‘Top Chef D.C.’ Recap: The Spy Who Loved Me


S7:E10:  We were greeted last night with a rather pathetic vignette featuring Angelo’s complete emotional breakdown after Kenny was eliminated last episode. In Kenny’s absence, it appears Angelo has lost his sense of purpose and identity; he spent the hours after Kenny’s departure quivering in the back yard and eating yogurt. What is  Lex Luthor without Superman? What is Rachel McAdams without Ryan Gosling?? He was totally inconsolable, wandering lost and disoriented in quilted slippers, feebly calling out for Kenny and mourning the loss of his own existential niche in the Top Chef dimension.

Quick Fire

Quick Fire last night was a MYSTERY BOX challenge supervised by Wylie Dufresne, Molecular Gastronomist Extraordinaire. The cheftestants were told to start a dish using ingredients in the first box, and were to incorporate all components from arriving boxes into their dish. To be successful, the chefs were to keep their dishes to something general and easily manipulated. Tiffany did a great job at this, delighting Wylie and taking home 10 grand by making a fish stew which easily took the addition of the mystery ingredients, which included ramp (a scallion or leek type veg), black garlic (Kelly notes that it is sweeter and smokier than WHITE garlic, aw yeah), passion fruit, squid, and jicama.

Angelo, however, was all nerves. He showed none of his usual highly inappropriate, sexually-charged confidence and raw meat fetishism. He began sweating and crying into his hot gelee cakes and cold mousse. Luckily, both Alex and Amanda fared worse than him because they are both shit chefs, and while theirs was a lack of technical skill, Angelo’s failure stemmed from a deeply emotional, pained yearning for a lost love.


Elimination Challenge

Next thing we know, Padma is repelling from the ceiling and window shades are being snapped shut. Tom Collicio commando-crawls out from under the fridge.  “ATTENTION CHEFTESTANTS! You have been recruited into the CIA!  This is a matter of NATIONAL SECURITY.  Secret agents must be able to take on a new identity as a matter of life or DEATH and similarly, you will be disguising a classic dish so it looks different but tastes the same!”  Yes, these ridiculous exclamations Padma actually said.

Amanda starts in with the “I would be a fantastic spy. I would seduce some secrets outta like, KGB.” (She’s worried about Soviets? Really?) She considers herself a modern-day Sydney Bristow, all tiny guns in lingerie and forbidden trysts with hot Canadian handlers. She drawls that her spy name would be Miss “Natasha”, if you’re nasty. We just collectively gagged and pretended not to have heard.

Fine. Insultingly corny themes aside, this challenge boiled down to the “deconstruction” task of previous seasons, which is usually a fun one. We have Angelo on a Beef Wellington, a dish I know very well from Hell’s Kitchen reruns. (That Wellington is RAW. IT’S RAAWWW!) Angelo ninnys about Whole Foods, and very unfortunately chooses to make a Wellington pizza with frozen puff pastry crust and pepperoni’s cut of out beef strips.

I know the producers are toying with us, threatening to take away Angelo after the easy execution of Kenny, but I know they are bluffing here with a red-herring edit. Stay calm chickees, Bravo wouldn’t leave us in the desolate purgatory of reality television populated by boring, one-dimensional white paper-dolls. If I had to watch Ed and Kelly duke it out for 3 more weeks….

In any case, at the judging, the cheftestants were led to LANGLEY, VIRGINIA to cook inside the CIA HEADQUARTERS and serve their disguised food to various CIA admins and the director of the CIA, Leon Panetta. Whaaaat? Awesome. Panetta was pretty charming, dispensing some canned joke about Angelo’s pizza representing a blundering operative headed for discovery and public hanging. After a dead-pan delivery he got some breaking news and was all “PANETTA OUT” and bounced outta there to take care of national security issues.

The judges also hated Amanda’s French Onion soup disguised as soup, but with sickly sweet marmalade. Before she brought it out, Amanda made a Hellen Keller joke! We all love Keller jokes, so we ignore the small fact that Hellen Keller could still taste shit.

Alex also made something disgusting as usual – a Veal Parmesan dish that was tough and apparently inedible.

Tiffany, of course, did smashingly; she cooked up a deconstructed gyro with little bits of food all across the plate that when mixed together released the flavors of that delicious street-meat. Ed also did well with an inside-out Chicken Cordon-Bleu, though the mix of cold-cuts and chicken looked a bit like a dorky kid’s lunch. Kelly’s dish was also praised for it’s creativity working Kung-pao shrimp into a soup.


Judges’ Table

Tom and the other judges were quite taken with Tiffany’s gyro dish!  She took home the grand prize – a trip to Paris compliments of ubiquitous sponsor Hilton Hotels!

When the losers shuffled in, we could practically hear the wheels whizzing inside Amanda’s head, ticking off all the reasons this challenge was particularly unfair for her specifically, and how she is massively, exquisitely talented but constantly held back by these bullshit challenges.

Angelo seemed resigned and defeated, obviously longing only to be reunited with his better, darker, more chocolaty half.

But it was Alex who was informed that every single component of his dish had failed, and was unceremoniously sent home. The Russian has left the building!

Oh, and I realized this episode why Alex is so creepy: it is because his eyes are unblinking and his eyebrows are unmoving! When he speaks to the camera especially he stares without moving the upper part of his face. Very unsettling. That and his eternally pervy remarks in interviews and during scenes. I will miss his entertaining foreign weirdness though. Who will we rely on for some humorous relief? The comedic stylings of Kevin Sbraga? It is a long winter ahead of us comrades.   DAS VIDANYA ALEX.