Top Chef Season 7, Episode 7: Power (Trip) Lunch

Well, don’t ever bet money on what I think this season. Amanda and Stephen have had targets on their backs since day one, yet manage to slip into the top three for the quickfire (Stephen) and surpass Kelly’s elimination challenge porterhouse dish by actually serving the cut off the bone (Amanda). Instead, it was my sad little dark horse who was on the chopping block this week.

But, I digress. This week’s tenuous connection of politics with food for the quickfire was presented by Il. Representative Aaron Schock, who looked like he was a cast member of “Politician Babies.” The challenge was to present a fully realized hors d’oeurve on a toothpick, as only hors d’oeurves, not full meals, can be catered at political events due to lobbying restrictions. Ok, I get the DC connection this time around and to me this seemed like more of a challenge than the elimination challenge, as you pretty much have to pack in a composed flavor presentation in one bite. Some unlikely people ended up in the bottom; Kelly presented a bland bay scallop with a watermelon vinaigrette (“Top Scallop” rule strikes again!) and Ed had issues with getting his duo of tuna to actually stay on his toothpick. Meanwhile, color me surprised that Stephen got in the top 3 with his surf and turf; filet, scallop, and a potato cake in a bernaise sauce. I thought it was overly ambitious, but it worked. But Angelo takes the win once again with another Asian-inspired Cucumber cup with shrimp and asian slaw. Kevin pointed out Angelo’s Asian cuisine crutch, and it seems that after last week, the cheftestants have planted Angelo squarely in the role of this season’s villain…

That is until Pea Puree-gate!! The elimination challenge is to present a “power lunch” to some high profile people in DC (*yawn*), so of course the focus went from the challenge to the backstage drama. After hearing about Ed’s plan to use a pea puree for a dish, Alex magically creates one the morning of the challenge and Ed’s disappears. I don’t believe with the amount of cameras and people filming that they couldn’t get one shot of Alex grabbing the puree if he in fact did it. But like a middle school lunch table, rumors and whispers went flying.

Back to the actual challenge, the idea was to take one of the Palm restaurant’s (who was hosting the challenge) 5 main proteins and create a lunch dish with it. Despite the fact that Padma said that people weren’t competing in pairs, how could you not compare two lobster dishes against each other? By the way, I felt bad for any vegetarian viewers as the 4 lb lobsters were decimated on screen, with their little legs still moving as Ed ripped them apart. MMM….little lobster legs in butter….

As a whole, the chefs had a problem with overdoing things with their dishes. Kelly overly salted her Flintstonian porterhouse, Andrea overwhelmed her swordfish with a vanilla-mustard buerre blanc that went overboard with the vanilla, and Kevin overcooked his lamb and added too much heat to his tomato concasse (and yes, I had to look up to see what that was, evidently it’s a fancy way to say “peeled and seeded tomatoes that are diced”). Sadly, I should have known that Andrea was the one to go when she announced at the beginning of the episode that her restaurant was struggling. Lesson for all, when on a reality cooking show, keep the sob stories to yourself, it only foreshadows doom.

The biggest shock of the episode was Alex’s win for his Salmon with black forbidden rice and the infamous pea puree, which guest judge Art Smith (who brought the “food is love” nonsense and the diet inspiration with him tonight) declared the best part of his dish. Cue eye rolling from Ed and Tiffany, who were also in the TOP 3 with their respective Lobster with eggplant “caviar” and Swordfish with olive-raisin tapenade dishes.

Alex sums up his win noting, “It’s gotta be your own food on the dish,” which may come back to bite him. Meanwhile, Andrea laments, “I didn’t really get to show myself,” ummm… not exactly true when you’re kicked off halfway through a season, my dear.

Oh, well, at least according to the scenes from next week, we have Marcus Samuelsson on with a crazy hat! I’m there.

~Julia

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