What have I gotten myself into? Top Chef has brainwashed me; I need to procure a few GE Monogram appliances. Also, there are too. many. accents. this season.
Last week, judges Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Hugh Acheson, and Wolfgang Puck put the last of the Top Chef Seattle hopefuls through the ultimate chef test. The chefs who were deemed too salty, too sweaty, too full of themselves, and too boring for reality TV were eliminated.
Season 10's cheftestants are Bart Vandaele, Brooke Williamson, Carla Pellegrino, Chrissy Camba, Danyele McPherson, Eliza Gavin, Jeffrey Jew, John Tesar, Josh Valentine, Kristen Kish, Kuniko Yagi, Lizzie Binder, Micah Fields, Sheldon Simeon, and Tyler Wiard.
Alright, alright, alright! Padma Lakshmi is in the house, err, kitchen, and she's feisty. John decides to talk to his teammates while Padma is still dishing out instructions for the Quickfire challenge. She puts him in his place. Manners by Bravo lesson number one: don't talk over Padma. Standing beside Padma in a quiet and single-file line, as not to bring on Manners by Bravo lesson number two, are three past Top Chef contestants. Surprise! Josie Smith-Malave (season 2), C.J. Jacobsen (season 3), and Stefan Richter (season 5) will be the judges for the first blitzkrieg (okay, a little dramatic, but I love that word). Chrissy remembers Stefan; he's an evil villain who looks like a thumb.
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Padma points out stacks of colored aprons and asks the contestants to divide themselves into five groups of three. John, the most hated chef in Dallas, spies Kuniko helping herself to a blue apron, so John, too, grabs a blue one… because she's Japanese and, therefore, probably good with knives. Please, stop with the Japanese stereotypes.
The challenge: create a dish that highlights local shellfish in only 20 minutes. More importantly, "Chefs, you have free range of the Top Chef kitchen, which is equipped with the latest GE monogrammed appliances." See. I need. You need. We all need GE in our lives. But, Melissa, you don't cook. But, husband, I simply must indulge my inner chef.
Gray Team: Bart, Jeffrey, and Brooke
Orange Team: Lizzie, Carla, and Chrissy
Green Team: Micah, Kristen, and Tyler
Blue Team: Sheldon, Kuniko, and John
Yellow Team: Eliza, Danyele, and Josh
Instead of making a mad dash for her seafood of choice, Brooke recites 101 ways to cook geoduck (goo-ey duck). Finally, her teammates have enough sense to tell her to be quiet and get it! Kristen also wants geoduck. She explains, "Geoduck looks like a penis. A giant one." In the end, everyone wants a piece of the big geoduck, but a few teams are too late.
Carla, Carla, Carla… she talks too much, she needs a brush and a headband, she talks too much, and she shares, "I want to be a James Beard, and I want to have a nice ass." The three women on the orange team all talk at the same time, accomplishing nothing. While Bart tells a cute little story about Belgian food, Carla is around the corner, still talking. She chastises her teammates, "Without knowing what to do, we're not doing anything. I can't be running around like a stupid." I think it's fair to say… that ship has already sailed.
Bart, Jeffrey, and Brooke (gray) – crawfish with pickled red chili, fennel and crawfish cream. C.J., "old school." According to Stefan, it's good despite too much dill.
Lizzie, Carla, and Chrissy (orange) – oven-roasted crawfish with fennel and herb salad. After working with Carla, Lizzie is a bundle of nerves. She's not proud of their dish, saying it's messy and crazy… like Carla. C.J. wants more acid. Josie says the salad is seasoned well and gives it two thumbs up.
Tyler, Kristen, and Micah (green) – fried and sashimi geoduck, radish and bok choy salad, yuzu chili vinaigrette. While Padma and C.J. think the sashimi should have been cut thinner, Josie appreciates the diverse textures.
Kuniko, John, and Sheldon (blue) – geoduck sashimi, ponzu, apple and cucumber. C.J. loves it. Stefan likes the addition of pine nuts but asks for more salt.
Danyele, Eliza, and Josh (yellow) – razor clam and grilled corn chowder with Fresno chili and grilled lime. This dish needs salt, also.
Padma asks the three judges, "Which dish was the least successful?" After a short discussion, C.J. breaks the news to the Yellow Team, "The soup with the razor clams wasn't really seasoned properly, there wasn't a good amount of acid, and it didn't make the razor clams sing." On the flip side, the judges deem the geoduck/apple/cucumber dish prepared by the Blue Team the best. John shares, "Winning the first quickfire on Top Chef is going to be up there in the top five things of all time in my life." Sheldon, John, and Kuniko draw knives… John wins immunity.
Expect the Unexpected
Padma announces that Stefan, Josie, and C.J. will join Top Chef Seattle as competitors. The kitchen is full of nervous laughter and fake smiles. Tyler adds, "Bullshit!" Josh whispers to Danyele and Eliza, "It's gonna suck. I'm gonna get into fights, I'm sure, now." To us, he says, "F*** them. I hate them all." Micah shares, "I'd love to whip their asses. Bring it on." Stefan boasts, "I have nothing to prove. I drive a f***ing 3GT Porsche and I have restaurants." But, he (along with everyone he knows) thinks he should have won his season, so he's back. For the next challenge, the veterans will form the red team.
