Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: December 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 8 Recap: "Jalapeno Business."

On week 8 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...the chefs wake up at the crack of dawn to find a lovely note from Padma

It says that for today’s Quickfire the chefs will drive out to Bow, Washington to “harvest” their main ingredient. To the chefmobiles! The GPS reveals that the address is for Taylor Shellfish Farm. As a fun car game, the chefs try to guess which shellfish they’ll be harvesting. During the drive Micah tells us that growing up he wasn’t allowed to eat shellfish because his dad’s a pastor and they kept kosher. Hm. I find this befuddling. Please enlighten me in the comments, ‘cause I don’t think that the term pastor is Jewish and don’t think Christians keep kosher.


Field of Dreams
Wow. Is this heaven? The chefs arrive at Taylor Shellfish Farm and immediately pull on thick boots and trudge out to the oyster beds. I swear. This is one of the bucket list things I have to do. Can you imagine just walking out there, reaching down, shucking and eating?! 

The tide starts coming back in and the mud gets deeper. Ok this MUST be heaven because Josie has gotten stuck in the “quick mud.” Soon the mud is up to her knees. Argh. Micah and Stefan decides to be nice guys (must be their kosher-pastoral European up-bringings) and go rescue Josie. Sigh. Seriously people. Look around! You guys should have been team players and just left her. I mean, did you see anyone else rushing to save her?

You want to see happy cooks? This is it right here. They’re all slurping down oysters standing knee-deep in mud. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting of Top Chef. Everyone is having the best time.

Check out the big brain on Josh! He’s “curious” about the challenge, “I’m thinking we’re either going to have to make something with the oysters, or we’re going to have to like have a shucking contest with the oysters.” Um Josh, it’s Top Chef, not Top Oyster Shucker. 

Fun’s over. Time to cook.

The chefs return to Top Chef kitchen and find Emeril next to our beloved host, Padma. Gotta say, love the side part/barrette hair style she’s sporting today. Adorable.
Oysters and Padma. 2 of my favorites.

It’s an oyster challenge so you know Emeril’s gotta represent! The challenge is simple. 25 minutes and your choice between hot prep or cold. Grab a blue apron for cold and red for hot. There are only 5 of each. Winner get 5 thousand dollars. No mention of immunity. 

Brooke “wouldn’t mind” having that 5 grand. You never hear a contestant say something like, “Only 5 grand? Meh. I think I’ll hold off now and do my best dish when it’s more like 10 or 15 thousand.”

Emeril enlightens us that the oysters that came from this heaven are Samish Bay oysters. That means they’re “beach cultured” oysters, and they tend to have medium brine with plump flesh and a hard to open shell. Some of the chefs clearly having a hard time shucking them, flakes of shell are flying. 

Micah compared cooking oysters for Emeril to Moses meeting God. That sounds about right. Remember Tyler and his failed gumbo? Yeah you don’t see him around anymore do ya? 

Did somebody spit in my oyster?
John plays the “Emeril’s from New Orleans card” and tries to remake the oysters from Drago’s. Them oysters from Drago’s are indeed delicious. Then again, piling on parmesan cheese and butter will make anything delicious.

And....of course Josie’s sauce is broken. Seriously what is she still doing here? Not a single challenge goes by without her flailing about and failing miserably. 

25 minutes flew by. Wow.

-Kristen. (Hot) Oysters with Caramelized Honey Tomato Broth, Celery Leaves & Chili.

-Stefan (Cold) Smoked Oysters with Potato Vinaigrette & Flash Frozen Salt.

-Josh (Cold) Oysters with Pickled Cucumbers, White Soy, Cilantro & Red Chili.

-Lizzie (Cold) Oysters with Crushed Currant Juice, Crushed Pink Peppercorn.

-Brooke (Cold) Oysters with Salsa Verde, Cilantro, Horseradish & Red Chili.

Little gems from the ocean.
-John (Hot) Oysters Poached in Garlic Butter with Swiss Chard & Garlic-Parmesan Foam.

-Josie (Hot) Wood Roasted Oysters with Chorizo & Cilantro Cream.

-Micah (Hot) Crispy Fried Oysters with Arugula Salad, Hot Sauce & Lemon.

-Bart (Hot) Oysters with Champagne, Butter & Cream.

-Sheldon (Cold) Oysters with Chilled Old Bay Broth & Ginger Scallion Pesto.

Bottom Dishes:

Bart. He thought champagne and oysters can’t go wrong...but it did. All the richness of from the butter and cream took out the champagne and masked the oysters.

Josie (surprise!). Emeril was being kind. Her broken sauce looked like it was drowning the oysters.

