We Love DC Does Top Chef DC: Episode 11

Photo from Bravo TV

Sure it’s a tad late for a recap of last week’s Top Chef DC, but this feature-length article also includes some interesting tidbits from Karen Lange, one of the lucky tasters that was at Nationals Park during taping.

The Never Ending Cycle of Craziness Amongst Cheftestants

We knew Angelo would be a headcase from day one but at the beginning of the episode Amanda reveals more details about Angelo’s strange quirks: daily affirmations, talking to himself, and  creating altars of his idols that he prays to:

“When I was young, I used to cut out pictures of all the famous four-star chefs. I’d light candles, and every single day I’d like kneel and go pray before them.”

Angelo you have taken the weird on the show to a whole new level: matras while you cook, daily affirmations, maybe you should stop giving advice to the other contestants and try helping yourself.

It almost makes you wish Alex was still on the show.

But it appears that coloring contestants as crazy is the norm for Top Chef. Between Amanda and Kevin thinking that Angelo is weird, to Ed choosing a new target to criticize in Amanda, to Kelly thinking she’s the only chef that isn’t sloppy and frantic the chefs are taking continuous pot shots at each other.

It’s a cycle of crazy that doesn’t end:

In the end however it’s all bland banter that fails to wake me up as I quickly fall asleep on the season. Can we get to something awesome already?

I Ask For Less Hokey And I Get A Whole Lot More Hokey

Photo from Bravo TV

After not being inspired by the hokey presentation of the CIA challenge things don’t get better as Padma opens up the Quickfire with poorly delivered cliches like, “flash in the pan,” and “bring home the bacon.”

For a minute I thought that perhaps the producers let the interns do the writing- a very DC thing if that was the case.

But alas it was another contrived intro for the day’s Quickfire challenge: create a dish from a food idiom. The chefs were presented with a table of ingredients. Everything from, “Spill the beans” to “Hide the Salami.”

Of course nobody picked that last one. I give credit to Bravo for trying to bring a little edge by including it.

Rick Moonen was on hand as the day’s guest judge as the chefs battled it out. The winner gets their dish added to the menu of items over at Schwan’s Food Delivery.

Kevin ends up among the top with his bacon three ways, which featured the strategies of doing something, “three ways” and taking advantage of the fact everybody loves bacon.

Perhaps Kenny would still be in the running if he made more bacon three-ways.

In the end however Ed takes home the prize with his garlic gnocchi.

Angelo vents his frustration by saying Ed’s head is perfect for a food package because it looks like a potato. Perhaps it is:

Top Chef Goes Out To The Ballgame

The elimination challenge is to cook and serve fare at concession stand at Nationals Park. The chefs have to work together as a team to run the stand and dole out the food to hungry patrons.

Kelly decides to take charge as the chefs huddle up and Amanda doesn’t like it when Kelly tells her to change her dish idea. Amanda decides she’ll do a Tuna Tartare and goes to Angelo for advice.

Photo from Bravo TV

Bad idea Amanda- don’t you know anything Angelo touches eventually gets eliminated?

Angelo needs to step up his game, and says he’ll be the frontman and take the orders. Looks like those leadership skills from reading Tony Robbins is working wonders.

At the park however Angelo has second thoughts- he realizes he can’t take orders and cook his dish at the same time! He tries to p’own the job off to the rest of the chef and gets into a fight with Kevin that really isn’t much of a fight.

Ballpark patrons walk up and the service begins. Tom eventually shows up with Nationals players Adam Dunn and John Lannan. Matt Capps was also in attendance but has since been shipped to Minnesota since the taping. The players offer their opinions of the dishes and also display the maturity you’d expect from an athlete.

Amanda’s Tuna Tartare isn’t holding up well- the dish is starting to turn gray since it was made the day before, something that doesn’t get past Moonen and judge Eric Ripert.

In the end Ed goes 2 for 2 with his Shrimp and Corn Risotto Fritters and wins the challenge- and a trip to Australia.

Gray tuna is the downfall for Amanda and she’s sent packing.

Behind The Scenes With Karen Lange

Local actress Karen Lange shares with us her experience at Nationals Park during the episode. Here’s what she had to say about the challenge:

I’ve been a fan of the show since the first season, so I was really excited when I heard it was coming to DC. The day after last year’s finale, I went to Volt for lunch. I was a dork when I saw him, pointing, mouth agape. He’s cute, what can I say? I still wish he had won.

I got to go to the Nationals Park through a friend, who got the invitation through a producer friend who he met in law school. (I think half of the deals in DC somehow lead back to law school friends.) We were instructed to wear red or blue.

We got to the ballpark, got in & handed in our paperwork. They corralled us in one of the lounges that season ticket holders hang out in for free food, etc. It was a long while before anyone came to talk to us.

