Top Chef DC: pies and picnics

Ah, a nice one hour episode. That’s what Bravo gives us each week for “Top Chef,” unlike “Hell’s Kitchen” on Fox, which has become a two-hour marathon akin to “American Idol” on Tuesdays. But I digress. Last night’s episode began with Kenny getting a letter from his girlfriend as encouragement, something he needed after finishing second to Angelo time and again, and then being on the chopping block last week. Meanwhile, Angelo was still seething about how Kenny threw him under the bus at the judges’ table last week. Dude, you were playing the game, remember? You totally deserved that.

Then renowned pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini and regular judge Gail Simmons were there with Padma to introduce the quick fire challenge. Johnny and Gail will be the co-hosts of a new show, “Top Chef: Just Desserts” soon. Anyway, their challenge was to create a pie from scratch in two hours. The winner of the challenge would have immunity for the week.

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The Next Food Network Star: you either have it or you don’t

Last night’s episode of “The Next Food Network Star” featured two unique challenges. The first was a chili pepper challenge, in which the 9 remaining chefs had to stake their claim to a specific type of chili pepper on a table and then create at dish with it to present on camera for 30 seconds. The winner would have their dish featured at all three of Bobby Flay’s restaurants.

Paul made a scallop dish with habanero and coconut sauce; DAS made some sort of sushi with tuna; Aria made a pork tenderloin with chili marinade; Herb a yellow chili spring roll with crab salad; Brianna made chili and chicken kabobs; Serena had Anaheim peppers and made a salad with mango and avocado; Tom made poblano with chorizo; Aarti made a steak with serrano chutney; and Brad made chicken and shrimp with coconut peanut sauce using Thai chiles.

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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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