Welcome back to the world of “Top Chef” — that strange and mythical place where bacon turns into foam and 300 Washington yuppies can be conjured up with the snap of fingers.
A lot has happened since we bid our goodbyes to the last TC crew in December:
And so it begins.
We meet our new crew of bacon-foaming aspirants on a Washington rooftop. (The National Gallery of Art, I think, but don’t hold me to this.) There is a lovely buffet table set up with raw ingredients. We meet our 17 newbies, too numerous to even bother catching all their names. A few standouts:
So, with D.C. monuments in the background, T.C.’s elected officials — Tom and Padma — made a grand entrance and immediately start them on the:
QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE: Mise en place
Our happy 17 must show their skills at mise en place, or getting all their choppables chopped. Peel 10 potatoes, brunoise (fine dice) 10 cups of onions and cut up four chickens. Then, make some sort of potato, chicken, onion business. Winner gets 20 grand. Go!
Kenny proves himself to be a machine. With his hands flying like Michelangelo to marble, he piles perfectly peeled potatoes by his station, and then he’s on to onions. O my God! He’s going to lose a finger if he chops this fast, but no. And then the chickens, which he can will into their constituent pieces with merely a look in his eyes.
Angelo, who comes in second, is not happy at all. He is the mise en place champ, not this cretin to claims to have eaten at Louis XV. If it’s any consolation, Angelo makes the chicken-onion-potato business that the judges deem yummiest of all.
Time’s a wastin’, so Tom announces the:
ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: Make a dish that represents where you come from
There will be an event. In some grand Washington space with pillars. And hundreds of yuppies will descend on your nibbles like vultures. You know the drill. Whole Foods!
Soon we’re careening through a new Whole Foods Market, and so and so — that jackal — buys up all the fish. And, ooh, this maple syrup looks good. I come from maple country. And — action shot! — a flustered cheftestant pushes his cart too quickly through an aisle and bumps into a display of organic quinoa crisps.
The chefs decamp to TC kitchen and do their thing. Jacqueline is not at all happy with the way her low-fat Upstate New York chicken liver mousse is coming out. Tracey makes shrimp and grits. John thoughtfully pours three bottles of maple syrup onto his head and says, “Wow, this feels like I’m back in Michigan.”
They go to the big, fancy hall — Jacqueline toting her bucket of grainy offal sludge and vowing to pull it off.
No one is ready, yet here they come: the army of mean yuppies. Also Tom, Padma, Gail Simmons and new judge Eric Ripert, the Le Berdardin chef. May we have some of your little plates of whozis-whatzis?
So, as expected, Jacqueline’s liver paste is vile. Tracey’s shrimp with maple-cheddar grits is meh. John’s maple mousse hair extensions are soggy and weird. Angelo hits it out of the park with his arctic char with pickled shallots, chilled tapioca, dill and bacon froth.
Angelo wins the two-fer. John gets sent packing. Tom tells him, “I think you’re a much better chef than what you showed us here today.”
I was very sorry to see John go. He might have made the show interesting.