Thursday, August 5, 2010

Top Chef Season 7, Episode 8: "It’s the Idiot’s Guide to Ethiopian Cooking"

It’s all about the pea puree as the eighth episode of “Top Chef” Season 7 gets under way. Alex is still claiming that he had no idea Ed had a pea puree even though the cameras were present when he learned about the puree the evening before service. But the prostitute-and-eight-ball-loving lemer is nonplussed about such trivialities like public opinion and his post-Top Chef reputation. He says, “I really don’t care what anyone else thinks.”

Padma also doesn’t seem to care much about what anyone thinks. She shows up at the Quickfire Challenge wearing a black dog cone collar as a sleeve. It’s not very cute. Fortunately, we have guest judge Marcus Samuelsson, the winner of “Top Chef Masters,” to distract us with his calming accent and tidy velour suit jacket. He’s kind of cute as a button when he’s not being “an animal in the kitchen.”

According to Padma, DC is a mecca for global cuisine and Ethiopian food is one of the dominate cuisines in the area. For the Quickfire, the chefs will need to make their own dish inspired by Ethiopian food that often features the spice berbere, injera bread (used as a utensil), and spicy stews. Most of the chefs are a little nervous about this challenge, but with no time to waste they attack the proteins like they are starving children from… you get the picture. Amanda goes right for the leg of goat in case she needs to beat down any stray children with it, and Alex zeroes in on the beef tongue and lamb tongue. He just looooves tongue.

While Kelly, Kevin, Tiffany, Alex, and Stephen don’t really know much about cooking the cuisine, Angelo, Ed and Kenny are feeling confident about the challenge. Angelo worked at an Ethiopian concept restaurant and claims to know the flavors in his head like a lullaby that he sings to his baby when he can’t sleep. Amanda is feeling less lyrical with the challenge. In typical Amanda fashion, she says, “I have no idea what any of these spices are. I don’t even know the proper etiquette for mixing them. I mean it’s the ‘Idiot’s Guide to Ethiopian Cooking.’” We just hope the Idiot’s Guide doesn’t tell her to mix the spices with Sherry.

Despite Amanda’s confusion, Alex, Stephen and Kevin are singled out for having the least successful dishes. Alex’s stew is too dry and lacks heat, Stephen’s meatballs aren’t juicy enough, and Kevin’s braised chicken with chickpeas isn’t bold enough. Amanda, Angelo and Tiffany are praised for having the best dishes, and Tiffany ultimately takes the win (and immunity) for her beef goulash with poached egg, currants, pepper and yogurt. She squeals, “I’m the winner! Ding ding ding!” Ed’s like super proud. He’s like turning red and googly eyed over it because he just loves Tiffany soooo much. Did you know he trusts her more than anyone else in the house?

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be taking a “culinary trip around the world.” Each will pick a country and then create a dish inspired by the flavors of that cuisine. They must make 100 portions of the dish to serve to ambassadors, diplomats and world dignitaries at the Meridian International Center, the center of diplomatic life and international dialogue in DC. In other words, the pressure is on and if they f this up, they will risk global humiliation and the wrath of Padma’s angry eyes and dog-coned arm. “That’ll be all, thank you.”

The chefs draw knives to determine which order they will select their country and Tiffany is all squeals and giggles about picking number 1. She selects Mexico, Kelly selects Italy, Amanda scores France, Alex nabs Spain, Kenny zeroes in on Thailand, Angelo goes gaga for Japan, Kevin reluctantly takes India, Ed grabs China, and Stephen takes a beating with the last country left, Brazil. He says with a hint of Stevie-infused sarcasm, “The difficulty in cooking Brazilian food is that I don’t know that much about it.” He decides to go for the beef – flank steak, and plans to dress it up with a coffee-rub marinade and some rice and beans.

Kevin is also nervous about making Indian food since he also doesn’t know anything about the cuisine. Kelly and Ed are more confident with their selections – especially Ed since he’s had “some Chinese girlfriends in the past.” Apparently, he gets around. Just like his pea puree.

