Top Chef Recap
By Kim Hollis and David Mumpower
August 31, 2010

Does this gray fish taste bad? No, taste it!

Previously on Top Chef, Leon Panetta had an emergency and we were very, very scared. We presume that Sydney Bristow jumped in to save the day. God bless her slutty outfits and sensational wigs. Also, Alex is gone. There was much rejoicing. Seriously, though, this season has not put the “Top” in Top Chef. If we can get rid of Amanda this week, at least all of the remaining chefs are people who we’d let make us a burger.

Tonight’s episode starts with Ed doing his Tyler Perry impersonation (for some reason). He’s wearing a tank dress, and let us tell you, it is not pretty. He just doesn’t have the chest for it…and what we mean by that is that he does have the boobs. He’s just way too hairy. Tiffany is trying to pretend she’s not all hot and bothered, and protests that he’s gross. We have no idea whether this is a regular thing or not. There’s absolutely no context given. If it makes Ed happy, we’re more than okay with it. Seriously, a little manscaping would be helpful, though.

The episode again reminds people that Amanda’s peers do not respect her. Also, we’re seeing Angelo start to fall apart under the pressure. His recent failures have definitely gotten to him, and it resembles Hosea’s breakdown a couple of seasons ago (before he pulled himself together and won the whole thing). Amanda tells us that the dude reads Anthony Robbins books, so perhaps he’ll “power of positive thinking” himself to the finish line.

Today’s guest judge for the Quickfire is Rick Moonen (ick), two-time contestant on Top Chef Masters. Padma shows them signs with phrases like “Don’t spill the beans,” “Sour grapes” and “big cheese.” She asks te chefs if they see a trend. Not only do they not see a trend, but when tells them that today’s challenge is all about “idioms,” we’re pretty sure they don’t know what they word means. Angelo looks like he’s trying to figure out how to cook fried idiom, in fact. As an afterthought, Padma mentions that the food will go into Schwans’ repertoire of home delivery frozen food.

Ed creates a “Hot Potato” gnocchi, which Padma calls lovely. For “Spill the Beans”, Tiffany creates a pan-seared cod over stewed beans. Because Moonen is a big fish expert, she really wants to impress him by doing something right in his wheelhouse. He says it is interesting.

Meanwhile, Kevin “Brings Home the Bacon” by making it three ways. Now we’re talking. Rick seems to think the flavors and aroma are distinct, though it’s not clear whether that’s good or bad. Kelly’s “Sour Grapes” pairs a red grape sauce with a pan-roasted chicken breast. It seems awfully basic. We get another “interesting” comment from Rick,

Angelo has “Bigger Fish to Fry” and has made a chili crusted tilapia satay with Asian tartar sauce, sambal and sriracha. Again, we have a seafood dish, but Rick doesn’t say much about this one.

As for Amanda, who has “The Big Cheese,” she has so far understood the problems with her dishes and shown a little bit of a lack of confidence, but this time around she makes a comfort dish of macaroni and cheese with bacon and jalapenos. Obviously, this is the sort of meal that she has loved in her lifetime. Now, Rick seems to criticize the fact that her choice is too thick, rich and heavy. Amanda is confident in her dish, but Rick seems to have made up his mind ahead of time somehow.

Even so, he claims that Kelly’s dish was the worst, and we at least have to agree that it was too simple. Rick also claims that Amanda’s dish was like a sledgehammer to the gut. She doesn’t take it well, for the reasons we mention above. She believed she had truly made something delicious.

Rick’s favorites are Kevin’s bacon dish and Ed’s gnocchi, which he says were both well thought out. Ed’s is the winner, though, and he wins the opportunity for his food to be sold through Schwan’s. Angelo does say that he can picture Ed’s face on the packaging, because his head looks like a potato. Hopefully, the picture on the package won’t show him in Tiffany’s dress.

Next up is the Elimination Challenge, which will send the chefs to Natinals Park to cook some good ol’ ballpark food. (For those of you who don’t get the joke, please click here to see what we’re talking about.) The contestants are informed that they must cook as a team - something they’ve had trouble with in the past – and that their ballpark food must work together cohesively as well as individually.

Kelly assumes complete control of the “team,” which instantly irks everyone else. Then, Amanda says that she would like to do something using crab. Kelly replies, “NO! I wanted to do a crabcake.” She asks if Amanda would be willing to do some sort of other lfish instead. What’s bad about this is that the rest of the chefs seem to be on Kelly’s side on this argument, which may indicate they don’t really think Amanda can do a very good crab dish. Kelly gets her way, and they’re all off to the store.

As they shop, Angelo is looking for baguettes, but is told that the only thing that is close on the shelves is some hot dog buns. That’s the same, right? On the other side of the store, Kevin spends less than his allotted amount.

Once the chefs begin to prep, Angelo immediately starts freaking out. Tiffany talks about a great meatball peppers dish that she has had at the Texas State Fair. We figure that fair food is probably on a parallel with ballpark food, so this is a good choice. Amanda is doing a tuna tartare, and consults with Angelo on how to make it just right. A lot of people don’t trust him to give honest assistance, so this is a concern.

