Local ingredients were the star on this week’s episode of Top Chef. For the Quickfire challenge, the contestants confronted squirming blue crabs that seemed ready to take over the whole kitchen. Later, they decamped to Virginia’s Ayrshire Farms to create a family-style meal, working together as a single team. Battling frigid temperatures, limited produce, and a makeshift outdoor kitchen—not to mention 12 oversized egos— the chefs cooked a lunch of (mostly) farm-grown ingredients. Three dishes sank to the bottom: Amanda’s shockingly rustic faux-minestrone, Stephen’s “over-thought and over-dressed” salad, served—Horrors! —in a bowl, and Timothy’s forgettable roasted turnips, potatoes, and asparagus. In the end, the judges sent Timothy packing. We talked with the DC/Baltimore-area chef about home-turf advantages, Angelo’s master plan, and his favorite local restaurants.
Was there a lot of pressure being one of the only chefs from the Washington DC area or did you feel like you had a home-turf advantage?
"It was a combination of both. I felt more distracted than anything because everyone kept asking, 'Where is this? Where is that? Where are we going?' I had a great time showing the contestants and producers a great time. It’s a beautiful town."
What’s your favorite DC-area restaurant?
"How many can I name? In the top three, I’d say Citronelle, Jaleo, and Kaz Sushi Bistro."
Were you disappointed you didn’t do better in the Quickfire Challenge given your Maryland childhood?
"They were hard-shell crabs, which are sweet, beautiful, and meaty, and they had the mustard in them, which is the prize. You don’t have to do a lot to them. Add salt and pepper, add some Old Bay and they were singing—singing to me at least. I can’t wait to talk to [guest judge] Patrick [O’Connell] about why it wasn’t singing."
Your parting words were “salt and pepper.” Was it under-seasoning that did you in?
"[The judges] felt it needed more seasoning. Seasoning to me is salt and pepper. I wanted to add more salt, but the team thought it would be too salty. I would love to put Tom [Colicchio] in that same situation and judge him. Eric [Ripert] went to school on me: 'You can do more. You can do better.' But Tom was extra critical. At least that’s how it felt."
Do you regret giving up the beets to Kelly?
"I do not regret it because the produce that was available was scarce. I was surprised. With this challenge, we were one team, so I wasn’t thinking about being selfish. [Kelly] only had a total of ten turnips and five beets. Had the weather been different and not 35 degrees, I would have done my mousseline. But I was afraid I would do a mousseline and that it would tighten up and become gummy."
Do you think Angelo has a master game plan?
"‘Lo? ‘Lo is doing his thing. He’s a great friend and he was my roommate. I think his master plan is to keep doing what he’s doing. At the end of the day, it’s about cooking. It’s about flavors. The only enemy is yourself. It’s you and the food."
What’s going on with the suit against National Harbor?
"I put up seven figures of my money and we just want our investment back so I can move on. To be in Prince George’s County—which is predominately African-American and affluent—to not have a restaurant down there that represents that speaks volumes."
Any advice for future contestants?
"After last night, stay away from turnips."
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