Top Chef Season 7: Making Concessions, Episode 11

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Photo by David Giesbrecht/Bravo
Tiffany and Ed hit it out of the park this week.
Last night on Top Chef, we were treated to an opening sequence of frontrunner Ed donning a hideous yellow housedress as the roommates laughed. Actually, Ed was wearing Tiffany's dress. Hmmm. How did that happen?

In another odd moment, but funny for different reasons, we got the following confessional from Angelo, who seems well on his way to reality TV burnout: "When I was young, I used to cut out pictures of all the famous four-star chefs. I have a room, I'd light candles and every single day I'd kneel and pray before them. This is something I really want." What sort of weird Santeria stuff are you into, Angelo?

Before I could fully digest this bit of info, however, Amanda echoed my sentiments: "Angelo is a little weird sometimes. He actually reads Anthony Robbins' books. And he talks to himself. And says mantras, like 'You're going to win.' " Sometimes Amanda can be insightful, when she's not being whiny or annoying.

Onto the Quickfire Challenge, where Padma was holding court with Top Chef Masters alum Rick Moonen. I thought for sure this Quickfire Challenge would be all about fish, given Moonen's expertise with the sea, but it turned out to be a gimmicky one centered around food idioms like "sour grapes," and "hot potato."

With only an hour to cook, Tiffany used canned beans for her Spill The Beans dish of pan-seared cod over stewed beans, Swiss chard, carrots and bacon. That did not earn brownie points from Moonen. Angelo, too, seemed out of sorts with his chile-crusted tilapia satay with Asian tartar sauce, sambal and sriracha, which was meant to evoke the phrase, Bigger Fish To Fry.

Amanda, The Big Cheese, professed to be a mac and cheese aficionado and made hers with bacon, jalapeno and an inexplicable side of pork chop. Rick called it a "sledgehammer to the gut; it was a real heavy-handed dish." Kelly's Sour Grapes dish of pan-roasted chicken breast, caramelized Brussels sprouts leaves and red grape sauce didn't fare so well, either.

The top two, however, were Kevin and Ed. Kevin chose Bring Home The Bacon, and cooked the pig part three different ways: bacon puree, chopped bacon and bacon froth with a poached egg. Moonen liked the aromatic flavors of Kevin's entrée. The ultimate winner was Ed, for his Hot Potato gnocchi with spring vegetables and mushroom fricassee. Padma pronounced it a "lovely spring dish." Clearly, Angelo had a case of sour grapes when he said that Ed's face looked like a potato.

The editing at this stage of the show made it clear that Amanda would be going home, but there was still the Elimination Challenge to endure. For that battle, the six remaining cheftestants were going to have to take over a concession stand at Nationals Park and create fine dining versions of ballpark food. They had to work as one team, and prepare at least six dishes. At the brainstorming session, Kelly took over the planning, which did not sit well with Tiffany.

At Whole Foods, Angelo was spotted talking to himself. And Amanda announced she would be making tuna tartar, which did not sound like ballpark food to me. Kevin's chicken skewer, which he rightly pointed out, is a dish more people are familiar with in a baseball setting.

With three hours to prep, we saw that Amanda decided to cut her tuna the night before rather than do it in an unfamiliar kitchen at the stadium. Angelo gave Amanda advice to that effect, which Ed and Kevin were suspicious of. Was Angelo spreading more of his Santeria magic on her? After all, he admitted to being half-Dominican, and Santeria is practiced in that country. Ed seemed under pressure, and Angelo dubbed him the Tasmanian Devil. Which made me surprisingly miss Skeletor (aka Alex).

Back at the Top Chef house, the cheftestants realized they needed to be organized. Namely, who would be taking the orders? As Kelly immediately distanced herself from the debate by saying she needed to cook her crab cakes to order, Angelo literally stepped up to the plate by volunteering for the task. That is until they actually got to Nationals Park and Angelo tried to back out. After all, who was going to plate his pork bun while he was dealing with the patrons? Ed offered to prepare both his and Angelo's dish and the game was back on.

Washington Nationals players Matt Capps, John Lannan and Adam Dunn stopped by the fancy hot dog stand, and Kelly claimed to get "weak in the knees." Amanda humorously called the baseball players "tree trunks." There were more pressing matters, however: Kelly was concerned her bacon might be too salty, while Amanda's tuna was starting to oxidize. Gray tuna, gross. In the good sportsmanship department, a very perky Tiffany critiqued Kevin's dish for him, and gave him specific advice.

During service, the crab cakes and meatballs seemed to be crowd-pleasers. Padma and Tom, however, found Kelly's open-faced crab cake BLT with sweet potato fries to be too salty. Tiffany's Italian meatball sub with fennel, basil pesto and fresh mozzarella was tasty but difficult to eat, according to French hottie Eric Ripert. And Amanda's yellowfin tuna tartar with fennel, meyer lemon and fava bean puree, was particularly derided by two of the country's top seafood experts. Moonen: "Raw fish at a stadium. That takes some baseballs." Ripert: "I really don't want to eat a tartar with the color of my tuna being so gray."

Angelo's sweet glazed pork on lobster roll with sweet sesame pickles suffered from too much bread. Maybe using hot dog buns wasn't such a good idea. Or maybe volunteering to expedite wasn't so smart either. Kevin's skewered chicken with romesco sauce, shoestring fries and smoked paprika aioli was also called out, this time for soggy fries and skewers the size of light sabers. Ed's shrimp and corn risotto fritters with jalapeno aioli seemed to be orgasmic to Moonen, who rhapsodized about them: "The outside is crunchy, the inside is creamy. It stayed hot in the middle."

During the Top Chef interlude, Angelo was on the phone with his fiancé, mail order bride, from Russia. It was revealed that Angelo has only seen her a few times but they talk for five hours a night. Ok. Is he really that hard up?

At Judges' Table, all of the cheftestants were ushered into the lineup. Angelo admitted to taking the lead because he had a sandwich shop. But Tiffany wasn't having that and interjected, "The way it happened wasn't quite like that. There was frustration on who was going to do it and then you came and said everyone do their own." Similarly, Kevin called out Angelo for making the decision the night before and then trying to get out of it. Angelo tried to defend himself, but I don't think he made a clear enough case for the fact that he did indeed expedite for the team rather than perfect his pork.

The best of the bunch were Ed and Tiffany, with Ed winning a copy of Moonen's cookbook and a trip to Australia. Maybe Tiffany's dress was his lucky charm.

On the bottom were Amanda (whose tuna had oxidized), Kevin (with his dangerous skewers and soggy fries), Kelly (whose sandwich was lacking texture and crunch) and Angelo (whose bread soaked up all of the pork's juice). In the end, however, it was Amanda who was sent home. And she was a very gracious loser, who acknowledged that, "I fought it out for a very long time." I will actually miss her.

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