Top Chef

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Brilliant Disguise

Amanda realizes that disguising soup as soup might not be a great disguise. Alex decided to make a dish that he's never made before. He explains that has been his philosophy all along, and it's worked out. If by "worked out," you mean, he's skated by and gotten lucky, then fine. He only won the one challenge, and Colicchio has convinced me via his blogs that Alex didn't steal the puree, but still. He's hardly been a standout.

Kelly asks Tiffany if the rice cooker will turn off automatically, and Tiffany says that it will. Tiffany has her own shit to worry about, because she's making a fairly simple dish, and she's worried she will screw up one component and throw the whole dish off. Kelly hears her rice cooker start beeping. She tastes the rice, and it's complete mush. She complains to Tiffany. I'm guessing she put in too much liquid? Because it seemed like the timer was preset, and when I've used rice cookers before and had things go wrong, it's usually because my rice/liquid ratio was off. Anyway, she dumps the rice and worries that she won't have enough time to redo it, because she's used to high-altitude cooking, where it takes an hour to make rice. Tiffany advises her to make it on a stovetop, where it won't take as long, and Kelly does just that. This rice works out, and she starts plating.

Tiffany helps Kelly finish her plating, because she has extra time. Tiffany says that she wants to win by beating someone at their best, not because someone made a stupid mistake like running out of time. I like when they help one another out. Kelly and Angelo are serving first. Angelo is still in a tizzy and claims that he's still not sure about his dish. Their food is served to Leon Panetta and his underlings, along with the judges.

Angelo had Beef Wellington, and he made tartlets topped with slivers of beef. Padma asks if anyone can guess what it is, and Director Panetta immediately knows, making a joke about how poor the disguise was. And then he laughs REALLY hard at his own joke, and the underlings all laugh too, because wouldn't you? Who knows what this dude could have done to you? Panetta thought the dish was salty, and the pastry was hard. Ripert points out that Angelo took a shortcut with the pastry, and beef Wellington should be more challenging.

Kelly had kung pao shrimp, and made spicy shrimp broth with rice and Szechuan shrimp tempura. Wylie immediately knows what it's supposed to be, and Panetta doesn't, and they have a good laugh over Wylie knowing something that Panetta doesn't. A couple of people guess that it's pad thai, but Tom says that it's kung pao shrimp. He thinks the flavors are great, and Wylie admires the disguise, although there was a bit much of the broth. One of the underlings loved the flavors.

Next to serve are Tiffany and Kevin. Tiffany had a gyro, and she made roasted leg of lamb with smoky eggplant, tomatoes, and pickled onions. Panetta guesses that it's a gyro, and Padma tells him that he's right. Ripert calls it "the most elegant gyro" he's ever had. I thought it was pronounced HEE-ro, not JEYE-ro. Have I been saying it wrong all these years? Or just pretentiously?

Kevin had Cobb salad, and he made romaine lettuce, tomato, bacon, Roquefort, avocado, cucumber, and turkey. One of the underlings guessed it immediately, but Panetta admits that he thought it was a Mexican dish. I can see that, due to the ingredients listed. Tom is not impressed that he just sort of took the ingredients and plopped them on the plate, which isn't much of a disguise, but he still liked the dish all right. In the kitchen, Kevin says that he didn't want to make the dish so complex that they couldn't figure it out.

Between courses, Padma is making small talk with Panetta when he gets a note. He excuses himself, saying that business calls. She asks the underlings if they are used to Panetta "having to dine and dash" and they say it happens all of the time. That is the coolest move ever. Next time I'm out somewhere, I am totally going to hire someone to come in and quietly pass me a note that says "Eyes Only" on it, and then excuse myself. Come on. How cool is that?

Amanda is still trying to convince us that Alex is talented, but just has execution problems. So he doesn't know how to cook? Amanda thinks of Alex as "the wise old Jewish uncle," and doesn't want to see him fail. My theory is that Alex is kind of pervy, and he's the only male left on the show that gives Amanda male attention, so she digs him. Just a thought. Anyway, Amanda had French onion soup, and she made consommé with oxtail marmalade, caramelized onions, and shaved gruyere. Everyone knows right away that it's French onion soup. Tom likes the idea of marmalade, but says that it was too sweet. One of the underlings compares it to honey and cough syrup.

Alex had veal Parmesan, and he made veal and Parmigiano cheese tortelloni with tomato sauce and tempura cheese. Everyone takes a bite and kind of recoils at how tough the meat is, which is never a good sign. Someone guesses that it's lasagna, but all of the chefs know that it's veal. Tom jokes that "the veal was as tough as pulling a post in Yemen." Tom Colicchio, ladies and gentlemen! He'll be here all week! Don't try the veal if Alex cooked it. Wylie tries to be diplomatic and say that the dish was well disguised, but Ripert says that he would have liked less disguise and a better dish. Yikes.

The final person to serve is Ed, who had chicken cordon bleu, and he made roasted chicken breast, ham and cheese croquette, and a spring onion soubise. He thinks it looks good and makes sense. People immediately comment on how big the portion is, and Ripert thinks it's obvious that it's cordon bleu. Everyone has compliments for the flavors and the seasoning, even if the disguise is pretty poor.

The judges excuse themselves to deliberate. In the kitchen, Kelly tells Amanda that her marmalade tastes good, although she allows that it's a little sweet. Angelo interviews that he's disappointed in himself, and it would be very traumatic for him to go home. I would not be that traumatized, and it would be kind of funny if Angelo and Kenny both went home before Alex and Amanda.

I just saw the commercial for Top Chef: Just Desserts and it says, "You adore Gail Simmons" but I thought it said, "You endure Gail Simmons" and I was like, "Who wrote this copy, Padma?" I amuse myself.

Weird interstitial. The cheftestants talk about all the secrets that Leon Panetta knows, like who killed JFK and whether there are aliens. This leads to Angelo claiming that Alex is an alien. Alex doesn't deny it. It would actually explain some things.

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