Just before this episode started, my friend Dara's Facebook status update was all about how NOT into this season of Top Chef she is. I hate to start all of my recaps with complaints, but she's definitely not the only one not feeling season seven. I'm ready for it to end.
That said, I didn't think this episode was so bad. So let's get to it.
When we join our cheftestants, they're reflecting on Restaurant Wars - namely the fact that Kenny went home and Alex didn't. Angelo is shaken because he shared Kenny's opinion that Kenny was one of the strongest competitors (apparently neither got the memo that strength usually comes in the form of winning challenges) and Kevin thinks it's a travesty that Alex is still around.
Alex, for what it's worth, does not think it's a travesty, and he's under the impression that Kevin's Judges' Table tirade was more about defending Kenny than about disliking Alex. Alex, sadly, is wrong.
Next up, it's Quickfire time. They roll into the kitchen and, as Ed says, "the first thing I see is Wylie Dufresne and his sideburns." They are some distinguished sideburns, Ed.
At this point it's all blah, blah, blah, "molecular gastronomy," then Padma is all, blah, blah, blah "CIA." The Quickfire, she explains, has to do with mystery ingredients. It's a twisted version of something Dufresne dealt with on Top Chef Masters.
It all starts with a "mystery box" filled with ingredients. The chefs have to make a dish using all the ingredients in the box. Possibly difficult, yes. But there's a twist: while they're cooking, they will be presented with additional mystery boxes and they'll have to use all those ingredients, too. At this point, I decide this is a truly difficult challenge. And considering they get four boxes, I'm pretty sure I'm right.
Everyone seems to struggle with this challenge, which hands them everything from squid and black garlic to hominy to passionfruit to jicama. Tiffany says she doesn't like surprises and Angelo is visibly shaken. They're all rushing around - Alex can't even find a can opener. It's a mess. Literally a mess: apparently everybody's extra secret ingredient is sweat. They're dripping in their food and, well, let's just hope they don't oversalt.
Ultimately, it looks like everybody pulls it together in the end - even Angelo, though his gelatin didn't set and he has to explain what he intended. Alex and Amanda end up on the bottom and Kevin's puree and nicely cooked fish and Tiffany's flavorful broth were on top. Tiffany takes home the win (and ten grand) and she's happy, as per usual.
The Elimination Challenge stretches the secret agent thing further. Padma explains that each chef will choose a classic dish and will be asked to give it a "new identity" - maintain the flavors while "disguising" the dish. Surprisingly, she manages to say all this without once using the word "deconstructed."
Oh, plus: they'll be cooking at the CIA. Not the culinary one, either.
They choose knives and this is how it shakes out:
- Amanda - French onion soup
- Ed - chicken cordon bleu
- Angelo - beef Wellington
- Tiffany - gyro
- Kevin - Cobb salad
- Alex - veal parmigiana
- Kelly - kung pao shrimp
Over the next few scenes we learn a few things:
- Alex used to be a wedding videographer. I am genuinely skeeved out by the thought of him filming anything.
- Kelly has never tasted kung pao shrimp and she still doesn't know where the Asian food aisle is in Whole Foods.
- Angelo thinks it's OK to buy frozen puff pastry. OK, so do I, but I'm not on Top Chef.
- Amanda a) likes Alex and b) thinks that deconstructing onion soup involves making...onion soup.
We see some nice teamwork in the kitchen - Tiffany talks Kelly off a ledge when she overcooks her rice, Amanda tries to give Alex some tough love re: his overcooked veal (but he's not hearing it) and everybody helps everybody else plate.
Out at the judges' table, we discover that spies sometimes aren't always Matt Damon-style guys. Sometimes they are middle aged ladies in hot pink ruffly shirts. So there's still a chance for me.
And the dishes? Here's how they shake out:
- Angelo's beef Wellington is salty and the pastry's too hard. He knows it sucks, too.
- Everybody thinks Kelly's shrimp is pad Thai, but they like both the flavor of the broth and the texture of the nuts with the shrimp.
- Tiffany's refined gyro apparently kicks ass, just like La Femme Nikita.
- Kevin's Cobb salad is good, but it's still a salad.
- Alex's veal parm tortellini was a good idea but doesn't taste good.
- Amanda's marmalade is too sweet...and she mostly just made French onion soup.
What happens next? Well, to make a long story short, Angelo shakes a lot, but Alex goes home for his rock solid veal and bad cheese. Kelly, Tiffany and Ed are in the winner's circle and ultimately, Tiffany takes home the big prize (which really is a big prize - it's a trip to Paris).
Alex is a little bitter about being "seventh out" - and about the pea puree controversy. But I'll tell you what - I won't miss him next week.
What did you all think? Did Alex deserve the boot? Did the judges overlook some of Angelo's mistakes because he's a strong competitor overall? Could Tiffany seem any sweeter? Please leave a comment with your thoughts....