Food

Top Chef: Of Cross-Dressing and Oxidized Tuna

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Just as Top Chef viewers are beginning to question their sanity at this point in the season, so, it seems, are the show’s contestants. Last night’s episode kicked off with the slightly horrifying specter of Ed running around the house in Tiffany’s yellow dress, while Tiffany laughed hysterically and viewers considered scrubbing their eyeballs with lye.

But while the sight of Ed in women’s clothing isn’t particularly appealing, it’s not quite as bad as the mental image Angelo provides of his childhood bedroom, which was apparently fashioned as a creepy, candlelit shrine to famous chefs. “He actually reads Anthony Robbins‘ books and says mantras. It’s a little weird,” Amanda says of her teammate, before emitting a big weirdo guffaw of her own.

For the Quickfire Challenge, Rick Moonen shows up to stand next to Padma as she tells the chefs that they’ll each choose food idioms to turn into dishes. The winner will get his or her meal included in the repertoire of Schwan’s frozen-meal home-delivery service. Has winning ever sounded more like losing? Kevin chooses “bring home the bacon,” Amanda goes for “the big cheese,” Kelly takes “sour grapes,” Ed picks “hot potato,” Tiffany gets “full of beans,” and Angelo, in the only major surprise of the evening, picks “big fish to fry” instead of “hide the salami.”

While they’re cooking, Ed grouses that Amanda’s a slob, which someone seems to have done on pretty much episode. Once that’s out of the way, Moonen tastes everything and says his least favorites were Kelly’s roasted chicken with Concord grape puree and Amanda’s mac ‘n’ cheese, which she serves with a massive pork chop. Moonen likens it to a “sledgehammer to the gut.” Amanda confides that she’s having her own “personal pity party inside my head,” and then starts babbling incoherently, giving us a frightening idea of what the inside of her head looks like.

Moonen’s favorites are Ed’s herb and roasted gnocchi and Kevin’s bacon three ways. Ed’s the winner, and he gets to realize every chef’s dream of being included in the mass-produced frozen-food canon.

Onto the Elimination Challenge! Padma announces that the contestants will work together as a team to create at least six dishes to serve at the concession stand at the Nationals’ ballpark before the game. Angelo decides to do — surprise! — an Asian-themed sandwich; Ed careens around the kitchen trying to make 550 shrimp and corn risotto balls in one hour; Kelly opts for a crab-cake BLT; Tiffany pounds huge bowls of raw meat for her meatball sandwiches; and Kevin puts a bunch of chicken on skewers. And Amanda? Amanda decides that nothing says “ballpark food” better than raw tuna tartare. “I want to make a statement,” she proclaims. And that statement would be “I want to go home.”

At the stadium, Angelo and Kevin start squabbling after Angelo reneges on his earlier, oh-so-selfless promise to take customer orders. A few ballplayers show up to sample everything. “They’re really cute,” Kelly gushes, before the camera cuts to the players shoving down their food like barnyard animals.

Then Padma, Rick, Tom, and Eric appear. Eric stares at Amanda’s tuna tartare, which has oxidized and assumed a gray pallor, as if it’s the product of an incontinent cow. The other judges aren’t particularly impressed, either. They’re also not blown away by the giant bun that alleged sandwich guru Angelo decides to use for his pork sandwich. But everyone loves Tiffany’s big, messy meatball sub and Ed’s fritters.

Later that night we see Angelo on the phone with his supposed Russian fiancée, whom he tells us he’s only met a few times. There’s some issue with her visa, as is often the case when one orders his spouse over the Internet.

Later, Padma, wearing a pirate shirt, calls all of the contestants to the judges’ table. The judges tell everyone that Ed and Tiffany had the best dishes of the challenge, and Rick declares Ed the challenge’s winner. He gives Ed one of his cookbooks, and Padma gives him a trip to Australia. And then Ed and Tiffany are sent back to the supply closet.

While the judges take Kevin to task for making them deep-throat his chicken skewers and criticize Kelly’s decision to use a big, salty slab of bacon in her sandwich, they reserve their worst criticism for Angelo and Amanda. Angelo’s pork sandwich was crippled by too much bun and a sickly-sweet sauce. But whatever his sins, they pale in comparison to that of serving two seafood chefs gray tuna tartare. And so Amanda is finally, at long last, told to pack up her knives and go home. “This has been an awesome opportunity!” she says, before Padma cuts her off with an abrupt “Thank you, Amanda.” No, Padma, thank you.

Next week: NASA, something about “out-of-this-world” food, and Buzz Aldrin.