Inside TV and Pop Culture with Liane Bonin Starr

'Top Chef: Seattle' recap: '50's Food Flashback'

It's a retro challenge - with a crushing double elimination

"Top Chef: Seattle"

 "Top Chef: Seattle"

Credit: Bravo

Remember the fighting we saw at the end of last week? How everyone hated Dallas John for bagging on Kuniko? Yeah, that wasn't all of it. Of course the show saved a little bit of crazy to kick things off this week, and just to confirm, everyone really, really hate Dallas John. And he's pissed about it! As far as he's concerned, "Josh was a redneck and CJ was playing me." Um, what does that have to do for calling Kuniko just short of an idiot? But wait! Dallas John has one sole defender -- Stefan. I think Stefan's just relieved someone else is the villain this season. 

Our guest judge for the Quickfire Challenge is Naomi Pomeroy, the chef/owner of Beast and a Master Chef alum.  The challenge? Huge slabs of animal hanging from hooks. They have one hour to show what they can do with their favorite cut of beef. Butchering skills required. No more than two chefs can butcher at any one time.

C.J. knows there are a lot of chefs in the competition who specialize in beef, and he isn't threatened by any of them. I like C.J., but overconfidence always comes back to bite on this show.

 

Eliza

Grilled flank steak with cherry cognac reduction, asparagus and potato cake

Naomi bets the other chefs were jealous she got flank steak. Padma thinks the pairing of cherries and asparagus is "interesting," which I think is code for vomitous.

 

John

Braised oxtail, potato gnocchi with roasted vegetables & celery

Naomi is surprised he was able to get it so tender so quickly. 

 

Josh

Beef meatballs with creamy polenta & pickled shallots

Naomi likes the acidity and balance.

 

Sheldon

Kalbi round streak with tomato cardamom broth & fennel salad

Naomi wishes it was closer to medium, but she liked the flavors.

 

Brooke

Grilled hangar steak with smoked onion figs & cauliflower puree

It's Naomi's favorite cut of meat, but it's a tiny bit too rare for  her.

 

Tyler

Hispanic crude with charred tomato sauce & cilantro radish slaw

Padma asks how it was cooked, but that's it. I don't think Tyler scored with this one.

 

Kristen

Top sirloin tartare with mustard sabayon & carpaccio salad

Naomi asks if she got the cut she wanted, and Kristen admits she took the first thing she saw. Not a great answer.

 

Micah

Oxtail polenta with truffled Romanesco cauliflower.

Naomi thinks he did a great job on his butchery.

 

Carla

Siroin medallion wrapped in bacon, Asiago risotto with Marsala sauce

Naomi thinks the flavor was good and the sauce was nice.

 

Stefan

Braised top round ravioli with marjoram & aged parmesan

Naomi thinks the flavors are... nice.

 

C.J.

Top round tartare, raw juniper & kohlrabi

Padma thinks it's very nice. Nice, nice, nice. Everything's nice with these two!

 

Chrissy

Grilled hangar steak with brown butter, parsley & radish salad

No comment, at least not that we hear.

Lizzie

Braised fore shank with turnips & dill

Naomi thinks it could have spent more time in the pressure cooker, but she commends Lizzie for taking that chance. 

 

So, what was not so nice? Lizzie's meat was tough and it didn't make the cut. Elizah's asparagus and cherries combo was not successful. And, yes, Tyler's crude fell short and was under seasoned. Poor Tyler. "I can't do anything right," he moans. If you look at him from the right angle, dead ringer for Eeyore. No joke.

The best? C.J.'s tartare was fantastic and all his knife cuts were perfect. Naomi also liked John's oxtail and thought the sauce was lovely. She really liked Josh's meatballs. The three top chefs? All the guys who fought in the stew room! The winner? John! Josh and C.J. gnash their teeth.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs will be going back in tim. Canlis is considered one of the best restaurants in the country, and who will be guest judging? Brian & Mark Canlis! Their grandfather opened Canlis in 1950. For one night only, the chefs will be reviving the original menu the restaurant served when it opened. Stefan loves this, because 1950 means no frou-frou or fra-fra. 

In other words, no B.S. 

Oh, one more thing -- only one item is still on the menu. It's a salad. Just in case you were wondering how much things have changed since the 50s.

Yeah, and another thing -- a double elimination tomorrow. Woof!

The chefs battle over who gets what, and no one seems happy. This is probably in part because all of the stuff on the 1950 menu sounds pretty dull. Very basic, vaguely French, and deceptively simple. For fine dining, a hunk of steak or a baked potato had better be perfect -- and that's never a given on "Top Chef." 

Later, the chefs talk about whether or not they're having Last Chance Kitchen this season. Hmmm, good question! My guess is yes, as this was a pretty big hint.

