Do you even know how much sugar is in processed peanut butter?(The author)
When Alex Reznik made a deconstructed version of his mother’s borscht on last week’s season premiere of Top Chef D.C., it was charming (and, by all accounts, delicious). When Amanda Baumgarten, the program’s other Jewish contestant, made braised chicken thigh in a sherry jus—for middle-schoolers—in this week’s episode, it was dumb and apparently gross, and got her within inches of the boot.
The elimination challenge gives each of four groups of four chefs a paltry $130 budget at something called “Restaurant Depot” (no Whole Foods this week) to make a delicious and nutritious school lunch for 50 middle-schoolers. In other words: $2.60 per child. “I could make a dessert,” Amanda confides, “but I don’t want to, because people who make desserts go home.” A longtime Top Chef viewer, this one! “Take one for the team is not in my vocabulary,” she adds. Her group-mate Jacqueline has to cut back on her, yes, dessert because her ingredients took the group to over $170. “Kinda looks like Jacqueline thought the $130 was the individual’s budget,” Amanda snarks.
They go to cook at the Hilton—which the locals call the Reagan Hilton, because—and then head to the middle school, which is Alice Deal Middle School, in upper northwest D.C., which, in a funny coincidence, is no more than a quarter mile from Politics & Prose (it is also my father’s alma mater). Meanwhile, Amanda’s teammates have realized that, y’know, she is making something with sherry for middle-schoolers. “Alcohol is inappropriate for the kids,” says one; another suggests tomato paste instead. But Amanda presses on, the way young lemmings do. SPOILERS FOLLOW. (more…)