Recap: Top Chef DC, Episode 10, CIA Challenge


Last time on Top Chef, Kenny went home after disappointing the judges with his dishes during Restaurant Wars. This week, the final seven tackled the difficult mystery box challenge and disguised familiar dishes for the CIA. Who survived? Who choked? And what the heck are ramps, anyway? It's all ahead in this week's recap!

[WARNING: Spoilers ahead!]

The Quickfire

Top Chef Masters contestant Wylie Dufresne showed up to judge this week's quickfire, the dreaded mystery box challenge. The chefs had to incorporate mystery ingredients into a dish, and to make it even more difficult, new ingredients were introduced while they were cooking.

The surprise ingredients were fish, fava beans, hominy, squid, black garlic, passion fruit, jicama, and ramps. Before this week, I thought ramps were just things Evel Knievel used to fling himself off of. They're also a leek-like vegetable with a garlicky odor and an onion-y flavor. So basically, avoid them like the plague on a first date.

Amanda was her usual confused self, Tiffany had no idea how to cook the ramps, and Angelo was so stressed out he was sweating more than Whitney Houston while performing at the Grammys.

Wylie tasted the dishes and ultimately named Tiffany the winner of the challenge. She made a fish stew with hominy, saffron, black garlic, and fava beans, which Hannibal Lecter really would have enjoyed with a nice side of chianti.

Elimination Challenge

For this week's secret agent-themed elimination challenge, the chefs had to disguise a well known dish and give it a new identity. They drew knives for the assignments, and headed to Whole Foods to shop. While there, Angelo decided to (gasp!) purchase some store-bought puff pastry so he could turn his beef wellington into a pizza. Ed said he thought it was a bad decision, but come on. Who makes their own puff pastry? It takes all day, and from what I understand, even restaurants buy it all the time. Certainly, there are bigger crimes going on in the Top Chef house for Ed to worry about, like Alex's hideous glasses. But I digress.

Next, the finalists headed to the CIA headquarters, or as Ed called it, "The place where major shit goes down." That's right, Ed. You want to know another place where major shit will be going down? Your house, after your girlfriend sees your on-screen relationship with Tiffany. You know it's true.

Amanda was assigned French onion soup, so to disguise it, she made... AN ONION SOUP WITH SHAVED CHEESE. What a total fail. Apparently, Amanda was fully aware of how weak her effort was because she said: "Even Helen Keller would be able to guess what this dish was."

And now, this brief message from Helen Keller:


Right on, Helen! Amanda's dish desperately needed a better disguise. Anything would have been better than what she came up with—maybe even something like this, perhaps:

Meanwhile, the gang was working hard at the CIA kitchen preparing delicious meals for some of the most boring looking people on the planet. The Bourne Identity made the CIA look so cool! In reality, though, all the agents look like annoying junior high school science teachers who assign homework on Friday nights.

The food was a huge disappointment as well. Angelo's beef wellington was too salty, and the pastry was way too hard. Kevin's cobb salad looked exactly like a cobb salad, and Ed's chicken cordon bleu was a dead ringer for the original dish as well. Come on, guys. Step it up. CIA stands for "Central Intelligence Agency," not "Crappy Infantile Ass."

And in a related story, I guess I didn't get the memo, but tonight was apparently "Eat with Your Knife" night on Top Chef.


Padma called back Tiffany, Kelly, and Ed, and told them they had the best dishes of the night. In the end, Tiffany was named the winner of the challenge. The judges loved her reinvented gyro and felt her dish was perfectly balanced. She won a trip to Paris, and in my opinion, is the person to beat this season.

Alex, Amanda, and Angelo had the worst dishes of the night. Amanda didn't disguise her French onion soup enough, and her marmalade was too sweet. Angelo's beef wellington was sloppy and boring. But tonight, Alex was eliminated because his veal parmigiana tortellini was overcooked and the entire dish was poorly executed. And might I say, it's about time!

And that brought this week's episode to an end! What did you think of the show, Serious Eaters? Was it Alex's time to go? And what the heck is Amanda doing in the top 6?!