Last night’s Top Chef finally paid proper homage to its home city by bringing in special local traditions like complaining and some political guests. We skipped government class for AP microeconomics, but our education gap was filled during the high-stakes Quickfire. Padma instructed the chefs to serve their dish on a toothpick to guest judge Representative Aaron Schock of Illinois, as the Ethics Committee requires that food served to congressmen be on toothpicks, lest their votes be swayed by lavish meals. Who knew?
Unfortunately, the Quickfire also served as a flashback to season five, better known as Top Scallops. Kelly, Stephen, and Alex all decided to make them, and Alex (who referred to Stephen as a “talented culinarian,” which we’re pretty sure isn’t actually a word — Microsoft Word agrees) and Kelly unsurprisingly landed in the bottom three. Can we get Fabio in as a guest judge to put a stop to this, please? Angelo proclaimed at the start of the Quickfire that he “actually want[ed] to be creative” … but made Asian-inspired food as usual. Stephen’s scallop ended up in the top with Kevin’s grilled-pork-and-mushroom kabob and Angelo’s cucumber cup with spiced shrimp and cashews, but Angelo grabbed the win. Cut to the standard shot of Kenny looking pissed.
The elimination challenge brought in the other D.C. tradition of the power lunch at the Palm and asked the chefs to serve 24 regulars using five ingredients found on the menu: lamb chops, lobster, swordfish, porterhouse, and salmon. Angelo and Ed were concerned by the four-pound “mutant” lobsters, having never seen specimens so large. Angelo was also worried about the challenge itself, not being too familiar with power lunches, but Kevin had served a mayor before, so he was confident he knew what the diners would want. Kelly was just certain that Amanda needed to go home.
Of course, not everyone was so confident. When the chefs went home that night, Alex still wasn’t even sure what he was making. Perhaps it was because he was distracted by the awesome wardrobe choices of his fellow cheftestants — Kenny walked around in his Black Angus robe, while Andrea rocked a skull-and-bacon-crossbones shirt that we want in our closet.
At the Palm the next day (with Tom looming in the background), the main kitchen drama surrounded Ed/Alex’s pea purée. Ed made pea purée in the Hilton kitchen the day before, but couldn’t find it upon arrival at the Palm. Alex, despite no previous shots of peas, had a lovely pea purée at the restaurant kitchen. Most of the other chefs, including Ed, thought this was bullshit and that Alex stole Ed’s pea purée. Our DVR sound cut off when Alex was talking about his purée, so we turn to you, readers: Did he make it himself and there was strategic editing, or did he steal Ed’s?
The chefs served quite a plethora of guest judges, including Joe Scarborough, Art Smith, Luke Russert, and Savannah Guthrie (hi, NBC synergy!). It was a little hard to keep track of everyone, but for the most part the judges agreed on their love of Tiffany’s swordfish with olive-raisin tapenade and broccolini with bacon, Ed’s butter-poached lobster ballontine with eggplant caviar and English peas, and Alex’s applewood-smoked salmon with black forbidden rice and the infamous English pea purée. The pea purée was the judges’ favorite component of the night, and Alex took the win (remember that Carla won for her peas last season — future cheftestants, take note). We have never seen anyone look so mad as Ed looked while Alex celebrated his win. So much for world peas!
The bottom dishes were Kelly’s porterhouse with crispy potato-arugula salad and shallot demi-glace, Andrea’s pan-seared swordfish with vanilla Israeli couscous, and Kevin’s double-cut lamb with olive-and-goat-cheese rissole. The judges were unhappy about Kelly’s oversalted meat, but ultimately asked Andrea to go home, as they could tell through her cooking that she wasn’t happy making swordfish. Kelly seemed pretty upset with Andrea’s loss, hugging her sadly for a long time, but Padma wanted none of it, snapping “that will be all” after the hug went on too long. Guess those judges’ tables really do last up to five hours.
Next week: Cooking for ambassadors! No one likes Alex! Marcus Samuelsson! And Stephen doesn’t think Brazilian cuisine exists!