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Top Chef - D.C. - Ep. #8 - 08/04/10 (Spoilers)

Just a note about Pea-Gate - there are 581 comments on Tom's blog about last week's episode as of the end of tonight's episode. I have to believe that's a record! And Alex is still claiming that he had no idea that Ed had a pea purée. Liar.

Two MAJOR judges on this episode of TC7....Marcus Samuelsson and José Andrés. For the Quickfire, they're charged with creating an Ethiopian-inspired dish. Samuelsson is obviously judging the QF. :-) Samuelsson explains what is important in Ethiopian food - the spicing, injera bread, the various meats. The cheftestants have a lot to choose from from the TC table - goat, lamb, spices, injera.

Amanda seemed to please Padma and Marcus, as did Angelo; and Kenny did another duo. What a surprise.

Whose dish did they not like? Kevin, Stephen, and Alex.

Which were the favorites? Amanda's goat dish, Angelo, and Tiffany. Who is the winner and who gets immunity? Tiffany! She wins one! Her's was the last dish Samuelsson tasted, and he wanted to go back for more and more. Good for her.

For the EC, they must serve dishes inspired by a foreign embassy. The cuisines are:

Brazil - Stephen ("I didn't even know they had a cuisine!")
China - Ed
Italy - Kelly
France - Amanda
India - Kevin (he's never made Indian food - chooses to make his own curry spice mix)
Mexico - Tiffany
Thailand - Kenny
Spain - Alex
Japan - Angelo

One hundred portions of their country's dish are to be served to "diplomats, ambassadors, and world dignitaries." They won't have any kitchens to use; only chafing dishes using Sterno.

They're back at the house after Prep, and Kelly gets a care package from her husband - stuffed animals...and a bottle of Jack Daniels. That'll get put to good use. :-)

The next day, they're in a gorgeous space and they have 30 minutes to lay out their dishes and plates and reheat their dishes if they need to. Tiffany is WAY behind in her final prep and is finishing up just at the end of the clock.

Kelly gets good reviews for her carpaccio; Ed's tea-smoked duck doesn't get as good reviews as I'm sure he hopes. Kevin's Indian dish is enjoyed; but Stephen's Brazilian beef doesn't fare well, nor does Alex's Spanish dishes. Not good with José Andrés there.

For the next round of dishes, Amanda's beef bourguignon was a bit dry; Angelo's Japanese dish gets good and fair reviews; Tiffany's chicken tamales were VERY well received, and Kenny's Thai green curry dish was well liked.

ROFL! In the brief in-between-commercials interlude back at the TC House, Angelo Saran Wrapped the men's toilet and Stephen comes up a little tipsy and ends up peeing on the wrap and the floor. Little boys and their silly games. ;-)

Padma asks to see Kelly, Kevin and Tiffany - and they're in the Top Group. All three get very good reviews - really, none of the judges had any issues with any of the dishes. Who's the winner? The best dish of their representative country is Tiffany - she gets a double win! Woo-Hoo!!! And a SURPRISE for her win - she'll get $10,000! Her upcoming wedding is paid for so this is gravy! LOL TC will also be matching that $10K with a donation in Tiffany's name to DC Central Kitchen, a charity favored by Andrés.

Alex, Stephen and Ed are in the Bottom Group. Stephen's dish was dry, rice was overcooked, and the chimichurri sauce was Argentinian, not Brazilian (and overly garlicky, per Gail Simmons). Alex's Spanish dish was a disappointment to José Andrés, and Tom clearly didn't like it. As for Ed's tea-smoked duck - Andrés had a good comment - Ed overpromised and underdelivered. Underseasoned, and no real crispy skin, as he hadn't rendered the fat.

I'm thinking that either Stephen or Alex might be going home. Andrés really seemed to dislike Alex's attempt at Spanish tapas.

So who's outta here? Stephen's gone. Alex lives another day. Shoot.

And Whoa! Major drama next week between Angelo and Alex - looks like Alex really sets Angelo off by being incompetent (or Angelo's temper gets the best of him? I'm thinking the former :::grin:::) And it looks like RESTAURANT WARS next week, as perhaps Kelly is leader for one team as she's in civilian dress back in the kitchen? Can't wait - RW is always a good episode.

Just checked the episode listing for next week - yup - it's Restaurant Wars. Speaker Pelosi (UGH!) and Frank Bruni are guest judges.

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  1. I was glad to see Stephen go home, although it would have been great if Alex went. Stephen has consistently been in the bottom three, and poorly cooked rice would ruin any dish. I thought both Stephen and Alex's dishes looked rather unappetizing, as well. And I was happy Tiffany won!

    1. Tom has more about Pea-Gate on this week's blog, already up:


      Halfway through Page 2 of a 3-page blog, he says:

      "I can’t conclude without saying a word or two about last week’s pea incident. I was just cooking at a benefit and some folks there, fans of the show, came up to ask me about the incident. I know viewers are up in arms about it, assuming that information is being withheld from them (and usually assuming that the producers are covering up for Alex). But here’s the thing: I actually called the producers and asked about it, and they genuinely do not know what happened. This show is part competition, part “reality TV.” Had the cameras caught Ed making the actual puree that Alex used or Alex lifting Ed’s pea puree, believe me they would have been thrilled to air it – it would have “made great TV.” "

      He goes on to say there are only two cameras in the kitchen - so they can't catch everything. The producers have gone over every inch of footage and they didn't capture anything about Alex taking Ed's purée.

      He also throws a diss at Kenny when he says "By the way, whichever contestant asserted last week that there’s no way Alex could have made so good a pea puree without having begun preparing it on their prep day was wrong. It takes twenty minutes tops to make a great pea puree."

      11 Replies
      1. re: LindaWhit

        It was nice of Tom to provide a follow up, and answer some lingering questions. It will be interesting to see what is said at the reunion. It's funny because while watching the episode last week, I thought why can't you make a good pea puree in one day. I've never made pea puree so I wasn't sure if there was some kitchen trick I was unaware of, glad to know I'm not a total moron. ;-)

        As for this week, I was glad to see Tiffany do well. Her dishes looked delicious, and I loved how Gail didn't like the same things Tiffany fixed with a typical tamale. I like Tiffany, and I hope she is able to keep it up in the coming weeks. I also want to add that Gail is really bringing it at JT, she is saying a lot of things I'm thinking while watching.

        I knew Tiffany would be in the top three this week, but I was surprised to see Kevin and Kelly. Based on the judges comments alone, I thought Kenny would also be in the top. Amanda should thank her lucky stars that there were 3 dishes worse than hers. I was really surprised to not see her in the bottom, and I think she was too, I honestly thought the judges might bring back more than 3 people.

        The magical elves threw me this week, I thought it would be the end of Kevin this week when we saw him on the phone with his family.

        1. re: lizzy

          Yes, I also thought that they'd send Kevin home because of the phone call and they kept stressing that Kevin had never cooked Indian style before.

        2. re: LindaWhit

          Why didn't they look at the receipts from Whole Foods and seen who bought peas? If only one did, that for sure was not Alex.

          1. re: rccola

            It's already been established that Alex bought peas. He said to Kenny and Andrea at the TC house kitchen that he had them but they were "crappy". He bought a lot of food items he probably wasn't going to use. He had no idea before going to WF what he was going to make; so he said he bought a lot of things.

            1. re: LindaWhit

              Established or "he said?" What other proof is there?

