Quickfire Challenge: We all get a political lesson when we learn that members of Congress aren't allowed to accept meals from lobbyists unless it can be served on a toothpick. So the cheftestants have to devise a one-bite meal that packs the punch of a gourmet meal. There is an abundance of scallops served, and it's judged by the youngest Congressman, who I'm going to guess is not a culinary expert. He chooses Kevin, Angelo and Stephen as the top three, and the winner is Angelo. Gross. He did some shrimp in a cucumber cup. At least his lack of recent wins seems to have diminished his confidence somewhat. Oh, he gets immunity and $20,000.
Elimination Challenge: Create a power lunch to be served at the Palms DC. They are each assigned a protein, but the people with the same protein are not competing head-to-head. It's a free-for-all. There's a controversy over a pea purée that Ed made and then couldn't find on day two, while Alex suspiciously added a pea purée to his dish at the last minute, but it's never really resolved, although clearly the other cheftestants think Alex is guilty. The diners are various political celebrities (Joe Scarborough, Luke Russert and the like). Here are the dishes:
Kelly: Porterhouse with crispy potato-arugula salad, roasted shallot demi-glace. Some find it overly salty, but others enjoy it.
Amanda: New York steak and filet mignon, red wine with pommes Parisienne and arugula. The judges find it well-seasoned and seared.
Tiffany: swordfish with olive and raisin tapenade, broccolini with bacon. The judges note that she overcooked the dish, but think that her dish is unique in a good way.
Andrea: pan-seared swordfish with "risotto style" couscous, asparagus, and beurre blanc. The judges find it interesting, although some think the sauce is too sweet.
Stephen: pan-seared salmon with warm vegetable salad and Worcestershire vinaigrette. The dish is too heavy and messy, which is actually a good description of Stephen himself.
Alex: applewood smoked salmon with black forbidden rice and English pea purée. The pea purée is singled out as a great addition, and the portion is great.
Angelo: butter-poached lobster with lobster froth and jicama, arugula, and pear salad. The lobster is tough and chewy, but the non-culinary judges find the foam strange and offputting. Thank you!
Ed: poached lobster ballantine, eggplant caviar, and English pea-asparagus fricassee. The lobster and eggplant are great, but the judges ironically find the peas unnecessary.
Kenny: peppered lamb, fig-pistachio bread pudding, and vanilla-morel demi-glace. They are intrigued by the sauce, and think the lamb is great, but felt it needed more.
Kevin: double-cut lamb chops with olive and goat cheese rissole, mache, and tomato concasse. His lamb is overcooked, and all of the flavors are too strong to work together.
Alex, Tiffany and Ed are judged to have the three best dishes. Tiffany actually cries because she knew she overcooked the fish, but the other components made up for it. Of course, Alex is specifically praised for his pea purée, and Ed and Tiffany are shooting daggers with their eyes. And then Alex wins. Ed's face is like, "YOU ARE SHITTING ME!" So now Alex really can't admit he stole the food. If he had been in the middle or bottom, maybe he would have owned up to it. Maybe. If he didn't do it, he should sue the editors, because they made it clear that Alex had the means and the motive, even if they didn't get the theft on camera.
The bottom three are Kevin, Kelly and Andrea. The judges tell Kevin that his food was too spicy, and his lamb wasn't cooked well, because he cooked it sous vide and then recooked it under a broiler. Andrea admits that she doesn't like swordfish, so her dish wasn't made with enough care. Kelly knows that her food was too salty, so she has no argument there. And going home tonight is…Andrea. Wow. I really thought it was going to be Kelly, and by her reaction, so did she. I can't believe Amanda and Stephen are still in this thing.
It's kind of weird how the show juxtaposes shots of things like Arlington Cemetery and the Vietnam Memorial with people gossiping about their fellow cheftestants. It's just tonally off. Then again, Kelly is complaining to Stephen that people living in her room "keep getting whacked," so maybe there's a death theme going on. That's cheerful. Kelly points out that only she and Andrea are left in their room. So one of them will probably be going home tonight, if my reality-show prediction skills (based on obvious editing) are correct, right? Kevin is happy that he finally got a win and he brags to Kenny that it was "a long time coming." Kenny is just lying in bed, in disbelief that he almost got sent home due to strategy and not poor cooking. Well, let's be honest. If your food was really, really awesome, the judges aren't going to send you home just because your fellow cheftestants want to get rid of you. They would have had Colicchio call everyone together for a special session or something. Obviously, Kenny's food was lacking in some way, just not enough to deserve elimination.
Hey, how's Angelo doing now that his fake girlfriend is gone? He claims to be upset, but is he really? Tiffany points out that Angelo helped both Tamesha and Stephen, and both of their food was not good. So is Angelo purposely sabotaging people? Maybe. Tiffany's got her eye on that dude.
Quickfire Challenge. Padma introduces Rep. Aaron Schock of Illinois, who is currently the youngest congressman in the House. He explains that his first day in Congress was spent learning ethics, and a lot of it is about what kinds of meals he can and cannot accept from lobbyists. Padma adds that chefs and caterers have found an interesting solution to the rules; they can only serve food that fits on a toothpick. So the chefs have made gourmet meals that fit on a toothpick, which seems to violate the spirit of the law, if not the letter. Can we get a ruling from Randy Cohen on this? Stephen, sweet, naïve Stephen, says that if these rules weren't in place, lobbyists could buy themselves some laws. Oh, and that never happens. Lobbyists hardly have any influence over what laws are passed in this country, right? Because of the toothpicks and all? Padma lays out the challenge: create a meal that fits on a toothpick, and win immunity and $20,000.
