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'Top Chef: DC' - 'Foreign Policy' Recap

by Audrey Fine, posted Aug 5th 2010 8:00AM
top chef: DC padma lakshmi, martin samuellson(S07E08) With last week's mysterious "Pea Gate" (almost) behind them, the remaining cheftestants hunkered down to prepare Ethiopian cuisine (banish those Sam Kinison jokes from your minds now) for this week's Quickfire Challenge.

Famed culinary expert Marcus Samuelsson, the most recent winner of 'Top Chef Masters', walked them through the basics; Berbere = "wonderful spice," Injera = "a spongy, sourdough, pancake bread" and Wat = "spicy stews," and the chefs seemed poised to give it the old college try. Minutes later, armed with such succulent proteins as goat leg and lamb tongue, the run for immunity was on.

"The challenge," opined smarty pants Angelo about Ethiopian cuisine, "is not to overdo it with the spices to the point of where it masks what you're eating." A point that may have been altogether lost on Kelly, who admitted to never even having eaten food from the region before. Amanda concurred: "I have no idea what any of these spices are, I don't even know the proper etiquette for mixing them, I need the 'Idiot's Guide to Ethiopian Cooking.'"

After sampling the completed dishes, the affable Samuelsson was pressed by Padma to cop to his least favorites. Kevin's "un-bold" chickpea chicken, Stephen's "un-juicy" lamb meatballs and Alex's "too-dry" tongue stew rounded out the bottom three. While Amanda's "fantastic" goat (she must've gotten her mitts on that book), Angelo's "absolutely beautiful" wat, and Tiffany's scrumptious goulash, earned much praise. And, ultimately, Tiffany won her first Quickfire as well as "immunity, baby."

"She beat Angelo," said Ed shortly after the announcement. "That's the best part!"

Cue the giant rolling map. Padma and Samuelsson entered the kitchen with a classroom-sized chart of the world with nine countries highlighted as they prepared to explain the Elimination Challenge.

"You'll be taking a culinary trip around the world," Padma explained. "You'll each be choosing a dish inspired by the flavors of the country represented on that map," she continued, adding that they'd be charged with creating one hundred portions of their dish to serve to diplomats and royal dignitaries. Oh, and, the hitch? No electricity. Just whip it up over a Sterno can. Okay?

Knives were drawn, countries were snatched up and the roster looked like this: Tiffany -- Mexico, Kelly -- Italy, Amanda -- France, Kenny -- Thailand, Alex -- Spain, Angelo -- Japan, Kevin -- India, Ed -- China and Stephen? That pesky culinary enigma known as Brazil. Let the U.N. games begin.

With the Whole Foods shopping spree under their belts, the chefs hit the kitchen for two hours of prep and plotting – and freaking out that there wouldn't be any traditional way to "cook" the following day.

Enter Tom Colicchio, doing his best Tim "Make it Work" Gunn impression, who made the rounds instilling fear in most and leaving the others second-guessing themselves. "Do you think Padma's going to be extra tough on you because she's Indian?" Colicchio asked Kevin of his cuisine. "Oh, absolutely" he squirmed.

The next day, the thirty-minute prep time ticked away and with guests poised to enter the hall, Tiffany was still way in the weeds. "People are already starting to put out their plates and I haven't even cut [my] tamales yet," she moaned. "I am just far behind."

Before they could freak out any more, the invitees and judges, including world-renowned Spanish chef José Andrés -- he of foie gras in cotton candy fame – descended upon them. "Alex has Spain," says Ed. "If I had Spain, I'd definitely be nervous cooking for José Andrés."

"I recognize that flag," kidded Andrés as they approached Alex's station to taste his "braised veal cheeks" (that didn't boast the slightest hint of pea puree).

Cut to Padma goading Kevin. "I'm very excited to try your Indian food," she teased. "I'm a little nervous," he conceded, adding the finishing touches to his "stewed chicken with leek and parsnip puree and crispy fried lentils." Did she like it? Stay tuned ...

An hour or so later, with tastings complete, the judges retired to their chamber and summoned Tiffany, Kelly and Kevin before them.

"The three of you had our most favorite dishes this evening," began Padma. "The [tamales] were really delicious," Colicchio said to immunity holder Tiffany, echoing the sentiments of his cohorts. "Kevin, I loved the way you layered the entire dish," said Chef Andrés, adding that it was a "very nice homage to India." Andrés also liked Kelly's beef carpaccio, saying that she'd "honored the tradition but at the same time, [brought] her personal touch."

Ultimately, it was Tiffany who emerged victorious, snagging a surprise bonus $10,000 in the process. "I win, yay!" she said. "My wedding is paid for!"

But, the levity was short-lived as Alex, Stephen and Ed were labeled as the bottom three.

"When I saw the flag of my country," Chef Andrés said to Alex, "I was like, 'Wow I'm gonna enjoy this dish. But, wow, it was like a little nightmare.'" "I screwed up," copped Alex. Yep, you did but, evidently, less than Stephen, whose failure to nail Brazilian flavors was apparently a more egregious faux pas then your attempt at tapas.

"It was an honor to be a part of the process," Stephen said after being dealt the deathblow. "I really enjoyed being on 'Top Chef,' he said. "Just the overall experience of it."

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and I thought I was the only one thinking about Sam Kinison AAAGGGHHHHH

August 05 2010 at 11:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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