Top Chef D.C., round eight: Rice checks

Keep Westword Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Denver and help keep the future of Westword free.

Everyone hates Alex. The viewing audience hates Alex. His fellow contestants hate Alex. Ask any food obsessive you encounter whether Alex stole Ed's pea puree, and the answer will be an unhesitating "of course" -- though no one really knows for sure.

So, perversely, I've been feeling kind of sorry for him. Sure, he's a goony, clumsy, blurty, uncertain guy, whose food is all over the place, but he's also a lower-middle-class kid from -- as far as I can tell -- an eccentric, immigrant family, and I can't help thinking there's a story there beyond his wild swings between competence and ineptness in the kitchen. Still, when he ended up among the bottom three on Top Chef this week for both the Quickfire and (with Stephen and a profoundly humiliated Ed) in the Elimination, I assumed he'd be going home for his incoherent take on Spanish cuisine.

But he was spared.

The loser was Stephen, who'd messed up his rice. There's been lots of harrumphing from the blogosphere to the effect that no serious chef should ever mess up rice. But combine the intense stress of competition with the nasty chafing dishes that were all the chefs had to work with on the second day of preparing dishes for ambassadors and dignitaries, and it's not that hard to see how it happened.

The theme was international cuisine. The Quickfire was judged by Swedish-Ethiopian Marcus Samuelsson, and the contestants were to prepare food inspired by Ethiopia. Spanish chef Jose Andres judged the Elimination, for which each chef was assigned a different country. Winner in both: Tiffany. She acquired immunity by winning the Quickfire - despite the fact that her stew, which she called goulash, had nothing to do with Ethiopia that I could see, and probably not much more to do with Hungary. This was a nice outcome, though, because Tiffany's been in the top tier a few times and never broken through; because she seems warm, solid, and comfortable in her own skin as a cook; and because her delight on winning was so infectious.

Though she won immunity, she didn't rest on her laurels, coming up with a rich chicken tamale dish. Kevin joined her in the top three, having expertly braised a chicken and put together his own curry powder mix -- despite saying beforehand he knew nothing about the cuisine. Kelly, one of our Colorado entrants, did well, too. She'd taken the Sterno limitation into account and made a beef carpaccio that was simple, classic and delicious. It looks like she's over last week's humiliations and has her feet firmly back under her.

Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.


Join the Westword community and help support independent local journalism in Denver.