Top Chef Seattle Recap: The Risotto Curse


Last week on Top Chef Seattle, the cheftestants harvested fresh oysters and cooked for the Rat City Roller Girls. While everyone wished they could have voted Josie Malave off the Top Chef island, Bart Vandaele was eliminated for serving beyond bland food. I told those suckers that they'd regret not letting Josie sink in the mud, but they didn't listen to me.

This week's episode opens with Sheldon Simeon sharpening his knives and Stefan Richter slathering on wrinkle cream. Funny. Padma Lakshmi introduces this week's special guest, master blade smith Bob Kramer, who makes custom knives that sell for $500 an inch. That's crazy!
Bob cuts through two ropes to demonstrate just how awesome a $4,000 knife is. Sheldon begs to give him a hug; Lizzie Binder appears as if she hasn't slept in weeks; Stefan doesn't look too impressed. Perhaps Stefan would have cracked a smile or raised an eyebrow if Bob had busted out $4,000 wrinkle cream.

Quickfire Challenge
The challenge: knife work in three rounds. The first chef to finish the challenge wins immunity and a "sexy" Bob Kramer knife.
Red team – John Tesar, Josie, and Kristen Kish. Green team –  Stefan, Lizzie, and Brooke Williamson. Blue team – Sheldon, Micah Fields, and Josh Valentine.
Round one – sharpen knives, slice paper. John urges his teammates to not work too hard, saying, "It's paper, guys, not cement." The green team is the first team to ask for a check. While Stefan and Lizzie's knives cut the paper, Brooke's does not. John calls "check" without checking with his team, which annoys Kristen, and then the cut of his knife isn't "clean" enough. John sharpens his blade some more… and passes…. what is Brooke doing? The blue team calls for a check – and moves on to round two – before Brooke finishes. Brooke, Stefan, and Lizzie are eliminated.
Round two – carve 50 potatoes into little footballs using an oversized knife. John brags that he's been turning potatoes since he left his mother's womb. Micah mentions that Sheldon's potatoes look like poop logs. Such a lovely visual for food. John tells the "ladies" to pick up their pace, and  then Josie cuts her finger with her knife, which eliminates her from the competition. Josh, Sheldon, and Micah call for a check and pass. John and Kristen are eliminated.
Round three – break down two rabbits. Working individually now, Josh, Sheldon, and Micah race for the win. This is a very disturbing challenge. First, Josh plays it cool, joking (he was joking, right?) that cutting up a rabbit is no different than cutting up a cat, and then Micah shares, "Breaking down little bunnies is a very Zen moment for me." In the end, Micah wins the quickfire challenge.
Poor Sheldon… the "sexy knife" was almost his.. I think Sheldon has a knife fetish, and I'm torn between that's hot and that's frightening.
Elimination Challenge
The challenge: recreate a healthier version of a "memorable moment" dish from a previous season. The winning dish will inspire a new Healthy Choice Cafe Steamer… frozen meal… that none of these chefs would be caught dead eating off-camera. The winner gets $15,000.
The chefs' assignments are revealed to them via Kindle Fires (oooh! aaah!). Josie gets season one's "I’m not your bitch, bitch” moment. Stefan gets season two's grilled cheese sandwich. John gets an Anthony Bourdain moment from season three. John brags about taking Anthony under his wing, blah, blah, being a character in his book, blah, blah. Note to John: you're a Top Chef contestant and Anthony has been a Top Chef judge. Get over yourself.
Sheldon gets Top Chef Chicago's fight between Antonia Lofaso, Dale Talde, and Spike MendelsohnLizzie gets Jamie’s season five's Top Scallops a la Jamie LaurenJosh gets Michael Voltaggio season six's bacon. Can Josh finally get a handle on his pork? Brooke gets season seven's infamous pea puree. Kristen gets Carla Hall's season eight pot pie. Micah gets Beverly Kim and Heather Terhune's disastrous dish from season nine.
The next day, the chefs have two and a half hours to navigate the foreign kitchen, which apparently has no flat pans (boohoo, John), and prepare their healthy meals. We learn that Josie dishes out healthy eating advice on a daily basis, which I find interesting. Lizzie discovers that her scallops smell bad. Yummy. John whines about the risotto curse. With all of this risotto and scallop talk, I feel like I'm watching Hell's Kitchen. I'm secretly hoping someone playfully yells, Piss off! 
