Cherry blossoms are in bloom in Washington DC as the sixth episode of “Top Chef” Season 7 gets under way. The sky is blue, the birds are chirping, the air is perfumed with the scent of spring flowers. Is love finally in the air?
Unless, of course, Ed and Tiffany or Angelo and Tamesha finally decide to release some… tension. Or Alex finally gets his hooker and eight ball.
All the chefs are a little down now that father figure Timothy is gone, though we mostly suspect that’s because they could also count on good ole Tim to always take the fall at Judge’s Table. It’s scary when the bottom dwellers leave and everyone is forced to start seasoning their food and adding delicious fenugreek broth to everything.
Andrea, who has been on the top the past two challenges, isn’t too worried though – or at least she’s not worried until she sees the guest judge for this week's episode. Michelle Bernstein, a James Beard Winner and Head Chef at Michy’s restaurant, will be judging the Quickfire and Elimination challenges. Michelle and Andrea both have restaurants in Miami and are apparently big time rivals. Like HUGE. Like Andrea’s hair and Angelo's ego big.
For the Quickfire Challenges the chefs will need to prepare a delicious dish using what Kevin describes as “nasty proteins.” Padma is more PC, referring to them as “outlandish ingredients.” We kind of prefer Kevin’s analysis. Especially when we discover that Angelo’s protein – duck white kidneys -- is actually duck testacles. Ed’s nonplussed by them. He used to make cock and ball soup with duck testacles when he worked for Todd English and he’s really adept with the cock. And the balls. Did Tiffany hear that? Is she around? Can she stop laughing?
Amanda’s struggling with her emu egg that she is disappointed to discover does not mean the egg has weird hair and is a little punk. We are a little scared when she breaks out the saw to try to crack the egg open after her run in with the potato peeler in the first episode. Tamesha, who isn’t too keen on the spastic grocery cart bulldozer, is secretly hoping Amanda will accidentally saw her hand off and be disqualified. She’s also secretly hoping she can be the one holding the saw.
Midway through their cooking time, Padma announces that they will need to switch "outlandish ingredients" with the person to their left. Amanda’s happy because she can dump the emo egg on Kelly, and Stephen’s happy because he can say, “I went from crocodile to frog legs – not really a big leap. No pun intended.” He so intended that pun. He’s practically giddy over his pun. He’s ready to open up Puns ‘R Us back in Ohio and make puns and beans all day long. Unfortunately, his seared frog leg and frog leg confit fails to get off the lily pad. Michelle Bernstein calls them “insipid.” She’s not much kinder about Alex’s “dry” ostrich barded with caul fat and basil or her nemesis Andrea’s chewy wild boar with wild cherry risotto.
Michelle is fonder of Kelly’s emo omelette, Amanda’s roast llama and Tamesha’s duck tongue in broth with mirepoix, and awards Kelly the win for achieving "great balance on the plate." Kelly is granted immunity and will not need to compete in the Elimination Challenge.
The other chefs will be divided into two groups to compete in a “Cold War.” Each chef will prepare a cold dish that they will serve to both the judges and their competitors in the other group. The chefs will decide which dish is the worst and which is the best and the selected contestants will either be up for elimination or up for the win, respectively. To make the challenge even more "insipid" and worthy of shelf space at Puns ‘R Us, the chefs will plan their menus and “Cold War strategy” while sailing around the Potomoc in the USS Sequioa, which apparently is like the maritime version of Air Force One.
While Angelo is giving everyone advice on how to make their dishes more sexy and delicious, and Kenny is stewing about all the Brutuses in his midst, Tiffany and Ed have a nice little Titanic moment on the deck where they both tell each other how much they trust each other and want to fly like Kate and Leo into the sunset. We’d prefer that this "insipid" flirtation fly directly into an iceberg. It kind of makes us… cold. Pun intended.
Angelo is feeling warm about his “sexy” sockeye salmon and its sexy color and all the sexy things he’s going to do to it with his delicious broths and Tamesha after she strangles Amanda “in a heartbeat.” Andrea’s kind of wishing Tamesha would turn her sights on Michelle Bernstein instead. We’re kind of wishing Tamesha would blow her nose already.
Congestion – not so sexy. Or delicious.
Judge’s table is an all out… (wait for it)… war. Group B which includes Angelo, Tamesha, Stephen, Andrea, and Tiffany ream their competitors out for their dishes. Andrea is rightfully repulsed when she finds a piece of cartilage in Amanda’s chicken galantine with mache and plum compote, and all the chefs are turned off by Kenny’s complicated grilled lamb salad and lamb carpaccio with black eye pea hummus. Angelo says, “The experience with the okra and the carpaccio was not a great one – it just turned into like a slimy… it just like killed the lamb and ate it right there.” Et tu Brutus? Kenny is voted the least favorite and will be up for elimination. Kevin is on top for his tuna and veal with romaine leaves, pine nuts and Mediterranean flavors.
The chefs swap places and Ed, Kevin, Kenny, Alex, and Amanda will now be judging their competitors. Tiffany is universally praised for her peppercorn crusted ahi tuna in gazpacho sauce with cucumber arugula salad, and Kevin singles out Angelo’s poached sockeye salmon with cilantro and chile in a “beautiful” pineapple tea as his favorite of the group. Tamesha’s scallops with pickled rhubarb, cilantro, basil and long pepper in rhubarb jus, and Stephen’s chilled beef with crispy rice and jalepeno oil – both Angelo-assisted dishes – are deemed the least successful. Tiffany will ultimately be up for the win, while Tamesha will be up for elimination.
The judges seem to concur with the chefs’ assessment of their peers. They call Tiffany’s ahi tuna the most refreshing dish they had, and love the textural contrast in Kevin’s dish. Kevin, bless his little sincere heart, comes out on top and wins six nights at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. While he’s not quite as lovable as Kevin Red Beard from season 6, the future daddy is kind of growing on us like a beard. Again, pun intended.
Tamesha and Kenny are then called in to receive their verbal lashings. Michelle likens the feeling of eating Tamesha’s scallop to “putting another tongue on top of your tongue,” which actually doesn’t sound all that bad if we are going to be completely honest and a little bit profane like our buddy Alex. Michelle continues her Simon Cowell-esque critiques by telling Kenny that “If I could sit here and actually talk about each piece that was on the dish, it would take me through to the end of the show.” We’re not sure we like Michelle very much right now and are considering printing t-shirts that say “Team Andrea.” Maybe “Team The Beast” too. (Kenny’s still King Caesar Salad in our minds.) In the end, Tamesha is sent home for her scallop dish that Tom calls “shockingly bad.” Angelo pretends to wipe a tear away, but we’re thinking it might just be some delicious tea broth that got in his eye. We don’t trust the “mind possessor” one bit. It’s a shame that Tamesha did.