Five chefs have made it this far in the season - Kevin, Angelo, Ed, Tiffany and Kelly. I can't say these are the almost-finalists that I would have picked at the beginning of the series. Angelo is the exception. He's had the killer instinct since the beginning and that's half the battle. "I'm gonna win Top Chef," he says during the opening of tonight's episode. "There hasn't been a doubt in my mind every since I started." This challenge is the last in DC before the finals.
Quick fire challenge: Wine and dine
The guest judge is Food&Wine magazine editor in chief Dana Cowin. Ed is friends with her on Facebook. She says 10% of wine pairings are awful and 10% are genius. The challenge is for the chefs to choose a wine and create a dish that works with it. "Wine is my passion," says Angelo. At Kelly's restaurant, her husband acts as sommelier and together they create a lot of pairings. "I have a leg up," she says.
The winner of the quick fire is also going to receive a trip to London.
Kevin is attempting to make a braised pork belly in a pressure cooker. It doesn't turn out well and he has to make a quick switch - with like 7 minutes left - to grilled quail, which is not gonna go well with his Merlot. Indeed, Dana calls him out on it, explaining the obvious - that the quail is too delicate for the bold wine.
Angelo is making foie gras with fennel salad to go with his white wine. "That's an interesting dish," says Dana.
Kelly prepares a wild boar tenderloin with a blue cheese emulsion to accompany her zinfandel. The foamy cheese actually that appears to cause the guest judge to recoil slightly.
Tiffany has a shiraz and a spring risotto and grilled wagyu and mushroom risotto to pair with his Italian wine.
Ed has an Italian wine that he pairs with grilled wagyu and spring potato risotto. To the casual observer - that's me - it looks like he and Tiffany made the same dish.
The guest judge likes the dishes prepared by Angelo and Tiffany the best. Angelo wins. "Damn," he says with a bit of relief and explaining that he hasn't won in three challenges. Kevin worried that Angelo "has gotten his mojo back."Elimination challenge: NASA noshing
Padma announces that the final challenge will be held internationally, for the first time in Top Chef history. The final cheftestants will be going to Singapore to compete. Angelo says he "feels Asian inside" and "tingles" at the thought of going to Singapore.
The chefs are going to Goddard Space Flight Center to learn more about the elimination challenge. There, the chefs are met by Tom Colicchio and greeted by the woman who manages the food systems for NASA. They watch a satellite feed from the International Space Station, where astronauts do a show-n-tell of the meals they take to space. Normally, the food scientists come up with stuff like chicken fajitas, but the NASA is always looking for new, flavorful dishes that follow the guidelines for dining at zero gravity. The chef's challenge is to create a dish that's out of this world. The winning dish will be reproduced at the space food lab in Houston and will be flown to the space station during an upcoming mission.
The chefs are cooking for a table of eight, including astronauts, scientists and the judges. The special guest judge is Buzz Aldrin.
There are some rules to follow for successful freeze-dried meals: avoid using too much sugar or large pieces of food. And it seem astronauts like it hot - and spicy. Tastes better in space.
Everyone is excited about the challenge. Kevin's plan is to create food that's "warm and comforting and down to earth." Ha. He says the other chefs are doing dishes outside the box, but he's doing something more American.
Tom Colicchio visits the kitchen. Angelo shows him a diagram - food engineering graph - of his dish: ginger-lacquered braised short ribs and horseradish creme fraiche. The judge makes a face. Angelo says "what's that look for?" Tom says no reason. Yeah, he always has a reason.
Kelly is making a pan-roasted halibut with artichoke barigoule. What the heck is that?
Ed is preparing a duo of lamb: yogurt-marinated lamb and grilled lamb satay. "I don't see too many Middle Eastern astronauts up there," says Tom.
Tiffany is cooking up a coconut curry with pan-seared halibut and jasmine rice. Tom tells her she's "been coming on strong." Is that the kiss of death? Before the chefs leave, Tiffany finds that the mussels she refrigerated have frozen and are all dead. She seems deflated, if not defeated.
Kevin has a grilled strip steak with jalapeno marmalade and corn puree.
When the chefs come downstairs the next morning, they get a note that their ride to the challenge is out front and that the winner of the challenge gets to take it home: it's a black Toyota Avalon. "This puppy is mine," says Angelo. I don't doubt it, really.
The chefs have one hour to cook and the kitchen seems a b it smaller than usual. They're on top of each other. Tiffany says she's not going down without a fight and talks about how when she started at I-Hop - seriously - she was told women couldn't be in the kitchen. But she worked harder than anyone else and got a spot in kitchen.
"No Reservations" Anthony Bourdain is joining the others at the table, along with guest judge Eric Rippert.
Kelly's dish is well received and well prepared, says Tom, but the food scientist is concerned the sauce will be too hard to freeze dry. Ed's Moroccan dish gets some support, but Eric says it's too complicated. Kevin's dish is also well-received. Tiffany's not as much. Angelo's dish is seen as very sophisticated, but Tom thinks it's a bit sweet. This is gonna be a tough judge's table. Tiffany could be in trouble.
'Difference between the winners and the losers was really small," says Tom as judges table begins.
Tiffany gets hit for her sauce and skin on peppers. Kelly's artichokes are clearly stars. Kevin's dish is seen as playing it a bit safe. Ed nailed his dish. Angelo's is too sweet but so original.
And so.....the winner is Angelo. The car is his, too. See, he knew it.
And the chef going home....Tiffany. Wow.