Hip Hop Puree (Ho! Hey!)

Fidel Gastro doesn’t give a damn about politics but he’s SHOCKED about what he saw in this week’s Top Chef: Washington DC.

Just because we all voted for Obama doesn’t mean that we all of a sudden give a sh*t about politics. Maybe it’s just me being ignorant, but I’m clueless about my man in the purple and teal repp tie, Illinois representative Aaron Shock. While I appreciate the Charlotte Hornets throwback colors, doesn’t this well-dressed motherf*cker have better things to do than judge a Quickfire challenge? I mean, Illinois is a big state with some serious issues, no? Oh well, let’s talk fast fuego.

Because bribery in the form of food is not allowed in politics, the cheftestants have to make something that fits on a toothpick, and it’s a Dial-NutriSkin high stakes Quickfire (I don’t know about you, but when I think of food, soap is usually the first thing that comes to mind). This is no problem for creepy shady Alex, because he’s great at party foods. Kenny’s at a disadvantage here because a duo or trio won’t fit on a toothpick (or will it?), and most everybody else makes the obvious choice of scallop with something or other.

At the bottom, shady Alex with his scallops, crispy bacon, strawberry & basil essence, Ed with his (maybe you can do a) duo of tuna with avocado, sweet & sour watermelon (Ed was also fined this episode for using the word “umami” without saying Kikkoman before or after), and Kelly, whose scallops with watermelon & watermelon vinaigrette had no flavor. It would seem that Mr. Shock likes the Charlotte Hornets, but he doesn’t like watermelon.

In the middle, crispy haired Andrea put out what I thought to be the best toothpick, a buttermilk fried chicken with pecan cheddar waffles & black pepper maple gravy. How can you not pick that? Smoove K sneaks a cocktail onto his toothpick with a mango mojito relish, but also fails to place, which brings us to the top, where pseudo-local Kevin places with a grilled pork & mushroom kabob, Stephen plays the familiar card with meat and potatoes swimming in béarnaise, and Angelo, whose self-styled “old school” cucumber cup with spiced shrimp and cashew was a twenty thousand dollar fireworks display in the guest judge’s mouth.

The Elimination Challenge throws ethics out with the compost heap in favor of something much more exciting, the power lunch. Using one of the five main ingredients on the menu at the Palm Restaurant, the cheftestants are tasked with creating a dish that can broker a deal on its own. I like this challenge because I’m a huge fan of opulence, and it’s also pretty cool to see regular guy Ed break down two crates of 5-lb. lobsters. Judging this meal is Art Smith of Art & Soul restaurant (terrible name) and an assortment of hacks that are somehow related to politics (because we all care deeply about politics. Sheesh). Also judging, Bruce Bozzi, huge jerk and Executive Vice President of the Palm Restaurants, who rolls into the kitchen and threatens the chefs with his power suit.

And now we finally get some drama without the visual of Ed and Tiffany. First, Kelly won’t share her salt with Cokey, then Shady Alex, not knowing what to do with his English peas, STEALS Ed’s pea puree and claims that his whole game plan was based around pea puree. An organically grown villain blooms. I’m so blown away by this blatantly obvious thievery that I find it hard to concentrate on who’s serving what. Well, that and the fact that none of it was all too exciting. They really got the B-team of cheftestants this season. Add that to guest judges nobody knows or cares about (or at least nobody I know or care about), relegate Tom Colicchio to a corner of the kitchen to brood about the dishes solo, and your power lunch challenge has a short circuit.
Still, there’s a winner and a loser every week, and in a sick twist of fate (and the “invisible” hand of editing and production), who should wind up in the running for a caricature and a dish on the Palm menu but shady Alex, Ed, and Tiffany? After the judges lay on the pea puree praise a little bit thicker, Alex’s thieving ways prove that cheaters sometimes prosper, and without any on-camera proof, he takes home the win. Ed does his best not to do to Alex what he did to the lobsters, and Tiffany cries, because crying is good for ratings. For Alex, O.P.P. means something different. It’s another five letter word that rhymes with hooray or vouvray.
The less powerful of the power lunches put Kevin, Kelly, and Andrea at the bottom. Kevin’s lamb was not only too spicy, but he overcooked the meat and did a shit job of cleaning the bones. Salt hoarder Kelly, victim of karma, killed her porterhouse steak with the salt she could have shared with Cokey, but it was Andrea’s swordfish and gloppy couscous that won the plane ticket home. Ya down wit’ O.P.P.?!?