Angelo is exciting to have Japan because he, again, looooves the flavors and knows them sooooo well, and is going to make little sashimi tuna ribbons to dance with through the valley in spring time. Amanda is similarly pumped to make beef bourguignon to represent French. She says, “Something that’s so simple, and often done poorly, when done properly can really shine,” and it makes us think that she’s going to do it poorly and it won’t shine and then she’ll look like she was using the Idiot’s Guide. Again.

At the moment, however, it looks like Alex has “borrowed” the guide. Ed says of the gangly slick-fingered chef, “Alex is a fly by the seat of his pants type of chef. Alex is just a spazz – he has no technique.” The camera immediately cuts to Alex spastically falling on the ground.

Touché, Top Chef segment producers. Touché.

The chefs are all a little nervous when they arrive at the Meridian Center the next day. They have 30 minutes to finish their dishes using sterno stoves and are intimidated about serving representatives from the countries they selected. Amanda and Stephen are especially concerned about their plates. Amanda’s beef is really dry (she decides to remedy this by chopping the pieces smaller), and Stephen’s rice is overcooked – a “Top Chef” travesty. Things are not looking good for the bundle of joy from Ohio.

The pressure is ramped up even further when Padma, Tom and Gail introduce the chefs to the guest judge for the challenge – Chef Jose Andres.

It’s easy to pick out the winners and losers here. Everyone loves Kelly’s beef carpaccio with a spring vegetable salad that truly represents the carpaccio served in Italy. They are also impressed with Tiffany’s chicken tamales with queso fresco and fresh tomatillo sauce, as well as Kevin’s stewed chicken with leek and parsnip puree, cucumber mango salad and lentils. Even Padma gives Kevin’s lentils the nod of approval. (Though she might just have a crick in her neck from the dog cone collar ensemble she wore in the Quickfire.) Tiffany ultimately nabs the win for maintaining the integrity of the ingredients of Mexico. She cheers when she finds out she’ll also receive $10,000. She says, “My wedding is paid for! I’m really excited to see what my fiance’s going to say.” We’re sort of excited to see what her fiance’s going to say about good ole trusty Ed too…

Alex, Stephen and Ed are called in next for their technical failures in executing their dishes. Tom tells Alex that there was nothing in his braised veal cheeks, jamon torta and olive salad that reminded him of Spain, and Alex nods in agreement. “I screwed up. I got too excited and I got ahead of myself.” We suspect that tongue-loving Alex has delivered these words before.

The judges were also unimpressed with Ed’s tea-smoked duck breast that he served with the flaccid fat skin still intact. Ed admits that he should have rendered out the fat first to give the duck a crispy skin because he hates when duck is served with the fat layer. Gail jumps in, “We hate it too.” Ultimately, however, the judges hate Stephen’s mushy rice and overpowering chimichurri sauce the most. The lovable chef is sent packing. There will be no more seminars on how to be in the bottom. Unless Amanda writes an “Idiot’s Guide” to it.


weezermonkey said...

Color me flabbergasted re several chefs' not having ever tasted Ethiopian food. Seriously shocking.

I am sort of loving Tiffany now.

Esi said...

I'm with weezermonkey, but still overall bored by this season. Maybe that's why Padma seems so angry?

Ashley said...

is it just me, or do the chefs seem way more amateurish this season than they have in the past?

Summer said...

Thanks for the recap! Feel like I watched the episode!

stuffycheaks said...

I was holing off reading this until I watched the episode but realize I'll prob never watch it cuz I'm TV less now *sob* But alas, your post is so descriptive, who needs TV. I can totally visualize the dog collar lol

Diana said...

Weez - I was shocked by that too! Granted, I wouldn't have known anything about Ethiopian food prior to living in LA. And yes, really liking Tiffany right now - squeals and crazy laugh and all.

Esi - Haha, maybe! She does seem disgusted with all of them.

Ashley - Agreed! Though Angelo is pretty crazy in the kitchen.

Summer - Thanks for the sweet note!

Stephanie - You aren't missing much on the live show. Like Esi, I'm sort of bored with this season.

Kung Food Panda said...

I think Stephen was destined to go for the past few episode, as he's been pretty "meh" most of the way. Alex I think is probably one to go home next!