Top Chef DC: keep it simple

Last night on “Top Chef: DC,” the theme was related to Congress, as host Padma Lakshmi introduced congressman Aaron Schock from Illinois (dude is not even 30 years old!). Anyway, Schock told the chef-testants that they had to keep lobbyists from buying them expensive dinners and so they have rules that they can only have small bites when getting together for food. So the quick fire challenge was to create a small bite that packed the punch of a full meal. The winner would win not only immunity this week, but $20K. Wow!

The least favorite dishes were Ed’s duo of tuna; Alex’s pan-seared scallop; and Kelly’s bay scallop with watermelon. The top dishes were Kevin’s pork kebab; Angelo’s cucumber cup with shrimp and cashews; and Stephens surf and turf with crispy potato. The winner was…Angelo. Of course it was. Is he annoying all of you as much as he is me? I know he’s going to be in this till the finale though.

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Top Chef Masters: would you like fries with those vegetables?


Yesterday’s “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo brought us from five contestants down to the final four, and the challenges, especially the elimination challenge, were particularly interesting. First, after unveiling mounds of fast food burgers and fries with the chefs wondering if they would have to create something using those pre-made items, host Kelly Choi told them that instead they were going to make their own gourmet burgers with side dishes, and serve to judges that included “Top Chef” Season 4 contestant Spike Mendelsohn and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who created the film “Supersize Me.” But I’m wondering..what did they do with all of that fast food?

Rick Bayless made a ribeye burger with three kinds of guacamole. The judges loved the burger but wondered why Bayless made three types of guacamole instead of just one. Still, Rick managed 4 stars.

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Top Chef Masters: six real masters compete

Last night began the finals of Bravo’s inaugural “Top Chef Masters,” and all I kept thinking was that if I was there in person, I would be more in awe than I was simply watching it. These six are some of the best chefs in the world, and here they were in the same room. Anyway, meet the contestants–Hubert Keller, Anita Lo, Rick Bayless, Michael Chiarello, Suzanne Tracht and Art Smith. There were similarities between some of them and yet each chef has a unique culinary point of view.

Their first (quick fire) challenge was another “Top Chef” favorite, the relay race. They divided into teams of three–Anita, Rick and Hubert against Suzanne, Michael and Art. The tasks were to shuck oysters, chop onions, cut up a chicken and then whisk egg whites until they hold for 5 seconds when the bowl is turned upside down. With four tasks, one person from each team would have to do two of them. The judge was “Top Chef” personality Tom Colicchio. Hubert and Suzanne faced off with the oysters and Suzanne was like a machine, making it look incredibly easy, but Hubert caught up to her eventually. Then Hubert and Art faced off with the onions and both were incredibly fast and efficient. Anita and Michael did the chicken, and Anita was a bit faster, but wow….I can’t even do this if I have an hour, and they were carving entire chickens in seconds. Finally, Rick and Art faced off with the eggs…they had to first separate them, and Art got hung up by having a stray yolk he had to remove from the bowl. But it didn’t matter…Rick whisked those whites into what resembled whipped cream in lightning fast fashion and he passed the 5 second test, giving his team the victory. That meant Anita, Rick and Hubert began with 5 stars, while Suzanne, Michael and Art began with 4 stars each.

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Top Chef Masters: more mutual respect

Last night on Bravo was the final preliminary round of “Top Chef Masters,” and next week begins the finals, in which one chef will be voted off each week until someone is crowned Top Chef Master. And last night, more so than in previous episodes, there was a lot of love and mutual respect going on between the contestants…..Jonathan Waxman of New York City, better known as the dude who trained Bobby Flay; Roy Yamaguchi of Honolulu; Michael Cimarusti of Los Angeles; and Art Smith of Chicago (better known as Oprah’s chef). You could already sense that this would be a very competitive round, and it was.

Their quick fire challenge was to create a dish with just $20 and the use of a single aisle at a grocery store, drawn randomly. Jonathan drew the aisle with canned veggies and dried beans, and wound up making a red pepper and lentil salad. Art had the rice aisle and made a risotto with crispy rice salad. Michael had the baking aisle and made a chocolate parfait, and Roy had the pasta aisle and made an Asian style spaghetti with an egg on top. The judges for this were Whole Foods employees, and they liked just about all of the dishes, but loved the chocolate parfait the most…..even after Michael claimed to not be much of a dessert expert. So Michael wound up with 5 stars, Art 4.5 stars, Roy 4, and Jonathan 3.5…all of which would go toward their final score.

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