‘Top Chef D.C.’ Recap: Celebrating Diversity


S7:E8: Last night’s episode began rather ominously: “I made a fatal error…in seasoning.” Kelly rocks back and forth in a dark room staring blankly out a curtained window and wallowing in the aftermath of the catastrophic misstep that led to an over-salting of steaks. Meanwhile the entire house hisses at Alex’s every move, shrinking into the shadows and darting under rocks at the sound of his lumbering gait. Puree Thief. The words are thick in the air.

Alex was all “don’t give a shit,” while Ed meanwhile cannot seem to reconcile the great injustice done to him with his Utopian worldview and is shown confronting the harsh truth of real life: “I’m just hurt and confused. Why did he have to take my puree? Why?”

Quick Fire

Finally an interesting and relevant Quick Fire challenge this episode! D.C. has a billion Ethiopian restaurants for anthropological reasons left unexplored and thus the cheftestants were instructed to just make something Ethiopian, anything at all. Ethiopian is some of the best non-cheeseburger food out there – the sour injera bread, bebere, wat, and vegetable stuff are all so unique in flavor, incomparable to any other type of food.

Some of our cheftestants were excited for this challenge, such as Angelo, who impatiently explains that he already knows how to cook such trivialities from his days as a missionary, while others such as Kelly embarrassed themselves by admitting to never having tasted Ethiopian before.

Top Chef Masters champion (and Ethiopian International Man of Mystery) Marcus Sammuelsson was thoughtful and sensual in his velvet blazer, providing intelligent feedback and brooding charisma to the proceedings.

Here’s how he laid it out: Kevin Sbraga’s bland lamb dish, Stephen’s good cabbage/shitty meatball combo, and Alex the Russian’s beef tongue just did not cut the mustard.

But Amanda prepared a goat wat with potatoes that was a big hit! But then she ruined this little bit of goodwill by lashing out sarcastically to the camera for no reason whatsoever. Amanda’s predicament here is that she dispatches sarcasm with no sense of comedic timing and comes off as acrid and semi-delusional.

Finally, although Angelo put together a beautiful wat, drawing high praise from ‘the spy who shagged me’, the winner of the cook-confusing-complex ethnic food challenge was Tiffany, with her goulosh made with Ethiopian spices. Marcus Sammuelsoon kept sticking his fingers back in there for more! So sensual.

Elimination Challenge

So, how was the recycled challenge idea related tangentially to democracy and politics et cetera? The cheftestants pulled knives and chose from 9 boring countries (where was Germany? Where was Korea? Those guys are hilarious. Bratwursts and Kimchi, that’s what the people want) and were told to create a dish from that country to be served to a DIPLOMAT of that particular geographic persuasion.

For some reason which was not really explained, none of them wanted to do Brazil so that was last (what’s up with Brazilian food? Is it all soufflés and desserts and canned beans?). Tiffany picked Mexico first, which confused me until I remembered that she’s from Texas. Amanda ran across the back of the scene, squawking about France and French training and bouf.  K. Sbrags went for Indian. Fool! Padma morphs into terribly vengeful Vishnu upon sensing the smallest grain of curry spice. Ed grabs China because, as he explains, he banged a Chinese girl once, so no-brainer there.

As the cooking begins, it becomes clear that Alex the Russian is both feared and hated for his foreign ways and Marxist perversions. Ed squints his eyes reaaaal intense and warns the camera: “He’s a spaz.” It doesn’t get more un-American than that.

Moving forward at a brisk pace, the judging is soon underway at the Meridian House, a gathering place for various dignitaries and ambassadors. This challenge was actually quite entertaining to watch, as the respective representatives from each country weighed in on the dishes with surprising candor. The guy from Spain shat all over Alex’s version of tapas (which involved a small yellow patty cake) as did guest judge Jose Andres, Spanish chef extraordinaire and generally adorable man, who called it a “little nightmare.”

Chef Tom Colliccio also got in on the action, and laid the ultimate slow-burn on Angelo after tasting his “Japanese” tuna sashimi: “all of this [shit] just masks the meat”. COLD. Stephen’s Brazilian rice and beans and steak dish played poorly with the crowd also, with the many snobby cultured worldly types remarking in passing how overcooked and passé his food was.

On the other foot, Kelly’s Italian beef carpaccio seemed to do splendidly, as did Kevin’s Indian flavored chicken, and I forgot what Kenny made but likely it was lamb four ways, with four meat-sculptures of each earth element including a working lamb fountain and bust of himself as ‘Beast’ worked all in lamb.

Amanda made bouf bourginionoinon and was seen briefly in the corner of the screen succumbing finally to her paranoia and launching a furious hail of beef cubes at an invisible enemy from within her chef-fort made of heat pans and sterno canisters.


Judges’ Table

The good guys were rewarded last night, and the bad guys got their fair dues. Tiffany got the win as well as a special surprise of 10,000 dollars and a lifetime supply of Ethiopian lovers. Alex the tan Russian was exposed for his complete incompetence and sleaziness, but luckily for us, entertainment and ratings and buzzwords matter more to Bravo than artistic integrity or continuity, and the bland and boring Gollum Stephen was bagged up and shipped out in a doggie-bag.