              1. re: rccola

                I'm going with what Alex said - he said he bought peas amongst all the other things he purchased, but said they were crummy. Only *then* did Kenny and Andrea say that Ed's peas were great after he pureed them.

                Why would he say he bought them and they were crummy if he didn't buy them? I'm certainly not defending Alex, by all means. But *he* was the one who brought up the "crummy peas" first.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  He might say it as an excuse for why there were only one pot o' peas in the kitchen. If the peas were crummy (yet Ed bought from the same store), the puree should have been crummy. So can Alex judge raw ingredients?

                  1. re: rccola

                    The conversation about buying crummy peas happened the night BEFORE we saw the one pot of peas in the kitchen. So it wasn't an excuse. And the peas could have been crummy in their raw state (I'm assuming he tasted them), but could have been improved by other ingredients as Ed obviously did.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      We seriously need to stop belaboring this, however, since the peas were missing in the morning and the contestants couldn't go back to the kitchen that night, setting up an alibi is a possibility, don't you think?

                      1. re: rccola

                        Yes, we do need to stop belaboring this. I stand by my previous post.

          2. re: LindaWhit

            So sad that at this point, I am more interested in pea puree gate rather than the competition itself! Maybe next week's Restaurant Wars will re-capture my attention. Anyways, on Tom's blog he states that there are only 2 cameras so they can't capture all the action/drama. However, on Gail's blog she seems to indicate there are quite a lot of cameras since she states "... considering how many cameras that we have shooting them." Hmmm.....

          3. Thanks to lovely technology, I can watch the show via slingbox while being overseas! Nonetheless, I thought the challenges tonight were interesting, yet highlighted just how limited many of the chefs are on several levels (knowledge, cooking, technique, etc.). I agree that just because one is a chef they shouldn't know the world, however I think reading or brushing up on some global cuisines before the competition wouldn't be a bad idea...

            Stephen *REALLY* deserved to go home on a number of levels. Perhaps this is way too close to my own identity and life, but he didn't even cook a dish inspired by the right country and made an ignorant comment regarding Brazil. It is almost the same size as the USA, does the USA have a cuisine?

            Thankfully Stephen's ignorance was pointed out by the judges and visitors like Marcus S. While beef is a staple throughout most regions of Brazil (most notably the South and Southeast), there were a number of other approaches that he could have taken: Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, German, and West and Southern African Flavors (OK - I'm done ranting....). Beans and rice in Brazil are staples, but hardly ever together... Still, Stephen couldn't even cook rice and served a sauce popular in ARGENTINA.

            It was nice to see somebody other than Angelo or Kenny finally win a quickfire AND challenge.

            15 Replies
            1. re: vinhotinto75

              Actually, I had chimicchurri sauce serverd to me at a rodizio restaurant. Not sure if that was just the restaurant's choice, but the restaurant was billed as a Brasilian place.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                Chimichurri is not Brazilian, it's very Argentine.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  I know that it is Argentine in origin, BUT, I have had it in Honduras, and in Brasilian restaurants. The point is that the sauce itself is ubiquitous in Latin American countries. I think dinging the contestant for that is pretty damned silly. Its like saying spaghetti isn't Italian, its Chinese since Marco Polo brought noodles back to Italy from China.

                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    Don't get me started. There were noodles in Italy before Marco Polo. Besides, no one said noodles weren't Italian OR Chinese.

                    and Brazil is a VERY Portuguese country. That's the language they speak. It's not "Latin." Ask any Brazilian!

                    1. re: ChefJune

                      Its obvious this is a pet peeve. All I am saying is that you can very easily take this to the silliest extreme.

                      Portugese and Spanish has Latin as the root language.

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        Since ChefJune asked, I'll add my input!

                        Ok - as I said in my post above, this hits a little "too close to home," since I was raised in the "country that doesn't have a cuisine." I now get to spend my time divided among three continents and while Chimicchurri might be a fad ingredient in North American and even Brazilian-style steakhouses (Churrascarias) outside of Brazil, I have NEVER seen it at some of the top Churrascarias in Rio, São Paulo, or Porto Alegre (the land of Churrasco and Rodizio).

                        Stephen deserved to go for last night, but I also don't recall that he ever made a quickfire dish or elimination dish that was received well.

                        I'm wondering what I'm going to eat when I get to Chicago in a few weeks. Is there food or a cuisine in the US? What language do they speak there?

                        1. re: vinhotinto75

                          Stephanie Izard, the winner of Top Chef 4 (I think that's the season) just opened Girl and the Goat. Getting good notices.

                          Personal Chicago favorites include Red Light (Pan Asian) Jackie Shen's place in the West Loop, Spiaggia, Bin 36 restaurant and wine bar, Tre Kronor (Swedish).

                          1. re: ChefJune


                            Thanks for those tips as I know that Chicago has some great places to eat! I was just pointing out the ignorance and insular nature of certain cheftestants. I was just being facetious!

                            It always amazes me how some of these chefs can use the trendy ingredients, yet know very little about the roots, history, and other intricacies of regional and global cuisine. Again, I do agree with Chef José and others that it is not possible to know every single global cuisine, yet it clearly shows a lack of basic education to not even know about the world. Yet, I suppose it does go both ways, because a good deal of perceptions (while awfully unfair) about food in the US around the world is based on the fast food chains that predominate globally and through popular films and television shows.

                          2. re: vinhotinto75

                            <<"What language do they speak there?">>

                            Murcan. :-)

                            1. re: vinhotinto75

                              English predominantly but you might get by with German since they both share the same Germanic root.;-)

                              1. re: vinhotinto75

                                macaroni and cheese uses essentially a bechamel sauce, does that make mac and cheese French?

                                If legend is correct, the sandwich was the inspiration of Lord Sandwich of England, does that make pannini's English?

                                Besides, I think Gail's line of reasoning wasn't what killed Steven's chances. Colicchio dinged him for being not competent enough to make the rice correctly.

                                Besides, they did not have to make a dish from the country they chose, they had to make a dish that is reminiscent of the country they chose. They loved Kevin's dish even though such a dish doesn't exist in India. Stephen's problem wasn't that he used the chimichurri, his problem was that he was clueless.

                      2. re: Phaedrus

                        I've been to three Brazilian Steakhouse places (not many, I know), and there has been a chimicchurri sauce at all three. I think if his dish had been well done it wouldn't have mattered, but given the uninspired dish and poor execution, the judges were in no mood to give him the benefit of the doubt on that point.

                        1. re: JayEsBee

                          Tom C was pretty clear at JT that it was the poor execution that did him in, not the fact that it may not have been truly Brazilian...

                      3. re: vinhotinto75

                        I thought Stephen really deserved to go home as well. It wasn't so much that he didn't know about Brazilian food as that he didn't seem to care, and it showed in the sloppy way he prepared his dish. Compare that to Tiffany, who said she didn't know anything about Ethiopian food but still managed to produce a dish that was good enough to win the quickfire.

                        1. re: Ruth Lafler

                          Exactly! And, it's the reason Kevin made the top three. He said he'd never made Indian food and made a point to say it was Indian-inspired and didn't want to pass it off as anything authentically Indian. "Close enough" isn't, especially when it's poorly done, as Stephen's.

                      4. I was really hoping Alex would be going home this week. Based on the edit we saw and just the look of his dish, it seems it could have gone either way. Great week for Tiffany!

