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Top Chef: DC, Ep. 2 – I’m on a mission to break up Starsky and Hutch


This was a strange one, as I liked both the Quickfire and the Elimination Challenge, was satisfied with both the winner and the eliminated chef, but put all together it was a somewhat forgettable episode.  Even if Gail admitted to liking vodka, Tom told us his mom was a lunch lady, Evil Angelo totally threw a challenge, and one contestant thought it was a good idea to use alcohol to cook in a school.

Before getting into the dishes, a bit on the challenges, “gamesmanship” and dysfunction. I really dug the challenges. The Quickfire was fun, if goofy. Even if it dealt with one of the worst puns you have probably heard on this show – chefs made a bipartisan-dwich. Har Har. But after the 30-minute time for making a sandwich was questioned, you knew a twist was coming. That’s right – half-red and half-blue joined aprons, where you can only use one arm each! Essentially, the cooking version of a three-legged race. Sure made chopping and slicing interesting!

Meanwhile, the Elimination Challenge was equally impressive and poignant. Having the Assistant White House Chef Sam Kass onboard promoting the Obamas’ quest to stamp out adolescent obesity led us into the miasma of school lunches.

Excuse me while I climb on the soapbox. Our schools need waaaaay more attention and tons more cash for teachers, administrators, music, sports, art and so many other aspects of providing a proper education for our children. Especially our poor children if they are going to ever grow up and not be poor adults.

However, one part of the education probably that gets ignored far too often is the crap that is available for kids to eat. When I was in high school, I remember selling candy bars as fundraisers, a student store full of snacks, and soda machines. And we had a fairly well-funded school. Most schools cut so many corners that you have to go out of your way to find nutrition on the menu. This is immortalized by the now-famous attempt by the Reagan Administration to get ketchup classified as a vegetable.

So to have the chefs create a meal for schoolchildren by having to spend what is actually spent on food for our children was brilliant. They had to cook for 50 kids and spend just under $3 per kid to feed them healthily. Now, that is a challenge.

Angelo and Tracey got paired up and since it is Angelo – you know, the guy who claimed to want to win each challenge and well, has so far done just that – they win. The prize is both immunity and the ability to choose the pair of chefs they will team up with for the school challenge. So basically, if they lose the challenge, the poor pair that gets selected is fighting 50% odd of elimination rather than 25%. Knowing this, Angelo sees a chance to eliminate Kenny and selects him.

Now, the question is, did Angelo go the extra step and do a rather half-assed effort to win the challenge in order to take out rival Kenny? I think so. Or else why would the winner of the first three challenges make peanut butter and celery as his dish? I absolutely believe that he took that step and tried to lose the challenge. If so, then we may have our first real villain in Top Chef. Sure, there have been annoying people. Egotistical people. But Angelo is starting to skate on the outskirts of Russell Hantz Land.

Meanwhile, one team just seemed to clash constantly – the one with Kelly, Arnold, Tiffany and Lynne. What was the major issue? Well, that’s easy. You see, the rules were simple. Teams of four prepared a meal – winning team would have one of theirs chosen as the winner and the losing group would see one of theirs go home. You would be judged on the part of the meal you made. Kelly took ownership of the tacos. That was the problem. Really. The others – especially Arnold and Tiffany – seemed really upset that Kelly would take ownership of a part of the dish…after Padma told her to. Dumbest argument in a long, long time.


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