S7:E11: This week’s Top Chef: D.C. episode opener took a sharp turn for the macabre. We were presented with an unapologetically frank portrait of psychological torment and mental collapse. Our cheftestants were brutally documented in the darkest of their emotional thickets – the once jovial and grounded Ed was filmed in the midst of a complete loss of self-identity. He ambled listlessly around the house in a stolen cocktail dress, doing dishes, curtseying, and twirling in a desperate attempt to parse out the man he had lost.
Angelo meanwhile has completely cracked. We see him rocking on the couch alone, reciting mantras and phrases to himself before he wistfully describes to the camera crew the shrine he created in his house to Top Chefs of the past. I can only reluctantly imagine the over-sexualized rituals involving pieces of salmon and fine, premium beef that are performed in the presence of this abomination. Eww.
Not to mention he has a Russian Mail-order bride.
Rick Moonen grins his devilish little grin and greets his cheftestants in the kitchen, and whispers of sea-food challenges roll through the group, until Padma starts robotically listing food-related clichés. And suddenly things got very meta. A challenge about puns? A pun within a pun? Are we in a pun right now? INCEPTION!? Padma just jiggles her breasts and laughs.
So the chefs pick “idioms” like “sour grapes”, and “the big cheese”, and “hide the salami” (where’s Alex the Russian when you need him?). We end up with a delicious spring dish from Ed (winner!) featuring “hot potato” gnocchi with spring vegetables & mushroom fricassee.
Losers? Amanda’s “big cheese” macaroni with bacon and ten types of cheese looked pretty delicious to my plebian eyes but to frail Mrs. Rick Moonen, it was a heavy-handed heart attack on a plate. Mmm. In addition, Kelly mixed concord grapes with brussel sprouts and then slapped it on some chicken, which seriously did not make sense to anyone involved.
The show is trying to drag us down into madness with them.
The Elimination Challenge was to be a team challenge with a baseball concession theme! Apparently, there is a baseball team in Washington D.C. (the Nationals). Things get started right away and forebodingly, everyone starts talking about how shitty Amanda is, just in general and as a person. She decides to make tuna tartar, which is a terrible idea for baseball fare. Angelo sails by, singing something about pork buns and hot dog bread.
Poor Ed, confused and sweaty, commits to making about one thousand corn fritters. (Corn Baller?)
The judging itself was relatively tame; the judges all liked both Ed’s fritters and Tiffany’s meatball sub while feeling neutral about Kelly’s salty BLT and Kevin’s boring chicken skewer. They were definitely hating on Angelo’s soggy pork buns (made with hot dog buns, gross) and Amanda’s gray, oxidized raw tuna, which Eric Ripert was personally offended by.
Winner: ED! The time-old story of man loses mind, man cooks gnocchi, man wins hearts of a nation (and the nationals and Tom Collicio). Eric Ripert the French milkmaid was particularly enamored of Ed’s dish and the fact that it was so tidy and easy to eat.
Loser: AMANDA! At long last, we have rid ourselves of this mighty bus of a girl, with her powers of complaint comparable to the most long-winded, big busted, prima donnas of the stage.
Secondly, Angelo is fast becoming the most interesting one on the show. With his madmen ramblings and incoherent chanting and weird quirky catchphrases (“you’re the bad boy”), he has blossomed into a true reality show character!