Recap: Top Chef DC, Episode 8
Can you believe we're only half way through this season of Top Chef DC? It feels like it's been on since the Reagan administration! Anyway, this week Marcus Samuelsson stopped by to judge an Ethiopian quickfire challenge, and the chefs payed a culinary homage to 9 different countries. Who won? Who lost? And what the heck was up with Samuelsson's hat? It's all ahead in this week's recap!
[WARNING: Spoilers ahead!]
The episode opened with some riveting footage of Tiffany in the bathroom mirror applying her make-up and using a Stridex pad on the back of her neck. You know, the sort of stuff we food fans watching at home are just DYING to see.
Miraculously enough, Ed managed to stop talking about last week's pea purée incident long enough for the gang to pile into the car and meet Padma at the Top Chef kitchen. By her side was Marcus Samuelsson, winner of last season's Top Chef Masters.
For this week's quickfire, the chefs were asked to create an Ethiopian-inspired dish. What, did you think Samuelsson was there to talk about the weather?!
Despite the fact that Samuelsson gave them a long lesson on Ethiopian cuisine, most of the chefs struggled with the challenge. It's a shame Bravo didn't give them copies of this book so they could have at least brushed up a little:
Tiffany, who had no experience cooking Ethiopian food whatsoever, was named the winner of the challenge. Samuelsson noted that her beef goulash with currants, peppers, and yogurt had just the right amount of heat and sweet, and left him wanting more. This was Tiffany's first quickfire win, and as Ed said: "She beat Angelo [who used to work at an Ethiopian restaurant], and that's the best part." Indeed!
The Elimination Challenge
Angelo and Kenny hardly finished sulking after their loss to Tiffany when Marcus and Padma dragged a gigantic chalkboard map into the kitchen. Padma explained the chefs would be taking a "culinary trip around the world," but it really wasn't as exciting as she made it sound. Basically, everyone drew knives, and prepared a dish inspired by the country they chose from the map.
Sadly, everyone struggled with this challenge, too. Most of the time, it felt like we were watching the "let's complain about how we don't know anything about the food of other cultures" episode. Kevin had no clue how to cook Indian food. Stephen had no clue how to cook Brazilian food. Amanda, Kelly, and Alex had no clue how to cook Ethiopian food. Come on, guys! I thought you were "Top Chefs"—not rejected cast members from "Worst Cooks In America."
Meanwhile, Alex was once again acting like a total spaz while prepping his food in the Top Chef kitchens. While running to the oven, he tripped on a floor mat and face planted into Ed's prep table. He didn't get hurt, and he definitely-probably-maybe stole Ed's pea purée last week, so it's totally okay to laugh.
The next day, the chefs had 30 minutes to set up their Sterno stations before serving 100 diplomats, ambassadors, and dignitaries at the Meridian International Center in DC. The judges arrived and tasted the dishes with very little fanfare, though there were huge discrepancies in the judges' critiques compared to the commentaries offered by the diplomats. For example, Tom Coliccio slammed Angelo's Japan-inspired sashimi, but one of the diplomats said it was "exactly how you'd have it in one of the best restaurants in Japan." So which was it? Luckily, by that point in the episode, most of the viewers at home were probably too bored to even care.
In fact, the food the chefs prepared this week was so underwhelming, Samuelsson's hat became far more intriguing by comparison. I understand he was trying to represent the colors of his country, but was it necessary—or appropriate? We didn't see the ambassador of Japan rolling up with a Benihana scarf around his neck! Calm down, Marcus. We know you're Ethiopian. It's okay. Let it go.
Earlier in the recap, I mentioned the unnecessary video footage of Tiffany cleaning her neck in the mirror. That paled in comparison to the grossness of the footage of Angelo's practical joke. You see, Angelo—being the consummate humorist that he is—thought it would be hilarious to put saran wrap over the toilet seat. Moments later, a drunk Stephen came around the corner, failed to see the saran wrap, and peed all over himself. And boy, were we all in for a real treat, because Bravo showed an up-close shot of the used toilet bowl for posterity's sake. In case you missed it, here's how it went down:
Say it with me: Ewwwwwwww. Now! Who's in the mood to talk about some food!
Kelly (Italy), Kevin (India), and Tiffany (Mexico) were the top performers of the evening, but this week belonged to Tiffany! The judges fell in love with her chicken tamales with queso fresco, and named her the winner of the challenge. As an added bonus, she won $10,000—which she said she'd be using to pay for her wedding. Congrats, Tiffany!
The bottom performers were Ed (China), Alex (Spain), and Stephen (Brazil). Ed's dish lacked flavor and he failed to render the duck fat, while Alex's sauce was thin and watery. However, Stephen was eliminated from the show this week (and I think we all saw that one coming from a mile away). Stephen's rice was mushy and mealy, and his steak was not cooked properly. At this stage in the game, you should have your cooking techniques down, and sadly, Stephen did not.
And that brought this week's episode to an end! What did you think of the show, Serious Eaters? Was it Stephen's time to go? Did the chefs do justice to Padma's so-called "culinary journey across the world?"
See you next week for the Restaurant Wars episode!