Andrea interviews that she and her husband run a struggling restaurant, and she has a family. So just give her the money already. It's not like Stephen doesn't have twins at home. Who cares if he makes shitty food?
They have thirty minutes, and when time starts, everyone sprints to snatch the right protein. Kenny explains to us that everything on the toothpick has to pack a punch; there can't be any filler. Kenny's usual strategy of making three dishes when everyone else makes one won't work here, so he is adding a mojito relish to infuse a cocktail into his bite. Kelly wants to make sure all of her food will stick to a toothpick, so she's using scallops and watermelon, and plans to taste as she goes and reseason as needed. It seemed kind of weird that they added that interview clip in here, but it will become important later on. Like don't they always taste as they go and reseason as needed?
Stephen is really sure his dish is going to be awesome, and he's practically already made plans on how to spend the money. His dish is a toothpick version of surf and turf. But do you usually eat the surf and the turf in the same bite? Are those flavors supposed to be combined? I'm a bad person to ask because I have this weird OCD thing where, when eating a meal, I eat all of one item, then all of the next. I don't take a bite of each thing. I don't do it on purpose, and if I think about it, I can eat like a normal person, but left to my own devices, I only eat one thing at a time. I know, I'm a weirdo. So maybe other people do combine surf and turf in one bite. Alex thinks that Stephen has too much going on. Alex, meanwhile, thinks he's a canapé expert, so he's not worried. Tiffany knows exactly what she wants to do, because she's chosen a dish she did at one of her previous jobs. Amanda, meanwhile, is clueless and just decides to do a lamb kebab. She hates appetizers and thinks they are boring. She needs to lose the attitude, and fast. I mean, appetizers are just smaller versions of a full meal. And I haven't seen her show much enthusiasm for cooking, period. Why is she on this show again?
Angelo is trying to be creative by rolling shrimp into slivers (actually, thin slices) of pineapple. The problem is that the pineapple is too wet, so when he rolls it up, it falls apart. Oops. Ed is having trouble with his concept. He knows what he wants to make, but isn't sure how to get it on a toothpick. That could be a problem.
Kevin is first to serve Padma and Rep. Schock, who will be judging, and he made grilled pork and mushroom kabob with sherry vinegar. It's also swimming in some kind of sauce and served in a coffee cup, and the sauce looks creamy, so I guess that's the creamed onion and bacon that Kevin mentioned.
Andrea has made buttermilk fried chicken, pecan cheddar waffles, and black pepper maple gravy. That's a lot of flavors. Although it occurs to me that you could make something similar by spearing a chicken nugget and a hunk of an Eggo. I'm just saying.
Ed made duo of tuna: tuna confit, gilled tuna with avocado, and sweet and sour watermelon. He speared it on a little umbrella. Flair! Ed interviews that he's trying to sell them on the dish, which makes me think he wasn't very confident about it in the first place.
Tiffany made a crispy pork roulade with prosciutto, dates and a red pepper coulis. It looks good. Nice and crispy and the coulis adds some needed color. She used little plastic swords as her toothpick, which is a kitschy touch. My brother and I always used to have mock swordfights whenever we ate at a place with those. Do restaurants still put those in steaks?
Amanda made lamb kebob with fried cherry heirloom tomatoes and salsa verde. Yawn. Lucky for her, lamb is one of the congressman's favorites. Amanda throws her hair around and smiles. I'm surprised she didn't flash some cleavage.
Kenny made tandoori spiced sockeye salmon and shrimp with mango mojito relish. That kind of sounds like something that would be on the menu at TGI Fridays.
Angelo made a cucumber cup with spiced shrimp and cashew. He apologizes all over the place for his cucumber cup, which he thinks is old-fashioned. I think it's kind of a cheat to attach a cup to the plastic sword and then fill it with stuff, but I'm not on the Congressional Ethics Committee. Angelo thinks that the flavors are so amazing that he had to use the cucumber. Yes, those cucumbers. So flavorful.
Stephen put everything but the kitchen sink on a toothpick: scallop and beef with a crispy potato cake and béarnaise sauce. It reminds me of those Willy Wonka pills that would give you the flavor of a whole meal (and turn you into a blueberry). Aren't we living in the future? Why hasn't someone made those pills yet? I want to take a pill that tastes like potato chips and Bison French onion dip and then I don't have to ingest the calories just to get that awesome taste. Science! Get on that! Stephen thinks that, since the congressman said it was meaty, he totally won. I don't know that "meaty" is a compliment unless the judge is Homer Simpson.
Alex made scallops with crispy bacon, strawberries, and basil essence. Scallops and strawberries? Oh....kay. Padma looks disturbed as she chews.
Kelly follows the fruit plus seafood formula as she made seared scallops with salted watermelon and a watermelon vinaigrette. Somehow watermelon and seafood doesn't bother me like strawberries. I'm a fruit hypocrite.
Padma asks Rep. Schock who his bottom three are, and he picks out Alex, Ed, and Kelly. He specifically says that Kelly's lacked a little flavor. Well, it's watermelon. It's mostly water. It's right in the title. Given that every bit of food on the toothpick needed to add fl