Top Chef 8/4 Recap: Global Gourmet
With all of the international residents and visitors in Washington, DC, it was only a matter of time before the chefs were challenged to create dishes using flavors from around the world. Before getting to the challenges, though, Kelly says she’s a bit bummed about Andrea’s elimination and her own poor seasoning. In what’s likely the last we’ll hear of the pea puree incident, Alex claims he didn’t know that Ed’s went missing and Ed is just perplexed and wants to now what ever did become of his pea puree. Tiffany feels it is time for her to win a challenge and mentions that before she came on Top Chef, she was at home planning for her wedding in Costa Rica.
No forks allowed.
The chefs are greeted in the kitchen by Padma and Top Chef Masters 2 winner Marcus Samuelsson. He is known for his Ethiopian cuisine, and apparently there are a lot of Ethiopian restaurants in DC. I’ll have to check that out when I’m up there in October, because I’ve always wanted to try Ethiopian food. Marcus instructs the chefs about berbere, an often-used spice; injera, a spongy flat round sourdough bread, and wats, spicy stews that are eaten by hand, using the bread as a scoop. The chefs have to come up with an Ethiopian-inspired dish and the winner will get immunity for the Elimination Challenge.
And it’s off to the races—the chefs dive for the provided meats and spices. Leah grabs a huge leg of goat while Alex chooses tongue and steals pressure cooker from Kelly. Angelo brags about knowing Ethiopian food because he worked with an Ethiopian restaurant. Kenny brags some too; he and Ed both know Ethiopian food as well, but Kenny is only out to beat Angelo. Tiffany has no clue if what she’s doing is right; she’s making a stew that works best with the Ethiopian spices. In short order, the chefs bang out these dishes:
Kevin: braised chicken with chickpeas, cucumber-mint salad and yogurt.
Stephen: stew with lamb meatballs and yogurt sauce.
Alex: beef and lamb tongue stew with cabbage and potatoes.
Kelly: leg of lamb wat with cauliflower, yogurt, and mint puree.
Amanda: stewed goat on grilled injera.
Kenny: duo of lamb: meat loaf and rib eye with curry and dukkah spice.
Angelo: berbere-spiced doro wat with egg, mango yogurt and mint on steamed injera.
Ed: stewed lamb and beef tripe with cauliflower, chickpeas and braised greens.
Tiffany: beef goulash with poached egg, currants, peppers and yogurt.
Marcus wasn’t so keen on Kevin’s dish—it was too shy and not bold enough for the flavors of Ethiopia. He thought Stephen’s cabbage was interesting but the meat balls were not that great. Finally, Marcus found Alex’s stew to dry. Marcus liked Amanda’s combo of goat and spices, saw Angelo’s knowledge Ethiopian food shining through, and Tiffany’s goulash was very hearty, just like Ethiopian food and he couldn’t get enough of it. Thus Tiffany wins the challenge and gets immunity.
Around the world in 2 hours.
Next, Padma and Marcus wheel in a portable chalkboard with a map of the world on it that highlight nine countries. The chefs will have to pick one country and make 100 portions of a dish representing the flavors of that country to serve to diplomats, ambassadors and world dignitaries. They will have a couple of hours to cook in the Top Chef kitchen, but the event will be the next day and they’ll only have sterno-heated serving dishes. After they draw knives to pick the order (though no one really says how they chose the order to draw knives) the choices are: Tiffany-Mexico, Kelly-Italy, Amanda-her desired France, Kenny-Thailand, Alex-Spain, Angelo-Japan, Ed-China, and Stephen is stuck with Brazil.
And it’s off to Whole Foods to spend $200 in thirty minutes. Along the way, Kenny wonders why he is now in the middle so often, but feels he can battle back. Stephen has trouble shopping because he knows nothing of Brazilian food, other than a steakhouse he went to. Kevin has no experience cooking Indian food and he’s worried about the ambassadors; I think he should worry about Padma.
Back in the kitchen, Kelly has reconsidered her dish, knowing she’ll only have sterno to heat; she’s making a cold dish of beef carpaccio with a shaved spring vegetable salad. Ed, based on his Chinese girlfriend experience, is making tea smoked duck breast with crispy pot stickers. Stephen’s stab at Brazil is marinated flank steak in chimichurri sauce with pork, beans and rice. There’s something off with Stephen’s geography, so I’m hoping he’ll just say “marinated” steak.
Tiffany is doing chicken tamales, braising the meat to put on top and garnishing it with queso fresco and tomatillo sauce; she travels to Mexico frequently and wants to keep her dish simple and win with immunity. Angelo, ever confident of his knowledge of Japanese food, is making a sashimi of tuna ribbons with avocado and candied wasabi. I want to find a cuisine he’s not familiar with. Amanda got her favorite of France and is making beef bourguignon with pommes fourchette and horseradish mousse
Alex is making “a very difficult menu” of braised veal with red wine sauce, olive salad, and torta to show off Spain; the guy is spastic, runs all over the kitchen and wipes out on the floor. Kevin decided to make his own curry powder for his stewed chicken with curry, parsnip and leek puree, with cucumber-mango salad and lentils. Kenny previously opened a Pan-Asian restaurant and is making tamarind-braised pork with rice noodle salad and Thai green curry.
