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“Top Chef D.C.” challenges cheftestants to disguise their dishes at the CIA

SmartBrief’s Angela Giroux Scheide tuned in to this week’s episode of “Top Chef D.C.”

When Wylie Dufresne, best known for his innovative molecular gastronomy, was introduced as guest judge on this week’s episode, the viewers knew the remaining chefs would not have an easy Quickfire challenge.

Sure enough, the contestants were each treated to an identical box of mystery ingredients. Fans of “Chopped” on the Food Network will be most familiar with this concept. Unlike the other show, “Top Chef D.C.” made the challenge more complex by the addition of three successive boxes.

Mystery ingredients: Fava beans, hominy, rockfish (box one); squid, black garlic (box two); ramps and passionfruit (box three); jicima (box four). Some of the chefs, including normally confident Angelo Sosa, chef-owner of Xie Xie, struggled with the unknown and failed to construct an acceptable dish. Most successful dish was by Tiffany Derry of Go Fish Ocean Club: Fish stew with fava beans.

Lesson learned: When surprised, cook from your gut.
What would you do with these ingredients in 30 minutes?

Change of venue: The Elimination challenge moved from mystery ingredients to becoming a “covert affair” at the Central Intelligence Agency, cooking for Leon Panetta and his top staff. This time, the goal was to disguise the actual dish, thereby providing a secret yet recognizable identity for the judges.

Among the dishes to be disguised were Beef Wellington, Gyro and French Onion Soup. In a repeat of the Quickfire round, Angelo failed and Tiffany won. Alex Reznik of Ivan Kane’s Café was complimented on his secreted composition but was eliminated based on mysteriously cooked veal, described as tough.

Lessons learned: Don’t disguise soup by making a soup and cook meat correctly.

Parents of younger children know this challenge. How would you disguise your favorite food? Leave a comment.