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Top Chef: DC – Episode 9 Commentary – Tougher Than A Post In Yemen


The first post-Kenny episode turned out to be one of my favorites of the season. The challenges were excellent, the results were to my liking, and it made me continue to pine for Sydney Bristow.

Let me say, the Top Chef producers have been bringing their A Game this season when it comes to challenges. Most of them have been excellent – this week being one of the best.

Some housecleaning first – with the departure of Kenny, Spenny will reclaim his name. The Kenny vs. Spenny joke is no longer funny (assuming it was in the first place!) with one of them gone. So, welcome back Angelo. I’ll try to find a new nickname for you.

In addition, an old friend (Maddie) took me to task for asserting the hotness of Amanda. I stand by my claims, and present the opening credits as Exhibit A. I think that for a show unable to do stunt casting with models and actresses (cough*Survivor*cough*Amazing Race*cough) she is up there with some of the better looking contestants. However, to prove that I can see her faults, I will drop the “Hot” from her name. This also has nothing to do with the fact that it became too awkward to keep adding it (nicknames are supposed to be shorter, dummy!).

This week, the final seven chefs got to do some spy action. And while we were spared seeing Moby unleashing his inner Jason Bourne, we got espionage-based challenges. The Quickfire was a mystery, transported in a box, carried by actors pretending to be agents. I mean, they looked like they either just came from shooting a scene when they were fighting Neo, or from conducting interrogation from a bachelorette party. Chefs had to adjust on the fly and cook a meal with mystery ingredients delivered at various intervals. Great challenge to test improvisation skills.

Meanwhile, the Elimination Challenge took the chefs to Langley and CIA Headquarters. Not the usual CIA associated with cooking. Is it me, or did it resemble an Apple Store? I was kind of hoping for more of an SD-6 look, but I guess it makes sense that it wouldn’t. SD-6 was evil after all. This challenge had them “disguise” a classic dish while still staying true to its flavors. Very difficult challenge – don’t cook this dish, but still make it taste the same.

Before we get to those challenges, thematically, what we got this week was the potential unraveling of Angelo. Maybe it is the departure of arch-rival Kenny, maybe it is the grind of the show, but Angelo was off his game this week. He seemed lost in both challenges. With six chefs left – and maybe only two eliminations left – Angelo needs to dig deep to make the finals.
Which is kind of funny – what started out as a Kenny vs. Spenny theme to the season has evolved into something completely different. Who is the villain? Angelo, one would assume. If we can all agree that Amanda is the weakest of the six remaining, who is fifth? If she goes next week, which of the five (Angelo, Sbarro, Kelly, Ed and Tiffany) is the odds-on favorite to leave? I have no idea. Makes for an interesting couple of weeks coming up.

And with Moby’s departure, we must address the Pea Puree Incident one last time. On Tom’s blog on the Bravo website, he states that while no cameras were able to get Moby cooking it, the other chefs have reported in, saying they saw him buy the peas, blanch them, and make the puree. Appropriate to close this investigation the week the chefs cook for the CIA.

Quickfire – Starting with one mystery box full of ingredients, the chefs cook a dish using them, along with three other mystery boxes presented at different intervals. Wylie Dufresne – from WD-40 in New York, molecular gastronomy expert and two-time Top Chef: Masters loser – is the guest judge. The box progression is – #1 Fish, Fava Beans and a mystery can (hominy), #2 Squid and Black Garlic, #3 Passion Fruit and Ramp, #4 Jicama and Leeks.


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