Top Chef DC Recap: Around the Realm

Here’s the big thing about Top Chef I don’t get. As people get booted off, their beds are left empty. And yet in all the seasons, I haven’t seen anyone get creative. If someone in my room left, I’d make sure to swipe their blankets, pillows – hell, I’d probably push the beds together too! Or just make a sweet fort.

In an episode that defined convention (I mean, two people talked about their families and both of them stayed!), Top Chef has almost finished with dropping the weaker chef’testants. There’s no where to hide now. This also means that immunity means a whole lot more.

So the quickfire had a fun twist – the chefs had to make Ethiopian food for Marcus Samuelsson, the latest Top Chef Master. The whole thing felt kind of forced, because Marcus is known as being a Swedish chef since that’s where he grew up! But Ethiopian food has become very popular, so it’s a fitting curve ball to toss the chefs.

Armed with spices I’ve never heard of, the chefs jump into action. Alex does god-knows-what when he summons his fallen chaos god and Angelo, Kenny and Ed all have an advantage because they’ve got experience. But Kenny just can’t get out of his own way and made a duo of lamb! Welcome to Top Lamb!

But some people just couldn’t make Ethiopian work for them. Kevin questioned himself, Stephen managed to make his meat juice-less and Alex somehow managed to make a dry stew which has to be an oxymoron. But on top were Angelo because he actually knew what he was doing, Amanda who is still flying by the seat of her pants but it was Tiffany who got the win! So not only does she get immunity, she beat Angelo at his own game.

Wasting no time, the elimination challenge arrives! A large map with nine countries is brought in and the chefs pick from the Knifeblock of Destiny! Tiffany keeps her streak alive and draws the 1 knife giving her first pick of the country she wants, while Stephen gets stuck with Brazil. To mess with them more, Padma informs them that they will make 100 tasting portions for an event at the Meridan House for ambassadors and the like and they won’t have anything for heat besides sterno.

The chefs all make dishes inspired by their countries and a few excelled with their dishes. Bi-polar Kevin, whose fate seems to be determined by a coin flip, managed to pull off an excellent, unique India dish that managed to please the Queen of Curry herself (also, what the hell was with her golden bib?). Kelly’s Italy inspired carpaccio was authentic and well done. But something has awoken in Tiffany and her Mexican tamales took the win and impressed all of the judges. As an extra bonus, she got $10,000 to pay for her wedding! She also got $10,000 donated to a charity the guest judge, Jose Andres, really liked. It was really weird.

But the bottom for this challenge was beyond harsh. Ed’s Chinese green tea smoked duck over promised and under delivered. If he had rendered the fat, he would have been fine. Alex got his dish called “a little nightmare,” and was told everything about his technique, ingredients and plating was all wrong. And yet he didn’t go home.

The one sent home was Stephen who got stuck with Brazil and had no idea what to do. His coffee rubbed steak with rice and beans didn’t do well upon reheating and turned into a mess. During an aside, one guy said it would have been fine if he had gotten it from a street vendor for $5. Ouch. So Stephen went home, but at least the trend continues of the elimination challenges being so unique that it doesn’t make the chef look bad. Okay, so Stephen can’t make Brazilian cuisine on the fly and serve it when he only has a single heating tray. I bet a lot of people can’t even do that.

Next week is the battle we’ve all been waiting for: Restaurant Wars! I can’t wait to see what Angelo ends up doing because he’s been hiding in the shadows a little too much lately. He’s plotting something, I know it.