "The Big Cheese" combo platter of macaroni and cheese with bacon and jalapenos alongside an oddly cooked pork chop.
With those out of the way, Rick says he prefers Kevin's channeling of the ghost of Kenny with his "Bring Home the Bacon" three-way: bacon puree, chopped bacon, and bacon froth with a poached egg. Rick also likes Ed's "Hot Potato" herb/roasted-garlic gnocchi with mushroom fricassee, which looks divine. Ed is the Quickfire winner, and his dish will be turned into a Schwan's frozen meal. Angelo is a bit of a sore loser though, and says something about Ed having a potato head.
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will cook at Nationals Stadium and must work as a team to create six upscale concession-stand foods. After 15 minutes of planning and 30 minutes of shopping, the chefs head to the kitchen where they have three hours before finishing and serving at the stadium the next day. There's a lot of running, sweating, pounding, searing, and grinding. Back at the house that night, the cheftestants wonder how to handle the ordering and serving the next day, and Angelo steps up and says he'll expedite customers' orders. Smart move to be the controller of how soon hot food gets fired, and how long cold food has to sit out in the heat.
When they get to the stand and start to cook, there's some back-pedaling from Angelo, who worries about who will be handling his own dish. Angelo asks Ed and Tiffany to help him "plate" his food while he handles customers. The mood quickly changes, and Tiffany's face breaks into a grin and Kelly gets slumber-party-girly as Tom walks through the kitchen with three hottie-hottie-hot-hots. I mean baseball players. Angelo runs down the list of food items with the other cheftestants, and it's time to play ball! (you knew I was gonna go there, right?) They post the chalkboard menu (without names attached to the dishes) and baseball fans can choose from:
Kelly's open-faced crab cake BLT with Old Bay-seasoned sweet potato fries Tiffany's Italian meatball sub with marinara sauce, onions, basil pesto, and fresh mozzarella
Amanda's tuna tartare with Meyer lemon and fava bean puree
Angelo's sweet-glazed pork on a lobster roll with sweet sesame pickles
Kevin's chicken kebab with romesco, shoestring fries, and pimenton aioli
Ed's shrimp-and-corn risotto fritters with jalapeno aioli.
Tiffany's meatballs and Kelly's crabcakes fly off the stove. The three Nationals players tasting the dishes—Adam Dunn, Matt Capps (call me!), and John Lannan—love the meatballs the most. There is talk of a flavor explosion in the mouth (bow-chick-wow-wow) and a plot to get some more to stash in their pockets for later. Padma, Tom, Rick Moonen, and my boo (AKA Eric Ripert) arrive and each chef describes their dish and offers a taste.
Though Rick makes fun of the tartare and Eric is unhappy with its oxidized grey hue, Tom says Amanda's vegetables are cooked nicely. Padma thinks Kelly's crabcake is too salty, but Tom seems happy that the saltiness makes him want to drink more beer. Eric finds Tiffany's meatball sub difficult to eat, but Rick has no trouble, and Padma licks her fingers. All four judges love Ed's fritters, but no one seems to love Kevin's chicken kebab. And while the judges had high hopes for Angelo's pork buns, they think the bread kills it and doesn't let the flavors sing.
Back at the chef house, we learn that Angelo lives in New York, his fiancee is in Russia, and they've only seen each other a few times, but talk "every night for five, six hours." They make smoochy-smoochy noises to each other when they hang up, and I smell a spin off! The Real Housewives of Top Chefs! You're welcome, Andy Cohen.
After a few minutes in the Stew Room, all six cheftestants are called to Judges' Table. Ruh-roh. Padma asks how Angelo came to be the order taker, and he says that he volunteered to do it, which is true. But Tiffany chimes in that he (later, though she doesn't say that) hedged and wanted everyone to take their own orders. She has no fear, that girl.
The judges overwhelmingly love Ed's shrimp-and-corn fritters, calling them flavorful and easy to eat. While Tom says Tiffany's meatball sub was not "tidy" but delicious, he makes googly eyes at her. Rick cockblocks him, but it's to announce the winner, which is Ed, who wins a trip to the Sydney Hilton in Australia where I'm sure the first thing he'll do is crack open the copy of Rick Moonen's book about fish that he also won.
Amanda does her fake-surprise thing when Tom and Eric school her on doing tartare a day too soon and through a meat grinder. Rick says Kevin's chicken had no flavor, and Eric tells him his skewer was out of proportion to the kebab and that his fries were soggy. They say Kelly's crabcake needed something crunchy to go with it. The major critique of Angelo's pork buns is that the bread sucked too much of the flavor and the sandwich was too sweet.
Amanda is sent home, and a choir of angels sings. Next week, the cheftestants cook at NASA for that famewhore Buzz Aldrin.
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