Eventually, we were herded into one of the stadium concession areas. We still had to wait a while before they let us go up to the stand. We were able to watch the chefs hustling, which was fun.  I could tell they were really sweating it.

On to the food!

Amanda: Honestly, I enjoyed everything but the horrifying tuna tartare. Slimy, gray lumps of grossness. I don’t usually like tuna tartare to begin with, and this certainly didn’t change my mind. One of my friends made me taste it so I’d “taste the losing dish.” I’m glad she was right. I was starting to feel enraged when the judges didn’t critique it more harshly. The main thing I think they missed was the total absurdity of a raw fish dish at a baseball game. Who wants to eat tartare outside in 95 degree heat? It’s a recipe for food poisoning. And who wants cold fish with beer and funnel cake? It’s just a weird idea. I don’t know why Colicchio lauded the idea of something “light.” The idea & execution were gross.

Kelly: I enjoyed the crabcake blt, but agree with the reaction everyone had about it being called a “BLT.” Perhaps the tomato jam was used because it was a bit early for in-season tomatoes, perhaps she just thought it was fun. I was sad not to have a little slice of tomato on there. The sweet potato fries didn’t hold up very well after a few minutes. They were good when hot but not when they cooled down a little.

Kevin: Despite Eric Ripert’s dismay about the big stick not fitting in his mouth, I enjoyed the chicken. It was the least exciting (edible) thing there, but the meat was good. The fries ended up like those “potato stix” canned junk food, so I avoided them. It would have been ridiculous to get the whole thing in your mouth at once, so Kevin was clearly crazy when he thought of that. I also did not note a difference in taste between the romesco sauce and the aioli. They tasted like the same sauce had been dyed two different colors. As for the stick, I have this advice for Msr. Ripert: hold the stick sideways, bite & slide it off.

Angelo: I actually quite liked the pork. It didn’t seem overly sweet to me, and the pickles were really crisp and tasty. The bun was a disappointment. I can’t imagine why a sandwich shop owner would ever mess up bread that way. Even a Kobe steak would be degraded a little bit if served on an ordinary, spongy potato roll. He likes Vietnamese flavors, so why didn’t he use a baguette, like Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches? His major error was something he really should have known better. The poor bread choice, coupled with the knowledge that he listens to Tony Robbins and has what appears to be a Russian mail-order bride, has made me a bit wary about him again. I started to like him after the last few episodes. He’s in weirdsville again.

I did think Angelo got a bad rap for the expediting. He did a really good job taking orders. He was pleasant, joked around with people, and generally didn’t seem like a jerk, which is what I thought at the BBQ. That line moved really quickly, especially since there were so many of us. He may have tried to back out before the meal was served, but once he was stuck with it, he did a good job. It wasn’t like any of the others were jumping out to be helpful.

Ed: The fritters were yummy. Some people didn’t like them, but I could never guess why. There is a lot to be said for a deep fried item that is done well. The fritters weren’t greasy, they were hot all the way through, and they were interesting. I liked the sauce on the side, as well. A deserved win. If they included something like this at Nationals Stadium, they’d be a huge hit. They’d just have to be served in a popcorn cup with about 10 pieces per order. I think stadiums have bylaws that require each snack to have at least 1,000 calories.

Tiffany: Meatballs! This was really good – oh, and it was a sandwich that used decent bread (did you hear that, Angelo?). The bread wasn’t amazing or anything, it just didn’t detract from the dish. It was just really flavorful, from the peppers to the cheese to the finger-licking sauce. Yay, Tiffany, for giving the sports fans what they want. The two meatball serving was actually perfectly adequate, though I got seconds just because it was so darn good. Tiffany is also really personable and pleasant – exactly as she is on the show. It looked like she was having fun back there, yelling “one MEATball!”

Fun Facts From Amanda About The Filming

  • The judges sat in some seats just below the concession stand. What the cameras didn’t show was the big crowd of people leaning over the ledge above them, trying to listen to their critique.
  • We started getting excited when they began handing out Nats ball caps and t-shirts. However, they were only available to people who did not wear the requisite red or blue. That’s the last time I follow the rules. There are no free caps for obedient people.
  • I think it’s funny that they made it look like we were at an actual baseball event. The stadium was empty other than us. The magic of editing works wonders. We did see the three players who tried the food & heard one recommend the meatball sandwich.

Patrick has been blogging since before it was called blogging. At We Love DC Patrick covers local Theatre, and whatever catches his eye. Patrick’s blog stories, rants, and opinions have been featured in The Washington City Paper, Washington Post Express, CNN, Newschannel 8 Washington, and NBC Washington. See why Patrick loves DC.

You can e-mail him at ppho [at] welovedc.com

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