Is it just me or are these reality shows now expanding the number of contestants, yet blazing along so fast so they can get the season over with and start selling DVDs? “Top Chef DC” is no exception. I feel like I just started blogging Season 7 and now we are halfway home. Last night we went from 9 chef-testants down to 8. But here’s the best part–aside from Angelo, there are quite a few that could actually win. That makes this season extremely interesting.

So the episode began with host Padma Lakshmi bringing in guest judge Marcus Samuelsson, who is the reigning “Top Chef Master.” Marcus is an expert in Ethiopian cuisine and the quick fire challenge was to create a dish in the Ethiopian genre. Some of them had experience in this, but most did not. The winner of this challenge would have immunity this week in the elimination challenge.

Marcus’ least favorite dishes were Kevin’s braised chicken and chick peas; Stephen’s lamb meatball stew; and Alex’ beef and lamb tongue stew (blech!). His favorites were Angelo’s chicken doro wot (of course Angelo has worked in an Ethiopian restaurant); Amanda’s stewed goat; and Tiffany’s beef goulash. The winner was Tiffany, and she had immunity this week. I would have been so annoyed if Angelo won, as I’m sure the rest of the contestants would have been.

For the elimination challenge, there was a large world map with flag pins on 9 countries. The chefs would draw knives to see who chose first and they would have to create a dish representing that country at the Meridian Center, with diplomats from all countries tasting their food. They would also have to create these dishes ahead of time and only be able to heat them with sternos at the Meridian Center. Jose Andres from Spain would be the guest judge.

Here were the dishes the chefs created:
Tiffany chose Mexico and made chicken tamales
Kelly chose Italy and made beef carpaccio (extra credit for not making pasta!)
Amanda went with France and made beef bourguignon
Kenny had Thailand and made a tamarind braised pork
Alex had Spain and made a veal with red wine sauce and two other dishes (he made too much food!)
Angelo chose Japan and made a tuna sashimi
Kevin had India and made a chicken with curry flavors
Ed chose China and made tea smoked duck with crispy potstickers
and Stephen had Brazil and made a flank steak with rice & beans

The top dishes were Kelly, Kevin and Tiffany. They said Kelly’s beef was extremely authentic and fresh tasting. Kevin took a huge risk because, of course, Padma is from India, but it paid off as even she loved his dish. And Tiffany didn’t want to sandbag it because she had immunity, and she succeeded as they just loved her tamales.

The bottom three were Alex, Stephen and Ed. They felt Alex made too much and that his dishes were not authentic enough, especially considering that the guest judge was from Spain. Tom Colicchio said Stephen had a good idea but his rice was mushy and that he failed on simple execution. Finally, Ed didn’t render the fat off his duck properly, despite the fact that the judges loved his idea. It goes to show how fast things can change on this show….last week Alex and Ed were in the Top 3. And Angelo and Kenny, still potential winners, were stuck in the middle this week along with Amanda.

So, going home…..Stephen. Of all the things you can mess up, not cooking rice properly is a slam-dunk reason to be sent home at this stage of the competition. I mean, dude, really?

We’re now down to the final 8–Amanda, Tiffany, Ed, Alex, Kenny, Kelly, Kevin and Angelo. I see Amanda, Alex and Kevin heading home next, not necessarily in that order. What do you think? Let me know in the space below and we will see you back here next week!