Chef Tell: Keep Your Frenemies Close

At show's open, everyone's pretending they miss Timothy. It's hard to say who really does miss him and who just wants to look more sensitive after weeks of acting like a prick [cough, Angelo, cough].

For the Quickfire, there was some weirdness -- and I'm not talking about the exotic proteins the chefs were given to use. I'm talking about Kevin saying that he'd never really want to cook with them. Shouldn't every chef want to experiment a bit? My cubicle doesn't have a kitchen in it so I can't really say for sure, but I'm guessing it would be nice to tackle some boar or an emu egg once every so great often.

Oh, and there was also weirdness because the guest judge was badass chef Michelle Bernstein and, apparently, she and highlight-crazy Andrea got their starts at the same time in Miami. At some point Andrea took some time to have a family and Bernstein rose to the top of the ranks -- and while I would hope she'd be very happy to have beautiful kids, methinks I smelled a bit of resentment over "Michy's" success. Andrea claims they are unspoken rivals and just about on par with one another. So...then Andrea should win this whole thing what with MB's ol' James Beard Award, yes?

So whatever, they exchange an odd greeting and everyone drew knives to see who got to pick what odd meat when. Our lovely Tiffany Derry drew number four, and chose yak. Mmm, gamey! Asshat Angelo thought he was being super cool and chose duck white kidneys, but didn't know that they were testicles. He actually said his plan was to make a "testicle marshmallow." Mmm, balls!

At 10 minutes in, Padma instructed the chefs to shift to work with the protein to their left.  Stephen shifted from crocodile to frog legs and made an awesome, unintentional (but totally intentional) pun about how it wasn't a "big leap." [Rimshot!] T-Derry worked with foie gras, serving it with caramelized apples, toasted pecans and a brandy-caramel sauce. Angelo made sure to point out how he'd curbed the croc's chewiness, but Bernstein was quick to point out that he had great flavors but shitty texture. K, maybe she didn't say "shitty" on the Bravo airing, but I'm sure she did in real life and they just edited it out. 

Tiffany fell somewhere in the middle. Kelly rocked out and won immunity with a simple emu egg omelet with goat cheese and harissa vinaigrette. I'm not an omelet fan and I would've eaten it. It was well-plated and didn't have a bazagillion ingredients in it like some of the others' offerings. Andrea fell into the bottom three only because her meat was undercooked. Hmm, seems there were some other misfires that deserved the call-out worse than that.

Then they got the Elimination Challenge download: They would break into two teams and prepare a cold dish for the panel and the opposing team (save Kelly. Since she had immunity she got to dine on both teams' offerings and not cook). Each team would then nominate a person for the win and for the knife-packing.

Lucky for all, they got to go and plan their menus for the "Cold War Challenge" aboard the USS Sequoia, which Padma described as the "maritime version of Air Force One." 

They headed out on the water and Angelo started telling Stephen that he needed to change this and do that and, oh, Tamesha needed to bow to Angelo. He did, at least, discuss the presence of we didn't know he had one. Tiffany talked with Ed about how everyone's telling each other what they're making and they'd only trusted each other with that information.

Whole Foods trip. Angelo interfered more with Tamesha and Stephen. Woot, woot.

They got back to the kitchen and Tiffany told us -- and no one else -- that she planned on fennel and coriander crusted tuna. Noms. Been on a tuna kick. Totally feeling it. 

Amanda, formerly Vaguely Hot Brunette, was acting headless and shouty, running around the kitchen, at which point Tamesha shared that she finds her very irritating and could "probably strangle her in a heartbeat." Creepy? Totally. Wanna know something else? For a few episodes I just thought Tamesha had a cold, but realized last night it was really just her natural speaking voice. It made me want to blow my nose for no reason and I felt bad for that -- or even mentioning it -- until she went and made that strangle comment.

So then Team B (Tamesha, Angelo, Tiffany, Andrea and Stephen) were served the cold dishes of Team A (Amanda, Kevin, Kenny, Creepy Bald Dude and Ed). The critiques, overall, seemed seriously intense. They missed the mark a couple of times with their criticisms and Tom's facial reactions made that clear. In case you were wondering, Eric Ripert was no where to be admired. I'm concerned after his sporadic attendance that he hates my face. I also digress.

Tiff thought her team were being exceptionally harsh and said it made her nervous about the reaction her own dish might get. But, she was forgetting that she had some hard-core conniving beeatches on her team and didn't have anything to worry about. They decided Kevin was the best and Kenny was the worst. I decided that Michelle Bernstein was totally showing side-boob as her shirt was surprisingly low-cut.

Sidenote: During the quick little cut-in during the commercial, Ed revealed that he started dating a girl in college...before Angelo and she split up. There was something oddly satisfying about that and I realize I'm a bit of an asshole for saying so.

Tiffany's team started cooking and she started wondering if her dish was too simple. So many of the other chefs had prepared "sha sha two ways" or "trio of hoo ha" and she was concerned. But my reality TV clue detection told me that her dish's simplicity would win them over.

Her fennel and peppercorn crusted ahi tuna with gazpacho sauce and cucumber-arugula salad looked incredible. Just from sight and the short description I could almost taste it. Here's an idea, Tiffany: You should have a tasting one night of all your favorite Top Chef recipes. Idea number two: Invite me.

Anyway, Amanda and Creepy -- OK, fine, he earned it -- Alex were quick to compliment the flavor and refreshing quality of Tiffany's dish. I felt that Team A was a much less snarky group of critics and the judges seemed less shocked by and in more agreement with their statements. They voted Tiffany to the top and Tamesha to the bottom -- something about creepy, too-spicy scallops.

I wondered if the judges would add anyone to the top and bottom ranks, but they left it to the peer votes. Tom made sure to tell Tiffany and Kevin that while they were voted up by their peers the judges almost all agreed with their being there.

Tom commended Miss Tiff on her perfect, even tuna sear and Michelle Bernstein applauded how refreshing it was. Refreshing seems appropriate for a cold dish challenge. But Kevin won and got a trip to Hawaii. I really wanted Tiffany to win, but Kevin seems like a good dude so fingers crossed for next time. 

Padma told Tamesha and Kenny that their peers had elected them into the bottom, which leads me to believe they would not have placed Kenny there if they'd been doing the choosing. Tamesha was surprised to be there. Michelle told her how her scallops were cooked strangely to feel like another tongue on top of her tongue. I can safely say I don't ever want to eat a tongue-y scallop. Kenny was told that he had a disjointed dish with it's near 20 ingredients. He said he felt it was strategic move to vote him down, but MB protested with a fairly awesome verbal bitch-slap: "Can I say something as a person that really just got here? I really didn't enjoy the flavors of the dish. If I could sit here and actually talk about each piece that was on the dish it would take me through to the end of the show." 

In the stew room, Tamesha was clearly taking notes from her mentor Angelo and got cocky, saying that she wasn't going home. Yeah, well. She was and she did. Tiffany said Angelo had a hand in Tamesha's leaving as he'd tasted everything and knew the know, the flavors the judges called "at war with themselves." Hmm.

Next week: More on Ed's love for Tiffany. Cooking at The Palm. A stolen/missing pea puree. Ripert's presence is unclear.

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Merritt Martin
Contact: Merritt Martin

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