Overnight, the group realizes that they will need someone to take orders, so it’s time for Angelo to volunteer! Wink, wink. Remember when we talked about the group not trusting him before? All of a sudden, when they arrive at the ballpark, Angelo decides that he wasn’t thinking about himself enough, so he backs out of taking the orders. As you might imagine, this pisses everyone off. A lot.

Eventually, Angelo finally concedes that he did promise to do the orders for the group, and tries to find someone to help prepare his dish. Ed rather generously steps up. Also, you may remember that Ed slept with Angelo’s girlfriend once. Ha ha! We guess Ed owes him one.

Tom Colicchio brings in Adam Dunn, Matt Capps and Jon Lannan. These giant dudes are players for the Natinals, in case you didn’t know. Kelly tells us how cute they are, commenting that these guys are much cuter in person than on TV. (This phenomenon is real, as Kim can attest, having literally run into Peyton Manning once on an elevator.)

Soon we see that Amanda is having problems with her tuna. It has oxidized and is starting to turn gray. Angelo notes that he could have helped her, but he had to worry about himself. On the other side of things, we see Tiffany helping a couple of her fellow chefs and making suggestions. She is not going to beat someone because she let them serve bad food without telling them what she knows.

Once the food service begins, the popular choice of the fans seems to be the meatballs and the crab cakes. Part of the reason for this, we think, is that these items are familiar to everyday diners. Foodies simply have more advanced palates. As for Adam Dunn, we’re not sure what his favorite is, but he says of Ed’s dish, “It feels like a caterpillar exploded in my mouth.” That’s not a good thing.

The judges arrive, and Rick Moonen comments that it takes some stones to make tuna tartare at a baseball stadium, but Eric Ripert says he just thinks it looks disgusting since it’s grey and oxidized. Tom says that Amanda’s vegetables are good, but Padma is making a face so it’s pretty clear that even if the flavor is good (as Amanda claims), this dish is in trouble.

Next up is Kelly’s crab cakes, which seem to be overly salty, but there are some compliments thrown around as well. Tiffany’s Italian sausage/meatball is very well received, although Ripert thinks it’s a little difficult to eat.

The judges universally agree that Ed’s shrimp and corn risotto fritters with jalapeno aioli is delicious, and apparently not the least bit caterpillar-like. Take that, Adam Dunn’s unrefined taste buds! We’re blaming you for Strasburg, too.

Kevin has placed some shoestring potatoes on top of his chicken skewer, and it also is pushed down too far on the stick, making it difficult to eat. The chicken is moist and tasty, though. Angelo’s dish (made collaboratively with Ed) is sweet glazed pork on the hot dog bun, which has nice heat, but is killed by the overly large roll. It’s almost as though Angelo is trying to hide the problems of the dish. Perhaps the baguette would have been better after all.

The fans seem to be extremely fond of Angelo’s pork and Kelly’s crabcakes, which seems to go against the grain of the judges.

Before we leave Nationals Park to go to Judges Table, we get to see the Nationals getting a home run off of David’s beloved Atlanta Braves, giving the home team a 3-2 victory. It’s hit by Adam Dunn, who is obviously powered by caterpillars.

David swears the Braves would have won if Jason Heyward had been healthy that day.

Padma arrives at the stew room and tells the chefs that they’d like to see all of them at Judges Table. This makes sense because 1) they worked as a unit (and Tom complimented their teamwork) and 2) there are only six of them left.

Tom notes that the group collaborated nicely, and Angelo steps up to take credit for having volunteered to take on the serving aspect of the meal. He notes that because he has a sandwich shop, he was the natural choice. This rankles…all of the other contestants, but Tiffany is the first to say, “Oh, hell no.” Angelo is surprised to be contradicted, thinking that he wouldn’t be called out for his bad behavior, but this does appear to be the first point when he realizes that people know exactly what he is.

The judges proclaim the top two dishes to be Ed’s caterpillar and Tiffany’s sausage, calling both delicious. Rick says he’d line up for either dish, but in the end, it’s Ed who gets the victory and a copy of Rick’s book (um, yay?). Even better, he’s awarded a trip to Australia, which means he can take Angelo’s girlfriend on a trip.

That leaves the other four on the bottom of the heap, and they immediately hit Amanda for the color of the tartare. Although she understands that her fish didn’t look fresh, Amanda still thinks her food tastes good. Kevin is criticized for the skewer, his shoestring potatoes and his flavor, and he agrees he might have tried to do too much.

Generally, Kelly’s crab was pretty solid, but she included a big slab of bacon that was just overwhelming. We know the problem with Angelo’s meal, and so does he. The bread is just too much, a particularly egregious error given that he owns a sandwich shop. He’s also surprised to learn that his dish was also too sweet.

To us, it looks like the bottom two are Angelo and Amanda, with Amanda probably being in the most trouble because she’s serving discolored tuna tartare to guys who are known for their expertise in fish. And this is the way it shakes out. Even so, from her perspective, she was proud of her Quickfire dish today. Additionally, even though the color was bad on her tuna, she did save the food by making it taste good. Still, if you’ve got someone like Eric Ripert looking like he wants to gag when he sees your food, it’s a problem.

We’re down to five, and getting close to the finale. The chefs are going to NASA next week, which promises to be lots of fun.