'Top Chef: Seattle' recap: 'The Ultimate Chef Test'
The season premiere is chock full of seemingly simple challenges
It's season 10 of "Top Chef," and we're off to Seattle! Wait, we're not off to Seattle yet. This season we have a twist. Instead of the epic Alamo cook-off of last season, this time the chefs are broken up into groups and sent to work as slave labor at one of the restaurants owned by either Emeril LaGasse, Hugh Acheson, Tom Colicchio or our new judge, Wolfgang Puck. The celebrity chefs will then decide who goes through to compete on the show, and who doesn't. I like this change, as it gives each judge a chance to put at least some of the potential competitors to a test they deem most important, even if that means some people get to just skate by making a damn salad.
We start off with a group of chefs showing up at Tom's restaurant Craft in Los Angeles. John is 54, has a 20-month-old and is the most hated chef in Dallas. Given that last part, we can pretty much bet he'll not only go on to Seattle but will stick around for a while to annoy everyone and give viewers someone they can love to hate. Plus, he seems to be a really good chef. Lizzie is a full-time mom, a full-time executive chef, and she's hot for Tom. Jorel has a silly mustache. Micah has total confidence. Anthony is a fat guy who sweats a lot and likes to butcher with a tiny, tiny knife. Their assignment is to work a full dinner service at Craft -- and that's a real dinner service, mind you. It may be a middle-of-the-week dinner service, but still, people will be eating their food -- and Tom won't send out crap, either. No pressure or anything.
Things start off rough. Micah sucks at filleting fish. I suspect he's going home. Jorel ignored directions on how to butcher a chicken, so he might be, too.
But wait! There are other judges and other challenges afoot. Five chefs meet Emeril at Table 10 in Las Vegas. Josh also has a silly mustache, though somewhat less silly than Jorel's. I guess that hipster trend has infiltrated the food world, though I kind of hope these guys wear little tiny hair nets on their facial hair. Stephanie is terrified. That's all we know -- her name is Stephanie and she's terrified. For their challenge, the chefs have to make soup. Jeffrey wants to make his boyfriend proud. Tina is making a chorizo and mixed seafood soup, which isn't pureed, so she thinks she has an edge. Stephanie and Kristen met seven years ago and work together AND live in the same apartment building AND have matching tattoos. But they're not gay, people. Just… close. Kristen was a model, too, in case you were wondering. Josh's wife is pregnant, and if he stays on "Top Chef," he'll miss the birth of his daughter. Yes, we saw that in the promo, so we know he's on the show for a while. Thanks for the spoiler, Bravo!
Jeffrey is making gazpacho, but I'm not sure his soup will chill in time.
Cauliflower soup with corn, lobster & pea tendril
Emeril wishes there was more cauliflower flavor, but otherwise likes it.
Shellfish & chorizo soup with croutons & garlic mayonnaise
He thinks it's garlicky, but it doesn't overpower the seafood
English pea broth, lemon peel, apple & seared scallop
The scallops are perfectly cooked.
Chilled watermelon & tomato gazpacho, peppers & ceviche
Emeril thinks it's lovely, it's cold and he's going to Seattle. Wow! He grabs his coat -- the first chef through.
Roasted corn & coconut soup with mussels
He thinks it's a little sweet. Oops. But he was waiting for the heat, and that could save it.
Time for the chefs to follow him into the other room for his decision.
Uh-oh. Stephanie and Kristen are about to get separated -- one hit it out of the park and one didn't. And… Stephanie and Tina are out. Kristen and Josh are going to Seattle. Kristen is sad, but she seems to get over her separation from Stephanie pretty quickly. I guess she has her tattoo to keep her company.
Back at Craft, the chefs are working the line. John gets a chef's jacket right away -- he's headed to Seattle. Of course, the other chefs are hoping he's been eliminated, since Tom doesn't tell them what's happened. Hey, they're supposed to be cooking anyway! Get back to work!
