Back to School with Top Chef

For all of us Eric Ripert fans out there, the last episode of Top Chef DC was nothing to celebrate. The dreamboat French chef/semi-regular judge did not make a cameo. Still, this week’s show offered a few interesting twists, turns and snippets of drama.

  • It seems that the confidence level for this particular group of chefs is off the charts. I hope they take the advice of guest judge Sam Kass, White House assistant chef, to “leave your egos at the door and just get to work.”
  • Is anyone else already getting a bit tired of Padma’s DC puns? This week’s Quickfire, for example, is the Bipartisandwich. It is a silly name for a silly challenge, which ties two chefs together in one apron and gives them use of one hand each to create an exemplary sandwich. This week we see another win for Angelo who, partnered with Tracy, created a flounder sandwich with an herby salad.
  • The elimination challenge is very au current: create a school lunch with $130 for 50 kids, working in teams of four. The goal here is to bring awareness to the First Lady’s initiative to end childhood obesity in a generation.
  • Fun fact: Tom Collichio comes by his love for food honestly – his mom ran a school lunch program for 20 years!
  • In an episode twist, the losers get called into judges’ table first. I think everyone’s relieved to see that Angelo is on the bottom rung – but given his immunity, he’s safe from elimination. His team gets no love for their lack of veggies, while the other lowest scoring team garners criticism for a blah chicken breast with sherry jus and a sugar-full pudding. But the criticism isn’t coming just from the judges: The teams start slamming each other on the judges’ floor – bad form! Ultimately, Jacqueline – who was in the bottom two last week – loses for her unhealthy and grainy banana pudding with strawberries.
  • Kelly wins for her pork carnitas tacos, made all the healthier by homemade oatmeal tortillas. Her teammates helped her out with a black bean cake with crispy sweet potatoes; roasted corn salad, and caramelized sweet potatoes with chocolate sherbet. The judges loved the colorful plate and the creative use of veggies, not to mention the tasty tacos.

Kelly’s winning dish of Braised Pork Carnitas Tacos
with Pickled Onions & Cilantro

Considering the target audience for this particular challenge, I’m looking toward some alcohol-free options for our Top Chef Drink Pairing. And with this week’s Mexican inspired dish, I think some Agua Fresca is in order. AKA “fresh water” in Spanish, agua fresca is essentially water infused with a smooth fruit puree. Easy, refreshing and perfect for a summer day. Just puree any soft fruit — melon or mango are some good options — and push through a sieve until super-smooth. Mix with water (1.5 cups puree to 3 cups water), some lime juice and a smidge of agave nectar. Yum!

Posted by Miss Mojito.

One response to “Back to School with Top Chef

  1. What a perfect drink choice for this episode/challenge/dish! I love Agua Fresca. Oyamel in DC has one with watermelon that is fantastic.

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