Revisiting the heyday of department stores and five-and-dimes

Top Chef DC: International house of chefs

Kelly admits she messed up on the last challenge, calling it a "fatal error" even though clearly it wasn't because she's still here. On pea-gate, Alex says he had no idea that Ed had a pea puree. Meanwhile, Ed says he's not angry about it, just "perplexed," but he wants to move forward. With only nine chefs left this week, Tiffany laments that she hasn't won any challenges and says she really needs to.

Quickfire challenge: Eating Ethiopia

Marcus Samuelssohn, executive chef and co-owner of the Red Rooster and winner of Top Chef Masters, is the guest judge. Padma says the DC restaurant scene is dominated by Ethiopian restaurants. Marcus, who was born there but raised in Sweden, explains some of the elements  and ingredients of African cuisine, including berbere, a spice;  steamed injera, a spongy sourdough bread; and wat, a spicy stewed dish of just about anything.

The challenge is simple: the chefs have to prepare an Ethiopian dish. And they're off...

Amanda goes for the leg of goat. Interesting since she claims to not know anything about Ethiopian food. Indeed, Amanda says she needs the "Idiot's Guide to Ethiopian Cooking." Umm, I would say she could use such a book on a variety of topics.

Alex is going to make a braised tongue. He races Kelly for the pressure cooker - located on a top shelf - and wins, leaving her tongue-tied or just steamed.

Kenny says that he, Ed and Angelo are the only chefs comfortable with the Ethiopian style food. But he says Angelo has a huge advantage because he has consulted for an Ethiopian restaurant.

Stephen - is he still here? why? - prepares a lamb stew. Kenny does yet another duo of lamb. Hasn't he made a duo of every protein possible? It's duo of boredom.

After utensils are down, Marcus and Padma get to tasting. Marcus criticizes many dishes for lacking heat.
He actually likes Kenny's lamb, which has "lots of deep flavors." Angelo makes a doro wat - an Ethiopian dish of egg and chicken. Marcus asks: "Are you sure you're not born in Ethiopia?" (Is there, perhaps, a din of hyenas missing its leader?)

Tiffany prepares a dish of beef goulash, which Marcus seems to enjoy - and even linger over - as he praises her flavors.

On the down side, Kevin's dish is too "shy," and Alex's stew is "too dry." Stephen's lamb meatballs are just not juicy. The dishes Marcus likes best are Amanda's goat, which he describes as "absolutely fantastic." Kind of a surprise. Even she says "I end up in the top. Crazy, who knew?" Not me. Now I feel like an idiot. Angelo's doro wat is "beautiful."

But the winner is Tiffany, with her beef ghoulash, as she notches her first quick fire.

Ed says "she beat Angelo, that's the best part."

Elimination challenge: Country cuisine

Padma wheels out a map of the world that highlights nine countries: Brazil, Mexico, Spain, France, Italy, Japan, China, Thailand and India. For the elimination challenge, the chefs are taking a culinary trip around the world, inspired by the flavors of the countries on the map. Each chef will make 100 portions of their dish, which will be served at the Meridian International Center, the center of diplomat life and international dialogue in DC, says Padma.

The pressure is on because the chefs are serving "diplomats, ambassadors and royal dignitaries," Padma explains, trying to amp up the pressure. "Many are looking for a taste of their homeland."

At the event, chefs will not have the use of a kitchen but will have to use Sterno to heat their chafing dishes.

Angelo says his parents were very big on "expanding our palates" - so he's psyched. The chefs draw knives to decide the order in which they will choose countries. Tiffany gets no. 1 and says today is her "freakin lucky day." She choses Mexico. Kelly is next and chooses Italy. Amanda chooses France. Kenny takes Thailand. Alex takes Spain, where he has visited and traveled extensively. Angelo takes Japan. Kevin takes India. Ed takes China and Stephen is left with Brazil.

Kenny says every challenge is "game time." He says he's been through a lot in his life, including a bout with cancer and four surgeries. Did we know that? Unsure. Life takes "mental toughness," he says. Someone is gonna win and someone is gonna lose, but "I'm gonna win."

The group shops at Whole Foods and gets $200 and 30 minutes. Since Stephen has been to a Brazilian steakhouse, he feels familiar with their food. (1+1=3) And he's going to do flank steak.