Wolfgang Puck invites the chefs to Cut in Beverly Hills. One of the chefs is Carla Pellegrino, who used to be the chef at Rao's in New York. I have absolutely no idea how that will translate, unless every challenge is focused on Italian food. Eliza is nervous. It's Wolfgang Puck, oh my GOD! It's like Elvis or Justin Bieber or something! I notice none of the men get quite so intimidated by the judges. Wolfgang wants them to make him omelets. I love these deceptively simple challenges. Daniel is the chef at the Seasonal Pantry, and he's number one on Yelp, so he knows he's going to nail this. Kuniko used to be a banker in Tokyo. She wants to win "Top Chef" to impress her parents.
Bacon, shallot, asparagus & roasted red pepper omelet
It's not perfect, but Wolfgang likes the crispiness of the potatoes.
Chamomile milk, morel mushroom & ham omelet
Wolfgang thinks it's interesting and delicate, and the technique is almost there.
Wild forest mushroom omelet with oyster, bacon & pea salad
It's overdone, but if Wolfgang could eat it in the dark, he'd like it. Daniel seems to be okay with this.
'Torta' omelet with lobster, bacon, caramelized onion & fennel
It could use some salt, apparently, and it looks nice.
NY strip & morel mushroom omelet with fennel tomato reduction
Wolfgang thinks it's complicated but tasty. It looks like she just slopped a chunk of steak on top of the omelet. Egads.
Mediterranean omelet with arugula salad
It's like a woman with a lot of make-up on, according to Wolfgang. But the juiciness of the vegetables saved it.
Five of the chefs will go to Seattle and one won't. And the chef going home is Daniel? Really? He's pissed off, and I'm wondering how lousy his omelet was. Wolfgang seems like a soft touch, really.
Next, we move on to Empire State South, which is Hugh Acheson's joint, and meet more chefs. Sheldon was a semi-finalist for the James Beard rising star chef, and he's from Hawaii. Hugh's test is to give the chefs 45 minutes to create a salad. A salad! Man, I want to go on "Top Chef." Just kidding. It has to be a beautiful salad, by the way. Bart is a Belgian knight. Gina is super competitive. Danyelle has crazy hair. She has a degree in anthropology and history.
Fried Brussels sprout salad with orange Thai vinaigrette
Hugh thinks the sprouts taste good, but wishes there was more vinaigrette.
Spiny lobster salad with beets, asparagus & potatoes
The lobster is well-cooked, but there's a lot going on. Bart hopes this is a compliment, but I doubt it.
Kale salad with Brussels sprout leaves & lemon vinaigrette
Green, green, green. Hugh likes the kale and tells her she's on her way to Seattle. Zing!
Sauteed & grilled zucchini with carrots, pea sprouts & balsamic reduction
It's a little weighty and overdone, but it looks nice. Oof. Talk about a backhanded compliment.
Grilled watermelon & tomato salad with charred tomato vinaigrette
It's good, but it's propane-y. Yuck.
Three more people will go to Seattle. Gina, who wears really cheap-looking costume jewelry, is the one who's out. Of course, she's deeply offended. Funny that Danyele, whom she dismissed as doing amateurish work, is going through and Gina isn't.
Back at Craft, fat. sweaty Anthony is on the ropes. Micah looks strong. Jorel oversalts the buerre monte. Anthony's hamachi may save him.
Tom thinks they all did very well. Lizzie… is going to Seattle. Jorel is going home, undone by the over salting. Anthony just missed the mark and will also go home. Slashing the duck and being tentative killed him. Tom says nothing about all the sweat that probably got into the food. Micah moves with a purpose, but his fish butchering was weak. So… he's going through.
There you have it -- our finished list of chefs headed to Seattle. We have some big, crazy personalities (Carla), some assholes (John) and a guy whose wife is going to give birth while he listens on the phone (Josh). Sounds like a good season to me!
Have you eaten at any of the judges' restaurants? What about the competitors' restaurants? Is there anyone you're rooting for?
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