Stefan admits that his "healthy" grilled cheese is drenched in olive oil and butter. Right on! Personally, I don't think "grilled cheese sandwich" (my go-to comfort food) and "healthy" have any reason to be in the same sentence. Josh is nasty mean.
The judges for this challenge are Tom Colicchio, Wolfgang Puck, and former Top Chef Masters contestants Wylie Dufresne of WD-50, Jonathan Waxman of Barbuto, and Chris Cosentino of Incanto. And a mess of Top Chef super fans. 
Josie – herb-roasted chicken with parsnip puree and steamed root vegetables. Wylie says Josie roasted her chicken nicely, though the skin could have had more crunch. Jonathan, who knows chicken, simply says the dish is "fine" but "not exciting." Stefan – roasted red pepper soup with bacon and grilled mimolette cheese sandwich. Visible fat content and greasy… not exactly rave reviews for a healthy dish. Oh well. Like I said, it's grilled cheeseJohn – umami risotto with chicken, salmon roe, burdock root, and carrot emulsion. Padma doesn't like John's risotto. Wolfgang says it's unevenly cooked. 
Josh – soy-glazed pork tenderloin with smoked cashew puree and heirloom peaches. Padma remembers that season six's Michael got a standing ovation for his dish; Tom remembers Padma's leopard print dress. Sheldon – beef carpaccio with poi aioli, mizuna and mushroom salad, and silken tofu foam. Chris calls it a runny mess. Lizzieeat at your own risk seared scallops with roasted fennel, garlic puree, orange, and olive salad. Right away, Wolfgang knows the scallops are bad. Jonathan thinks Lizzie should have trashed the scallops, explaining they were bad, and served only the salad. 
Micah – five-spiced duck breast with miso polenta and pickled cherries. While Tom likes the duck breast and the cherries, Jonathan isn't crazy about the miso and polenta combo. Kristen – poached chicken breast, carrot puree with garlic, and tofu emulsion. An impressed Tom says, "This is the way you lighten a dish up and still make it flavorful." Chris's plate doesn't have any sauce. Brooke – smoked salmon, forbidden black rice with English pea and parsnip puree. Wolfgang says it's cooked well. Everyone agrees, it's a "beautiful" dish.
Padma calls John, Josh, Kristen, Lizzie, and Brooke to the judges' table. 
The judges' favorite dishes came from Josh, Brooke, and Kristen. Brooke and Kristen, congrats! Josh, you were just kidding about breaking down cats, right? I mean, the mustache is reason enough to hate you. Let's not be an overachiever, now. At least he finally got the pork right. 
The winner is Kristen! 
The losers: John's risotto was a mess. John says, "I'm not making an excuse (um, yes, you are), but there wasn't one level pot in the kitchen." Wolfgang is like, suck it up, buttercup. While John and Josh argue about whether or not the kitchen had adequate pots and pans, Lizzie apologizes for knowingly serving food poison on a plate.
Padma ends the whining by announcing that either John or Lizzie will be going home. Then, she whips out the tenth Kindle Fire (oooh! aaah!), explaining that they will each prepare season ten's memorable moment dish in a cook-off. The challenge: C.J.'s spicy pickle burgerJohn is pissed because he's being forced to cook again. Lizzie is relieved. 
In the kitchen, John scoops up all the pickles but kindly agrees to share with Lizzie. Isn't he sweet? Then, when John uses all of the dill behind Lizzie's back, he acts confused as to why she gives him an attitude. John thinks he deserves a medal for sharing any pickles at all. 
Final Cook-Off
John – lamb burger with fried egg and spicy pickle, tomato, and pomegranate salad. Wolfgang chides, "Did you find the right pan this time?" He also says the lamb could be moister. Chris compliments the salad, saying it's super flavorful, but questions the addition of the egg. 
Lizzie – chicken burger with goat cheese ricotta and dill pickle roasted red pepper salad. Wolfgang says it is moist. While Chris says the salad is flavorful and refreshing, he would have added more salt.
The judges unanimously agree that Lizzie's dish is the better dish. John is eliminated. Padma yells, John, PISS OFF, you donkey! Um, that might have only happened in my own head. #gordonramsayrocks
John isn't bitter… but this is bulls-t because he endured all that childish behavior and he could have refused to share the pickles with Lizzie… but he's not bitter. Not at all.
While I'm glad I no longer have to see John's forehead glasses, I would have preferred to say goodbye to either the loud mouth Josie or the cat-cutting psychopath Josh
Photo credit: Bravo