Kevin is going to use chicken for his Indian dish. Seems too obvious to me, but I love a good masala.

Kelly is doing a cold dish - strategery, folks - beef carpaccio, seared and served with a salad.

Ed says he's very familiar with Chinese food and culture - he's had some "Chinese girlfriends in the past" - and is doing a tea-smoked duck breast with crispy pot sticker.

Tiffany is from Texas, which if you didn't know, borders Mexico, so she feels comfortable with her choice. She's going to do chicken tamales, kinda deconstructed. Even though she has immunity, she still wants to win. That's the best way to do it.

Angelo goes with the sashimi of tuna ribbons. Amanda goes for Boeuf - ok, beef, people -  Bourguinon with Pommes Fourchette. Basically, meat and potatoes for those not familiar with the "Idiot's Guide to French Cooking."

Alex is preparing braised veal. Ed says Alex is a "fly by the seat of his pants" chef - cut to image of Alex taking a tumble and bouncing right back up. "He has no technique," Ed says disparagingly.

Tom Colicchio visits the ktichen. He asks Kevin if he's afraid that Padma will be extra tough on him because she's Indian. He says "absolutely." Yeah, but I bet Gail will still be tougher.

Kenny, who once opened a Thai Pan-Asian restaurant, is doing tamarind-glazed pork spare ribs.

Ed is pushing himself to the max and is concerned about not being able to finish. There's pandemonium as the chefs pack up the racks and hot boxes. I mean chaos.

Back at home, the chefs are relaxing, sort of. Kenny asks Tiffany why she didn't make his bed. "I'm not your wife, baby," she snaps. Meanwhile, Kelly gets a care package from her husband which includes a bottle of Jack Daniels. The chefs share a toast.

The next day at the event, Amanda's beef is dry so she's gonna cut it smaller to help it out. As Stephen heats his rice up, he sees that it's overcooked. Tiffany is chopping and cutting and far behind in putting her tamales together.

Kevin is trying to differentiate between his stewed chicken - he's careful not to call it curry chicken. "I'm very excited to try it," Padma says just like she means it. Chef Marcus Samuelssohn is back to taste the food, but this week's guest judge is Washington restauranteur Jose Andres, who hails from Spain. Watch out Alex.

They taste the cuisines of Italy, China, Brazil, Spain and India, first. Gail likes that Kelly has simplified her Italian steak dish for the occasion and the beef tastes great. Kevin's Indian dish is widely praised, even by Padma. But Stephen's dish is called out by Tom for the rice, since it's not cooked properly. Alex needs more focus in his dish, says Marcus. Gail was hoping for "more of a punch, but everything is muted."

France, Japan, Mexico, Thailand are up next.

Gail thinks Amanda's meat is cut too small. Where's the beef? And it's dry. Jose loves the color of Angelo's tuna but Tom says the flavors are covering up the fish. The look of Tiffany's tamale dish was pure Mexico and Tom praises it because he's able to taste the husk that it's cooked in. Kenny's curry flavors are good.

At judge's table, Kevin, Kelly and Tiffany have the favorite dishes. Even though Kevin says he's never cooked Indian food before, Tom says he knew how to braise a chicken to perfection. Kelly's steak 'honored a tradition" in Italy. But the winner is Tiffany, who will also receive $10,000. "My wedding is paid for, " she says happily. Top Chef is matching that amount with a donation in Tiffany's name to DC Central Kitchen, a charity near and dear to the guest judge.

Alex, Stephen and Ed are in the bottom. Gail says Stephen's rice was "mealy." Ick. She also attacks his use of chimichurri sauce, which she says takes her to Argentina. Detour anyone? Tom says he got the basics wrong.

Jose, the guest judge from Spain, says he was determined to like Alex's dish that represents his homeland. But the dish was a "little nightmare." Alex says he "screwed up," and didn't edit himself. He kinda plays it off that Tom told him it didn't have to be a Spanish dish, just inspired by Spain. But Tom's not taking that. He says the dish was watery and lacked flavor. Ed's Chinese dish was not as advertised, but it wasn't an issue of not being cooked properly.

It's hard to know who's gonna go here, but it ends up being Stephen. He says it's hard to go out on "cooking basics." He says just making it to Top Chef was a victory and that tonight he "was the guy who fell short."

Next week: Restaurant wars. Can't wait. From the previews tonight, it looks like the heat will be on.

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