Top Chef Season 7: Cold War, Episode Recap

Andrea Curto-Randazzo stares down Michelle Bernstein and Padma Lakshmi.
Prior to the airing of this episode of Top Chef, I saw that Michelle Bernstein (of Michy's and Sra. Martinez) would be one of the judges. I wondered if this would work for or against Talula chef Andrea Curto-Randazzo. The Miami connection, you know? Would the two local toques even disclose their relationship?

Um, yeah. The sparks began to fly almost immediately. Well, more so on the part of Andrea, who obviously harbors a grudge against Bernstein. And, boy, did it get personal toward the end. 

When Bernstein was introduced as the judge, Andrea scrunched up her face in discontent. "I'm not really happy to see Michelle Bernstein," she commented. "Michelle and I are both chefs in Miami, and there's a bit of rivalry between us. I'm not so sure if you sat down at her restaurant and my restaurant that one would be that much better, so I'm probably not that comfortable with her judging me."

While it is true that both ladies are well-regarded chefs in Miami, no one would confuse Michelle Bernstein's mini-restaurant empire (and her James Beard Award) with Andrea's efforts at Talula and the Water Club. Let's get real here. 

Moving on: For the Quickfire Challenge, the cheftestants were given exotic proteins such as  emu eggs, ostrich, frog's legs, wild boar, crocodile, duck white kidneys (actually duck testicles, perfect for Angelo), rattlesnake, and duck tongue. They had 45 minutes to cook a meal with these odd ingredients. 

Perpetually horny Angelo said, "I just broke one of the testicles, and it's very soft." Luckily, we didn't have to hear more of his sex-laden remarks after Padma came in with a Top Chef twist by making the cheftestants switch proteins with the person to their left. Needless to say, there was a lot of bleeping going on. Andrea, who had a relatively easy wild boar, seemed flustered by Bernstein: "Mentally, I'm not comfortable with the judging situation, and it's getting to me." Whine, whine, whine. 

Her wild boar with risotto featuring dried cherries, almonds, and red wine was not so well received by Bernstein, who pronounced that although the "flavors are beautiful, it's a little chewy." Cue Andrea for another put-upon mug. Bernstein also had textural problems with Angelo's seared crocodile. 

On the bottom were Stephen, Alex,  and Andrea. Andrea, who got more airtime than ever, said, "I'm disappointed because I know what went wrong was in my head, and it sucks because I'm being called out by Michelle on national TV." The top three were Kelly, Tamesha, and Amanda, with dark horse Kelly winning for her emu egg omelet. 

For the Elimination Challenge, Padma announced a "cold war" contest with the cheftestants divided up into two groups to prepare cold dishes. The twist here: Their peers would judge each other's work. The scheming and strategizing immediately began with a gratuitous scene on the USS Sequoia replete with dramatic music and huddling. 

At Whole Foods, Angelo called the sockeye salmon sexy. Is everything sexy to him? Alex admitted to not playing games: "As far as the judging, I'm only going to think about the food, not who is cooking it." Alex, you'd make a lousy politician. 

Andrea was still stuck on her nemesis. And this time, it got personal: "I'm still thinking about the guest judge, Michelle Bernstein. Michelle and I were rising at the same time, and then we took a different path. I got married and I started having kids. She rose up. I was still a chef; I just maybe wasn't in the limelight. I'm going for the win today." Note to Andrea: Michelle got married too. And regardless if she started a family or not (and that is a very sensitive topic for some women), whether you can bang it out in the kitchen with or without toddlers at home is a moot point. Many of the best male chefs in Miami have children. 

Kenny continued his posturing and accurately pointed out, "When the competitors see my dish, I hope they get that lump in their throat knowing I'm a threat. I'm just worried they are going to put me in the bottom because of it."

The best quotes came from Tamesha, who clearly can't stand Amanda. (But who can?) "Amanda is running around quite a bit," Tamesha observed. "Just take a chill pill, please. Amanda and I have personality differences. I could probably strangle her in a heartbeat." Now that would be good TV. 

Angelo, meanwhile, was getting into several chefs' heads, most noticeably Tamesha's. "I'm here to play and win," he declared. Point taken. 

Group A consisted of Kevin, Amanda, Alex, Kenny, and Ed. They were judged by the chefs in Group B (Tiffany, Tamesha, Angelo, Andrea, and Stephen), which clearly didn't hold back. 
Amanda's chicken galantine was described as "salty" by Tamesha, while Andrea pointed out a piece of cartilage. Gross. Kevin's tuna and veal was called "one-note" by Stephen. Kenny's lamb duo was particularly derided for being "chewy" by Tiffany and "slimy" by Angelo. Jealous much? Alex's sous vide veal was picked apart for being heavy and lacking flavor. Finally, Ed's sockeye salmon on pumpernickel bread was critiqued for being too dry and too lemony. Ultimately, Kevin had the most successful dish, while Kenny's was voted the least successful. I think Amanda's cartilage chicken should have been sent back. Can we say politics?

In probably the best commercial interlude in Top Chef history, it was revealed that Ed and Angelo used to date the same girl in college. When Ed said, "It's all right, I used to bang his girlfriend," I kept wondering if he has been checked for STDs since then. After all, Angelo did admit to having crabs. 

For the second service, Andrea's tartare trio needed more seasoning; Angelo's poached sockeye salmon was too overpowering; Tiffany's peppercorn crusted ahi tuna was well received; Tamesha's scallops were too spicy; and Stephen's chilled beef with crispy rice was mediocre. The most successful of the litter was Tiffany's dish, while Tamesha was sent to the loser's bracket. 

In the stew room, the cheftestants let each other know where they stood: Andrea revealed to Amanda there was cartilage in her chicken, and Angelo balls-out told Kenny his dish was their least favorite. 

Tiffany and Kevin were called to the judges' table as the top two, with Kevin winning six nights in Hawaii. Tamesha and Kenny were on the bottom, with Tamesha going home for her overpowering and spicy dish. Who will Angelo manipulate now? 

And was it just me, or was Michelle Bernstein showing some major cleavage and attitude? On this season, Andrea doesn't have to worry about Bernstein from now on. At least until she gets back to Miami. 

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