Mixing Old Fashioneds
Top Chef 7/7: Hotel Food
Greetings, foodies! We’re back with another serving of Top Cheffery. Last week, psychic Tracey hit the road, though she saw it coming, and Arnold took the win, which no one did. A new challenge awaits and two chefs go home.
Cooking for the very, very young.
The chefs start their day in the kitchen with Padma and Tom, instead of a guest judge. They explain they both have babies now and they challenge the chefs to create a dish for adult and a puree version suitable for baby food. I think that sounds fairly disgusting, but the chefs scramble to get it done without thinking about how gross pureed food is. As a further incentive, both Padma and Tom will each pick a winner and each winner will get $10,000 in lieu of immunity. Arnold dreams of giving the money to an orphanage and Alex dreams of a hooker and an eight ball. Kevin has a baby on the way and takes the challenge personally. Tamesha draws on what her family fed her much-younger brother. Kelly wants to prove that a person with no kids can win this challenge. We also learn Kenny’s first wife died in an accident and he raised his 1 year old daughter by himself. With all this back-story, time runs down and Kevin didn’t get to plate his whole dish. The Quick Fire dishes featured tonight are:
Kenny’s curried chicken, mango salad, confit of butternut squash and maitake mushrooms.
Tim’s Sauteed lamb with mushrooms, shallots and ginger.
Kevin’s pan-seared duck with baby carrots.
Kelly’s roast pork loin with grilled peaches and ginger.
Lynne’s chicken with sweet potato and fruit compote.
Angelo’s poached tuna with fenugreek broth, tomatoes, soy sauce and honey.
Alex’s duck with spinach, basil, and mushroom.
Tamesha’s salmon with vegetable chowder and lobster stock, Thai basil and licorice oil.
After Padma and Tom taste the dishes, Tom says he was disappointed with Tim’s overcooked lamb and Alex’s herb-heavy puree. Padma wasn’t pleased with the pool of blood under Kevin’s duck and found Kelly’s food bland, plus there was a lemon seed in the puree. Tom’s favorites were Lynne’s dish for flavors and Tamesha’s puree for texture. Padma appreciated Angelo’s layered, sophisticated baby food and appreciated the flavorful dish for use of bulgur wheat. Tom gives his win to Tamesha and Padma awards Kenny. Both with get the cash but no immunity.
A double elimination in three rounds.
Beth Scott, the VP of the Hilton restaurant division arrives to introduce the Elimination Challenge. The Hilton chain gears their food to be healthy and cater to sophisticated travelers. Tom explains the EC will be a tournament of three rounds and the chefs will work in pairs of their own choosing. The first round will be breakfast, after which the top two teams will be safe and can retire for the day. The remaining five teams will go on to prepare a lunch, and again, the top two teams will be safe and can go rest with the others. The final round will be a dinner preparation and the worst team will be eliminated.
The chefs head to Whole Foods for a quick 30 minutes of shopping on their $200 budget. No one wanted to work with Stephen or Amanda, so they end up together. Tiffany and Tim work together and she takes the lead, since he’s recently been in the bottom. The unlikely pair of Lynne and Arnold are also working together; Arnold wants to prove himself a serious chef on the back of winning the last challenge and not just some “Louis Vuitton bag. He probably shouldn’t have bragged he hired a stylist before going on the show, and he’d have less of a reputation to shake. Kenny is overly confident based on his hotel experience, which he mentions several times. Ed and Alex are working together; Alex has an idea for a pancake which doesn’t thrill Ed but he lets Alex go with it.
Back in the kitchen, a long table is set up for service. Tasting the food will be Top Chef alums Spike, Mike, Bryan V., Hilton restaurant VP Beth Scott, guest judge Nora Pouillon, Padma, Tom, and Eric Ripert.
The chefs dive into making breakfast in thirty minutes. Amanda really wants to help Stephen get the win he so craves. Lynne is confident in making something she makes in her culinary school. Tiffany carries Tim while Alex and Ed run out of time before plating all their food. There’s a bit of flirting by Angelo with Tamesha, his partner, but that’s not happening on her watch. When the thirty minutes is over, the dishes served are:
Alex & Ed’s prosciutto potato cake, egg with lemon pancake, bellini cocktail. All dishes lack the sauce and one dish lacked the pancake, due to Ed’s mistake.
Angelo & Tamesha’s egg, bacon & cheddar broth. The judges find the eggs overcooked.
Arnold & Lynne’s tortilla Espanola with chorizo and bacon, olive-pear salad & papas bravas. The tasters find the texture off.
Kenny & Kevin’s poached egg on herb brioche, prosciutto, manchego & Spanish olive tapenade. The judges find the dish heavy with too much going on.
Amanda & Stephen’s poached egg, pancetta, potato rosti and grape ragout with hollandaise. Most of the judges like it.
Andrea & Kelly’s bacon, cheddar & wheat waffle, poached egg & mango, lime & mint yogurt smoothie. The judges find the waffle dense and overall the dish lacks seasoning.
