Top Chef D.C. Recap: Arnold's Revenge
S7:E3: This episode of Top Chef was about assertion. Whilst top dogs Angelo and Kenny bicker and squabble, sneaky mischief-makers Arnold and Amanda sidle into first place. But firstly, Angelo is misanthropic! He eats breakfast outside on the dirt! He is a desperado, a tragic hero, the successful owner of a boutique gourmet sandwich restaurant. Meanwhile, Kenny has had it up to here with the Angelo show. We see him sitting silently in his room; a singular tear running down his face as he reads a billet-doux from his girlfriend Juicy. He becomes inspired, motivated. “Yes Juicy” he whispers fiercely, “We must succeed or we run the risk of failure.” Juicy is a Dan Quayle enthusiast.
Padma and the sensuous Gail Simmons greet the cheftestants at the door, accompanied by a man with ambitiously architectural hair and thick, imposing sideburns. He is introduced as Johnny Iuzzinni, Pastry God and head judge of TOP CHEF: JUST DESSERTS! YES. With Gail Simmons! YES! So much of the food produced on Top Chef, while ostensibly tasty and gourmet looks and sounds peculiar and unappetizing. Foams and mousses and raw beef and fennel and tuna everywhere – its hard to get behind such conceptual food. Top Chef: Just Desserts will be a saliva-fest. And Gail Simmons is just so luscious.
But the chefs are pissed. They are told to make a pie. A great American tradition! Except none of them can make pie! The chefs always complain about making desserts, to which I say ENOUGH OF YOUR EXCUSES. ENTERTAIN ME.
So it begins. Kelly explains that she is secretly good at desserts - suckers! She can barely contain her glee as she chops up cubes and cubes of butter for her chocolate pie. She really looks like Gollum.
Anthony expertly discusses the differences between being a savory chef and a pastry chef and astutely observes that pastry making is about precision and planning: “I thought that pies magically came from unicorn’s poop.”
Kenny makes Bananas Foster Pie Cobbler with Chinese five-spice, which sounds gross.
Judge Johnny Weir flirted shamelessly with Kelly (you are so smooth, you have a great emulsion), and informed Alex the Tan Russian that he had in fact made a tapioca quiche, not a pie (gag).
In the end, KENNY WON. YES! Fist Pumps! “THIS IS FOR YOU DAN QUAYLE, I mean, JUICY!”
Continuing in the theme of things these cheftestants can’t do, the Elimination is announced to be a grilling challenge at Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington, where they must prepare a picnic cookout for various interns. The chefs snicker but none bite the bait. Until Alex the Tan Russian swoops in with a “I’ve never taken advantage of an intern, wink wink, amiright?!?”. This proved to be only ominous foreshadowing of gross comments to come.
Barbeque is something not all the chefs are familiar with. Arnold interviews that grilling clogs your pores. Amanda casually mentions that she used to be a cocaine addict. The producers edit this anecdote into the visual equivalent of “Right. Moving on…”
So what’s for dinner? Angelo is making some “badass” Vietnamese wrap thing. It looks like Angelo is a sneaky only-makes-Asian-stuff guy, which Kenny notices and makes a note to exploit later. The Tan Russian and Amanda have an altercation over ovens; He calls her a bitch and she evokes “prison rules”. Uncomfortable knowing glances exchanged. Older random white guy Steven is wrapping stuff in bacon, while younger random white guy Ed is making a seared tuna hummus concoction.
Challenge day, and Timmy Dean starts things off with a robust burst of misogynist commentary about the general incompetence of women in all things worth doing. Namely grilling. But none of this is important. What really matters here is that JOHNATHAN WAXMAN has returned to us as a guest judge! He is like a small fountain or a quiet baby – so calming to look at.
Most of the chefs made some type of steak or pork and some type of hummus or couscous. In fact, Alex made pork butt. Cut to Alex’s interview: "I would eat the ass out of that pork butt all day.” What? Who says things like this on TV? Is this because he’s foreign?
Angelo declares his dish has clean, sexy flavors. Again. And a goose pooped on Timmy Dean.
So that about sums things up; frankly this was a boring round of entrees, though there was some sexual tension as the chefs tasted each other’s food and it was obvious that Angelo and Amanda want each other in a really gross way.
Winners? They were: Amanda’s ribs, Ed’s tuna sandwich, Angelo’s bringing Asian sexy back wrap, and Arnold with the ball of meat dish. In the end, Arnold took it away with a solemn, dignified curtsey.
Losers? The Bacon Dish was gross! Does this mean bacon isn’t cool anymore? Godammit. K. Sbrags made lame Puerto Rican food that offended Padma for some reason (on behalf of brown people?) and Tracey’s Italian sausage offended Tom for being shitty and also being Italian (I am Italian you cow!). In the end Tom had to send Tracey home for her white bread and slimy peppers and fennel-meat.
I didn’t love this episode - all meat and Mediterranean side-dish mediocrity. What is the point of having these successful executive-type chefs on the show if you are going to curb them creatively by making them churn out generic products in a medium they are unfamiliar with? Yes, a good chef should be able to grill and barbeque. But if they wanted 12 perfectly cooked skirt steaks they should have had a season of line cooks. Unfortunately, his type of bang-it-out challenge, in Tom’s words, was not a great day for American chefs.