Two nights ago I was standing in my small kitchen, wondering what to make with Bisquick, kidney beans, and honey mustard. It was all I had in my pantry — clearly I needed to go grocery shopping — and since bean pancakes didn’t sound quite right, I picked up the phone like any good New Yorker and ordered take-out. A good decision, but also a lazy one. If I had the skills (and drive to compete) like the cheftestants on last night’s Top Chef, I probably could’ve whipped up a sweetened bean dip with whole-wheat crumbles, or something equally edible and perhaps tasty.
This very lesson — to make do with what you have — was the theme of last night’s elimination challenge. The contestants had to prepare a meal for 300 airmen at Nellis Air Force Base, home to the aerial acrobat team, The Thunderbirds. The catch? The chefs didn’t know their ingredients until they got to the kitchen, and not just any kitchen — a mess kitchen, meaning no burners, no pots, no pans. But the contestants couldn’t do take-out like me; they had — to borrow from another Bravo show — to make it work.
It all started, not with another nod to Vegas, but with a quickfire challenge where the chefs had to wow guest judge Mark Peel, chef/owner of Campanile in L.A., with their ”out of this world” spin on the potato. A little backstory: Peel started out as a vegetable boy for Wolfgang Puck and spent many a day with a potato in one hand and a peeler in the other. This quickfire was a little homage to Peel’s earnest roots. Too. Many. Potato. Puns.
I give it to the chefs for their inspired creations. Ash tried a sweet potato ice cream, Laurine created a potato burger with a portabella mushrooms bun and Mike I. made a risotto out of potatoes. But the quickfire was not without drama. (Hello, it’s Bravo! What would their reality shows be without that strumming-impending-doom guitar twang?) When Preeti used Ashley’s pot of boiling water instead of Kevin’s like she was supposed to, Ashley flew off the handle and then had 13 minutes left and no boiling water for her potato gnocchi — or that’s what the editing led us to believe. Still, for all her anger, she was pretty tame. If it were Jen’s pot you took, you’d probably have your eyes gouged with a wine opener. Ick.
Anyway, Ashley not only pulled off her gnocchi and homemade ricotta, but Peel called it one of his favorites, too. Crisis averted! Alas, Ashley’s gnocchi and Ash’s sweet potato ice cream-turned-custard (it wasn’t cold enough as ice cream) were among Peel’s faves, but Jen’s steamed mussels with Yukon gold and blue potatoes won immunity, yet no $15,000 chip this time. Guess the kibosh on the Vegas references spilled over to the prizes, too?
NEXT: Serving the servicemen