                        1. Alex lied again. He said to Tom in the kitchen that he couldn't find beef cheeks, so he was using shanks instead - yet when he was presenting his dish he said he was serving cheeks. How come Tom didn't call him on that at JT also?

                          22 Replies
                          1. re: huiray

                            Thanks. I thought I caught that, too. I was planning on rewatching it tonight to confirm. You've saved me the trouble!

                            1. re: huiray

                              I caught that, too, and was waiting (hoping) for Tom to call him on it. Nothing wrong with veal shanks -- they're just not veal cheeks. Don't like Alex. I know this sounds weird, but there is some animal he resembles and I was trying to figure out what it is. Not a dog. anybody?

                              1. re: chicgail

                                he reminds me of the meerkats on meerkat manor.

                                1. re: jujuthomas

                                  Yes. He looks like some kind of small mongoose.

                                  1. re: chicgail

                                    I believe the word you're looking for is "weasel".

                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                            (Oops - wrong picture for the chef, so I had that post removed.) Let's try that again.

                                            I think it's a toss-up between meerkat and weasel. Although meerkats are cuter.

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              I thought he looked like a wide-eyed Gollum. From Lord of the Rings? When he was still friendly.

                                            2. re: jujuthomas


                                              BWAH!! You owe me a new monitor!! Coca Cola and keyboards dont mix well.

                                          2. re: huiray

                                            I meant to note that in my original post and forgot. He definitely used shanks but said at the buffet table that they were cheeks.

                                            And I agree with chicgail - he looks like a meerkat on Meerkat Manor. Although they're way cuter. :-)

                                            1. re: huiray

                                              They keep him around for the drama and loathing factors. This is TV, not real competition. People keep watching to some extent to wish for him to fail. They could have kept the guy with the awful filthy looking dreads but Alex's loathsomeness won out.

                                              1. re: rccola

                                                previews on bravo site make it look like Alex is going to be thrown to the dogs by his team if they end up on the bottom. He seriously screwed up fish prep, leaving on bones and scales, leaving the butchered pieces unusable. Angelo is his team leader and is enraged. It's funny how Ed Alex Tiffany are all on the same team, with Angelo... it is like most of the season's narration and drama have linked Ed Alex and Tiffany together. Ed and Tiffany are tight. Ed hates Alex with a passion, but somehow Alex is always stuck on Ed.

                                                1. re: rccola

                                                  I've always said the key to winning a reality show is to be psycho drama queen/king for the first half, to stay in, and then turn it around in the end.

                                                  1. re: chowser

                                                    Good point.
                                                    My problem with that scenario is that I wished TC wasn't so heavily weighted towards the reality-show side, especially as it has seemed this season.

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      I'm back! (for the moment!)
                                                      Anyway - not to beat a dead horse here - but TC has ALWAYS added the "drama".................not sure where you have been - but I'll just say "shaved Heads"
                                                      ...Even the much respected first season had it...all the Tiffany hate and Stephen's (was it Stepen??) tears...Then there was steamy smooch sessions etc...
                                                      Whatever it is - it gets us all talking doesnt it??!

                                                      If you notice - most of the comments here are NOT about FOOD!
                                                      It's about personalities.

                                                      I don't mind the drama and behind the scenes goings on because that is what makes the show so interesting.

                                                      And for my own 2 cent - I don't think Alex is that bad and I don't think he stole anyones puree.
                                                      Would he be that stupid when he knows they are being filmed??
                                                      He may had stolen the IDEA...but not the peas....

                                                      (Altho I have to say Linda - your animal pic comparison is Hilarious!

                                                      1. re: NellyNel

                                                        <<Anyway - not to beat a dead horse here - but TC has ALWAYS added the "drama".................not sure where you have been - but I'll just say "shaved Heads">>

                                                        Excuse me, but WHERE did I say that TC did NOT have drama added to it, in this or in any other season? What I said was that I wished [Quote] "TC wasn't so heavily weighted towards the reality-show side" [Unquote]. Read my post again - and yes, I've been watching TC since season 1.

                                                        You may LOVE the dramatainment the magical elves feed you but please don't assume that is what EVERYONE loves in a cooking show.

                                                        1. re: NellyNel

                                                          <<f you notice - most of the comments here are NOT about FOOD!
                                                          It's about personalities.>>

                                                          I think there are LOTS of comments here relating to the food.

                                                2. As much as I'd have liked to see Alex go home, it really seemed like Stephen was out of his element at this point.

                                                  I also caught Alex's shanks vs. cheeks comment to Tom, then him telling the judges he'd cooked beef (veal?) cheeks.

                                                  I'm totally excited for Restaurant wars! it's going to be crazy! :)

                                                  At this point, I'm pulling for Tiffany. Not sure why, it might be that giggle. <g> I was so pleased she won, her tamales looked yummy.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: jujuthomas

                                                    Tiffany's wins really delighted me, too. I started out not liking her. I found her abrasive and dull at first, but she's really grown on me. I think part of it is her relationship with Ed. As their friendship developed, I saw a side of her that wasn't coming through in the interviews. I would have to say she's my sentimental favorite right now.

                                                    If I were to bet money on the outcome, I guess the "money favorite" would have to be Angelo. He doesn't bother me as much as he bothers many, but I'm not really pulling for him, either.

                                                    I think Kenny comes off stronger than his actual ability. Yes, he dominated the mise en place QF in episode 1 and had some close seconds, but I'm beginning to see through his self-promotion. For a while it looked like it was going to be Angelo and Kenny dominating the field, but that hasn't been the case. Again, if I had to bet money on the final four, Kenny would be in there, but it's not looking like the foregone conclusion that it appeared to be earlier in the season.

                                                    If next week weren't Restaurant Wars, I'd predict Alex or Amanda as the next to go. However, Angelo could be in real trouble. We've seen that the team leader is often in a vulnerable position, so it wouldn't shock me if he's sent packing (his knives) next week.

                                                    Stephen seemed over his head from the beginning. As soon as they called him and did not call Amanda, I was almost certain it was his time to leave. I like Ed, and if I had to lock in a final four right now, it would probably be Angelo, Kenny, Ed, and Tiffany, with Kelly as a close fifth. I think the only "lock" at this point (if he can survive RW) is Angelo. The others seem considerably less consistent, and I agree with Amanda (I think) who said that consistency is the key to TC.

                                                    1. re: JayEsBee

                                                      Kenny is insecure. His macho alpha male schtick looks to me like more of an effort to convince his own insecure self than to convince anyone else. No doubt he has skills, but he's not as good as he thinks, and he's obviously overcompensating for his insecurity.

                                                      1. re: TheFoodEater

                                                        Could be. Maybe that's why he insists on always doing duos and trios (and perhaps we'll be seeing quatros) and then overcomplicating each of them in turn. It's clear he has plenty of skill and imagination, but if anyone ever needed a mentor to help him FOCUS it's he.

                                                  2. Alex reminds me of a geeky, creepy guy who used to bother me in high school, so I haven't liked him from day one. And he seems so ill at ease in the kitchen. I was really hoping he would be the one going home, because for all of his missteps, I think Stephen is probably a better chef and manager.

                                                    I couldn't believe Stephen though, making disparaging comments about Brazil, and then making Argentinean food! When I first heard "Brazil," I thought, "Oh yum! Feijoada!"

                                                    From where I sit, it still looks to me like it's anyone's to win. That's amazing this far into the season. Only 8 left, and no real standout.

