Thursday, July 8, 2010

Giving the Business: The Top Chef D.C. recap

Can we just make one thing clear: I, too, have never had a baby (otherwise, you can be sure I’d be ditching this low-rent gig and getting on that Mommy Blog gravy train). But I wouldn’t be completely flummoxed at the prospect of making baby food.

I mean, what’s so damn hard? You crush some apples, you mince some peas, you stew some peaches. It’s not like babies turn to their parents and say, “I find this a bit bland. Perhaps some turmeric would excite my palate more.”

And yet, upon finding out that the Quickfire Challenge was to make baby food (in honor of Padma and Tom’s new little poopers) and a corresponding adult dish, Lynne said: “Oh crap. I’ve never had a baby, I don’t know what babies like.”

Try some coffee and some peanut butter, Lynne. Maybe put a toothpick on top. That should do the trick.

This was a high stakes challenge, meaning $20,000 was on the line, as both Tom and Padma were picking winners at 10 grand a pop.

“If I win, I’ll give the money to an orphanage in Thailand for kids with AIDS and HIV,” said Arnold.

“Hooker and an eight-ball please,” said Alex.

(A question: Do you think Alex looked in the mirror one day and thought, “Well, being America’s darling is out”— and just decided to fully embrace his inner douchebag? If so, well played.)

We learn a lot about our contestants with this baby food challenge.

First, we learn the sad news that Kenny lost his first wife and had to raise his daughter on his own.

We learn that Kevin has a baby on the way. (A great excuse to bond with Padma, by the way.)

We learn that Angelo has a baby—but, judging by the way he was hitting on Tamesha, no baby mama?

Speaking of Tamesha, she went from extra to speaking part this episode!

First, she wins Tom’s heart (and 10 grand) with her special licorice oil. (“I won 10 thousand smackers,” she said, adding a full-on Joey Tribbiani: “How YOU doin’?”).

Then, we find out that Angelo finds her sexy (really?) and that she totally shoots him down (really?)
“Angelo and I are really good friends, but there’s no way it’s going to happen,” she says,
(Who are you waiting for, Tamesha—George Clooney?)

Anyway, Padma’s pick for the baby food challenge is Kenny, which makes me happy.

Now for the seriously complicated (and, if you ask me, somewhat unfair) Elimination Challenge:

In teams of two, the cheftestants are asked to make a breakfast, lunch, and dinner that would be appealing to guests at a Hilton Hotel. (The winning dish will even be featured on the hotel’s menu.)

Here’s what made it so dang complicated: Unlike, say, the World Cup, where it’s survive and advance, this Elimination Challenge was LOSE and advance.

The winners of the breakfast challenge didn’t have to make lunch or dinner. The winners of the lunch challenge, didn’t have to make dinner.

To further add to the head-scratching nature of this Challenge, all of the dishes were eligible for the top prize. So even a two-time loser in breakfast and lunch, could end up being the challenge winner, if Tom, Padma, and co. so determined. (If anything, they were MORE likely to win, getting two more chances to impress the judges. See? Unfair.)

Finally, the entire team was being eliminated. Not just one member.

Judging the food were former Top Chef All-Stars Bryan V., Spike, and Michael I. Plus, Tom, Padma, and Eric, the lady from the Hilton Hotel, and some broad who sounded exactly like Zsa Zsa Gabor.

(A side note: Do you ever hate yourself for being attracted to somebody? That is the way I feel about Spike. I hate his dumb little hats and his dumb little name and his cooler-than-thou attitude. And yet. . .attracted. Someone hit me over the head with a frying pan, please.)

For the breakfast challenge, Tim let Tiffany take the lead on the crabcakes for their crabcake benedict.

(On behalf of all the good people of Maryland, I must say this: Tim, how could you? Tiffany is from Texas. They know from ribs and giant steaks and political nepotism in Texas. Not crabcakes. Have some Old Line pride and take charge of that cake! But I digress . . .)

In the end, Tim’s deference to Tiffany paid off: They won the breakfast round, along with Amanda and Stephen who made a poached egg and pancetta.

Totally predicted that those two teams would win round one. (Also have some swamp land to sell you on the Gulf Coast.)

Onto to lunch:

Angelo and Tamesha are able to work through their fog of sexual attraction and make a (semi) winning beef carpaccio with jicama salad.

Also advancing (I mean, uh, NOT advancing): Alex and Ed with their delish-looking scallops. Yes, Alex, you do indeed, cook the hell out of scallops.

So now competing in the dinner round: Kelly and Andrea; Arnold and Lynne; and Kenny and Kevin.

Naturally, with all the dinner options in the world available to them, both Kenny’s team and Lynne’s team choose to make shortribs.

Kelly, for one, is pissed about being the Bottom 3:
“We’re frustrated that we have to be cooking for our lives, feeling like we’re in the bottom of the competition,” she groused.

Maybe you feel like you’re in the bottom because you are in the bottom? Just a thought. . .

But Kelly and Andrea have a secret weapon that clearly Kenny and Kevin don’t have. I am, referring, of course, to THE BUSINESS. No, The Business is not The Situation’s Wall-Street-ready brother. It’s the jus of the shortribs. And, apparently, without enough business, your ribs ain’t all that.

Meanwhile, Lynne and Arnold are discussing facial scrubs. . . I mean, how long to cook the fresh pasta for their mussels in squid ink pasta.

Lynne is very afraid of overcooking the pasta, while Arnold is very afraid of not being ready on time.

Somehow, the pasta ends up being undercooked and Arnold is STILL to blame (at least according to Lynne.) Shady.

It seemed, at least to my eyes, that all three dinner dishes were relatively successful.

But somebody had to win and somebody had to go home.
Andrea and Kelly gave the judges the business—and they win! Not just the dinner round but the whole shebang! So totally unfair. (I’m sure Angelo’s business could beat their business.) But good for them?

And Arnold and Lynne are . . .OUT.

Lynne probably lost because she didn’t have any tattoos or piercings. At least that’s what she’s going to tell herself.

As for Arnold, I’ll miss the little bugger. He’ll always be more than a Louis Vuitton bag to me. And Arnold, for the record: At the final elimination? Your skin looked mah-velous.


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