This episode began with some obligatory scenes in the Top Chef brownstone. While Angelo was missing ousted Tamesha, Kenny was still licking his wounds from being sent to Judges' Table by his peers: "For the last challenge I wasn't on the bottom because of my food. There was some strategy being played. It was would you rather Kenny go home or Amanda go home? Who is the bigger threat? I'm just too much of a beast in the kitchen to go home."
For the Quickfire Challenge, boyish Congressman Aaron Schock, from the 18th District of Illinois, noted that he isn't allowed to be wooed by lobbyists with heaping platters of food. Nope, if you want to feed a Congressperson it must be done on a toothpick. He neglected to mention briefcases full of cash, but I digress.
Our cheftestants, however, were offered cash. The winner was entitled to immunity and $20,000 for the best bite-sized gourmet snack. Right away, our Miami girl Andrea Curto-Randazzo admitted that, "My husband and I have a restaurant for seven years that has been struggling and I have a family to provide for. So, $20,000 would help pay off some debt." Wait, I'm confused? Wasn't it just last week when Andrea was comparing her restaurant to Michelle Bernstein's super successful eateries? So, which is it: Success or failure?
On the bottom of the Quickfire Challenge were Alex (because his scallop with crispy bacon, strawberries and basil essence had too many flavors), Ed (whose umbrella-bedecked duo of tuna looked better than it tasted) and Kelly (whose scallops with watermelon lacked flavor). Kevin, Angelo and Stephen were on the top for their toothpick creations, with Angelo winning the immunity and the cash. There were notable dirty looks shot over to Angelo.
For the Elimination Challenge, the cheftestants were charged with whipping up an old school political tradition, the power lunch. Presumably, the rest of DC's movers and shakers don't have to eat food off a toothpick. In fact, the proteins they would be working with, courtesy of The Palm, spanned lamb chops, lobster, swordfish, porterhouse and salmon.
Andrea pulled swordfish, which she clearly wasn't happy with: "I don't like the way swordfish eats. I don't like the texture of it. It's going to be rough, but there's no crying in the kitchen." Really? 'Cuz all I hear is whine, whine, whine.
Everyone else was in awe of their oversized proteins, especially the four-pound lobsters, which Ed and Angelo were working with. Amanda, who had never cooked a porterhouse steak before, decided to serve her steak off the bone, which Kelly noted is no longer a porterhouse.
After the first night of cooking, romance seemed to be in the air at the Top Chef brownstone and, thankfully, it had nothing to do with Angelo. Ed and Tiffany were flirting, which did not go by unnoticed by the other cheftestants. Andrea put in her two cents: "Ed and Tiffany are pretty tight and I'm certain that if Tiffany's fiancé caught wind of anything that was going on Ed would be in big trouble." Tiffany tried to clarify her relationship by noting that, "A few people think that something is going on between Ed and I. But Ed is not flirting with me. I've got a man."
Two people who were not getting along were Kelly and Amanda. "I think Amanda needs to go home," Kelly declared. "She's not very experienced and she shouldn't be here right now. She doesn't bring salt or pepper with her. Tough. We're competitors." Amanda was displeased that Kelly wouldn't share her salt.
There was even more drama over pea puree. Ed couldn't find his pea puree while Alex suddenly emerged with a silky pea puree that he hadn't even conceived of the night before. While this was edited to make Alex seem shady, the bottom line here is that between the salt and pea puree conflicts, our cheftestants are acting like Fifth graders. While we all love the drama of Top Chef (after all, this is a reality show and all that entails), the level of cooking and competition this year has been woeful as compared to last season. Are we really reduced to caring whether or not Alex stole Ed's pea puree?
I love that head judge Tom Colicchio spent the night expediting at the The Palm. Art Smith was a nice addition as a judge, but where the hell is our sexy Frenchy, Eric Ripert?
The first course was porterhouse steak and Amanda received props for her sear and seasoning, while Kelly was criticized for using too much salt. The irony. In the swordfish category, Andrea's version was too sweet, while Tiffany's overcooked fish was zesty and distinct. Pureed peas were the star of Alex's salmon, while Stephen's plate was called out for being messy and heavy. Immunity winner Angelo didn't try that hard and produced lobster that was too chewy. Ed's crustacean was fresh, although his peas were the weakest link. Finally, Kenny's lamb duo was missing greens, while Kevin's piece of meat was overcooked and tough. All in all, Tom called it "sloppy" back in the kitchen.
At Judges' Table, Alex, Tiffany and Ed were anointed the top three. Tiffany was so happy she couldn't stop crying. Alex echoed all of America when he said, "I'm very surprised to be here." While Ed looked miserable, Alex was declared the winner of the Elimination Challenge. Aside from bragging rights, his applewood smoked salmon with black forbidden rice and English pea puree dish was placed on the Palm's menu and his portrait hung on the wall in the dining room.
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On the bottom were Kelly, Andrea and Kevin. Kevin's lamb was criticized as being overcooked. Andrea's hand-roasted swordfish with vanilla bean mustard beurre blanc had too much vanilla for the judges and her cous cous was "gloopy." "Swordfish is not a favorite of mine," Andrea admitted. Art Smith responded by noting that Andrea's apathy toward her protein was "reflective in the dish." Kelly was channeling Lot's wife with her steak apparently. Gail called the heavy usage of salt her "fatal flaw." A gleeful Amanda couldn't contain her delight over Kelly's predicament: "Kelly didn't share her salt. I guess that's what happens when you don't share. She deserves to be on the bottom."
Gail summed up this whole season of Top Chef when she said, "It felt like they weren't paying attention. They got sloppy."
Ultimately, Andrea was told to pack up her knives and go by Padma. And not once, but twice. Girl practically had to be dragged out of the room. "My issues were more mental than anything else," Andrea said in her exit interview. "I respect the judges. They have really developed palettes and that's awesome. But I don't need four people behind a table to tell me that I can cook because I know that I can. It's a game. I guess I didn't play the game well today. I didn't want to go home this early but at the end of the day I can't change it so I will move on."
And there you have it. The end of Andrea's run on Top Chef. We'll still be watching and recapping each week, but it won't be the same. Maybe we should get Andrea and Michelle Bernstein their own reality TV show. Now that could be interesting...