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: ChefJune

                                                      I agree no standout. Angelo is still always solid upper middle or in top group, but I think judges might be tired of his delicate, asian flavor profile.But I was impressed with his QF, when chef Samuelsson said it tasted authentic Ethiopian.

                                                      The judges have gone tone-deaf to Kenny very busy duos and trios.

                                                      Tiffany is nearly at Angelo level of judge love. She started season 7 always solidly in the middle, never at the bottom, and recently risen to the hottest cheftestant. Opposite arc of Angelo who started white hot, but has recently stabilized somewhat lower, but has also never been at the bottom .

                                                      Everyone else is up and down. For any challenge anyone could be top or bottom group, it wouldn't surprise me. It is good to see everyone remaining is a competent, professional level cook. Anything can happen in RW, it wouldn't surprise me.

                                                    2. Solid episode. It was nice to see Tiffany score a win. Did anyone else catch the moment right before the winner of the QF was announced, Angelo whispered "Tiffany"? He called it on the nose.

                                                      How many duos of lamb is Kenny going to make? Seriously?

                                                      I thought it was interesting to hear the ambassadors, etc. speak about the food. Some of the comments they made were in direct contradiction to the judges' comments, particularly regardinging the authenticity or flavor profile. And how about the Italian guy said something to the effect that Kelly's carpaccio was more Italian than him! Smart move on her part, too, changing up her menu plan to suit the venue. I do think I like her odds of getting to the finals.

                                                      What the heck was Amanda thinking? The beef is dry, so I'll cut it into smaller pieces, so it will dry out some more even FASTER. Huh? I don't think she has great talent.

                                                      Anybody see the extended judges' table clip? Padma makes a cute comment about how she's still suffering the ill effects of the excess garlic from Stephen's chimmichuri, and that Krishna will be suffering the ill effects later? Poor baby, I never thought about that!

                                                      44 Replies
                                                      1. re: lisavf

                                                        I did watch the extended JT and heard Padma say that. Also enjoyed the little ribbing that Colicchio gave Andrés for his pronunciation of judging. ;-)

                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                          Right, what did he say, "yudging"? It was very funny, and Andres thought so, too!

                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            Andres took it well, but I thought it was kind of rude, especially after his condescending "You thought that meat was fine?" I like Tom, but sometimes he comes off as a bit of an intellectual bully. I enjoy it when he's bullying the cheftestants, but not when he's doing it to his fellow judges.

                                                            1. re: JayEsBee

                                                              Good point. I had forgotten the comment about the meat. But Andrés was right - it was medium - not well done.

                                                              Then again, JT lasts for hours, so I don't think Andrés was much bothered by the comments. We're only seeing about 2 minutes of the total time it takes for them to discuss the highs/lows of those in the Bottom group.

                                                          2. re: lisavf

                                                            ooh, i'll have to check that out when i get home!

                                                            1. re: lisavf

                                                              I liked the ambassadors -- I found it sort of endearing hearing the Swedish guy discuss Mexican food, or the Bahamian guy comment on Spanish food (or whatever the combos were).

                                                              I have to say I like Kelly too. Still waters run deep, and all that.

                                                              1. re: lisavf

                                                                Re: the ambassadors' opinions - yes, isn't it curious their praise for some of the dishes (e.g. Angelo's and Ed's) were either ignored by, or unheard by, the judges and were in contrast to their (the judges) pronouncements? Yes the ambassadors are diplomats, but I hardly think they would be effusive in their praise if it were not warranted - they could simply say something innocuous but diplomatic :-) if something was not up to snuff. I can't imagine they would all lie through their teeth on a matter that did not involve the balance of power between their nations and the US.

                                                                Here's a post on the bravotv BB for this episode regarding this: http://boards.bravotv.com/index.php?s...

                                                                It does seem more and more that the the judges' personal preferences and opinions rule the day and their opinions do not necessarily correspond to other opinions (especially non-American opinions on non-"American" food...?) This is not new, and has been pointed out before by various people in one form or another. Salting of food is another contentious issue - personal preferences vary and what Colicchio prefers may not be universally desired. Yes, they are the designated judges for the show, but I would not accept their pronouncements to be the absolute truth for all humankind.

                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                  A few of the diplomats' opinions were about cuisine from their native countries (like the Italian commenting on Kelly's dish), but the majority seemed not to be (the one talking up Angelo's dish was from Sweden, I think). Also, I don't think we heard that the guests would be rating the food. On TC (as opposed to TCM), I don't think anyone's opinion officially counts in the outcome but the judges'.

                                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                    <"(like the Italian commenting on Kelly's dish)">
                                                                    ...or the Chinese commenting on Ed's duck, praising it.

                                                                    I did not say that the guests would be rating the food (like on TCM). I was essentially commenting that it was curious that their opinions were essentially tossed out to us to hear yet was at odds with what the judges decided. In this context, I remember that when Padma introduced the EC to the contestants she said that they would be serving the food to Ambassadors, Diplomats, etc, who would be looking for a 'taste of home', thus creating the impression that what these diners thought would be of interest.

                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                      Well, they always show snippets of what the guests think of the food, and more often than not, it's very complimentary. I think in this episode, the only negative comments I recall were about Stephen's and Amanda's dishes, and they accorded with the judges. Do the guests at these events know cooking or have decent palates? In most cases, who knows. But we're meant to trust that the judges do, and buy their judgments, or at least that's the show's premise.

                                                                      1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                        I don't recall comments from guests on past episodes of TC in various seasons being unduly skewed to the "very complimentary" side. Many times I remember many comments about defects of the foods being presented. As for negative comments in this episode according with the judges' opinions regarding Stephen's and Amanda's food, well then - what about the complimentary comments NOT according with the judges opinions? Is one to nod at the concurrence of the negative comments and ignore the non-concurrence of the other sets?

                                                                        Hmm, I am a little alarmed at what you also seem to suggest - that a native Italian from Italy does not know Italian food, or that a native Chinese from China does not know Chinese food, etc etc, and that Tom Colicchio and company knows Chinese food better than that native Chinese person...and so on?

                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                          I certainly am not suggesting that Tom and company are experts or even extraordinarily knowledgeable in a whole range of national cuisines, nor is that my assumption. The countrymen and -women will no doubt have eaten more of their countries' national cuisines, and in that sense will "know" them better. The point I was making was that in most cases we have little sense of the guests at these EC events - they could have great taste and excellent palates, or they could have not-great palates, be quite happy with mediocre food, etc. In other words, they may just mirror the world at large; we don't know. There are plenty of Americans who find mediocre food delightful, and the same goes for other nationalities.

                                                                          Ed didn't render the fat from his duck. The Chinese diplomat liked the dish anyway. Does that mean it was a great dish and the judges are in error because they found the fat unpleasant? Not necessarily, especially given that, as Tom says in his blog, the point was to do something inspired by the chosen cuisine, not a straight-up rendering.

                                                                          1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                            <<"The point I was making was that in most cases we have little sense of the guests at these EC events - they could have great taste and excellent palates, or they could have not-great palates, be quite happy with mediocre food, etc. In other words, they may just mirror the world at large; we don't know. ">>

                                                                            Fair enough.
                                                                            Nevertheless, I for one would tend towards the expectation that diplomats, particularly higher-level ones posted to Washington DC, would be examples of fairly sophisticated and worldly people from the countries they are natives of, at least those from the more prominent countries. (Even political appointees from such countries I suspect would tend to be socially prominent people who might be expected to have sampled a fair bit of stuff) This by itself is no guarantee of a great palate, true, but I would think that many of them would have dined well in both their own countries and in others - as opposed to "peasants" or simple folk from those countries.

