Surprise was the main ingredient in last night’s “Top Chef.”
Did you know that cocky Angelo is really nervous now that his arch nemesis Kenny is gone? Gasp. Or that “seasoned” chef Alex is only cooking dishes that he’s never made (though one can argue that his dishes have never been made by any chef since they are so horrible)?Double gasp. Or that Ed has a girlfriend that isn’t Tiffany? OR that Angelo has a girlfriend AND she’s not Asian? Faints on floor.
Things were super secretive in the “Top Chef” kitchen. The chefs had to bust out their creative skills as they kept getting handed mystery boxes with strange ingredients most of them had never cooked with, like black garlic and ramps. It was a physical and emotional trial, and the cracks in Angelo’s demeanor were really starting to show. “I am totally mentally exhausted,” Angelo said. He sadly looked at his workstation debating whether to make a cold or hot dish until the gelatin on his hominy pot-au-feu melted.
Unlike most of the dishes featured this season, Kevin’s serving of pan-seared rockfish set atop hominy puree, jicama and passion fruit salad was plated well and actually looked like something that people would want to order. But, it was Tiffany who won $10,000 for the Quickfire Challenge with a ho-hum looking stew (AGAIN WITH THE STEWS AND SOUPS) consisting of fish, hominy, fava beans, saffron, black garlic and all the other contents of the mystery boxes. Wylie Dufresne (an actual top chef based out of NYC) the guest judge, seemed very lackluster about the whole matter, but we were more interested in his thick sideburns than we were in his reactions.
Keeping in theme with the secretive ingredients, the chefs headed to the CIA to cook for the agency’s top officers and officials. Amanda gushed about meeting CIA director Leon Panetta, but something about her makes us strongly doubt that she even knew who he was before the show. Even more rattling, she revealed that she’s a fan of Alex and looks up to him, which really shouldn’t have been surprising at all, seeing that they are clearly the worst two contestants still on the show.
All the chefs had to “disguise” famous dishes, like beef wellington, cobb salad and kung pao shrimp, and present them in a way most people weren’t used to seeing it. Kelly, who had never cooked Chinese food before, found a bottle of kung pao sauce and read the ingredients so she would know how to make it. Since she didn’t know how to prepare it anyway, she decided to make a kung pao shrimp soup. Needless to say, the person who didn’t know how the dish should be prepared got rave reviews. Go figure. Tiffany took the trip to Paris prize for her elegant gyro, which to her credit looked like the classiest street food we've ever seen.
The other chefs had a more difficult time cloaking their plates. Angelo tried to create a beef wellington pizza, but was thwarted by the dreaded frozen puff pastry. Learn from your predecessors! Amanda thought she was clever by changing her French onion soup into a... French onion soup. “Helen Keller would be able to guess what this dish is,” she said. And, it was shockingly sweet. “It was like lemon and honey cough syrup,” one CIA officer said.
Alas it was Alex who made his dish even worse than Amanda and was sent packing. His veal parmigiana was tough, which is nearly impossible to imagine. Judge Eric Ripert looked like they just revealed that the entire world was out of salt, but he normally looks like that. “I would like to see less disguise and a better dish,” he said loftily.