Top Chef DC: cafeteria cuisine

Never shy about making the challenges on “Top Chef” interesting, the producers of this awesome Bravo show threw yet another curve ball to the chef-testants last night on episode 2. Along with guest judge Sam Kass, who is the assistant White House chef, Padma announced the quick fire challenge, which was the “bi-partisandwich” challenge…even the names of these challenges are creative. But wait, there’s more. They would work in groups of two, in an apron for two, meaning one person could use their left hand and the other their right hand, making it even more difficult to make a simple sandwich in 30 minutes. They drew knives to determine who they’d be working with.

Tamesha and Amanda, with their basic grilled cheese with prosciutto; and Tiffany and Lynne’s saltimbocca sandwich were the worst two in Kass’ eyes. And the best two? Angelo and Tracey’s flounder sandwich with spicy mayo; and Kenny and Ed’s Korean ahi tuna sandwich with cucumber. And once again, Angelo’s team won the top prize, which for this week was immunity for both he and Tracey. Kenny again came in second and was annoyed.

For the main challenge, in honor of Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign, the chefs would be creating a new version of a healthy and tasty school lunch, using the typical budget of $130 to feed 50 students. Yikes. They would work in teams of four, and each chef would be responsible for one item for one menu. Angelo and Tracey got to pick their teammates first, and not surprisingly picked Kenny and Ed, which was utter game play on their part, because if they lost, only Kenny and Ed would be on the chopping block.

Team 1 of Angelo, Tracey, Kenny and Ed made a chicken burger, a celery and peanut butter side, sweet potato puree and bread pudding.

Team 2 of Jacqueline, Amanda, Tamesha and Stephen made braised chicken thigh with sherry, vegetable rice, tomato salad and banana pudding with strawberries.

Team 3 of Alex, Tim, Kevin and Andrea made barbecue chicken, mac & cheese, coleslaw and a melon kabob dessert.

Team 4 of Tiffany, Lynne, Kelly and Arnold made pork tacos, black bean cake with crispy sweet potato, roasted corn salad and caramelized sweet potato sherbet.

They had the losing teams go in first–Team 1 and Team 2. The judges berated Team 1 for having no vegetables to speak of other than Angelo’s celery. Kenny made the mistake of calling a tomato a vegetable, when in fact, as Kass pointed out, it is indeed a fruit. Oops. Tom asked Angelo if he would have made something different had he not had immunity, and Angelo had a cocky response: “I can’t answer that.” Dude, easy!

For Team 2, they thought Amanda’s chicken was too sophisticated for kids’ palates and also didn’t appreciate her use of sherry (i.e. alcohol) in the dish, and also commented that it was too expensive of an ingredient. For that matter, Jacqueline’s pudding had less strawberries than they could afford, and instead added a whopping 2 pounds of sugar. Yikes.

The winning group was Team 4. Despite the fact that Arnold called Kelly out for not being a team player, this team worked well together and won. And the winning portion of the dish went to Kelly for her pork carnita tacos, which included tortillas made with oatmeal. Man, that sounds good.

The judges decided to pick two chefs from Team 1 and two from Team 2 for the chopping block–Kenny, Ed, Amanda, and Jacqueline. Kenny made the apple bread pudding and Ed the sweet potato puree, however the reason they were on the block was more for the lack of vegetables in the overall meal–something that was really Angelo’s fault as much as Kenny and Ed–but Angelo had immunity. On to Amanda and Jacqueline–and their reasons for being on the block were already mentioned above. The use of sherry, and the too-sweet pudding.

In the end, it was Jacqueline who was sent home, because the judges felt adding all that sugar to a dessert when the goal was to make healthy dishes for kids, was irresponsible and went against the very rules of the challenge.

So now we’re down to 15 chef-testants, but already it looks like Angelo, Kenny and Kelly are going to consistently battle for the top spots just as Kevin, the Voltaggio brothers and Jen did last season.
Meanwhile, we are just getting started, but this season is already way exciting. Let me know what you think of this season so far, and thanks for reading!

  

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