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

Many local D.C. food enthusiasts were anticipating an episode representative of their region. What better way to showcase the bounty of the Chesapeake and of Northern Virginia than by inviting Patrick O’Connell, acclaimed James Beard award winner and proprietor of The Inn at Little Washington, as this week’s guest judge.

Quickfire: Blue crab — live and kicking — from the Chesapeake. Most contestants seemed to go for salads, or soups and chowders. The three top contestants all joined Asian ingredients with crab. While no one created the quintessential crab cake from pulled crab, Ed Cotton, executive chef at NYC’s Plein Sud, won with Jumbo Lump Crab with Thai Basil, Mango & Cucumber Salad.

Farm policy: Farming takes teamwork, something unexpectedly missing from the chefs. This week’s challenge was a mystery basket of organic locally produced ingredients from Virginia’s Ayrshire Farm. Sadly, the chefs seemed to put ego above team spirit and split into last week’s team, a decision not necessarily advantageous to the overall outcome.

Cooking outdoors in the cold: Amazingly, despite a dish falling on the grass and lack of space, the chefs rallied. One chef chose a salad plated in a bowl — never plate salad in a bowl — and promptly was relegated to the bottom of the heap. Salads in bowls tend to overdress.

Elimination challenge: Local vegetables were the dish of the day, prepared as Hot and Sour Curried Eggplant with Peppers & Carrot Tops from Kenny Gilbert, executive chef, PGA National Resort & Spa. Summarizing the local farm policy theme were comments from chef Patrick O’Connell such as “elegant rustic farm appearance,” “striking in clarity” and “beautifully balanced.”

Tip of the day: For a single dish, do not cut your vegetables in different sizes; they will cook unevenly.

What are your tips for cooking with local ingredients or cooking in the outdoors? Leave a comment.

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Image credit, JPecha, via

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