Top Chef Seattle Recap: The Ultimate Chef Test

Top Chef is back. Padma Lakshmi returns as host, and the series promises a "back to basics" season. Top Chef Season 10 will take us to Seattle. But, we're not actually in Seattle yet, because the judges still have some cheftestant fat to cut.

The remaining Top Chef Seattle hopefuls are broken up into four groups and must prove themselves to either Tom Colicchio, Emeril LagasseHugh Acheson, or Wolfgang Puck. The cheftestants will pour their hearts and souls (and, for some, sweat) into dinner prep, soups, omelets, and salads, and then the judges decide who moves on to Seattle. 

Head judge Tom Colicchio's team includes John Tesar, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Binder, Jorel Pierce, Micah Fields, and Anthony Gray.

John pimps himself as the "most hated chef in Dallas." Then, in case we're too dim to realize, he tells us that "hated" basically means "awesome."  John says he has a natural talent, and he's the best. Well, there you have it, Top Chef fans. Should we just call it a season and crown him the winner now? Eh, what fun would that be? Let's meet the other egos contestants. 


Tom throws the chefs into a dinner service at his Los Angeles restaurant. Tom looks for prep and cooking skills, as well as chefs who stand out in the kitchen. Lizzie is nervous and crushes on Tom. Jorel shows up with a handlebar mustache. I don't know why. Micah plans to smash the competition. Anthony is very quiet but he makes up for it in sweat. 

Lizzie's tortellini impresses. Anthony cuts duck with a paring knife, while simultaneously marinating the duck with his sweat. Yummy.  Perhaps he wouldn't have to exert so much energy if he used a bigger knife. Uh oh. Tom knows all about John. However, his interpretation of "hated" leans more towards "hot head." John shares that he "came up" with the likes of Bobby Flay, but he threw it all away by abusing drugs. Tom has to show Micah how to filet a fish. Jorel's mustache boasts, "I could butcher a pig with my eyes closed," but he later proves he cannot follow instructions. As soon as John plates his halibut, Tom secretly gives him a Top Chef coat, which is his ticket to Seattle. The other contestants do not know what happened to John, but, obviously, they hope he's been eliminated. 

Following the dinner service, the contestants finally learn that Tom sent John straight to Seattle. They're ecstatic for him bummed out. Also going to Seattle: Lizzie and Michah. Tom eliminates Jorel and Anthony. Basically, Jorel's mustache is unforgivable and he uses too much salt. And, while Anthony lacks ambition, Micah sweats it (pun intended, haha, poor Anthony and his sweat). 

Facing the culinary superstar, Emeril Lagasse, are Josh Valentine, Stephanie Cmar, Jeffrey Jew, Tina Bourbeau, and Kristen Kish.

Emeril challenges the chefs to make soup. Sounds simple enough, right? Emeril laughs in our faces and explains, "Seems simple but [soup] needs structure, seasoning, depth, and it's a true test to see if you're a great chef." Josh shares Jorel's love of handlebar mustaches. Seriously, is this mustache a trend right now? According to Stephanie, facing Emeril fills her brain with butterflies. Kristen shares that she and Stephanie met seven years ago and bonded over boob sweat. Let's hope Stephanie, Kristen, and Anthony from Tom's group all advance… oh, the stories they could tell! 

So, back to boob sweat, Stephanie and Kristen are friends, co-workers, and neighbors and share matching spoon tattoos, but they're not lesbians. Jeffrey thinks his travels will help him win Top Chef. Josh shares, "My wife is expecting in three months … These are tremendous sacrifices that I'm making to compete on Top Chef. If I go to Seattle, I miss the birth of my daughter. That weighs on me a little bit." 

Stephanie – cauliflower soup with corn, lobster, and pea tendril. Emeril says "well done" despite wishing for more flavor from the cauliflower. Tina – shellfish and chorizo soup with croutons and garlic mayonnaise. Emeril smirks and says, "Garlicky." Kristen – English pea broth, lemon peel, apple, and seared scallop. Emeril asks Kristen why she poached the lemon peel three times. She answers, "To pull out the bitterness." Emeril responds with "hmph," adding that the scallops are perfect. Jeffrey – chilled watermelon and tomato gazpacho, peppers, and ceviche. During prep, Emeril doubted Jeffrey's ability to chill the gazpacho in time. A pleasantly surprised Emeril deems the soup lovely, and offers Jeffrey a Top Chef coat. Josh – roasted corn and coconut soup with mussels. Emeril's first reaction is that it's too sweet. 

Emeril sends home Stephanie and Tina. Stephanie will have to watch her "other spoon" on TV. So sad. Kristen and Josh will join Jeffrey in Seattle. 

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Hugh Acheson's team includes Sheldon SimeonBart VandaeleGina KeatleyDanyele McPherson, and Brooke Williamson

Hugh teases his chefs. He tells them there's a Top Chef coat for each of them… if they can throw together a salad in 45 minutes. I'm guessing this isn't your normal salad, because my idea of a salad is, umm, lettuce with toppings. Yes, Hugh makes it harder, adding, "I want a beautiful salad." Hugh goes on to explain the role of the salad in the life of a chef, "There is a lot of space in the world of salads for chefs to show their true skills and creative ability and really explore flavor in a new and novel way." Hugh obviously really likes salad.

