Top Chef: We are the World

Fidel Gastro has the lowdown on Top Chef, episode 8.

The show begins with a full-body shot of Alex stretching, most likely to emphasize that in addition to him acting like a vulture, he looks like one, too. Ed’s still perplexed about the mysterious disappearance of his pea puree, but in the absence of proof (and because the producers probably said so), we move on, and the camera cuts to things I’d rather not see on a cooking show, e.g. Tiffany mopping the entirety of her face and back with an Oxy pad. When Tiffany’s done with her adolescent shower, we head over to the Glad-GE Monogram-Dial Nutri-Skin-Toyota Top Chef Kitchen (anybody else notice that Toyota’s been noticeably absent from the sponsor shout-outs this season?), where Padma towers over Top Chef Masters winner, Marcus Samuelsson. I always thought he was taller. Betcha you can’t guess what the Quickfire is? If you really can’t, I’ll tell you it’s Ethiopian, a personal favorite of mine, and something obscure enough to throw everybody off their game save for Angelo and Kenny, who can apparently cook anything.

Having only berbere and injera to guide them, most of the cheftestants err on the Mediterranean side, two of whom wind up on the bottom. Kevin’s braised chicken with chickpeas, cucumber-mint salad & yogurt was too shy, and Bilbo Stephens drops the (lamb meat)ball with overcooked meat. He’s another one whose execution might be good enough for Middle Chef, but a Top Chef he ain’t. The third cheftestant in the basement is Vulture Boy Alex, who makes an oxymoronic dry stew with cabbage and potatoes.

Kenny makes another duo (at least it’s not a foam) that can’t compete with the top three, Cokey B, Angelo, and Tiffany. Marcus thought Cokey’s stewed goat was fantastic, but I question the decision to grill injera. Angelo (hate the guy, but have to admit he’s a good cook) made a doro wat that was spot on, but it was Tiffany’s beef goulash that won her both immunity and a furtive “I’ll congratulate you later” look from regular guy Ed. Beef goulash, Ethiopia, I guess it makes sense.

In keeping with the international theme, the Elimination Challenge is to create a dish inspired by a specific country, the kicker being that come service time, you can only use sterno (napalm ) to keep the food warm. Also, if you pick Spain, you’re f*cked, because Jose Andres is a guest judge.
After another Whole Foods montage, Colicchio, with his steely blue eyes and ever-expanding flavor saver, throws open the kitchen doors and rattles the cheftestants. I think he stuck his entire face in one of Tiffany’s bowls. I wonder how Ed felt about that. The next day, diplomats munch up on the cheftestants’ international offerings, and we learn that Marcus Samuelsson might be the only other person besides Don Draper who can pull off a fedora hat. We also learn that Kevin’s Indian skills might land him in one of Munish Narula’s kitchens, and that Stephen needs a geography lesson.

Back at judges’ table, the win-place-show goes to Tiffany, Kevin, and Kelly. Kelly honored beef carpaccio with her version, which looked pretty damn good. Kevin—who had never cooked Indian food before—killed it with his stewed chicken, leek & parsnip puree, cucumber-mango salad & lentils. In sports, defense wins games. In Top Chef, purees win challenges, but it was Tiffany who batted for the cycle, also winning the elimination challenge with her chicken tamales and tomatillo salsa. This week’s prize is a cool ten thousand bucks for her and another ten thousand bucks donated in her name to the human fund DC Central Kitchen. Tiffany’s mouth says “that’s wonderful,” but her face says, “Fuck you, give that extra 10k to the Tiffany fund. I have to pay for a wedding!”

As ominous elimination music plays in the background, Stephen, Ed, and Alex are scolded for their missteps. Alex somehow tries to blame Colicchio for his, but he was screwed from the get-go with Sr. Andres judging this challenge. His riffs on tapas were also pretty lame. I was surprised Ed wound up in the bottom with his tea-smoked duck breast. Undercooked duck is a pretty big mistake, but overcooked beef a la Cokey is much worse in my book. It wouldn’t have mattered either way, because there was a clear cut loser in Stephen’s Argentine food and mealy rice. Did you really think that chimichurri was Brazilian? With the numbers down to eight, we’re finally ready for restaurant wars, and from the looks of the previews, we’re in for a monster train wreck. I can’t wait.

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