The second episode of Top Chef D.C. was more spirited, lively and heated than the premiere. By now, we know who the contenders are (Angelo and Kenny) as well as the villains (Angelo and Amanda). And we are still following our local girl Andrea Curto-Randazzo, who is representing Miami with sass.
Andrea exhibited some of that Miami attitude in an early scene in the Top Chef house when she said, "I think I can beat Angelo. I think I can beat anyone here." What, no pushups from our curly-haired toque? Actually, the gratuitous workout shots of some of the guys seemed more The Bachelorette than Top Chef.
For the Quickfire Challenge, Sam Kass, the assistant White House chef, presided over a "bipartisandwich" contest, whereby the cheftestants, working in teams, had 30 minutes to prepare a sandwich. Easy, right? Not so fast. The catch was that the cheftestants were tethered together via blue and red aprons and only allowed to use one hand each.
"Who got high and came up with this idea?" asked Tim. Exactly. I love the idea of the Top Chef producers sparking up as they create these challenges. Cue to the shot of the cheftestants using their mouths to open jars.
Frontrunner Angelo, who owns a sandwich shop in New York City, was paired with Kelley (aka Rosie O'Donnell). Their Asian style fish sandwich, with Angelo's secret sauce called "liquid love," was the winner of the Quickfire, with a seething Kenny and Ed coming in second.
Andrea watchers should note that her "Philly Cuban" sandwich (she made it with Kevin) was deemed good by Sam Kass, who liked their use of the pickle.
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs were tasked with making a meal for Let's Move, an organization the First Lady supports to end childhood obesity. For this school lunch project, they were given a restrictive budget ($130 for 50 kids) and a directive (make it healthful, well-balanced and tasty).
Team one consisted of Angelo, Tracey, Kenny and Ed. Since Angelo and Tracey had immunity, they didn't need to worry too much about this challenge. While Tracey still persevered with her chicken burger, Angelo's peanut butter and celery crudités seemed out of place.
The trouble was brewing over at team two, which was made up of Amanda, Tamesha, Jacqueline and Stephen. Immediately, Amanda was portrayed as conniving with comments like, "I could make a dessert but I don't want to because people who make desserts go home. If I can pass that bullet to someone else, I'll do it. Take one for the team is not in my vocabulary." Instead, Jacqueline volunteered to do the dessert and I just knew she was a goner. Especially when her banana pudding tasted too starchy, so she just kept adding sugar. When will you people learn? Avoid dessert on Top Chef like the plague.
Nevertheless, Amanda's sherry chicken sounded completely inappropriate for a school lunch. What was she thinking? Top Chef judge Gail seemed to echo my sentiments: "I have to say the words sherry jus don't often come into the lunchroom scenario."
There was zero drama over at team three with Alex, Tim, Kevin and Andrea cranking out their meal in harmony. Their picnic-style fare consisted of coleslaw with yogurt, grilled apple cider barbecue chicken, mac and cheese and mango skewers.
Kelly, on the other hand, butted heads with teammates Tiffany, Lynne and Arnold. She rightly wanted all of the credit for her tasty pork carnitas tacos with whole grain tortillas. Arnold was not down with this, though, and he attacked Kelly for her stewardship of her dish. "I'm flabbergasted that he came at me like this," Kelly said. Their meal encompassed a black bean cake with crispy sweet potatoes, braised pork carnitas tacos, roasted corn salad, caramelized sweet potatoes and sherbet.
There were two moments that were interesting during the Elimination Challenge. The first was when a teary-eyed Tracey admitted to feeding her daughter fast food once a week. The second was when Angelo's foam gun was broken and no one would help him. As Andrea emphatically said, "I'm on a mission to break Starsky and Hutch." Angelo used a piping bag instead.
At Judges' Table, there was a twist: The bottom two teams were called upon first. That's a Top Chef wrinkle that was greatly appreciated among longtime viewers.
On the bottom were Angelo, Kenny, Ed and Tracy. Not only were Ed's sweet potatoes too peppery, but there was a serious lack of vegetables. Angelo was accused of sabotaging the team. Also facing elimination were Amanda, Tamesha, Jacqueline and Stephen. Jacqueline was called out for her starchy, sugary dessert, while Amanda's sherry jus chicken was widely decried.
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Then the fun started with the two teams engaging in a full-on verbal battle. Stephen dumped on Kenny for the lack of vegetables; Amanda eviscerated Angelo; everyone attacked Amanda for using alcohol in her dish. "They weren't drinking it," she whined. "I wasn't serving it by the glass." Trust Gail to weigh in on the catfight. "I like vodka," she said. "I'm not cooking with it." Especially not for kids.
The judges accused Angelo of gamesmanship, while Kenny and Ed were blamed for not speaking up on the vegetable issue. Amanda's chicken was labeled unappealing, while Jacqueline's pudding had too much sugar. Guest judge Sam said, "All I tasted was sugar." And so it goes; Jacqueline was given the cleaver.
Ironically, Kelly, who was derided by her teammates throughout the challenge, was named the winner. She had the balls to claim her dish and did not back down. Look for her to be a contender, too. Until next week...