Category Archives: Food news/media/programming

Top Chef Season 7: Foreign Affairs recap

The Ethiopian Quickfire was fun, and I think Marcus Samuelsson is pretty cool– I’d like to eat at Aquavit or C-House at some point. (Yes, I totally have a Life List of restaurants. Is that weird?) I was so thrilled when Tiffany won, but mostly because she isn’t Angelo. Seriously, shut up, Angelo. There’s no way you’re as great as you think you are.

When the challenge of preparing a dish specific to a given country is revealed (options are Brazil, Mexico, Spain, France, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand, and India– all fairly straightforward, in my opinion), Amanda says she wants to make French food, as she’s spent her whole career studying French food. I can understand feeling particularly confident and at home in a certain cuisine, but (a really big) part of me was completely full of, “So?” Kenny, who is a reasonable person, says that he feels comfortable with the cuisine of each of these countries. Given that they’ll only have Sterno (no ovens, stoves, etc.), I feel like it might be a challenge to prepare, say, and traditional tandoori-type food, or possibly even boil water for pasta (how hot does Sterno get, anyway?). Reason 435348972 that Angelo is annoying? “Growing up, my parents were very big into expanding our palates, so I was exposed to a many different types of cuisine.” La dee fricking da.

Knife selections shake out as follows:

  • Tiffany – Mexico (makes chicken tamales with radish pico de gallo)
  • Kelly – Italy (makes beef carpaccio with a shaved spring vegetable salad)
  • (effing) Amanda – France (makes boeuf bourguignon with pommes fourchette and horseradish mousse– and she says it with a big accent so we know she’s So Super Serious about French Cuisine, Y’all)
  • Kenny – Thailand (makes tamarind-braised pork with a rice-noodle salad and Thai green curry)
  • Alex – Spain (makes braised veal with a red wine sauce, olive salad, and torta)
  • Angelo – Japan (makes sashimi of tuna ribbons with avocado and candied wasabi)
  • Kevin – India (makes stewed chicken with curry, parsnip and leek puree, cucumber-mango salad, and lentils)
  • Ed – China (makes tea smoked duck breast and crispy potstickers)
  • Stephen – Brazil (makes marinated flank steak with chimichurri, pork beans and rice)

(Confession: there are still about three chefs whose names I don’t know right away and had to look up. This would not have happened last season, when they were arguably the most talented cohort to appear on Top Chef. Sigh.)

They shop, with a budget of $200 each at Whole Foods…for 100 people? How is that even going to work?

Kevin has never made Indian food? Really? Come on, dude. At least he’s using fenugreek and other seemingly appropriate flavors. During prep, a surprising (to me) amount of other chefs admit some degree of ignorance about the cuisine they’ve chosen/been assigned (uh, Ed, having had a Chinese girlfriend doesn’t necessarily make you an expert). Is it that they only get training on specific cuisine, and then go on to work in restaurants that make certain types of food? That makes sense, but I have to imagine that there is at least some individual experimentation or awareness of other cuisines…right?

Tom comes in to check in wth everyone, and we learn that Tiffany is determined to make her tamales meaty and Kevin is a little worried that Padma will be extra-tough because she’s Indian. Oh, and after the commercial, we learn that Kenny has opened a Thai/Pan-Asian restaurant. I’m going to go ahead and say that he’s going to be at or near the top…

Kevin talks to his kid and his pregnant wife, which marks him as Maybe Going Home. But then Kelly gets a care package from her husband, so maybe it’s her! God, why doesn’t anyone call Amanda or send her stuff? Oh, and let’s not forget that, apparently, Alex is such a “spaz” in the kitchen that the call-in survey question is about his clumsiness.

They set up to serve the diplomats, and I have a couple thoughts. First, what sort of quality are the judges expecting in this Costco-sample-style serving situation? Sterno can only do so much. Second, hahahahaaaaa, Amanda’s beef is dry. Suck it, Amanda. Alex, who previously mentioned that he was going to have exactly 107 portions, eats two of his tortas and is down to 105– hope that’s not too important. Tiffany scrambles to finish her prep, and then it’s time to serve!

Judging works out as follows (with José Andrés as the guest judge, and Marcus Samuelsson sticking around to taste everything):

  • Top three are Kelly, Kevin (wow, surprise! Good job, Kevin), and Tiffany. Tiffany wins, for her extra-meaty tamales, and also gets $10k that she says she’ll be using for her wedding. Yay, Tiffany!
  • Bottom three are Alex, Stephen (ouch, José, “a little nightmare”?), and Ed. Despite all the harping on Alex’s klutziness, Stephen is eliminated. Oh well, it’s not like I remembered his name this week, anyway.

Next week: Restaurant Wars! Will we finally be rid of Amanda? Will Angelo continue to be creepy? Will I write another recap?

Programming note – Top Chef: Just Desserts begins on September 15th! So excited.

High fives all around for Michael Ruhlman!

A short break from our regular programming– for an awesome video in which author and chef Michael Ruhlman dismisses claims that Americans are “too busy to cook.” Can I get an amen?