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Babies Making Baby Food

This week on ‘Top Chef D.C.’

Marc Tracy
July 08, 2010

Top Chef D.C. host Padma Lakshmi has confirmed rumors that her daughter’s father is Adam Dell, the younger brother to (Jewish) computer magnate Michael. Last night’s Quickfire Challenge involved cooking for little Krishna Thea Lakshmi as well as little Luka Bodhi Colicchio—sorta. Chefs made an “adult” plate, then puréed it and tried to have that taste good, too. In case you are wondering, no, if you take all the letters that comprise this blogpost and randomly rearrange them, your child will probably not enjoy it.

The good news is that Padma’s and Tom’s favorite baby food-makers each get $10,000.

“I would use it toward an orphanage in Thailand that helps children affected with HIV and AIDS,” says one chef.

“I’d use it to buy me something nice: A hooker and an eight ball, please,” says another.

Can you guess who the second speaker is?

Of course you can.

But Alex Reznik isn’t done; in fact, he’s pretty worried. “I’ve never made baby food,” he tells the camera. “I’ve practiced making baby, but not baby food.” Whoa, dude, are you saying you’ve had sex? We appreciate your allowing us to watch and learn from how cool you are.

The chefs quickly prepare. Amanda Baumgarten, unsurprisingly, is acting like something of a crazy person in the kitchen. We also learn that Angelo Sosa, this season’s resident villain, has a son. The terror that results from my realization that Angelo is capable of reproducing sinks in slowly, like a bare foot in mud.

Time for tasting. One of the purées has a lemon seed still in it, which is pretty bad, unless you’re the type who likes dead baby jokes. Angelo’s purée is the fanciest—Tom notes that it has three layers. “Four,” Angelo corrects him. “One’s a surprise.” Angelo is taking the content of the magical layer of his baby food to his grave. Amanda does fine. Alex serves seared duck, spinach basil purée, mushroom, and dill cous-cous, and is one of Tom’s two least favorites. High five!

The Elimination Challenge features seven teams of two cooking tournament-style: All seven cook breakfast; bottom five cook lunch; bottom three from lunch cook dinner; worst dinner goes home. Both chefs. When the chefs hear that there will be no blaming your incompetent teammate today, says one, “everyone suddenly gets their game-face on.” Here is Amanda’s game-face:

You have to choose your teams. Alex hones in on Ed, late of Queens. “Alex was like,” Ed says, pausing to imitate a tractor beam, “and I was like, ‘Aw [bleeped].’” Oh c’mon, Bravo, just this once.

Amanda, meanwhile, goes with Steve. “No one really wants to pair up with either Steve or me,” she explains (maybe because they watched last week’s episode?). “If we were to win this challenge, I think it might say to the competition, ‘Oh, perhaps you might have overlooked a couple of people? Mmm?’” But the chip on Amanda’s shoulder isn’t the edible kind; she needs to make ‘em say “Mmm” with her food.

Amanda is pestering Steve. “How do you know when the Hollandaise is done?” she asks. “Are you kidding?” he replies. “Hollandaise is one of the five French mother sauces! Anyone who calls herself a chef would know how to make it! How did you even get on this show?” Just kidding, actually, he says, “When it tastes really good.” Oh, so that’s the trick.

Meanwhile, Ed is freaking out over whether Alex can actually cook pancakes, and Alex is freaking out over whether he can actually cook pancakes, too. “Our breakfast is super-challenging,” Alex explains, “cause everything has to be done à la minut,” which is to say, short-order. The pancakes are proving really complicated. Alex wants them plated just so, which appears to be in the middle of the plate. “For me it just doesn’t scream finesse,” Ed confides. Alex and Ed are so busy getting the pancakes just right that they leave off their own breakfast sauce. “Before you know it, clock’s out, and Hollandaise hasn’t even hit the plate,” Alex says. By the way, Amanda, if you’re reading: That’s how you know when the Hollandaise isn’t done.

But even sans Hollandaise—see, Alex, I can speak Xhosa, too!—this team is presenting the judges a hefty dish: Prosciutto potato cake, egg with lemon pancake, and a bellini cocktail, with roasted pepper, onions, and fresh parsley. That is, unless you’re the judge unlucky enough to get the plate that Ed forgot to put a pancake on. In Ed’s defense, pancakes are really complicated. The judges—who include Spike Mendelsohn, of Season 4 fame, who now runs one of the only Capitol Hill burger joints that President Obama hasn’t yet ordered dijon mustard at—send Alex and Ed to the next round, in the bad way.

Amanda and Steve serve a pretty similar dish: Poached egg, pancetta, potato Rösti and grape ragout, with hollandaise and shallots. Only this one is good! (It helps when you include the Hollandaise.) Padma would have rendered more of the fat out of the pancetta—because as everyone knows, pork tastes best when it doesn’t have as much fat—but Amanda and Steve are still one of the judges’ two favorites. Safe!

Back to Alex and Ed. For lunch, Alex decides to cook scallops, because he only has, like, oysters to go before he has cooked every conceivable type of trayf during the course of the series, and he is, after all, racing against his inevitable elimination. “I cook the [bleeped] out of scallops, make ‘em delicious every time,” Alex brags. (Your faithful blogger doesn’t eat scallops—after all, they’re not kosher gross.) Final dish: Sea scallops with ricotta gnudi and broccoli rabe (your faithful blogger does eat broccoli rabe, and in fact was eating some home-prepared broccoli rabe—no, mom, really, I swear!—while watching). And the chefs like it! Alex is safe, too.

Later, while the four members of the two worst teams face elimination, an argument breaks out among the chefs waiting it out in the pantry. One of the chefs on the chopping block wistfully regrets not having explained to the judges how he hoped they would eat his dish. “You’re no one to tell people how to eat food,” Amanda gratuitously retorts from her position of safety. “No one’s gonna listen to you.”

“Are you crazy?” this chef responds. “Are you nuts?” Good questions both, and we shall have occasion to explore them further: Amanda’s journey along the ridge of sanity will continue for at least one more week.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.