                                                                            (Remember, though, that even peasants in a country would eat food that would be "truer" to their own cuisine. Still, it is correct that the challenge here in this TC episode was to create food "inspired" by those cuisines, so arguments about authenticity or lack thereof are to be qualified. I take this up in my response to chicgail below)

                                                                            <<"There are plenty of Americans who find mediocre food delightful, and the same goes for other nationalities. ">>

                                                                            True enough, although I'm not as sure regarding "all" other nationalities. I'm of Chinese extraction myself and grew up in SE Asia - so I can certainly say that for almost all "ordinary natives" I crossed food paths with back then they would know when food was good and when it was not, and if someone cooked mediocre or bad food it wasn't so much that they preferred it but rather it was because they did not have the money, personal skill, or circumstances or time to do it - but perhaps I may also have simply not met that many native people who were simply unable to appreciate "good food", whatever that may mean, or that my memory is not what it used to be. :-) :-)

                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                              <<"Ed didn't render the fat from his duck. The Chinese diplomat liked the dish anyway. Does that mean it was a great dish and the judges are in error because they found the fat unpleasant? Not necessarily, especially given that, as Tom says in his blog, the point was to do something inspired by the chosen cuisine, not a straight-up rendering.">>

                                                                              After watching the episode again, it was again clear that the Chinese diplomat said that Ed's duck/dish was "very authentic." His words. THAT vignette was shown immediately after Jose Andres declared that the dish did not represent China. Interesting, no? So Jose also knows better than a Chinese diplomat what Chinese food is? I was struck by the difference between that reaction of his and his reaction to Kelly's dish when he said that he had just come back from a trip to Italy and her dish was so reminiscent/accurate etc of the cuisine he just had. (So, he eats in Italy and can compare... what about China? Or the nearest big-city American Chinatown, having a co-diner order in Chinese, maybe?)

                                                                              Then at JT, it was Gail Simmons, actually, who led the charge against Ed for the fat he left on the duck, with Colicchio essentially concurring, while he led the charge against Ed for 'lack of flavor' and 'undersalting'. He also said in his summary that Ed failed to represent the ingredients of his chosen country (and this, in spite of what that Chinese diplomat said). Simmons made a point of saying that Ed should have left the duck alone longer (during smoking or cooking, presumably) to get rid of the fat. I'm a little sad that Ed didn't stand up for his dish more. I am beginning to doubt that the three of them (Andres, Colicchio, Simmons) know that much about or have eaten much Chinese food, and wonder if they have instead fostered some ideas about Chinese flavors upon their Western/American concept of food. That would be fine, if it was made clearer what Ed (and the other contestants) was supposed to achieve for the taste of the judges, and if the situation was not being confused by statements regarding diplomats "looking for a taste of their homeland", food not "representing the country", or food "not representing the ingredients of the country" etc etc.

                                                                              I also commented on the issue earlier, downstream from this post in responses to chicgail and dach.

                                                                              As for Colicchio's constant salt issues, I wonder if the amount of salt he requires in a dish depends on which side of the bed he got out of that day.

                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                But the judges didn't care how authentic a dish was, they cared how it tasted. Kevein's dish wasn't authentic to India, but it tasted great. The issue wasn't how much the judges knew about the food, the issue was how the food tasted, and all of the judges didn't like the way Ed's dish tasted.

                                                                                1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                  ...and this is the inherent problem with ethnic-food based challenges on a show like TC as I tried to explain in various posts. The judges should also stop making leading or ambiguous statements like the ones I referenced above and elsewhere and which would ordinarily be interpreted to mean that they were also looking for at least some authenticity, without also at the same time defining what they meant by 'authenticity' or what they meant by an 'ethnic-based/influenced taste profile'.

                                                                                  When a Chinese diplomat says Ed's dish was "very authentic" without further qualification, I would take it to also mean that it tasted good, like what he expected and would get "back home" - i.e. the taste would also then be correct and good for him. In the same vein, many dishes of various cuisines, (but lets concentrate on Chinese, for the moment) if prepared with some ingredients and/or in a manner highly representative of the area of origin, would be very much to the taste of that ethnic group but could very well be horrible in taste (and texture and whatever else) to an outsider group. This is why at least at one time Chinese chefs/restaurants here in the US would not offer "authentic tasting" dishes to Americans because it would be found unpleasant or inedible by the general American diner ("Oh, you won't like it"). Hence the creation of Chinese-American food.

                                                                                  So in challenges like this one, they should make it clear that they are looking for food that matches the taste preferences of the judging panel alone without confusing the issue by making statements like "...some of them (the diplomats) will be looking for a taste of their homeland" (Lakshmi, when presenting the instructions for the EC) or praising some of them for their authenticity (Andres) or commenting on how dishes do not represent the country of origin or the ingredients of the country of origin (Andres, Colicchio). For that matter, don’t even bring in diners from those countries of origin or make them cook for those diners – just have them cook for the judges alone and no one else.

                                                                                  In this sense, I think Kevin had a distinct advantage because he had no idea what “authenticity” would have been for an “Indian” dish – and it was sufficient that he used general principles of spice-handling and a generalized idea of “Indian food” to make something that even Lakshmi liked, following only his own Western/American taste profile which accorded with that of the judges.

                                                                                  As for Ed's tea-smoked duck, of course I wasn't there to taste it myself but if it didn't have any fat on it I would consider it deficient in taste whatever else may be right or wrong with it. - and that's because my expectation for the taste profile of this dish would include the fat that Colicchio & Co found so distasteful. Additionally, I don’t know what Colicchio meant, really, when he said that he expected stronger and more intense flavor from that duck as he would expect from a “Chinese” dish – was he referencing what he personally expected, or what a Chinese diner expected? Chicgail in an earlier post downstream from this one raised this issue too. Recall also that Ed said he had had Chinese girlfriends and a Chinese instructor in cooking school, on whom he must have bounced this or other dishes, or from whom he had learnt these dishes.

                                                                                  In challenges from past seasons some of the contestants (I'm thinking in particular of Richard Blais) had commented in 'asides' that they didn't give a hoot about the guests at a challenge, they (he) were cooking for the judges alone. This is, indeed, the only thing that matters in the end - but in this very premise arises the issue of WHAT kind of taste profile that Colicchio & Co really represents irrespective of however they may present the rationale for a challenge, particularly in “ethnic-based” challenges.

                                                                                  This last point is, in my view, a contributing factor as to why Kelly keeps getting in trouble with Colicchio & Co for the intensity/saltiness - or lack thereof - of her food. As she herself stated in the "Power Lunch" episode, when she cooked according to her taste "they" found it lacking in taste - so she attempted to correct by seasoning to "their" taste and then overshot because "their" taste is not something that she would naturally or normally do.

                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                    been a while since y'all heard my regular refrain, so here it is again:

                                                                                    all food is ethnic, or ethnic influenced.

                                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                                      Sure. But I think you are side-stepping the issues I am talking about.

                                                                                      In the US you know damn well that "ethnic" mostly means non-Western European.

                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                        not to me it doesnt. i'm pretty sure italian eg is an ethnicity.

