Top Chef Seattle Recap: Battle Before Restaurant Wars


Last week on Top Chef, Micah Fields won the sexy knife quickfire challenge and Kristen Kish won the memorable moments elimination challenge. In a cook-off with Lizzie BinderJohn Tesar (and his eye glasses) fell victim to the curse of the risotto and was eliminated. Ouch! Being eliminated over Lizzie, who knowingly cooked and served questionable scallops, had to be embarrassing. 

While Josh Valentine (and his twisty mustache) is glad John is gone, Stefan Richter (and his wrinkle-free face) misses his "morning friend." Josie Malave declares she didn't come back as a stupid chef. True. She came back as an annoying chef.

Padma Lakshmi and Wolfgang Puck introduce the quickfire challenge.
Quickfire Challenge
The challenge: create a dish highlighting ginger… sponsored by Canada Dry Ginger Ale… in only fifteen minutes. Ginger Ale. It's what pays the bills. 
15 minutes? Wolfgang Puck? The pressure is on! Lizzie makes a split-second decision and grabs watermelon. Brooke loves ginger and pairs it with squid. Stefan disses Sheldon's stir fry dish, calling it too pedestrian and Chinese restaurant, and Sheldon yells "mother f-ker" at his meat.

Josh Valentine – white chocolate and ginger soup with peaches and tarragon. Wolfgang says Josh's use of ginger is "restrained." Josie Malave – seared scallop with ginger-honey yogurt and miso-ginger sauce. Scallops are nicely cooked. Brooke Williamson – ginger-caramel squid with fresh lime and chili powder. Wolfgang sounds impressed… it's inventive. 
Lizzie Binder – watermelon and ginger soup with fresh mint. Camera zooms in on a can of Canada Dry, nice touch, and Wolfgang says, "Nice cold soup for a warm summer day." Micah Fields – ginger shrimp salad with radish, plum, ponzu vinaigrette, and fried crispy ginger. Padma enjoys the plum. Kristen Kish – gennel-ginger salad with brie and tomatoes. Wolfgang seems impressed by Kristen's CO2 infusion method.
Sheldon Simeon – wok-fried ginger skirt steak with ginger and oranges. Not sweet enough. Stefan Richter – ahi tuna with lemongrass and ginger vinaigrette. Wolfgang says it's delicate. Stefan schmoozes Wolfgang.
Wolfgang says Sheldon's stir fry tasted like pedestrian Chinese food. Hey, that's what Stefan said! Josh's dessert lacked flavor. Brooke's dish is inventive and menu-ready, Stefan's dish is wonderful, and Lizzie's watermelon soup is well-balanced. 
Brooke wins the quickfire challenge. She wins immunity.
Elimination Challenge
The challenge: come up with a restaurant concept, a dish that represents it, and prepare said dish for more than 200 people at the city’s premier food event, Bite of Seattle. This is part one of Top Chef Restaurant Wars. The two winners of this challenge will be the executive chefs who open their restaurants in part two of Top Chef Restaurant Wars
The judges are Danny Meyer, a legendary restaurateur whose chefs have earned 25 James Beard awards, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons
Josh – Neighborhood Bistro – Bistro George – seared eye of rib eye with cauliflower puree and mushroom red wine sauce. Josh's concept is "meat and potatoes" inspired by his late father. Danny says the mushrooms are seasoned well but the steak is not. Lizzie – Northern Italian (a little Hungarian and a splash of Eastern European) Farmhouse Kitchen – Mia Filino – mustard green canederli with fonduta and crispy speck. It's too heavy, says Tom.
Stefan – German-Thai – Bangkok via Munich – Thai lobster bisque with shrimp dumplings, potatoes, and radishes. Mr. Overachiever also prepared a (cool down) Bavarian creme mango lollipop. Danny isn't impressed. Tom thinks Stefan idea is good… the execution not so much. 
Sheldon – Modern Filipino – Urbano – sour tamarind soup with pork belly, shrimp, and snapper. Simple food elevated into something great is Sheldon's plan.  Danny says, "This flavor really makes you sit up straight… in a good way. It's very clear that he's cooking from the heart." Padma says it's authentic and elegant… a hard combination to pull off… Gail likes it too. 
Micah – Raw Food – Raw – salmon, snapper, himachi, squid, scallop, and mackerel with raw vegetables. Micah goes for healthy raw foods to please the figure-conscious ladies. Well, nothing says "I cook really great food" like serving raw food, huh? Kristen – Classic French – Atelier Kwan – Onsen egg with Camembert-mustard sauce and buttered radishes. Kristen goes French contemporary. The egg in Kristen's dish gets rave reviews. 
Brooke – Jewish Food – UnKosher – matzo ball soup with duck confit and toasted black rye bread. Brooke calls her concept Jewish food gone awry. Gail doesn't like the matzo ball, saying, "It's offensive to my people." Josie – Cuban Food – Home 305 – Puerco asado, black bean chorizo croquette, pickles, and mojo sauce. Josie is all about Miami and Cuban flavors. Once again, Josie doesn't have her food ready, so she talks, explains, laughs, talks, explains… Gail thinks the pork is dry and flavorless.

Padma calls Kristen, Sheldon, and Josh to the judges' table. Kristen and Sheldon win. They each win $10,000. The winner of Top Chef Restaurant Wars gets a Toyota Ava. Kristen and Sheldon will serve as the executive chefs next week. They staff their kitchens:

Kristen picks Brooke, Lizzie, and JosieSheldon picks Josh, Stefan, and Micah
I'm surprised Kristen did not choose Stefan. The weakest chefs this week are Micah, Josie, and Lizzie. Tom calls Micah's dish a "pupu platter" of fish. Micah blames the grocery store's lack of selection. Padma is confused by Lizzie's concept. Lizzie says, "Perhaps I wasn't GRACIOUS enough to EXPLAIN it ALL to you." Danny says there was no relief from Lizzie's heavy flavors. Danny tells Josie that he knew her dish was going to be a problem right away.
Micah is told to pack his knives and go home. Or to Last Chance Kitchen. Padma doesn't care where he goes, really, but he can't stay there. Micah says, "I came on this competition to prove to myself how good of a chef I really am, and I did … I don't want this to have been a waste of time."
Photo credit: Bravo