Top Chef Recap: Episode 12: Nerd Alert
Fidel Gastro spots proof of Eric Ripert’s murdering ways and more in his recap of Episode 12 of Top Chef: Washington DC.
After weeks of not-so-Top Chef challenges, the cheftestants are finally presented with a reasonable Quickfire: pick a wine, then make something that pairs well with it. Angelo seems to have his swagger back, spouting nonsense about his wine choice, reminding us that he is not only confident, but a huge douche as well.
Kevin takes a monster risk trying to braise a pork belly using a pressure cooker. My manâ€™s got chops, but it was pretty obvious that a pressure cooker may not be in his wheelhouse. Midway through the challenge, his bellyâ€™s still as raw as cocaine straight from Bolivia, so he calls the audible and starts angrily breaking down quail to pair with a Tangley Oaks Merlot. Although perfectly grilled, it had no chance of standing up to such a meaty wine, so Kev winds up in the basement alongside Kelly, whose zinfandel/wild boar pairing was sabotaged by a blue cheese foam. Tiffany, ever the hustler, claims to know nothing about wine, but still winds up at the top with a cocoa & black pepper-crusted wagyu tenderloin with spring risotto. It was enough to wow judge Dana Cowin, but not enough to best new-and-improved Angelo and his sautÃ©ed foie gras with black salt & fennel salad. Angelo wins airfare and hotel accommodations in London (itâ€™s unclear whether Bravo pays for anything else, but I doubt they do).
Next, itâ€™s off to NASA, where the cheftestants are greeted by Vickie Kloeris, head food scientist at NASA and huge nerd. The elimination challenge is to create a dish that can be freeze dried and sent into space. Iâ€™m not sure how a meal destined for dehydration shows off cooking skills, but itâ€™s an interesting challenge nonetheless. In addition to queen nerd Ms. Kloeris, a few more nerds, including old timey nerd Buzz Aldrin, join the judges. Also magically appearing (to promote his new book), a really nice guy posing as Anthony Bourdain, who calls Eric Ripert â€œthe Ripper,â€ further proving my hypothesis that heâ€™s killed a man. In the kitchen, the cheftestants are intensely focused, knowing that even the slightest fuck-up will cost them a trip to Singapore. Itâ€™s not great television watching, but the results of the intensity are evident on each cheftestantâ€™s plate. These were by far the best dishes of the season.
Ed nails his Moroccan flavors, but forgets that bones arenâ€™t the easiest thing to deal with in zero gravity. Ripert also thinks his plate was too â€œbizzeeâ€ and prefers Kellyâ€™s classic dish of pan-roasted halibut with artichoke & fennel barigoule. Kevin gets accused of playing it safe with sirloin, even though it was a perfectly cooked rendition topped with delicate onion rings. Maybe itâ€™s because my allegiance now lies with the cherubic Puerto Rican, but I thought he was the only one to really pay attention to the astronautsâ€™ requests. Angeloâ€”still flying highâ€”makes his short ribs too sweet, but after admitting to the judges that he humped them, proves that love conquers all by taking home the win. With it, a Toyota Avalon, Tony Bourdainâ€™s new book, Medium Raw, and attendance at the next shuttle launch. The nerds, on the other hand, win months of headaches trying to figure out how to freeze-dry crÃ¨me fraiche. Perhaps the best scene of the whole episode was Angelo stroking the car keys and repeating â€œthank you Jesusâ€ like he was Gollum and the keys were the precious.
Although every cheftestant had a strong showing, there is only room for four in Singapore, and Tiffanyâ€™s pan-seared Alaskan halibut with coconut curry and jasmine rice was just not as impressive as the rest of the dishes. I really thought she would pull a Carla and go all the way. Weâ€™ll miss her, but probably not as much as Ed will.