                                                                                        perhaps because i'm not descended from northern european protestants, i don't see that as some non ethnic baseline, to judge exoticness as the same as distance from that "norm"

                                                                                    2. re: huiray

                                                                                      <In this sense, I think Kevin had a distinct advantage because he had no idea what “authenticity” would have been for an “Indian” dish – and it was sufficient that he used general principles of spice-handling and a generalized idea of “Indian food” to make something that even Lakshmi liked, following only his own Western/American taste profile which accorded with that of the judges.>

                                                                                      Kevin didn't say he had never EATEN Indian food, only that he hadn't cooked it. And he knew enough to prepare a proper garam masala. so I don't think it had no "Indian" flavor, even though he used the masala to flavor a western dish. (He isn't the first to do that, either, fwiw).

                                                                                      1. re: ChefJune

                                                                                        There is merit in what you say, point accepted.

                                                                                        There's a comment from an early poster on Colicchio's blog on bravotv for this episode (submitted by Hot and bothered on August 5, 2010), excerpts of which I post below. One need not agree with everything in it for it to be interesting.

                                                                                        "Geez, could you can it with the wishy-washiness? I didn't realize you could represent a country with food, by NOT cooking the cuisine of that country. Why do some contestants (i.e. the good chefs) get criticized for being unadventurous and pedestrian in their decisions when they go traditional, but others (the bad to mediocre) can win by being totally uninspired or offensively dismissive of an entire country's cuisine..."
                                                                                        "As for Kevin, oh geez, way to reduce Indian food to the ingredients. and nothing more. Merely cooking with spices and ingredients used in Indian food does not mean you have created Indian flavors."
                                                                                        "You can't put your spin on something you know nothing about. I spilled paint the other day, but I'm not calling it my spin on a Jackson Pollock, nor would I expect anyone else who should know better to think so."

                                                                                        There's quite a bit more.

                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                          good point
                                                                                          pf chang does not represent china

                                                                                          1. re: celfie


                                                                                            Remember also when Kevin glowered at the end of the QF in the "Power Lunch" episode and in his 'voice-over' panned Angelo's winning dish - cucumber cup with spiced shrimp - as Chinese food ?

                                                                                            Oh? I suppose, then, that all that food I've been eating throughout my life that I thought was Chinese food must have been Eskimo food or something like that instead. Who knew!

                                                                                      2. re: huiray

                                                                                        Adding my two cents, as a Chinese person living in Toronto (Toronto being one of the top places in North America with Chinese cuisine almost comparable to Hong Kong and China), I can attest to the fact that the way Ed prepared the duck is a common way poultry is traditionally served.

                                                                                        While there are some poultry dishes with fat rendered and crispy skin - notably Peking duck, a large number of Chinese chicken/duck/goose/squab/quail dishes are served with what a Western palate would call "rubbery skin". It's the proper way to serve these dishes.

                                                                                        I can't really blame Tom and the gang for not knowing this. Unless they have travelled to Hong Kong, China or Toronto, they've probably only tried the Chinese food in the US. I've tried Chinese food in the US, if only to gauge it's quality, and found it sadly very far from the original. I don't mean PF Changs either. I've checked out what purports to be "authentic" Chinese food only to be sadly disappointed.

                                                                                        1. re: chefhound


                                                                                          Now if, as I have said above and in other posts, Colicchio & Co had said clearly that the contestants were to make Americanized versions of those cuisines where they did their own food and invent something with some kind of thing that seemed like it might have vaguely come from that country if you squinted with one eye, but with a taste profile that exactly matched that of the judges, and didn't make those 'leading statements' I referred to above - that would have been a more valid challenge.

                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                            I think you are reading way more into what you call "leading statements" than is intended, or probably what the contestants assume. Yes, Padma said the guests would expect to be given a taste of home, but the contestants know it's down to the judges, and whatever the judges' merits or demerits, it's their ideas that must be catered to. By the eighth EC, they know this through and through unless they're in denial. Also, I have to believe the contestants may given a bit more detail about the parameters, constraints, and expectations of the challenges than editing lets us see, just based on what I've read. In short, I think you're probably putting undue emphasis on what was essentially a sound bite.

                                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                              Are you aware that you have admitted that Top Chef is a charade?

                                                                                              I don't think I am reading too much into those statements. They chose to present those statements to us. Those statements reveal intent (Lakshmi's instructions) and judgement (Andres, Colicchio; also Simmons). They chose not to present any other ameliorating statements, if any, such as you wish for. You can't have it both ways and still retain pretensions to high-mindedness and fair play. If you said there was this large group of diners expecting a taste of home that you were serving food to, as a chef, but then judge them in the end on specific notions of taste that did not match those diner's expectations, you are setting up an inherently unfair scenario and are creating a Catch-22 situation. If you insist the statements were just 'sound bites' I refer you to the first sentence in this post.

                                                                                              If I had any self-respect as a "chef" I would be be hard-pressed to disregard what most of my diners would be expecting but instead to just satisfy the whims of only four people whose taste did not correspond with those of the other diners.

                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                "Are you aware that you have admitted that Top Chef is a charade?"

                                                                                                Top Chef is what it is, which is a game show. Winning it is about advancing to the finale and winning it, and this is always about what the judges think of the contestants' cooking and nothing more, unless we're explicitly told that another criterion (such as guests' ratings) figure in. If the contestants think otherwise, they know less about the show than the regular audience does. What we, the audience, see id a bare fraction of what goes on in the course of the show's production, something I know you know. In her blog posts on bravotv.com when she was in charge of the kitchen, LeeAnne from time to time mentioned the specific instructions the contestants were given (rules spelled out on paper, etc.). They don't, and can't, include everything in 44 minutes. What Padma does on camera is introduce the EC challenge to the chefs and to us, yes, in camera-ready sound bites. I don't believe that's all they hear, but even if it were, the reality is that it is the four judges who make the judgments that count regarding who is eliminated. Note that I'm not commenting on or excusing the prejudices of the judges, I'm talking about how this reality show works.

                                                                                                "If I had any self-respect as a "chef" I would be be hard-pressed to disregard what most of my diners would be expecting but instead to just satisfy the whims of only four people whose taste did not correspond with those of the other diners."

                                                                                                See above. There have been plenty of instances where we're shown footage of a contestants talking about how much the guests loved their food, only to have them land in the bottom. Of course they want great feedback from the guests, and it makes them feel good/confident, but it's not what determines the outcome of the show.

                                                                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                  I rest my case.

                                                                                                  They should stop calling this show 'Top Chef' and instead call it something like 'Who Wants To Cook For Tom Colicchio & Friends'.

                                                                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                                                                    You have a pretty weak case to be resting it so soon. You think that the contestants shouldn't be cooking for the judges? Who exactly do you think should be judging them? There are no qualifications asked for from the guests that come to eat the food -- I know plenty of people who would rave about bad food to be on camera, or don't even know what good food would be. You think that they're better qualified than the judges?

                                                                                                    1. re: JasmineG

                                                                                                      Not at all.

                                                                                                      Certainly I think the contestants should be cooking for the judges. However, it seems pretty clear to me that Colicchio & Co are not good judges for ethnic-food based contests, particularly Asian cuisine. They are more suited for judging American or European cuisine. That was the point of all of the discussion by me and others. It is regretful that you could not see this.

                                                                                                      As for the show being an entertainment show, I refer you again to the second sentence in my post that you sneer at. Fare thee well.