The challenge: make one dish using regional ingredients for Seattle chef Tom Douglas. The challenge takes place inside the Space Needle. The teams have 47 minutes, which is how long it takes to Space Needle to spin one time, to complete the task. Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, and Tom Douglas will judge.
Random news: Lizzie continues to fret about working with Carla. Brooke is afraid of heights. Josie shares, she's back for redemption. Her words of wisdom to the newbies: "What you did yesterday, doesn't do anything for you today. Every day is a new challenge. Right on and rock on, rock stars." Kuniko wants to chili oil poach her team's cod. John admits, "I've never seen that before. Kuniko is a risk-taker. She's challenging me after all these years, and I'm just loving her choices." Odd… no mention of her impeccable knife skills… That stupid comment aside, John's actually quite likable. Granted, he has immunity, so we'll see what happens to dear John next week.
Lizzie and Carla argue about lemon. Kuniko burns her chili oil. Carla loses her s**t when it's time to plate, and the contestants not on her team are silently counting their blessings.
Blue Team – Kuniko, John, and Sheldon - chili oil poached cod with dash, spot prawn shabu shabu. Gail, "As the first thing I put in my mouth in Seattle, not bad. (slight pause) That came out wrong." Actually, it was just right… and brilliant. Keep up the good work, Gail. Overall, they say the dish's smokey flavor is dead on and the temperature of the chili is perfect.
Orange Team – Lizzie, Carla, and Chrissy - poached salmon with seasonal vegetables and beurre blanc. Seattle Tom thinks the salmon is cooked perfectly. While everyone agrees the dish is poorly seasoned, Padma feels as if the strong flavor of the beurre blanc makes up for it.
The veterans change their game plan seconds before it's their turn in the kitchen – risky. Stefan handles the tiny quail breasts. He assures us, he's used to bigger breasts. Josie and C.J. clash over cherries. Brooke worries that Jeffrey overcooked their halibut.
Red Team – Josie, Stefan, and C.J. – quail breast with confit spot prawn, cherries and porcini. Seattle Tom likes the addition of the cherries. Both the quail and the spot prawn are overcooked. Seattle Tom is like, wow, you guys are a tough crowd!
Gray Team – Bart, Jeffrey, and Brooke – pan-roasted halibut, mushrooms, English peas, wheat beer with herb sabayon. Padma compares her halibut to a hockey puck… ouch… that's never good. Also, the pea sauce is a miss.
Danyele, Eliza, and Josh have no idea what fish they're cooking with because its head is missing.. but it's white. They ultimately decide it's cod. Micah, Kristen, and Tyler continue to be ego-free and work well together. Meanwhile, someone steals Josh's mushrooms and he's out for blood. He think, "A lot of people think I'm just this little guy from OK and that'll be their mistake. I've worked under great chefs. I'll surprise a lot of people."
Yellow Team – Eliza, Danyele, and Josh - pan-roasted cod, mushrooms, lava beans, pickled green apple and garlic scape pistou. Seattle Tom says it's cooked nicely; however, he wants more of the pistou. Emeril and Top Chef Tom agree the apple is the best part of the dish, but Tom says there isn't enough of it.
Green Team – Micah, Kristen, and Tyler – crispy seared salmon, local vegetables and spot prawn butter sauce. Salmon is perfectly cooked and the "mouth feel" is pleasant.
Overall, the judges think the chefs did an amazing job. Sure, there were a few clunkers, but Gail is absolutely stoked about such a promising start to the season. The blue team's dish wins again! The judges commend Kuniko's decision to use the chili oil. It seems as if Sheldon, Kuniko, and John are this season's front runners. But, I hope John does something else with his glasses when he's not wearing them. Seeing them on his forehead annoys me.
Kuniko wins the challenge. Yay for her and kudos to her team for listening to her and deciding together, as a team, to let her take control of the fish.
The Gray Team, Bart, Jeffrey, and Brooke, and the Red Team, Josie, Stefan, and C.J., face the judges next. Padma tells both teams that their dishes were disappointing. Wow… veterans on the chopping block the first week… maybe they should have stayed home. Stefan blames the overcooked quail on timing. Umm, yeah, too much time. The newbie team blame their clashing styles and personalities for their unsuccessful dish. When asked, Jeffrey must take responsibility for the fish. Gail points out that their fish was hard seared on both sides, which Brooke was worried about during prep, and dry in the middle.
Jeffrey goes home. So sad. He did really well last week and seems nice.
TELL US – DID JEFFREY'S ELIMINATION SURPRISE YOU? DO STEFAN, JOSIE, AND C.J. HAVE AN UNFAIR ADVANTAGE? ANY FAVORITES YET?
Photo credit: Bravo