Top Chef DC: peer pressure

Last night on “Top Chef: DC” it was all about peer pressure, literally. the chef-testants had to judge each other in the elimination challenge, but more on that later. First, they had the quick fire challenge, and for that Miami restaurateur Michelle Bernstein was on hand to help Padma judge. Michelle and Andrea knew each other from the Miami scene and Andrea admitted to having quite a rivalry with Michelle.

The challenge was to create a dish with exotic proteins, which they would draw randomly for. They included yak, emu egg, ostrich, wild boar, llama, rattlesnake and even duck testicles! The best part was when Angelo took the duck balls, which were called something like duck kidney beans, and was mortified when he realized what they were. But as they were cooking, Padma entered the kitchen and threw them a curveball–“take over the protein to your left!” You could hear 11 groans coming from wherever you were.

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The Next Food Network Star: and then there were three…

Is it just me or is this season of “The Next Food Network Star” flying? We are now down to the final three contestants, which means that in a couple of weeks we will have our new champion. I also have that same feeling I had last year…that is, that there is no clear-cut, Guy Fieri-like favorite. In fact, I think the network struck gold with Fieri and may never find anyone like him in this venue again. But that’s okay, because the producers and execs have to know that anyway.

So last night’s episode continued in Miami where the final four of Melissa, Jeffrey, Debbie and Jamika were greeted by Iron Chef Michael Symon at their hotel, the Eden Roc. Symon assigned them their first challenge of the day, a live cooking demo on a Miami network TV morning show. But what Symon didn’t tell them was that each of the chefs would be sabotaged in one way or another during their demo.

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The Next Food Network Star: TMI

Sunday’s episode of “The Next Food Network Star” featured two instances of “Too Much Information (TMI),” and one of them was the reason for a contestant to be eliminated. The final five chefs gathered at the Jet Blue terminal at JFK Airport, feeling good and excited about their trip to Miami, where they would participate in a larger Food Network celebration of sun and decadence. But of course, there was a challenge attached to their airport experience, and along with network star Ted Allen, chef Michael Coury from OTG, the company that runs the restaurants in the terminal, was on hand to help assist and judge. There are a few different cuisines available in the terminal, and each contestant was assigned a cuisine to re-create their own dish. Jeffrey had Italian, Melissa had tapas, Michael French, Jamika sushi and Debbie steakhouse.

Jamika went first and she made a seared tuna salad with a miso vinaigrette. It looked like a decent salad but the judges were a bit underwhelmed and not impressed with a lack of creativity. She also made a comment in her presentation about airline food and “the toilet not being your friend” on flights. Are you kidding me? Ted Allen called it TMI and he was correct.

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The Next Food Network Star: The camera does not lie

It’s getting down to crunch time on “The Next Food Network Star,” as last night they went from six contestants down to five, and one of the five is going to have their very own show on the network soon. So judge and network exec Bob Tuschman called last night the “midterm” and for good reason….it’s the midpoint of the season, and the challenges centered around actual camera face time with Food Network star Rachael Ray.

The “mini-challenge” was to take “grown-up” food and make it child friendly. They would be judged by Rachael as well as a panel of three kids. Note to the show’s producers…whoever cast these kids did an excellent job, because they were hilarious, smart and very entertaining.
Anyway, Jeffrey and Jamika had tofu to work with; Michael and Melissa had brussels sprouts; and Katie and Debbie had squid.

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