A major flare-up and an elimination upset marked this episode of Top Chef DC, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Things start out peaceful enough as Amanda marvels over the fact that she's still in the competition and may have what it takes to go to the finals. Kenny, on the other hand, is not surprised at all that he is still in the running and quite confident of his success.
Off to the Top Chef Kitchen where the cheftestants find red and blue aprons laid out along with blindfolds. Everyone knows that this must be the dreaded Tag Team Cookoff Challenge. With two teams of four chefs, each chef will have 10 minutes to prepare a portion of one dish with 40 minutes total devoted to each team's dish. The chefs who have not yet cooked wear blindfolds so they have no idea what the previous team mates have done. The winning team splits $10,000. The teams shake out like this:
Kenny and Tiffany go first. Kenny preps a mustard cream and some prawns. Tiffany preps some snapper. Next, Amanda decides to start pasta to go with the prawns and mustard cream, while Alex foolishly seasons the snapper. Kevin preps some herbs and toasts some parmesan for the blue team's pasta and Ed gets a poaching liquid going for the snapper. Finally, Kelly sears the prawns and plates while Angelo, not knowing that the snapper had been seasoned, re-seasons the fish. Realizing that the fish is now too salty, he adds dill and cilantro to balance the flavors and plates before time is up.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is the guest judge for the challenge. She loves the fresh ingredients of the blue team's dish as well as their ability to make al dente angel hair pasta. Although she also liked the red team's dish, ultimately the excessive amount of salt on the snapper gave the win to the blue team.
Now onto the part everyone was waiting for: Restaurant Wars! The two teams divide Redwood Restaurant to establish their own mini-restaurants. Since they will not be responsible for decorating the restaurant as they had in previous seasons, the focus will be on the food and each chef, even those working the front of the house, must be responsible for at least one of the dishes. Former food critic for the New York Times, Frank Bruni, is the guest judge and the Terlato Vineyards provides the wine.
There's the usual scramble for buying food and supplies. The red team seems to be grabbing anything in sight without a shopping list while the blue team is cool and organized. To bring order to the red team, Angelo decides to take charge (surprise!) and since Alex is basically worthless, they put him on food prep and working the front of the restaurant. Even during prep, Alex appears clueless about how to butcher meat or scale and debone fish. Meanwhile, the blue team is the picture of efficiency with Kenny taking charge (surprise!) and Kelly assigned the front of the house.
Let the Restaurant Wars begin! Red Team's restaurant is called EVOO (call your lawyers, Rachael Ray!) because it's supposed to have a Mediterranean feel. Blue Team's restaurant is called 2121 for the number of the Top Chef House. Their approach is "progressive American." Uh huh.
In the kitchen, Angelo starts to lose it and runs around the kitchen like a recently castrated capon. Out front, Alex is being a dick to the wait staff (surprise!). Once again, the blue team is rolling along smoothly, although Amanda appears to be struggling with the wood burning stove. Also, Kelly is out of her element as the front-of-the-house-runner, but is nice and helpful with the wait staff.
The doors open and the crowds arrive. For the red team, things immediately go south as Angelo is timing the tickets wrong and Alex is having to stomp out fires. He's schmoozing a table of diners when the judges arrive and misses his chance to make a good first impression. Alex also stumbles over explaining the dishes which come out, but the judges seem happy over all with the final product. The soup and Ed's turbot is particularly popular while the steak and lamb are deemed okay. The only bad dish is Tiffany's crudo.
Moving on to the blue team's restaurant, Kelly greets the judges warmly and knows the menu well. Unfortunately, Amanda is struggling with the grass fed beef, often overcooking it. The judges also feel that the corn soup is bland, the salad is overloaded with ingredients, and the steak is cut too thin to develop a crust. On the plus side, Kevin's halibut is cooked beautifully. As for dessert, the chocolate tart was good but the ice cream was blah, and the goat cheese was a salty "monstrosity."
Judgment time - The red team is chosen as the winning team and Ed is proclaimed the winning chef with his pan poached turbot with eggplant caviar, black olive jus, and fennel and onion saffron fondue. As winner, he receives a trip to the Terlato Vineyard. Of course, this means that the blue team is the losing team. Although Kevin is praised for his halibut, everyone else is criticized for their respective dishes. Bruni compared Kenny's salad to Hamburger Helper, and his poor cheese course is called "a horror show." Instead of addressing the shortcomings of their dishes, Kenny goes on the attack saying that the red team was disorganized in the kitchen. Kevin joins in, saying that Alex did nothing for the red team.
With one of the front runners out of the way, it's anyone's game. Will resentment toward Alex build? Who will emerge as the new alpha male (or female)? Share your thoughts with us.