Kapnos’s George Pagonis Is Off "Top Chef"

Washington’s only cheftestant is sent packing in round one.

It’s telling that George Pagonis, Washington’s only Top Chef season 12 competitor, was dubious about group competitions. In an interview with us before the Boston premier Wednesday evening, Pagonis said that he was, “nervous about the group competitions where you get placed with certain people and maybe you don’t get along with that person, and it could lead to something bad.”

George Pagonis is the first off Top Chef. Photograph by Greg Powers.

Unfortunately the Kapnos toque wasn’t in the game long enough to make enemies, but a similar situation to what he described lead to Padma sending him packing.

The first Quickfire Challenge tested the cheftestants knife skills on tricky seafoods like shucking oysters and deboning mackerel. Pagonis wanted the latter protein, but when teammate Gregory Gourdet insisted on the oily fish, he was stuck with clams. Things went downhill from there. His team struggled with each protein, and Pagonis proved the slowest of the slow team. It was surprising, given cheftestant Katsuji Tanabe’s comparative—and loud—struggle, as he stabbed at the bivalves (he went on to have one of the worst dishes in the main challenge, involving “petroleum” squid ink sauce, cheese, and couscous, among many other ingredients).

Pagonis was offered a chance for redemption in a one-on-one competition, where the Mike Isabella protégé could earn the chance to stay on the show if he out-cooked a cheftestant of his choice. Choosing Gourdet, the mackerel thief, Pagonis lost again when Gourdet’s seafood trio outshone his pan-seared fish with fennel salad. The victor then went on to have one of the best dishes on the final Judge’s Table, a funky Haitian chicken that won comparisons to the “Fast and Furious.”

“It’s over before it even started. I blew it,” said Pagonis while exiting the show.

So there we go—unless Pagonis returns in one of those surprise competitions where cheftestants past live to cook again. (Fingers crossed; we know those tend to happen.) Locavores can still root for the promising Joy Crump, chef/owner of Fredericksburg’s Foode. Tune in next Wednesday at 10.

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Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.