Tom arrives in the kitchen to take a gander, and that’s about all he does. Alex tells him he’s making tapas. He stops by Tiffany’s station and looks kind of smug when she says she’s making tamales; she says she loves tamales but there usually isn’t enough meat in them, so she’s doing a bit of deconstruction. After Tom leaves, Ed is concerned he won’t finish. He starts running around the kitchen, Alex is still running, and Tiffany gets in the running game. Amanda shouts that there’s no room in her hot box, which causes a slight giggle from Alex. The chefs pack everything up and head home for the day. Kevin gets to call home and check on his child and pregnant wife. He wants to keep his cool because he’s under stress and can lose his temper. Downstairs, Kelly got a care package from her husband consisting of stuffed animals, pictures, and booze. Kelly’s husband obviously rocks.
Beans and rice are a curse on this show.
The next day, the chefs arrive at the venue and have a mere thirty minutes to prepare for the guests. Amanda unpacks her beef and finds it’s dried out, so she cuts the pieces smaller in the hope they’ll absorb more of the sauce. Stephen’s rice and beans are too dry when he opens the tray so he adds broth to moisten the pan. Tiffany is still chopping and chopping for her salsa topping while other people are starting to plate. The guests start to file in before anyone is really ready. Kevin makes a point of calling his dish “stewed chicken” and not a “curried chicken” to mitigate against his lack of knowledge of Indian food.
Then the judges, Padma, Tom, Gail, guest judge Jose Andres, a famous chef from Spain, arrive to go around the room and collect plates from the chefs. Marcus is there with them for the tasting, but won’t sit at Judges’ Table. During the tasting, Gail is impressed that Kelly changed her dish to a cold one to fit the setting. The Italian ambassador really liked it, and thought it represented Italy better than he does. The Chinese ambassador liked Ed’s dish, but he may have only been being polite; the judges weren’t impressed at all. They did like Kevin’s “stewed chicken” quite a bit, but Stephen’s fell flat with some beef and nasty beans and rice. Jose thinks Alex’s dish does not represent Spain well; the flavors were far too muted.
The judges make another pass around the room to collect more dishes and congregate to taste them. Gail wants to know where the beef is in Amanda’s dish, though they concede the sauce was good. Angelo’s sashimi impresses Jose, but Tom thinks there are too many flavors covering the fish. Everyone loves Tiffany’s tamales; she really represented Mexico well. They also like Kenny’s curry that is subtle but not lacking flavor. After the tasting, Marcus takes his leave and Padma, Tom, Gail, and Jose head to Judges’ Table.
During the comical interlude between a ton of commercials, we see Angelo cover the toilet in the guys’ bathroom with plastic wrap. He warns Alex not to use that bathroom, so that a very drunken Stephen can experience the splash-back. He comes in and sure enough, gets doused in pee. Everyone laughs about it, including Stephen. Maybe staying somewhat sober on Top Chef might be a good thing.
In the stew room, Alex is pretty confident in his dish, but Kelly doesn’t think it screamed Spain. Before that argument goes any further, Padma arrives to retrieve Kelly, Kevin, and Tiffany. The judges tell them they made their favorite dishes of the challenge. Tiffany says she enjoyed the challenge and played it like she didn’t have immunity. Gail confesses she doesn’t always like tamales, as they are often too dry, but in this case they were perfect and the best condiments. Kevin admits that this was his first time cooking Indian food; Tom notes that it doesn’t have to be authentic to be good. Jose adds that Kevin had a great layering of flavors. Kelly used local beef for her carpaccio, and Tom praises her for it. Jose likes that she brought her own touch to the carpaccio with the slight sear on the outside of the beef. Jose then announces Tiffany as the winner for best representing the ingredients of her chosen country. Not only does she win the challenge, but she wins $10,000, so her wedding is paid for now. They’re also donating $10,000 in her name to DC Central Kitchen, Jose’s favorite charity.
The top three head back to the stew room and send Alex, Stephen, and Ed to face the judges. Stephen is taken to task first; Gail says the idea for the rice was okay, but the execution was terrible and she points out that chimichurri is Argentinean. Tom says to never mind screwing up on the geography--if rice was okay and the steak was cooked right, he wouldn’t be here. As for Alex’s Spanish creation, Jose was ready to love it but instead found it to be a “little nightmare”. Alex admits he screwed up and didn’t edit, as he was so thrilled with the idea of Spain. Tom wasn’t impressed at all with Alex’s watery sauce. As for Ed, Jose liked the sauce but he over promised in the description of the dish; it was not sweet and sour as promised. Ed admits he screwed up cooking the duck and did not render enough fat out of it.
The judges deliberate, and reiterate their earlier critiques made to the chefs themselves. The bottom three return to Judges’ Table when Tom dismisses Stephen’s rice and overpowering chimichurri. He finds Alex to lack cooking skills and Ed should have been able to cook the duck easily. Padma then instructs Stephen to pack and go. He’s disappointed with going out on bad cooking skills. Overall he enjoyed the experience of the tough competition, knows someone had to go, and he was the guy who fell short. Insert your own “short Stephen” joke here.
Previews for next week makes me think there’ll be high drama for the much-anticipated Restaurant Wars episode. I can’t wait!