Quickfire Challenge: Create a dish with two versions: an adult version and a baby-friendly puree. Padma makes it sound like her daughter is going to eat it, but her daughter is two months old and is definitely not eating solids yet, even purees. Sorry, my mom-logic is bursting through. Mine are starting solids shortly, so I've been doing a lot of research on this issue. Anyway, Padma is wearing a shirt with a weird breastplate. She's like Top Chef Mutant Ninja Turtle. The losers are Tim (overcooked lamb), Alex (puree was too herbaceous), Kevin (pool of blood under duck on plate) and Kelly (bland pork). The tops are Lynne's chicken breast with fruit compote, Tamesha's salmon and vegetable chowder, Angelo's fenugreek-infused broth with seared tuna, and Kenny's lightly spiced curried chicken with mango salad. One thing that annoyed me was that they didn't specify the age of the baby -- a 6-month-old would need a perfectly smooth puree, but a 9-month-old could handle some chunks. Okay, I am taking this challenge way too seriously. Anyway, the winner is Tamesha, mostly because she used licorice oil, and Kenny, because Padma just dug his food, I guess.
Elimination Challenge: Create breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes for the Hilton menus. They have to pair up and compete tournament-style, with two chefs going home at the end. The judges include Mike I., Spike and Brian Voltaggio from previous seasons. First round is breakfast, and the winners are (surprisingly) Amanda and Stephen, along with Tiffany and Tim, so they get to skip the second round. Alex and Ed struggle the most, running out of time to add Hollandaise sauce, and forgetting a pancake on one plate. Everyone else moves on to the second round, which is lunch.
Angelo (with Tamesha) and Kenny (with Kevin) in particular are steamed that they didn't win the first round and have to keep cooking, which comes off as quite arrogant. The winners for this round are Angelo and Tamesha and Alex and Ed. Kenny is PISSED!
The final three up for elimination are Kenny and Kevin, Kelly and Andrea, and Arnold and Lynne. To me, this competition was flawed, since you have two former challenge winners up for elimination and a lot of people we know are… marginal at best floating through. I don't want Kenny or Kelly or Andrea to leave yet! I'm not convinced about Arnold's cooking, but he's definitely entertaining, and this early on, that's worth something. Anyway, they have to cook dinner. Lynne and Arnold have a lot of conflicts while cooking, but the other teams seem okay. The other problem with this competition is that technically you have the three worst dishes being featured for judges' table, which seems kind of counterintuitive. I appreciate the producers' efforts towards making it easier to remember who cooked what, but I don't think this one worked. Maybe if it were an individual challenge, or a true bracket-style tournament or something. Anyway, here are the dishes:
Kenny and Kevin: braised beef short rib, squash, potato and carrot confit, and tempura horseradish. The judges disagree whether they could taste the horseradish, but agree that they liked the jus, though there could have been more of it.
Andrea and Kelly: Braised beef short rib, chevre-scented polenta, roasted shiitake mushrooms and citrus gremolata. The judges don't have much to say, but what they do say is positive.
Arnold and Lynne: Pineapple red curry mussels with squid ink pasta and focaccia. I'm starting to think that Arnold is a one-curry pony. The judges immediately notice that the pasta isn't cooked enough, which is ironic, because Lynne and Arnold had an argument over how long to cook it (he wanted longer than she did). They like the sauce, and the concept of the dish.
Judges' Table (Is the apostrophe new, or did I just not notice it before?): The winning team is Kelly and Andrea, due to their wonderful flavors. Lynne kind of throws Arnold under the bus, which doesn't make sense since it's a team competition, and if one goes down, they both go down. So then I'm all nervous that Kenny is going to get eliminated, especially because Arnold's hyperactivity is starting to bug me, but Lynne and Arnold get eliminated. Whew.
Man, did the producers make a good decision to film in DC in the spring, because every show has many, many shots of cherry blossoms and they are beautiful! Unlike DC in the summer, which is (I've heard) a swampy mess. I've only visited DC in the spring, and it was warm and pleasant. I know you were dying to know that information. Of course, it was twenty years ago, so now that I have kids, I should probably plan to go back at some point because HISTORY. Anyway.
It's morning in the townhouse, and various cheftestants are sleeping, eating, grooming, etc. Arnold is ironing his jeans. Wait, Arnold is ironing his jeans? WTF? Who irons jeans? And why? How wrinkly could they be? And it's not like you want a crease in them. And you're going to cook, so they may get food bits on them anyway. Did I just out myself as a slob? I had turkey chili for lunch and I won't lie -- there are a few tomato spots on my shirt. I promise to change if I leave the house. Anyway, Arnold feels good about winning the last challenge, of course. Andrea sips coffee and reflects on how she will miss Tracey, but also that she keeps ending up in the middle of the pack and wants to break out. Tim is bummed that he's been at the bottom a few times, but he knows that what's more important is how you finish in the competition. Of course, if you keep ending up on the bottom, your competition is going to be finished soon. And also, I can't really remember an eventual winner that was frequently in the bottom two. Once or twice, sure. But frequently? Naw.
The cheftestants skip down the stairs to the street to report for their Quickfire Challenge. They find Tom and Padma in the kitchen with no guest judge, and a bunch of baby toys strewn about. Tim knows they won't be cooking baby food. He says it in the tone that implies that cooking baby food is SO beneath him. Buckle up, Ponch, and prepare to slum it. Padma is wearing a shirt with this bizarre textured square on the front. It's sort of alligator-y looking, but just that square, so it kind of looks like a breastplate. I just accidentally typed "beastplate" which might be a better description. Anyway, it's weird and makes her look like a turtle.
Padma explains that she and Tom both had additions to their family recently; Tom has an eight-month-old daughter and she has a two-month-old daughter. So the challenge is to make a dish for Tom and Padma and also one for their babies. Okay, I don't mean to get pedantic on the producers, but unless it's 1970, Padma is not feeding her two-month-old solid food, even if it's pureed. The earliest anyone would recommend starting purees is four months, and most recommend waiting until closer to six. It's stupid and I know I'm one of the few that cares, but they could have just stuck in one line where Padma says, "that will satisfy my baby when she's ready for solids" or something. Whatever, no one cares and it's a stupid thing to complain about but it stuck in my craw for some reason.