I’m still not that into this season of Top Chef, but Episode 4 threw a few unexpected twists into the mix that may just keep me watching for another week.
For their quickfire challenge, contestants were asked to make baby food (yes, the pureed stuff) with an accompanying adult meal to be judged by Padma and Tom, both of whom have infants at home. I had no idea how this was going to work, as I think almost exclusively of pears and carrots when anyone says “baby food.” But the chefs came up with some surprisingly sophisticated dishes that worked in puree form. I thought Kelly’s pork loin with glazed peaches was a sure hit, but the judges picked Tamesha (salmon with vegetable chowder) and Kenny (curried chicken, mango salad and butternut squash confit) as their favorites.
The elimination challenge also was a bit different than usual. Since the Top Chef kitchen is at the Hilton Washington, it stands to reason that the hotel will play some role. The chefs were asked to come up with a breakfast, lunch and dinner dish to serve as a signature item on the Hilton’s revamped menu. The twist, though, was that contestants were paired and cooked in three rounds. Each pair cooked breakfast for the judges (which included past contestants Mike Isabella of Zaytinya, Brian Voltaggio of Volt and Spike of Good Stuff Eatery), who then chose two teams to be safe. Everyone else moved on to the next round to cook lunch. At the end, the three teams left standing were up for the win and for elimination.
Shockingly, the Stephan/Amanda and Tiffany/Timothy teams survived the first round. Tiffany and Timothy made an amazing crab cake benedict with asparagus that certainly would have been my pick as well. Given that these guys are the underdogs, that was an impressive feat. Angelo/Tamesha and Ed/Alex survived the lunch service. Some of the biggest competition was left in the last round, which surprised them and probably viewers too. Anyway, for the dinner course, Arnold and Lynne made a pasta dish with mussels, while Kenny/Kevin and Kelly/Andrea made short rib. Despite some issues with their polenta, Kelly and Andrea came out on top, probably because their glaze was better. The judges couldn’t get over undercooked pasta and sent Lynne and Arnold home.
Overall, I liked this episode because it threw in a few twists and new ways of handling challenges. I’m still not really invested in any particular contestant, and I don’t think any are particularly talented in a the way the Voltaggio brothers were last season. Two other things stand out about these contestants. First, there is A LOT of drama between them–where last season’s chefs really stepped up to help each other, this season is full of petty arguments and fierce competition. Also, I feel like everyone is just coasting in the middle and it’s difficult to distinguish who really belongs at the top and who should be at the bottom.
Anyway, we’ll continue to follow the show, if only because it takes place in this awesome city.