                                                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                                                        tom colicchio knows ethnic food. he's italian

                                                                                                        padma knows ethnic food she's from india


                                                                                                        1. re: thew

                                                                                                          I don't think 'Italian' is really considered "ethnic" anymore in America nowadays.

                                                                                                          Tom Colicchio is an American of Italian extraction. Born in Elizabeth, NJ.
                                                                                                          He trained himself using Jacque Pepin's books = French cuisine.
                                                                                                          His culinary career has been with American food, not Italian.

                                                                                                          He considers minestrone to be something that must have pasta in it - Italian cookbooks and authorities do not think so.

                                                                                                          1. re: huiray

                                                                                                            then the word ethnic has no real meaning anymore. unless you mean not white people.

                                                                                                            1. re: thew

                                                                                                              Thew, even if I don't write each time you enter this discussion, just know I would have your back. 'Ethnic' and 'Authentic' are two words stretched to the point of meaninglessness and deployed in ways that are suspect at best. Thanks for fighting the good fight.

                                                                                2. re: huiray

                                                                                  I was surprised by a comment -- that I thought was from one of the judges (Tom?) -- that the Chinese food didn't have the strong flavors characteristic of Chinese food.

                                                                                  Chinese food in China has a totally different flavor profile than Chinese food in the U.S. Much (maybe most) food served in China is significantly more subtle in flavor than what we call Chinese food here. What we think of as Chinese food was actually first created here.

                                                                                  Many Americans find the food served in China to be surprisingly tasteless compared to what they have come to expect from having eating what is called "Chinese food" in the States.

                                                                                  1. re: chicgail

                                                                                    What you say is a facet of what I was getting at above. Tom & Co and many Americans are more accustomed to some variation of an "American palate", however high-class it may be. Chinese-American food is a separate category in itself, distinct from true Chinese food, and much ink has been spilled everywhere on the subject (including on Chowhound, extensively). I am not saying that Tom & Co expected stereotypical C-A food, or Italian-American food, etc etc, but I somewhat think their palates - fine as they are - would be influenced by both their own personal preferences as well as the general nature of the society (American) around them. That goes for Eric Ripert too, I would speculate. It goes for myself, too, I would agree.

                                                                                    Nevetheless, it is true that TC is a show designed for American/US audiences by-and-large, so the food (and pronouncements like "minestrone always has pasta in it" - NOT) is directed towards American tastes, in the broad sense. It always seemed to me that this always set up a tension in "ethnic food" challenges... (See above)

                                                                                    (In a sense, there is little here in the US that would be truly "authentic", all being influenced to some degree by the very fact that these cuisines are operating over here - but this is getting further and further from the original topic. Much ink has also been spilled on THIS subject. "Authenticity", as well as "Authenticity" vs "Inspired by" or "Influenced by" are also large, sprawling subjects of discussion by themselves.)

                                                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                                                      Besides, there really isn't such a thing as "Chinese" food. Rather, there is Cantonese cuisine, Szechuan cuisine, Hainan cuisine, Shanghai cuisine, Peking cuisine, etc etc; with more local variations within each group.

                                                                                      What version of "smoked duck" was Tom & Co. looking for? ("American"?) :-)

                                                                                    2. re: chicgail

                                                                                      You raise a really valid point about how cuisine gets transformed due to global migration and the role of the local.

                                                                                      I always find it fascinating the way in how Diaspora cuisines differ from each other and from the "homeland." Thus, as you point above, Chinese food in the US differs from back in China, but might differ completely from Chinese food in Peru, the UK, or Australia. Of course, a great deal has to do with access to certain products, climate, and other local conditions.

                                                                                      One really interesting thing is how certain dishes or what is considered "Italian," "Chinese," "Portuguese," or any other nationality in the Diaspora can often be outdated or non-existent in the "homeland." Of course, traditions in the Diaspora are often kept alive to maintain some sort of connection. Thus time and space (regionality too) can often play a part. Thus, what is often known as "Italian" food in the States, can be traced back to the Southern and Sicilian immigrants who predominantly came in the early 20th century. Nonetheless, in Brazil and Argentina, many of the Italian immigrants came from the North and Central provinces, thus culinary traditions were different and also fused with local ingredients.

                                                                                      I will never forget an episode of the Sopranos, when Paulie asks the waiter in Naples for a "plate of macaroni with gravy." You can imagine the response of his dining companions and the waiter...

                                                                              2. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                I just rewatched this episode - it was a diplomat from the Austrian Embassy who commented on Angelo's sashimi dish. He said that it was very good, just like what you would get in a restaurant in Japan. He is not Japanese, but one would think that in his diplomatic travels and/or assignments he would have eaten in Japanese restaurants (and presumably good ones, at that) and was speaking from personal experience. Interesting the judges didn't seem to think much of the dish.

                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                  I think Andres liked Angelo's dish. But Tom said he wanted to more raw tuna flavor. Made me think it was no win situation for Angelo because at first I was confused as to how Angelo could have satisfied Tom and still done something more than just cut and serve raw fish. I suppose Chef Tom wanted the sauce on the side, as a dipping sauce.

                                                                                  1. re: dach

                                                                                    Perhaps Tom just felt the ingredients were out of balance. I occasionally make tuna tartare, and it's easy to overdo it.

                                                                          2. Here is this week's Gawker recap: http://gawker.com/5605316/top-chef-th...

                                                                            I could have done without having to witness the toilet humor, just solidifies my opinion that both Angelo and Alex are tools.

                                                                            Taking all of the diplomats' comments with a grain of salt, after all, diplomats are supposed to be masters of diplomacy, so what they say may be totally at odds with what they really think.

                                                                            Anyone else catch Ed in the scene where they were packing up after cooking for the elimination challenge when he said words to the effect, "write my name on my stuff, all over it"? Seems the way they are editing things, with various cheftestants asides that Alex doesn't have a clue what he is doing, that Alex has a big scarlet letter across his forehead.

                                                                            4 Replies
                                                                            1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                                              I think the toilet incident is the result of the fact that when they aren't in the kitchen, they have nothing to do and almost no contact with the "outside world." No TV, no internet, no phones except monitored contact with family, etc., plus they're under a lot of pressure and confined in close contact with people they're in direct competition with. It's not surprising that in their attempts to entertain themselves and blow off steam they occasionally descend to rather juvenile practical jokes. At least they didn't wrestle anyone to the ground and try to shave his head.

                                                                                1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                                                  I realize that the 'mean girls' bullying attitude is what Gawker tries to pass as biting wit, but that guy really has an unfounded hate for Amanda. She's never come across as anything less than intelligent to me on the show thus far, and has for the most part kept herself removed from the drama. Cutting up the beef to disguise any toughness that might have resulted from it being overcooked was a smart move, and probably saved her from a spot in front of the firing squad.

                                                                                  I do agree with Gawker-man about Alex though, he is becoming increasingly creepy, regardless of anyone's personal opinion of his role in pea-gate.

                                                                                  I feel a bit bad about Stephen, he got stuck with a tough cuisine. If I had been in any of the cheftestant's shoes, I could have whipped up something passable in any of the cuisines on the board except for Brazil. There isn't a huge Brazilian culinary presence in most of the US, and aside from the odd churrascaria here and there, I doubt most people have been exposed to the food. Aside from Feijoada I don't think I could give the name of another Brazilian dish. Then again, he's a chef, I'm not, so I suppose he should have known. He's been fairly week up to this point anyway, so no great loss.

                                                                                  1. re: ChinoWayne

                                                                                    that recap totally made my morning!