John, because he's old, knows all about 1950s cooking. Kristen reveals the secret to cooking mushrooms (wash, then stick in the oven so they'll brown when you pet them in the pan). Josh knows nothing about French onion soup, because in Oklahoma, you eat cat fries. That's a name for bull testicles. Great. 

The judges are seated. The Canlis brothers are there, and so is Naomi Pomeroy, Hugh Acheson, Emeril Lagasse and Tom Colicchio. Oh, and Padma.

First up, appetizers. Or openers. Or whatever you called them in 1950.

Tyler

Fresh crab leg cocktail

Lizzie 

Marinated herring

Josh

French onion soup

John

Steamed clams Bordelaise

Chrissy

Canlis' special salad

Brooke

Seafood salad a la Louis

Padma thinks Tyler's crab leg cocktail is great. The Canlis' think he nailed the time period, and Tom thinks the lettuce in the bottom is key. But there are issues with Josh's soup. Hugh thinks it's salty and cold, and the Canlis' think it's not guest friendly. You need a fork and knife to cut the crouton. Hugh thinks Brooke's salad looks like something from a magazine back in the day. Tom thinks it's nicely cooked, but Naomi didn't think the beans are cooked enough. Emeril thinks Chrissy's salad is way overdressed. Tom thinks it's soggy. But Padma would have liked it okay if there had been more mint. Naomi loved Lizzie's herring. Tom thinks they're nicely marinated. Tom also liked John's clams. Emeril liked it a lot, too. Overall, Tom thinks it was very good. 

On to second course! If any of it can go out and stay out. The squab comes back, either too cooked or too rare, over and over again. Eeek!

Sheldon

Fresh Hawaiian mahi mahi

Carla

Whole milk-fed squab

Micah

Mixed vegetables

Stefan

Calf's liver & onions

Bart

Double cut New York steak

Josie

Baked Idaho potato

C.J.

Shish kebab with pilaf

Kristen

French mushrooms

The brothers love the mahi mahi. Naomi thinks the sauce is really (yes) nice. Tom thinks there's a little bloodline on the fish, though. Hugh thinks Micah's veggies are a mess - some overdone, some underdone. Naomi thinks they're dead on for the 1950s, though. It looks good! Padma loves the squab, but Hugh thinks she should have cut it in half. Naomi thinks it's cooked too much. Tom thinks Stefan's liver is well cooked. Emeril thinks, finally, he left something alone. The brothers love Kristen's onion rings Hugh thinks C.J.'s kebab is under seasoned and the lamb is mealy. Tom thinks it was soggy. Naomi was disappointed with the steak. The brothers liked the potato, and Padma thinks it needed more oil. Everyone loves the mushrooms. 

Time for dessert!

Danyele

Vanilla ice cream and Royal Hawaiian Supreme

Eliza

Mint sherbet and fresh frozen Hawaiian pineapple parfait

Padma thinks they're really 1950s. The brothers loved them. Hugh thought the parfait was good. Naomi liked the Hawaiian Supreme, and the brothers liked Danyele's stuff best. 

At the bottom, the salad (Chrissy), the squab (Carla), the shish kebab (C.J.), the onion soup (Josh). But who's at the top?

Lizzie, Kristen, Tyler and Stefan are called back for the best dishes. The winner? Kristen! I love this. She was so bummed out she got side dishes. But she gets $10,000. Not bad! Stefan is happy for her. This is his new crush, I think. 

The bottom four are called back. Josh tries to explain that his soup was cold because of John. He was a crappy expediter! Carla blames the grill guys. Chrissy swears she used lemon! Everyone is panicking and trying valiantly to wheedle their way out of this double elimination. It's not working. 

Oh, and the question of whether John is the chef to beat which was posed to those watching who wanted to text, 70 percent said no. I'm not sure he's the one to beat, but I do think he's going to make it to the finals, no problem. He's just been so strong thus far, you can't count him out. Unless someone stabs him. 

Finally, Chrissy and Carla are told to pack their knives and go. Chrissy isn't thrilled, but she understands her food didn't deliver and she accepts her fare. Carla cries. She's not good at games! Not even cards! But she feels she's a better person and a better chef. Funny, she doesn't seem to really feel that way. She just seems so, so crushed. I'm going to miss Carla. She was wacky and loud and fun. You need some of that on this show. Now we just have Stefan and Dallas John to bring the crazy, and I'm not sure how much fun that will be.

Are you sad to see Carla and Chrissy go? Do you think Dallas John is unfairly being picked on, or is he just a jerk? And will you be watching "Last Chance Kitchen"?

 

 

 

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Liane-bonin-starr-sm
Liane Bonin Starr is an author, screenwriter and former writer for EW.com. Her byline has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Variety and a lot of other places. Her last book was called "a scandalously catty, guilty pleasure" by Jane magazine. Expect the same from Starr Raving.
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