I'm thinking that it may be time to come to the realization that I might not actually catch up on my recapping. I may have to concede defeat. Two to go before reaching tonight's ep. Am I going to make it? I think not.
Every elimination finds the chefs more and more morose as the townhouse gradually empties. With the departure of another woman, Kelly and Tiffany are feeling the pressure especially. Kelly is still writhing in guilt over her seasoning error. Alex is still being his lanky weird self, and Ed attempts to get his confused feelings about the infamous pea puree out in the little journal John left for him.
At the Top Chef kitchen, the sad moods dissipate upon seeing the charming face of Marcus Samuelsson, famed Scandinavian/Ethiopian chef. Fresh off his win from Top Chef: Masters, Marcus looks especially pleased to see the cheftestants.
Unbeknownst to me, Washington DC is known for its Ethiopian cuisine. I'm not sure if this is really true, or if the producers just wanted to incorporate Marcus's expertise into the episode. Nonetheless, the chefs have to create an Ethiopian-inspired dish. Common features of Ethiopian food include a spice called berbere, spongy, pancake-like sourdough breads, and spicy stews. I'm proud of Amanda grabbing the goat leg immediately, and cringe inwardly as Alex bumbles into the pantry and almost clocks Kelly with a pressure cooker. When will he be off this show, for crying out loud?
Not surprisingly, Angelo has worked/assisted/consulted at an Ethiopian concept restaurant. Of course. Ed and Kenny also have some experience with Ethiopian food, but the rest of the chefs are floundering around, tossing red berbere here and there and hoping that nuts might fit in an Ethiopian stew.
It's hard to tell what Marcus thinks about the dishes. He frequently mentions spice and heat, leading me to believe that Ethiopian food is super hot. Ed and Angelo nail the challenge, making traditional, appropriate dishes. Kevin's dish was too "shy", Stephen's giant lamb meatball platter was not good, and Alex's strange duck tongue, while bold, was too dry. Marcus singled out Amanda's goat and Tiffany's flavorful dish, along with Angelo. It was great to see Tiffany win, especially since she had no experience with Ethiopian food. Rather than freak out when it was time to cook, Tiffany tasted each spice carefully and then incorporated it into a stew. Way to play to your strengths, girl!
The international cuisine continues into the elimination challenge, as Padma and Marcus wheel out a giant chalkboard emblazoned with a map of the world. Nine countries are highlighted on the map. The chefs will be cooking a dish inspired by one of the countries, which will be served to dignitaries, ambassadors, and the judges at the Meridian International Center. A knive pull to determine order quickly ensues, and the chefs go up one by one to select their country of choice. I thought the options seemed a bit stereotypical. Where is Greece? How about Russia? And in an episode featuring Marcus Samuelsson, there is no Sweden? What are these producers all about?
Tiffany from Texas gets Mexico, making it her lucky day. Amanda is thrilled to get France. Angelo picks Japan, so more Asian success is surely in his future. Stephen gets the last pick, Brazil. The other chefs steered clear of Brazil like it was the plague, so I feel sorry for him. Is there no native cuisine in Brazil? I'm going to have to look this up.
At Whole Foods, it's confirmed that Stephen knows basically nothing at Brazilian cuisine. His only experience has been a Brazilian steakhouse. I'm fairly confident he won't be able to go around to tables carving various cuts of meat for these dignitaries, especially considering that there is no kitchen at the center and the chefs must rely on chafing dishes. I was shocked to learn that Kevin knows nothing about Indian food. How is this possible? I've said this before and I will say it again, any chef who chooses to apply for this show should have at least one dish from every popular ethnic cuisine under his or her belt (and also one good dessert, but that's neither here nor there at this juncture). I love Kevin, but I'm a bit disappointed in him.
At the townhouse the night before the challenge, Kevin gets a call from his little girl. Of course this only makes me warm up to him more and forgive him for his lack of Indian food knowledge. Kelly gets a liquor-enhanced care package from her hubby which EVERYONE enjoys.
The chefs are in a chafing dish panic at the beautiful Meridian house, with the exception of Angelo, Kenny, and Kelly. who have opted to serve cold dishes. Stephen's rice and beans look atrocious, and Alex can't stop himself from eating his tortas.
The guest judge is Spanish chef Jose Andres, a fact which undoubtedly pleased most of the chefs, who hope for Alex's failure. Happily for them, the judges don't like his tapas at all. On the other hand, they love Kevin's curry and the simplicity of Kelly's Italian carpaccio. Unfortunately for Stephen, it was glaringly obvious that he had no understanding of Brazilian food. Angelo's tuna was masked by wasabi, which seemed to bore the judges. Kenny's cold Thai salad and Tiffany's tamales were high points of the meal.
It was refreshing to see that there were several good dishes to choose from, though the judges selected Kelly, Kevin, and Tiffany as the top three. Tiffany's tamales were deemed the best, and she won a cash prize to boot. Tiff is really on a roll, with her second victory in a row. She beams about her "$10,000 tamal" as the three go back to the stew room to summon the losing three, Alex, Ed, and Stephen.
Stephen's goofy, infectious laugh couldn't make up for the fact that he mistakenly used chimichurri (classic Argentinian relish) for his Brazilian dish and managed to ruin his rice. Rice is important to this competition, folks. Get it right!
Well, I have at least made the slightest of dents in my recaps.