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Top Chef: DC – Episode 7 Commentary – That’s a $10,000 Tamale


I am just happy to be talking about something other than pea puree this week. Although we did come very close to having something resembling Pea Puree Karma. However, that was not meant to be. What we did get was a stellar episode for one of my new favorites – yes, I have joined Team Tiffany. My early Episode 1 concerns with her are gone – when she got no screen time, seemed to be against having fun and was picked as the weakest chef by Spenny. Her laugh is absolutely contagious and has become a joy to watch on the show. It seems as if I am rooting against my own gender this season – with Tiffany and Kelly as my favorites, and Hot Amanda being one for totally different reasons.

A fun episode with good challenges became very anti-climactic the instant they drew knives to pick the order for the Elimination Challenge. That very moment I turned to my wife and said who was getting knifed this week. It was about time for Stephen to go as this became his seventh time in the bottom. Really. He’s been that bad this season and is finally done. Stephen was clearly liked – and has been quite funny – but boy, it’s amazing he’s lasted this long.

This week’s episode was all about international cooking and what it means to be inspired by a dish. In the Quickfire, the chefs had to cook an Ethiopian dish for Top Chef: Masters Champion Marcus Samuelsson. This dovetailed nicely into the Elimination Challenge where they would each select a country’s cuisine to cook a dish inspired by that culture. The guests would all be foreign dignitaries and embassy workers.

To be inspired by a dish could both mean to cook a true dish from that country or to take the flavors and run with it. To do the first option means to really nail the execution, to do the second permits some leeway for creativity. What it came down to in the end was one person was creative and made a kick-ass dish to win both challenges. Meanwhile, Stephen and Moby failed to be creative, but worst of all, cooked their dishes badly.

The Elimination Challenge provided the old knife pick for order of selection for the countries. Tiffany’s Episode of Great Luck and Skill included her snagging the top choice. The girl from Texas instantly grabbed Mexico. Meanwhile, the last pick went to poor Stephen who was left with Brazil. The extent of what he knew of Brazilian cuisine ranged from steakhouses to nuts. As he said that, you knew he was doomed. When he chose to make an Argentinean dish instead of an actual Brazilian dish – well, that didn’t help. When he knowingly made a dish that would be impossible to cook properly in Sternos – also not helpful. When that resulted in overcooked, mushy rice –that’s too much for Tom to handle, and that was it.

That leaves us with eight remaining chefs. Kenny and Spenny are probably still the favorites, with Tiffany and Kelly probably the next level down with Ed (despite this week). Sbarro is quite the wild card as he has been bouncing from the top to the bottom constantly. Moby and Hot Amanda are the top candidates to get the boot next, but chefs have a history of lingering and surviving cuts in the past. The biggest one was Season 4 Lisa who lingered and almost managed to steal that season out from under Richard and Steph.

Quickfire – Cook an Ethiopian dish for Marcus. There are a gazillion Ethiopian restaurants in DC, so this one makes sense. Basically – use berbere spices, use spongy bread and eat with your fingers. Go.


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