We will never know. Make no mistake: I care deeply about the integrity of this competition and consider it imperative that cheating be dealt with decisively. But the problem here is that we’ll never know which of the three possibilities actually transpired, and only one of the three possibilities actually involved foul play. And given that we can never know what happened, we need to move on. We can, in fact, move on without needing to belabor the issue because 1) Ed did not get disqualified, or even find himself on the bottom of the challenge. Quite the contrary, he found himself in the top three; and 2) Alex did not win the title of “Top Chef” on the merits of the pea puree in question. He won a single week’s challenge. As we saw with Arnold, one can win a challenge one week and be out of the game altogether in the week following. If it was Alex’s pea puree, then his mug deserves to sojourn on the wall of the Palm dining room. The judge’s were quite taken with Alex’s pea puree, so if it were, however, Ed’s, perhaps it would have cinched the win for him, and perhaps Ed’s caricature would be peering out at future Palm diners. (When Gail said that the peas on Ed’s plate were superfluous, it’s because he served peas (not a new pea puree) that were not well made, and they were the weak link in an otherwise strong dish.) If Alex did pinch the puree, he’ll have to live with himself, which, if he prides himself as a chef, should gnaw at him over time and be penalty enough. Given that, as I wrote above, we’ll never know, we’ll have to leave it at that and move on.
As for Andrea’s losing dish, when you use vanilla in a savory dish, the diner perceives the dish as sweet – even if the dish isn’t – because of the general association of sweetness with vanilla, and because of the frankly sweet smell vanilla has, which spills over to and affects one’s sense of taste. The dish could not support that overpowering essence of sweetness. It was so problematic as to have ruined the dish, even more so than Kelly’s oversalting of her beef ruined hers.
We’re half-way through with this season’s competition. From here on out, there will be less and less room for mistakes, and more and more need, I hope, to chose the best and worst dishes in each challenge from amidst all high-level offerings….