'Top Chef: Seattle' recap: 'A Shock at the Space Needle'
It's the first "real" week of competition, and the good news? We get a twist! You don't get to season ten without trying to mix things up a bit, and "Top Chef" is no different than any other reality TV series. Luckily, no one dances, there will not be ice skating (I don't think) and there will not be a McDonald's fry cook challenge (I hope). Maybe next season.
The chefs pile into the kitchen and begin eyeballing the competition. Micah gives everyone the waterfall look, which I always thought was a once-over, but hey, the waterfall does have a certain ring to it. Before he can really intimidate the competition, Padma waltzes into the room with Josie (season 2), C.J. (season 3) and Stefan (season 5). Say hello to the judges, because it's time for a Quickfire Challenge!
Chrissy declares that Stefan looks like a thumb, and he's an evil villain. I now want to hear everything Chrissy has to say, because Stefan really does look like a thumb and that's a little bit brilliant.
Anyway, the Quickfire. The chefs must divide themselves into three groups, each with their own nifty apron in one of a rainbow of colors. Each group will be tasked with making a dish featuring local shellfish. Plus, they will get to cook in the fabulous kitchen, which features G.E. Monogram appliances! Plug, plug, plug!
John Tesar, the most hated chef in Dallas (really, I think he's calling out for a shorter nickname -- Dallas John? Tesariffic?), turns to his teammates and starts planning who will do what -- which would be all kinds of smart, if Padma wasn't explaining the challenge at the time. No, he's not a control freak at all! Padma chastises him, and he shuts it. I'm still not sure why he's on the show. Isn't he the most hated but best chef in Dallas?
Everyone runs willy-nilly to grab shellfish. What everyone wants, and which disappears first, is geoduck. The two things we all need to know about geoduck: 1) It's pronounced gooey-duck, if you ever order it in a restaurant and 2) according to Kristen "it looks like a penis, a really big penis."
Carla, by the way, is still crazy and fun and possibly crazy fun. She wants to be a James Beard with a nice ass. I'm sure she's hell to cook with, but I'm also sure she's fun at parties.
Before we get to the food, can I just say these chefs may make great food, but they're none too shabby with the sound bytes, either. Bart says Belgian food is so good because the country's been conquered so many times. Every time a new ruler roles in or out, they just keep the best aspects of the conquerer's cuisine and add it to the mix. Love that.
Further proof Carla may be fun but not so fun if you're cooking with her. No one hears anything in the kitchen other than Carla screaming at her team.
Gray Team: Bart, Jeffrey & Brooke
Crawfish with pickled red chili, fennel & crawfish cream
C.J. thinks it's really old school. Stefan declares the crawfish really well-cooked, but there's a little too much dill.
Orange Team: Lizzie, Carla & Chrissy
Oven-roasted crawfish with fennel & herb salad
Lizzie says that, like Carla, this is a crazy dish. C.J. doesn't say that, but he would have liked some more acid. Josie, however, gives it two thumbs up.
Green Team: Micah, Kristen & Tyler
Fried & sashimi geoduck, radish & bok choy salad, yuzu chili vinaigrette
Josie likes the contrast of textures, but both Padma and C.J. thought the sashimi could have been cut thinner.
Blue Team: Sheldon, Kuniko & John
Geoduck sashimi, ponzu, apple & cucumber
C.J. loves it and especially likes the apple with the sashimi. Stefan loves the pine nuts, but maybe a little more salt.
Yellow Team: Eliza, Danyele & Josh
Razor clam & grilled corn chowder with fresno chili & grilled lime
C.J. liked the grilled lime. Stefan thought it needed salt. Josh is crushed that Stefan didn't love his food.
The Yellow Team soup is deemed the weakest dish. C.J. thinks it didn't have enough acid. The winning team is… Blue Team! John Tesar (Dallas John?) is SO HAPPY. And he's even happier when the team has to draw knives for whoever gets immunity, and he wins.
Padma then announces that C.J., Josie and Stefan will be joining the show… as competitors. How does Stefan have time for this? I know he has restaurants. And C.J. just got back from Noma. I don't know what Josie is up to, but I'm guessing she's busy. Why come back? Just for bragging rights? Because they're obsessed with Tom Colicchio? Why? Anway, they'll be coming together as the Red Team, because it's another team challenge.
Each team will serve one dish using regional ingredients, and they'll be dishing it up for Gail Simmons, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, and Tom Douglas, iconic Seattle chef. They get 47 minutes -- which is how long it takes the Space Needle to go around once. And they'll be cooking at Olive 8… in the Space Needle. So hopefully no one gets motion sickness.
The teams will be cooking two at a time, since there's only so much room in the Space Needle.
Chili oil poached cod with dash, spot prawn shabu shabu
Tom likes the chili poached cod, and Gail thought the prawns were great. First thing she's put into her mouth in Seattle, and it's not bad. Even if that's a pretty weird thing to say.
Poached salmon with seasonal vegetables & beurre blanc
Chef Douglas thinks the salmon is perfectly cooked, but everyone finds the fish bland. Padma argues that the beurre blanc has so much flavor in it, it balances out. Tom thinks both Blue and Orange Teams did really, really well.
Carla cuts herself as she reaches into her knife bag. Luckily, this happens after service, and the medics tell her she didn't slice a nerve. No one really notices, because Carla yells so much all of the time, it doesn't sound all that different when she's bleeding profusely.
Quail breast with confit spot prawn, cherries & porcini
The quail is not a hit. Tom thinks the quail is overcooked, Emeril thinks the spot prawn is overcooked, and Gail thinks the cherries don't pop. Chef Douglas thought it was a pretty good dish.
Pan roasted halibut, mushrooms, English peas, wheat beer with herb sabayon
This isn't a big hit, either. The wheat beer doesn't come through in Chef Douglas' opinion, and Padma's halibut is overcooked. The word "hockey puck" is used. This team might be on the bottom.
Crispy seared salmon, local vegetables & spot prawn butter sauce
Tom thinks the two salmon dishes are essentially the same. The fish is perfectly cooked, but Gail thinks the texture of the spot prawn is lost.
Pan roasted cod, mushrooms, lava beans, pickled green apple & garlic scape pistou
Chef Douglas thinks the fish is cooked well, but he feels like he's begging for pistou. Emeril loves the apple. Tom wants more apple.
Time to talk to the chefs! Padma calls back the Blue Team. They won! I can't even remember how many times a team has won the Quickfire and the Elimination Challenge. Dallas John (I'm not married to that, by the way) didn't even need the win. These guys are the ones to watch, I'm sure of it. Tom and Gail lavish praise. Emeril gives the win to… the fish, so Kuniko has safety and bragging rights for the week. John seems very happy, and he should be happy. But I'm still a little lost as to why he needs "Top Chef," unless he just needs an easy win (sorry, but it's looking that way already).
The Red Team and the Gray Team are called back. The Red Team! The returning chefs! What the heck? They did have the seemingly good idea of changing their recipe to quail at the last minute, but maybe that wasn't so bright after all. Stefan is called out for overcooking the quail. The Gray Team talks about the struggle between the classic and rustic, but the judges are more upset about Jeffrey overcooking the fish.
It's either Jeffrey or Stefan, I think. Probably Jeffrey, because Stefan will be good for ratings. Getting rid of him now makes no sense.
And yes, it's Jeffrey. He has to face his family and his fiancé, and it sucks. But he's willing to show everyone that he's better than he seems. Sorry, Jeffrey. We hardly knew ye.
What did you think of Stefan, C.J. and Josie returning? Do you think they have an unfair advantage? What nickname do you want for Dallas John?