Last week onTop Chef Seattle, the cheftestants' challenges revolved around regional ingredients. The episode was very fishy. Seattle chef Tom Douglas joined the judges' table inside the Space Needle.
Three past Top Chef competitors, Josie Smith-Malave (season 2), C.J. Jacobsen (season 3), and Stefan Richter (season 5), joined the competition. Sadly, Jeffrey Jew failed to impress the judges and was eliminated.
The challenge: Create an authentic international dumpling. Working individually, each contestant must pick a country (Africa? It's a loose interpretation of "country," I guess), and then make the dough-wrapped ball of food associated with that country. Padma Lakshmi tells the chefs that they will be gifted five minutes with a Kindle Fire, the Top Chef product of the week, to research their dumpling.
Dana Cowin, Editor-in-chief of Food & Wine Magazine, will judge the challenge. Dana explains that she will look to see how each chef handles a wrapper, stuffing, and sauce, adding that she has eaten her weight in dumplings. No pressure, but she knows her dumplings.
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The Worldly Dumplings
Stefan Richter – Klopse / Germany - ground lamb, mashed potatoes and capers. Stefan feels good about his choice because he grew up eating klopses. Lizzie Binder -Szilvas Gomboc / Hungary – plum and cinnamon filling in a potato pastry. Dana doesn't comment on Lizzie's dumpling, but it looks good. C.J. Jacobsen -Pierogi / Poland – veal and pork filling with demi-glace. Dana simply says, "It's a pretty plate."
Carla Pellegrino -Fufu / Africa – chicken and lamb with red sauce. In case you forgot: Carla sliced her hand on a knife last week. Her hand is still heavily bandaged, which hinders her use of the Kindle Fire. Given Carla's tablet typing challenges, Dana says she will put aside the "authenticity" of Carla's dumpling. Color me confused. Isn't creating an authentic dumpling the challenge?
Kuniko Yagi is in her own little world most of the time. Last week, she burned the key component of her team's dish because she forgot it was simmering on the stove. This week, she fails to plate her dumpling because she doesn't manage her time well. Josie Smith-Malave - Mandu / Korea – pork, tofu, shiitake mushroom filling. Dana questions Josie's decision to use kimchi.
Bart Vandaele - Potetball / Norway – potato ball with lamb and fried spaghetti. Dana calls it fried hair. That can't be good. Kristen Kish - Momo / Nepal – pork and chicken liver with ginger and cumin. John Tesar - Kroppkaka / Sweden – potato dumpling with béchamel sauce. Padma tells John she looks forward to having some of his [kropp] kaka – and I giggle like an immature school girl. Dana says kroppkaka made with béchamel sauce is different.
Sheldon Simeon - Jiaozi / China – pork and shrimp filling with shiitake mushrooms. Despite a lack of dumplings in Hawaii, Sheldon is familiar with his ingredients and feels confident. Dana is excited to meet Sheldon because he was voted Food & Wine Magazine's best new chef. Dana compliments the filling.
Brooke Williamson - Siomay / Indonesia – chicken and shrimp with peanut sauce and daikon. Brooke's dumpling has no wrapper because she didn't have flour, which means she works with a bunch of greedy chefs! There are, like, hundreds of different types of flour… how can there be NO flour left in the Top Chef kitchen? Dana thinks she did well despite the missing wrapper. Micah Fields - Manti / Kazakhstan – ground lamb with dates, curry and cinnamon. Micah is like, "Kazakhstand is a real place?" Dana comments, "You went really bold!" Micah hopes bold earns him a win.
This week's Quickfire Challenge losers are Brooke, Carla, and Kuniko. Dana tells Brooke that her Siomay dumpling was really tasty, but a wrapper is non negotiable. To Carla, Dana says, "That Fufu dumpling felt like it came to Africa via Italy." Kuniko didn't complete the challenge, so she's automatically a loser.
On the flip side, Josie, Stefan, and Micah's dumplings were the best of the bunch. Dana tells Stefan, "I felt like you had invited me into your grandmother's house." Micah's dumpling was very flavorful. Dana compliments Josie's "very complete dish in a very short amount of time." Josie wins the challenge and earns immunity.
The challenge: prepare Thanksgiving dinner for members of the organization FareStart. According to Wiki, FareStart got its start by delivering nutritious meals to homeless shelters. Then, its founder, David Lee, began training his clients in the kitchen, giving them the job skills they needed to secure jobs in the field.
Padma announces a Top Chef first… Emeril Lagasse and Tom Colicchio will join and lead the teams. C.J. says, "Holy f***balls!" Joining Emeril, Tom, and Padma at the dinner table will be Dana Cowin, FareStart's Megan Karch, and Thierry Rautureau, a Seattle-based chef.
Emeril joins the Gray Team and decides to create a New Orleans inspired Thanksgiving meal. The Gray Team includes Josie, Danyele, John, Kristen, Tyler, Kuniko, Sheldon, Brooke, and Chrissy. Tom joins the Red Team and plans to do an Italian style Thanksgiving dinner. The Red Team consists of Eliza, Stefan, Carla, Bart, Josh, Micah, Lizzie, and C.J.
Both Emeril and Tom instruct their teams to butter up the turkey. Tom simply says, "When I do the bird, I stuff a bunch of butter under the skin." Emeril, on the other hand, busts out, "Stuff that ass with a lot of butter."