Sheldon shares that he was a semi-finalist for the James Beard rising star chef award in 2011. He comes across as humble and friendly. Sheldon wants to put Hawaii on the culinary map. Bart is a Belgian knight, but he answers to "Bart the Chef." Gina refers to herself as a ferocious tiger. If she sticks around, she's going to annoy. Danyele has curly red hair. She studied anthropology and history in college… but somehow fell into a sous chef position. Gina calls Danyele's technique "ridiculous." Brooke tells Hugh that her four-year-old son is quite the buzzkill, so she hopes Top Chef brings some excitement back into her life. It's Gina again, boasting, "My dish is more than good enough to move me forward."

Sheldon – fried Brussels sprout salad with orange Thai vinaigrette. Hugh is like, Dude, Brussels sprout season ended three months ago. Still, tastes good. Bart – spiny lobster salad with beets, asparagus, and potatoes. Hugh says something like whoa, big salad. I wish he had said, "Bart, is that a big salad or are you just happy to see me?" Bart responds, "It's a big boy who cooks it." Oh boy. Moving on, Hugh says, "The lobster is well-cooked but there's a lot going on. Bart takes "a lot going on" as a compliment and says thank you. Brooke – kale salad with Brussels sprout leaves and lemon vinaigrette. Hugh exclaims, "That's a really freaking good salad." Brooke's salad earns her a Top Chef coat. Gina – zucchini with carrots, pea sprouts, and balsamic reduction, which Hugh calls "weighty" and "overdone." Gina demands, "Stop it!" Hugh adds "it looks nice" and promptly moves on.  Danyele – grilled watermelon and tomato salad with charred tomato vinaigrette.  Her salad is good, though it tastes like propane. Huh.

Remember when Gina called Danyele an amateur, and then Hugh said Danyele's dish was propane-y? Well, Hugh cuts Gina and keeps Danyele. Gina is not happy. She wants us to know, "I'm not just a chef and a nutritionist, I'm a movement." She will not be missed. Hugh advances the rest of his chefs to Seattle.

New to Top Chef this season is Wolfgang Puck. Wow. Facing the legend are Carla PellegrinoEliza Gavin, Chrissy CambaDaniel O'BrienKuniko Yagi, and Tyler Wiard.

Wolfgang shares one of his earliest chef experiences. Wolfgang explains, "I was eighteen years old and so confident. [Told to make an omelet], I put olive oil in it and beat the eggs up. The eggs fluffed up like crazy. [The restaurant owner] told me, 'This is like sh**ting in your own bed.' He took it and threw it away. Now, I judge you the same way I was judged. Make me an omelet." 

Carla looks like she meant to stumble into a Real Housewives of New York audition, not Top Chef. Carla admits, "Some people don't really do well with my kind of personality. I'm pretty sure some people call me bitch. I would call me bitch too sometimes." Yup, she's on the wrong show. Chrissy makes omelets often.. but not for Wolfgang Puck. Eek! Tyler says, "An omelet away from Seattle. Holy sh*t." Tyler tries to not let the omelet get the best of him. Daniel rivals John's ability to pimp himself. Daniel smugly shares that he's number one on Yelp, something else I cannot understand because he's too full of himself to open his mouth and look at the camera when he talks, and he's gotten national press. Daniel adds, "Not bad." I add, "Not interested." Kuniko used to be a banker in Tokyo and wants to go to Seattle to win Top Chef drink coffee. Daniel goes on to refer to Kuniko as "Origami," proving he really is a jerk. 

Tyler – bacon, shallot, asparagus, and roasted red pepper omelet. Wolfgang says it's not perfect, but the potatoes are crispy. Kuniko – chamomile-infused milk, morel mushroom, and ham omelet. Even though Kuniko's lacking technique, her omelet is interesting and delicate. Daniel – wild forest mushroom omelet with oyster, bacon, and pea salad. Wolfgang tells Daniel that his omelet is overdone and only fit to be eaten in the dark. Chrissy – torta omelet with lobster, bacon, caramelized onion, and fennel, which is lacking salt. He should have borrowed some salt from Jorel, as he's not going to be needing it anymore. Eliza – New York strip and morsel mushroom omelet with fennel tomato reduction. Wolfgang says it's tasty. Carla – Mediterranean omelet with arugula salad. It's one hot mess of an omelet. Wolfgang says, "It looks like a woman with a lot of makeup on … The juiciness of the vegetables saved it."

Wolfgang decides to send home only one chef. It's bad news for Mr. Yelp. Wolfgang says, "Daniel, the presentation of your omelet was not up to par. Pack your knife." Daniel says, "WTF? Now I'm pissed off." 

The cheftestants off to Seattle are Bart "the Knight" Vandaele, Brooke Williamson, Carla "Real Housewife of Top Chef" Pellegrino, Chrissy Camba, Danyele "Propane" McPherson, Eliza GavinJeffrey Jew, John "Hated" Tesar, Josh "Mustache" Valentine, Kristen "Spoon Tattoo" Kish, Kuniko Yagi, Lizzie Binder, Micah Fields, Sheldon Simeon, and Tyler "Crispy Potatoes" Wiard

Photo credit: Bravo