Trouble With Toast

Top Chef D.C. – Episode 9 | August 16, 2010

Ah, Restaurant Wars.  The highlight of the middle of every Top Chef season.  Well, highlight may be overshooting it a bit, especially this season, but it was one of the more interesting episodes thus far.

The quickfire challenge is the tag-team cook-off, and though there is no immunity, the winning team will split $10,000.  Kevin, Kenny, Kelly, and Amanda are the blue team, and Ed, Angelo, Tiffany, and Alex are the red team.  There is a lot of action, but I don’t remember anything about the dishes and the challenge basically boils down to the blue team looking cool and collected and together, and the red team unraveling the second that Alex gets involved.  Nancy Pelosi and her Botoxed face show up to judge the challenge, and she says it’s a tough decision, but she ultimately gives the win to the blue team.

Padma announces that the chefs will be taking over a Bethesda restaurant for the elimination challenge, and that each “restaurant” has to prepare a three-course menu with two options per course.  She also says that each chef must be responsible for at least one dish, and that Frank Bruni will be the guest judge, which causes some of the chefs to shake in their Crocs (though I’m not sure why, because I always thought Bruni was a fair critic).  With that, half of the contestants go to Whole Foods, and the other half go to Restaurant Depot.  Hey, we have a Restaurant Depot in Atlanta (I pass it every day on the way to work, actually), let’s have the next season of Top Chef here!!!

The blue team, again, looks pretty organized and calm.  The red team, on the other hand, doesn’t have any shopping lists on account of their trying to figure out how to involve Alex in the challenge as little as possible.  To that end, they decide that he will be the front-of-house representative.  Look, I know y’all didn’t want him in the kitchen any more than was absolutely necessary, but I cannot think of a WORSE choice for FOH.  He is creepy and nervous and twitchy and just not charming in the least – not exactly the best qualities for a customer service position.  Kelly is going to be FOH for the blue team, so she works on a dish that can be prepared in advance.

When the teams get to the restaurant, the theme of “red team bad, blue team good” continues – Kelly is nice to the restaurant staff while conducting a detailed tasting of the menu items, and Alex is the biggest dick imaginable, demonstrating cleaning techniques to the servers and generally berating them.  He all but admits on camera that his restaurant staff hates him.  Gee, Sherlock, I wonder why?

The restaurants open, and EVOO (the name of the red team’s concept – and I don’t think I need to discuss how terrible it is, especially since it is pronounced “Eee-voo,” as in, rhymes with emu) is the first place the judges visit.  They stand at the front, wondering if anyone will greet them; Alex is already apologizing to another table, so a server takes the judges to their seats.  The first course is Angelo’s tomato confit soup and Tiffany’s crudo.  The judges praise the soup, and Bruni says it makes him want to taste more of Angelo’s cooking.  They feel that the crudo is overseasoned.  There is apparently a long gap between the first and second courses (and Padma acts like a huge bitch about it), but when Tiffany’s black bass and Ed’s turbot arrive, everyone seems happy.  The third course is Alex’s lamb chop with pea puree (seriously???) and a ribeye steak that I can’t remember who is responsible for.  The judges like the lamb but seem to be a little puzzled by the steak, which doesn’t have a Mediterranean feel (frankly, neither did any of the other dishes).  The judges get up and leave, and Alex is nowhere to be found.

Next up is 2121 (named for the address of the TC house), and Kelly greets the judges and tells them about their restaurant’s theme (which I didn’t really understand – something about being progressive).  The first course is Kelly’s chilled corn and crab soup and Kenny’s beet salad.  The judges don’t like how thin the soup is, and they feel that the corn has no flavor because it is out of season (which is in direct contradiction to Kelly’s intro, which mentioned the use of seasonal ingredients).  There seems to be a lot going on with the beet salad, and the judges make a Chanel reference about taking off accessories.  The second course is Amanda’s steak and Kevin’s halibut; the judges don’t like the former (though the compliment the sauce), but they think the fish is both beautiful and tasty.  The last course is dessert, which is Kelly’s chocolate ganache tart and Kenny’s “cheese course” (which boils down to a hunk of fried goat cheese over a strawberry-rhubarb salad).  Gail the dessert queen loves the tart, but everyone seems universally put off by the fried goat cheese.  Bruni calls it a horror show.  It must have been poorly executed, because the IDEA of fried goat cheese over strawberries and rhubarbs sounds really tasty to me.

In the stew room, Kevin says that his mind will be blown if the blue team doesn’t win.  Which, duh, means that the blue team doesn’t win.  EVOO is the winning restaurant, despite Alex’s poor service.  Ed’s turbot is declared the winning dish, so he wins some wine and a trip to Napa.

When the blue team goes in front of the judges, Kenny starts out by saying how surprised he is to be the loser because of all of the communication problems he witnessed amongst the members of the red team.  Gail reminds him that they don’t see (or care about) any of that, and that the blue team is on the bottom because of their food.  The judges compliment Kelly on her “clumsy charisma,” but they slam her soup.  They praise Kevin’s halibut, but they tell Amanda that her steak was overcooked and unappetizing.  They tell Kenny that they didn’t like either of his dishes, and he decides that he’ll go ahead and continue to trash the red team.  Specifically, he says that Alex didn’t conceive or cook a dish (which was part of the rules) and that he should be up for elimination.  Kevin joins the anti-Alex bandwagon as well (which is the dumbest move EVER, since Kevin’s dish was the best of that bunch).  This whole bit makes Kenny and Kevin look like ridiculous, whiny bitches.

The blue team goes back to the stew room, and the bitchiness continues with Kevin yelling at Alex.  Ugh.  In the end, Kenny is sent home, and he says he is in awe.  Dude, get over yourself.  You started strong, but you wound up in the middle and in the bottom because YOUR FOOD WASN’T THAT GOOD.  As slimy as Alex seems, I am happy that Kenny is gone, and I look forward to further narrowing the field over the next couple of weeks.

Oh, and by the way, Tom’s blog is definitely worth a read this week, in light of the “controversy.”

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