Chef Tom's Italian Thanksgiving vs. Chef Emeril's Southern Thanksgiving: Josie says, "It's like the Civil War of Thanksgiving." Josie tells Emeril that she has immunity and offers to take on the turkey. Stefan freaks out when he doesn't have enough room to work. Carla says she loves Stefan's craziness. C.J. takes charge of his "bitching" team. Kuniko's team mates pull her in several directions because they feel as if she has a simple dish. Josie's turkey skin is burning, so she lowers the temperature in her oven.
C.J. and Stefan taste Carla's soup before it's seasoned and she loses her mind. C.J. raises his hands and says, "I just tasted it!" Stefan annoys Carla further by calling her "sweetie" and "honey." Carla yells, "There will be no sweetie anymore!" Stefan laughs and shares, "Why I left Europe… European women!" Much later, Carla and Stefan are still at it. Stefan admits that Carla freaks him out a little bit, especially since her ex-husand is rumored to be in the mafia. Carla just goes on and on and on about the "honey" thing. She yells, "Girls are honey, sweetie. The guys are chef. What the f***!"
Josie – triple spice turkey with cayenne and hot sauce. The turkey isn't cooked inside. Emeril admits, "It could have cooked a little bit more, unfortunately, but it's well seasoned." Dana agrees that it has a nice outside flavor, though the inside is raw. It's a shame Josie has immunity because she should be eliminated. In my opinion, serving raw turkey is unforgivable.
Danyelle – Emeril's mom's dressing – bread stuffing with chorizo and cayenne. Megan loves the chorizo stuffing. Thierry says, "It's really good, definitely has a kick." John – Emeril's cornbread stuffing with ground turkey and diced bacon. Emeril says he nailed it. Kristen – assiette of root vegetables, parsnip truffle puree and creme fraiche. Emeril thinks the veggies were under seasoned. Tyler – Andouille and shrimp gumbo. The gumbo is a miss. Thierry says it's lacking flavor and depth. Emeril thinks Tyler missed both the hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce.
Kuniko – potato pave. Padma says, "Oooh, this pave is raw." Tom thinks it's a definite misstep. Sheldon – braised greens with ham hocks. Tom says the greens are undercooked, but the flavor is great. Pamda likes the texture. Brooke – sweet potato buttermilk biscuits. Dana says, "The biscuit is so sweet and tender. I love the little crunch." Tom thinks Brooke's biscuits are good enough to be a new Thanksgiving tradition. Chrissy – white chocolate & pecan bread pudding. This dessert is a huge hit. John – spiced pumpkin & goat cheese ricotta torte. While Thierry loves the torse, Megan prefers Chrissy's pecan bread pudding.
Tom and the Red Team
C.J. – braised turkey with Tom's stuffing. Tom admits there's three pounds of butter shoved under the turkey's skin. Yummy. Thierry says the skin is wonderful and the meat is moist. Carla – carrot sop with turkey meatballs. The meatballs are perfect. Dana says, "It's sooo good."
Bart – fennel, gorgonzola, orange and pumpkin seed salad. While Dana thought the salad was nearly perfect, Padma thought it could have used more "refinement." Josh – sweet potato ravioli with pecans. Emeril feels as if Josh's ravioli is the weakest dish on the plate. Tom critiques the inconsistencies in the dough. Micah – roasted Brussels sprouts with cranberries, bacon and shallots. Thierry loves the Brussels sprouts and wants seconds; however, Dana thinks they're under seasoned and greasy.
Lizzie – potato puree. Dana says the potatoes are fantastic. Stefan – panna cotta with orange cardamom crisp and candied pecans. Padma thinks the cardamom is too strong. Eliza – chocolate tart with white chocolate and mint. Emeril says the first bite is great but the second bite is too hot. Tom says, "Overall, the deserts are a letdown."
Since they worked closely with the teams, Emeril and Tom excuse themselves from the vote. Megan, Dana, Thierry, and Padma all vote for the Red Team. After announcing the Red Team as the winner, Padma asks to see C.J., Carla, and Lizzie. The judges compliment Carla on her soup, Lizzie on her potatoes, and C.J.'s leadership.
Carla wins. She might be 50 shades of crazy, but she obviously has skills.
Tyler, Kuniko, Sheldon, and Josie must face the judges next. Tom says to Josie, "You have immunity and can't go home, but your team lost because your turkey was really undercooked." Josie doesn't believe Tom. I didn't see Josie's first season… but she's kind of annoying me now. Tom would love to send Josie home but he can't because she has immunity. The judges tell Tyler his gumbo was under seasoned. When asked about her raw potatoes, Kuniko says she was really pushed for time (despite having five hours). Josie defends Kuniko, saying she really helped the team as a whole. Emeril tells Sheldon he should have cooked the greens longer.
Kuniko goes home. Another unfortunate elimination. Kuniko seems super sweet, but she needs to work on time management. Kuniko shares, "It meant a lot for me to come here to try. I don't have regrets. If I didn't help anyone and I only took care of myself… that's worse than me going home."
TELL US – WERE YOU SAD TO SEE KUNIKO ELIMINATED? WHO WOULD YOU HAVE SENT HOME?