Tiffany & Tim’s crab cake eggs benedict, asparagus & bacon potato hash in hollandaise. Everyone loves the crab cake and generally agree the has wasn’t needed.
After the breakfast round, Amanda & Stephen and Tim & Tiffany are proclaimed the diners’ favorites and are safe from elimination. The rest of the chefs move on to lunch; they have 45 minutes to create their dishes. Kelly is frustrated with the lack of feedback from the judges and Kenny is pissed that he didn’t win the breakfast round. Angelo is also angry, and this Kenny vs. Angelo business is irritating me. Lynne takes the lead on Arnold’s new take on tuna salad, but there are concerns that it is too quirky. Alex is only concerned with getting everything on the plate and pushes Ed aside a bit. The lunch dishes served are:
Alex & Ed’s sea scallops with ricotta gnudi & broccoli rabe. The judges like the gnudi but it could have been smoother.
Angleo & Tamesha’s slivers of beef, jicama-Asian pear salad with mint, cilantro and kimchi vinaigrette. Beth Scott wonders how it could be transported easily for room service and Tom points out it could be portable in a spring roll rapper.
Arnold & Lynne’s tuna cannelloni with forbidden rice salad and tomato vinaigrette. The judges are concerned that the dish would not be easy to recreate.
Kenny & Kevin’s chickpea pappardelle pasta with grilled chicken and tahini sauce. The judges found the chicken got lost in the pasta the flavors were good.
Andrea & Kelly’s crispy skin red snapper & panzanella salad with mustard vinaigrette. Time and budget didn’t allow them to use fresh beans, but the judges don’t buy that and find the snapper over-done.
The best lunches are Angelo & Tamesha’s and Alex & Ed’s so they are safe but that doesn’t stop Angelo from gunning for Kenny and me being tired of the “feud” between them. The final three teams move on to dinner; they have 60 minutes to prepare the final dishes. Kelly is still frustrated with the lack of feedback and Kenny doesn’t know what’s not right with his dishes. Lynne is also angry that they are still in the competition and aren’t safe. She rolls out pasta for there dish and prepares a bread, only to find that Kevin and Kenny turned down her pre-heated oven. Arnold wants to start cooking the pasta but Lynne doesn’t think it needs to be cooked until the last minute. Meanwhile, Kevin isn’t thrilled with Kenny changing the sauce for their short ribs. Andrea and Kelly are also making short ribs ,which gives them some concern, but Andrea thinks they have a leg up because they have an awesome sauce to glaze their ribs. Once the hour is over, the dishes served are:
Kenny & Kevin’s braised beef short rib, squash, potato & carrot confit & tempura horseradish. The judges like the tempura horseradish but there just isn’t enough of it or the jus.
Andrea & Kelly’s braised beef short rib, polenta, shitake mushrooms and citrus gremolata. The judges like the dish.
Lynne & Arnold’s pineapple red curry mussels with squid ink pasta & focaccia. The pasta was undercooked but the sauce was delicious.
All of the chefs are back in the stew room and Padma calls the final three teams in to Judges’ Table. Guest judge Nora announces the winning dish with the best flavors—the win goes to Kelly and Andrea. Their dinner dish will be featured on the Hilton menu and they each get a six-night stay at a Hilton hotel, Andrea’s in Spain and Kelly’s in Italy. Personally, I think the people who were deemed safe in the first round should have gotten the trips, not people who were in the bottom on the prior two rounds, but I’m not a Bravo employee.
The other two teams are then questioned. Lynne and Arnold are asked if they are happy with the outcome; Lynne says the flavors were good but realizes the pasta was undercooked. Arnold is floored by this comment—he was driving to get her to cook the pasta earlier and this is the first time he’s hearing this. Arnold stands by his dish; it was black pasta on black mussels, but it is who he is. Kenny and Kevin defend their lack of glaze by saying they didn’t want it to get to salty. Eric says he had a hard time finding the horseradish in the dish. Kevin thinks they approached dish well and would be something guests would like.
The chefs head back to the stew room while the judges deliberate. Tom admits it is a hard call for a tough challenge; he’s glad Arnold and Lynne took a risk. Eric says it was too bad the pasta was undercooked because it could have absorbed a lot of sauce and connected the dots. Tom was disappointed in the lack of glaze in Kevin and Kenny’s dish and Eric needed more horseradish. Tom thinks that if the tempura horseradish had been on top rather than in the sauce, it would have been more effective. Back in the stew room, Kevin espouses the idea that the chef must tell the diner how to eat the dish while Amanda thinks the diner won’t listen. And if you’re watching Hell’s Kitchen too, you never tell a chef how to eat a dish, so I’ll side with Amanda on that one.
Finally it is decision time. The bottom two teams are back before the Judges’ Table where Tom says that Lynne and Arnold thought “outside the box” but the pasta was undercooked. Kevin and Kenny’s dish lacked glaze and horseradish. After a difficult decision, Padma sends Lynne and Arnold home. Lynne wanted to stay and prove she was still good in her 50s while Arnold feels “thrown under the bus”. Gah…I’m kind of glad he’s gone if he was going to insist on using that phrase.
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