Recap: Top Chef DC, Episode 12, Gastro-nauts

Another week, another episode of Top Chef! This time, the final five paired food and wine before heading to NASA to prepare meals for astronauts. And in case that wasn't exciting enough, Padma and Tom were joined by Eric Ripert, Anthony Bourdain, and Buzz Aldrin. Who got kicked off the show? How many corny space puns did the hosts drop? Who won a car? And how many times did Bourdain and Ripert look like they wanted to kill each other? It's all ahead in this week's recap!

[Warning: Spoilers ahead!]

The Quickfire

This week, the chefs had to create a dish based on a wine pairing for Padma and Dana Cowin, the editor of Food & Wine magazine. And yes, it was as boring as it sounds. I haven't heard so many references to "beautiful notes" and "subtle nuances" since Kenny G released his last CD.

With seven minutes left to go, Kevin realized his pork was still totally raw. He opted to use quail instead, which was a huge mistake because it doesn't pair well with Merlot. Sorry, Kevin—the FAILBOAT just arrived in port, and you're its only passenger.


Not surprisingly, Dana wasn't a fan of Kevin's dish and noted that the Merlot completely overpowered the delicate quail. She enjoyed Angelo's foie gras with Evolution white wine, and ultimately named him the winner of the challenge. As an additional prize, Angelo won a trip to London. Hopefully, his Russian girlfriend/wife/whatever will have her "paperwork" worked out in time to join him.

Padma then told the chefs that for the first time in Top Chef history, the final four would be going to Singapore to compete in their final challenges. This news caused Angelo to utter two of the most asinine sentences I've ever heard in my life: "I feel Asian inside 100%. I mean I tingle when I think about it." Hey Chandler, you wanna take this one for me buddy?


Elimination Challenge

For this week's elimination challenge, Top Chef sent the finalists to NASA to prepare a dish that could be freeze-dried and taken into space. I, like Kelly, am a huge space nerd and was very excited to see what they would come up with. Say, did you know the light hitting the Earth right now is about 30 thousand years old? Coincidentally, that's about how long this season of Top Chef feels like it has been airing.

Once they got to the NASA control room, they were forced to watch an episode of Semi-Homemade. Just kidding. Actually, they had to watch an equally corny video of two astronauts floating around at the space station. "You have to create a dish that's (dramatic pause) OUT OF THIS WORLD," they said, as if they had just come up with the most hilarious pun we Earthlings had ever heard. "Good luck. SHOOT FOR THE STARS!" Um, guys, you might just want to quit while you're ahead.

The chefs were then given a few bits of advice from a peculiar woman with braces that made her look like she just arrived on Earth from a distant planet: "Don't use too much sugar, and don't prepare large pieces of food because they don't freeze well," she warned. That, my friends, is called foreshadowing, and it will come into play later.


I would totally have my blogger card revoked if I didn't mention how Angelo rudely crashed his cart into some poor unsuspecting woman who was minding her own business while shopping at Whole Foods. He didn't even turn his head around to apologize or see if he hurt her. What's that? The universe revolves around Angelo? Sorry, I forgot. Moving on.

Tom Colicchio showed up while everyone was cooking, and stuck around long enough to mock Angelo's short ribs and call Kelly nerdy because she liked space stuff. Things were going swimmingly until the very end, when Tiffany noticed the mussels she put in the refrigerator had frozen. This upset her immensely, and caused her to frown for the rest of the episode. It was awful to watch. It was then that I realized the cold, hard truth: A day without Tiffany's smile is like A DAY WITHOUT SUN.


The next morning, the chefs got a note that said they'd be driving to the NASA kitchen in a brand new car, which would then be awarded to the winner of the challenge as an additional prize. Of course, they ran outside faster than Anthony Bourdain could crack a joke about Sandra Lee's Kwanzaa cake, and they found a boring, black Toyota Avalon waiting for them. In true Top Chef fashion, they proceeded to drool over the car for the next 10 minutes: "It has leather," they excitedly swooned. Yeah, so does the seat on my exercise bike, but you don't see me foaming at the mouth about it.

The most entertaining parts of the episode came during judging, when Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert expressed staggeringly different opinions about some of the dishes. First, Eric said that Ed's Moroccan inspired rack of lamb was too complicated. Bourdain immediately disagreed, and did what any of us would have done when we were seven: He teased him by mocking his last name. "I wanna disagree with my colleague Mister RIP IT," Bourdain said. "Ed nailed it. And I've been to Morocco." Well then. I guess you'd know, Mr. BORE-Dain. (Har, har, har. See what I did there?)

Anthony playfully lashed out at Eric again over Angelo's dish. Ripert felt that it was way too acidic, and Bourdain disagreed again. "I'm shocked by Ripert's dark, cynical, snarky, and negative world view because it's all about love and optimism for me now," he said. Wow. Bourdain's really turning into a softie in his old age. Either that, or Angelo had a fruit basket sent to his green room. Hey, it worked for Rachael Ray.

Oh, by the way, Buzz Aldrin was eating with them too, but they didn't give him much camera time. Padma and Tom asked him what it felt like to walk on the moon, and I just rolled my eyes. I bet he's never been asked that one before! Way to bring your interview A-game, guys!


In the end, and with very little fanfare, Angelo was named the winner of the challenge—even though he smothered his shortribs with enough sugary candied ginger to choke a mule, one of the two things they were told not to do. He got the car and a copy of Anthony Bourdain's new book, and his food will be sent to outer space where it probably belongs. He then disappeared into the back room to congratulate himself and stroke his car key in private. True story.

Tom said the judges were really splitting hairs to find flaws, because the remaining dishes were all so great. And after deliberating, they ultimately sent Tiffany home. I must say I am really disappointed to see her go. She was a great competitor and her food was rock solid. She excelled over the past few weeks, and I think the judges made a huge mistake by keeping her over Kevin, who simply prepared a boring sirloin and called it a day.

Sorry, Tiffany. I was rooting for you. But look on the bright side: at least you won't have to witness Angelo "tingling" when he gets to Singapore.

What did you think of the episode, Serious Eaters? Should Tiffany have gone home?