                                                                                  2. Something Stephen said in his wrap-up interview (that a thousand people may have wanted his spot, but he made it onto TC) made me wonder about how casting was accomplished this season vs. last season. Was it back to largely being audition-driven, say, whereas we found out through interviews that the top four last season didn't start out with the idea of competing, they were recruited because they were such promising candidates for creating a high-talent cast.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                      I think it's a combination of recruitment, recommendations from high-level chefs if asked for such, as Tom has said he's done in the past, and auditions.

                                                                                    2. Very surprised Amanda wasn't in the bottom since even one of the guests commented that the beef was dry.

                                                                                      This line from Gawker cracked me up: "Alex chose Spain because he is a creep with a ridiculous and obviously compensatory big spoon he carries about." I was wondering what that giant spoon was doing in his pocket at judge's table.

                                                                                      Some funny stuff at Eater too (Abai and Costello) and good comments (like the QF challenge being someone "elitist" since Ethiopian cuisine is one of the least common):

                                                                                      My question is why did this episode get all that money thrown around? $10K for Tiffany and $10K for a guest judge's charity. What about the other judges?

                                                                                      5 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: Joanie

                                                                                        I don't know why they tied in the Tiffany's win to Jose's charity. It seems that no matter who won, Jose's charity would benefit so why not just say it was a donation, not give credit to Tiffany's win?

                                                                                        We were laughing about the spoon, too. What was that about? His tasting spoon? Does he pull it out when he needs it and put it back there?

                                                                                        1. re: Joanie

                                                                                          The way I saw Amanda sauce tasted good, even if the beef was dry, so overall it wasn't as bad as Ed's duck being plain wrong, technically, according to Tom, and the dish didn't taste as good. I thought I read or heard somewhere the tea flavor was too strong. Flavor is always the #1 judging criteria.

                                                                                          1. re: dach

                                                                                            There's a comment from NAC on 08/06/2010 at 12:37am on Colicchio's blog for this episode (http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/blogs...) - perhaps folks might be interested in reading it.

                                                                                            An excerpt:

                                                                                            "Regarding this week's challenge and Ed's tea smoked duck. ...<snip>... We also saw a quick take by the Chinese representative stating that it was a authentic dish. Unfortunately, this time Chef it seems the judges spoke from the bias of your pallet rather than knowledge of the cuisine.

                                                                                            I actually live in China and have been for the past decade. As you can imagine, I have eaten A LOT of chinese cuisine all over the country. ...
                                                                                            But let's get back to the duck and the fat. Despite there being so many distinct types of Chinese food the preparation of duck is strikingly similar throughout the country. In nearly every cuisine type, no mater which region you are in, Chinese chefs will ALWAYS leave the fat on. Always. ...
                                                                                            ...Ed's dish was correct and VERY authentic. Had he followed the preference of the judge's pallet to render more of the fat out it would have been actually less authentic. ...
                                                                                            ...However, felt compelled to point out this error in judgement on the fat alone."

                                                                                            I also made some comments upstream... :-)

                                                                                            1. re: dach

                                                                                              Here's one (amongst many) links to a version of tea-smoked duck, on noodles: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-sty... The duck looks pretty good to me.

                                                                                              Here's another one... http://takeitlikeit.blogspot.com/2009... That duck looks pretty good too.

                                                                                              Lots more out there, most of which do not have a really crispy skin and all have substantial fat present. I myself would expect there to be fat present, duck done in a chinese style always has fat present. Yes, some gets rendered during cooking but there should always be some left. As I wondered upstream, maybe Tom & Co. are really expecting american-style duck breast, "healthily prepared" in the American style, with zero or almost zero fat.

                                                                                              Recall also that Padma's instructions to the contestants included the statement that the Ambassadors and Diplomats who would be present would be looking for a "taste of home".

                                                                                              1. re: dach

                                                                                                Any time I've ordered tea smoked duck from a US Chinese restaurant there has been fat present, but it has been served on top of roasted or stir fried vegetables (usually carrots, onion, and some other root veggies) and served with the Mu-shu style thin pancakes and plum sauce, to be eaten almost fajita style.

                                                                                                I have no idea how authentic that presentation is, but it's always delicious, fat and all (and unlike the Peking Duck, it doesn't require 24 hours notice, so I can order it when I get the craving, and not have to try to anticipate).

                                                                                            2. How could the judges have confused CHEEKS with SHANKS?

                                                                                              They were served SHANKS, that Mr. Meerkat claimed were CHEEKS ... yet they did not notice?

                                                                                              1. Kenny and his self proclaimed "alpha male" attitude is a complete joke. And I'm thoroughly unimpressed with his performance, after the first episode. Quite full of himself with nothing to back it up.. His act is played out already.

                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: duckdown

                                                                                                  he's been on the bottom once
                                                                                                  he's doing pretty good
                                                                                                  he just needs to polish up his dishes and put out the sort of clean flavours the judges seem to be looking for this time around
                                                                                                  i'd certainly eat his food. most of his dishes are beautiful
                                                                                                  i think he has every right to be confident

                                                                                                  1. re: celfie


                                                                                                    Actually, this chart shows him in the bottom three times, with only 1 EC win.

                                                                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                                      well i still like him
                                                                                                      i know people admire modesty, but i admire confidence and i think he will pull through to the end.
                                                                                                      i think the final 3 will be kelly, angelo and kenny
                                                                                                      i think that while the others have made some decent food, those 3 are on a higher level, well beyond the likes of tiffany. maybe kevin will make it to the end, who knows, but kenny is good. his presentations are very playful. i would love to eat his food.

                                                                                                      by the way, i made his winning hot and sour eggplant and it was AMAZING

                                                                                                      1. re: celfie

                                                                                                        While yes, it is confidence, it's also the chest-thumping "I'm better than anyone else" ridiculing bravado that I dislike. As well as the immediate dismissal of anyone who wins when he thought *he* should win.

                                                                                                        Quiet Confidence = Richard Blais, Stephanie Izard, Harold Diertele

                                                                                                        Gorilla Chest-Pounding Bravado = Kenny, Angelo, Stefan Richter, and in some respects, Ilan Hall, Marcel Vigneron and Hung Huynh - although Hung and Ilan won their seasons (I still think Hung and Marcel are both better than Ilan)

                                                                                                        1. re: celfie

                                                                                                          that's right. his winning eggplant seemed very good. I need to look it up. He is a beast in the kitchens -- with all his duos and trios and 30+ ingredients, so he's not false bravado. But I think the judges want to see less beasting and more delicate touch. I hope he can figure out how to satisfy the judges who are wanting something simpler from him.

                                                                                                          1. re: dach

                                                                                                            i've re-eximanined photos his dishes and there certainly is a finess in his presentation. however, the judges have a history of disliking over-complicated food, prefering clean flavours and simple but elegant presentations. Unfortunately, I don't think he's caught on to that yet. His eggplant dish was just that and I think it is telling that he won with a side and not with his mains. i hope he realizes that less is more in this competition because i really like his personality. in the confessionals he is cocky but in the kitchen, in service and at the judge's table, he is calm and collected and pretty quiet. he rarely gets camera time apart from confessionals and i think that is because he's got it together and he is just trying to get the job done. when they sit and stir before going before the judge's, he is rarely running his mouth like some of the others. he is definitely the sort who'd rather his food do the talking than him.

                                                                                                  2. Kelly's care package had Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon not Jack Daniels.