A new day dawns over our nation's capital and our chefs, who are finally without Amanda. Kevin can't believe he's made it this far (no kidding) and Kelly misses her husband. Is that a bad sign? Angelo's divorced with a son and his marriage failed...because he's a chef? I wonder if this is supposed to make me feel sorry for him?
Our team rolls into the Hilton kitchen, where Food & Wine's Dana Cowin is with Padma. Ed reveals that he's Facebook friends with her, which he seems to think means something. I almost don't have the heart to say, in case he reads this, that I'm friends with Richard Blais. It's really not that big of a deal.
The Quickfire challenge - to pick a wine and create a dish that pairs well with it - is certainly more useful in the real world than most. Plus, it's a high stakes challenge and the winner gets a trip to London. Kevin mentions that his wife has never been to Europe, confirming that nobody here is involved with anyone who's been anywhere.
All of the Quickfire dishes actually look pretty good to me. But then again, I like meat. And I like wine. Dana Cowin says that everyone did pretty well, except for Kevin, who paired quail with merlot and Kelly, who's bleu cheese foam was a little much. But she liked Angelo's pairing (but who doesn't like foie?) and Tiffany's elegant pairing. So Angelo takes it home (and goes to London) and Kevin's wife has to stay stateside for just a little longer.
Before the Elimination Challenge, Padma announces that the Top Chef finale will take place in Singapore, which makes Angelo "tingle" and he says he's a little Asian inside. I'm sure there's a joke in there, but I'm just too lazy to make it.
We learn, next, that the Elimination Challenge will take place at the Goddard Space Flight Center (where I went on a cool field trip in fourth grade). Kelly tells us that she went to Space Camp when she was a kid and I yell at the screen that "Space Camp" was my favorite movie in sixth grade. For real.
Once the team gets to the space center, they meet some scientisty-looking scientists and watch a video made by a couple of gravity-defying PR people holding dehydrated eggs. The challenge, then, is not a surprise: create a dish that can be freeze-dried for space, which means not too much sugar, more spice, and no big chunks. Oh, and Buzz Aldrin will be taking a break from telling Dancing with the Stars war stories to hang out with the judges.
The cooking-in-the kitchen section of the show is pretty standard, with Tom freaking Angelo out by asking questions and a little scurrying, until the end, when Tiffany realizes that her mussels have frozen solid and will be unusable. I feel badly for her, for real.
Next up is the blatant product placement portion of our show, in which the cheftestants learn that someone will take home a Toyota Avalon, that they drive around and gush over. It's black! It's sleek!
Then it's back to the kitchen, where everybody's slammed in and rushing, as per usual. Tiffany tells us that her first job was at IHOP, where she was told that ladies don't work in the kitchen. Because apparently she was working at IHOP in 1963? Was she serving Don Draper?
And onto the dishes...
The judges like Kelly's halibut, saying it's nicely cooked, but Vickie, the food scientist, mentions that they wouldn't be able to freeze-dry that much sauce. One of the astronauts comments that the crunch of the artichokes would be welcome on space, where nothing's crunchy.
Ed's little trip to Morocco (lamb) is well-seasoned, but "complicated" according to Ripert - though Bourdain disagrees, saying Ed has captured the flavors of Morocco. One of the astronauts comments that they'd have to get rid of the bone, though. No need for trash in space.
Kevin's New York strip is nicely cooked and is well-seasoned, though it does spark a conversation about the importance of spoons in space.
Tiffany sadly presents her halibut with shiitake and rice without mussels and Ripert says it doesn't really work together, though Bourdain likes the fish sauce, saying it "sings" to him.
Angelo manages to present his short ribs with pea puree without laughing at Alex. Buzz likes the dish overall, though Tom thinks the candied ginger is too sweet and Ripert thinks the mushrooms are too acidic. Bourdain once again disagrees with him, saying he thought the dish was great and might be easily adaptable to space. Angelo "put his heart on the plate" or whatever and then we hear that he made love to his short ribs? Oh, Angelo. Keep it in your pants.
Judge's Table is a little bit of a love-fest at first, with only gentle criticism and lots of "it's very close." The most heat occurs after the cheftestants head back to the stew room, when Bourdain and Ripert kind of look like they're going to fight. But not really. They love each other. As much, apparently, as Ripert loves juniper. Betcha he likes gin, too.
And the winner of the Toyota Avalon, whose dish will become a freeze-dried space meal, is Angelo. He's happy and strokes his new car key, which is exactly as disturbing as it sounds.
Sadly, this week we had to say goodbye to Tiffany, who's been my favorite for most of the season. Before Padma even delivers the verdict, she seems to know, but she's also obviously sad and her goodbye to Ed is genuinely emotional. As am I.
So, what did you think? Sad to see Tiffany go? Wish there was a way she could've stayed? Did Angelo deserve the win? Is Buzz Aldrin too much of a reality TV presence? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.