John. His dish had no “pop.” During the presentation John tried to name drop and claim that he combined Brennan’s and Drago’s into his dish - to which Padma coldly replies, “Yeah?” Nobody likes this guy.

Favorites Dishes.

Lizzie. To everyone’s surprise, the currants actually worked with the oysters. On screen it looked like the poor oyster was bleeding! But hey, Emeril liked it.

Micah. Emeril thought Micah took a risk. Not sure what spices he used but I thought making a fried oyster was one of the most conservative preparations? However, fried oysters are also one of the most delicious ones to eat. 

Brooke. Salsa verde had great flavors that didn’t take away from the oyster.
Crispy Oysters are always a good idea.

Winning dish and five thousand dollars goes to Micah and his fried oysters!  Now wrap some bacon around it and call your pops over for dinner! (Oy, I kid because I love. Shalom y’all!)

Elimination Challenge.

The chefs are going to cook for one of Seattle’s hottest sports team. If you’ve seen last week’s show or any of the promos you already know that the sports team is Seattle’s Roller Derby team, The Rat City Roller Derby All Stars!

Oy. Josie tells us she’s been an athlete her whole life, even drops the fact that she used to be a professional football player. I didn’t know there’s a women’s professional football league, but there is! You can find out more about that here.

Ok. The chefs are in charge of the food for the Derby All Star’s season wrap party. Time to pair up into teams! Some chefs know right away who to team up with (Stefan and Kristen) while the perennial losers (Josie) are left standing around seeing who’s left.

Roller Girls! Not the Boogie Nights kind.
It’s important to point out how the “Survivor” social aspect can really impact a cooking show like Top Chef. Making friends with a fellow like-minded and equally talented cook can help during challenges like this. Also important - real estate - so if you’re ever on Top Chef, try not to station next to that annoying, loud mouthed, talentless cook.

Speaking of which. Bart ends up with Josie. He knows no one else wanted her but went for it anyway. As they would can in Belgium, “bonne chance!” 

The twist on this challenge is that each team must create a dish inspired by a roller girl’s roller derby names.

See, all roller derby girls have a nom de guerre to go with their derby persona. Somehow the Top Chef producers find 5 ladies with food related nicknames. Hm. Suspect.

Micah won the Quickfire. Instead of immunity, he gets to pick first and also decides who picks next.

Micah/Lizzie - “Jalapeno Business”

Sheldon/Josh - “Tempura Tantrum.”

Josh is psyched about that pick. Much like his buddy from Texas (John) he likes to stereotype and assumes that Sheldon, who does Asian food, have probably done tempura several “thousand” times. Nice. Dude, you own a place called The Splendid Swine and you can’t cook pork worth a damn! 

Stefan/Kristen - “Eddie Shredder.”

John/Brooke - “Kutta Rump.”

Bart/Josie - “Teriyaki Terror.”

Tomorrow they’ll have two and an half hours to cook for 100 people. Tonight, they get to go watch the game! Just an FYI, there’s a pretty decent movie about Roller Derby called Whip It with Drew Barrymore. If you’ve been inspired by this episode I recommend you check it out.

Key Arena.

Stefan, being his LA/European stylish self donned a sports coat to a roller derby match. Wait, isn’t Bart European as well? What’s his excuse for that lime green paisley shirt? Oh wait. Since this is Top Chef we’ll call that kaffir lime - alright now it’s more acceptable. Meanwhile Josie’s wearing a vinyl member’s only type jacket and ill fitting cap that’s straight out of an early 90’s rap video. Ugh.

Apparently her outfit wasn’t the most offensive thing out there. Her personality was. She’s screaming and hollering and basically being her obnoxious self. Everyone’s just about had enough of her. In the end. Nobody wins. Not even the Roller City All Stars. 

Back at the flat. The evening’s agita finally comes to a head. Fed up with the group talking shit about her, Josie gets up from the couch and here we go...

“I’m just saying that *gesturing to her self* this tree right here, you don’t wanna bark up, Micah. Ok you see this right here *still gesturing* knows who she is. You are hiding in a closet!”

This is a curious statement for Josie to make. She’s openly gay and was attacked in 2007 by an anti-gay mob. 

Maybe she linked the group’s annoyance of her behavior at the game as anti-gay? Then when they got back to the house, she finally lashed out by accusing Micah as being in the closet?  It’s all very confusing and has nothing to do with cooking so let’s move on.

Game Day. (Well, cooking game day.)

Micah and Lizzie are making crab stuffed jalapenos (for Jalapeno Business) I think that’s a smart decision and a time-honored tradition of elevating a simple item into something special. However, it’s all in the execution.
She likes me. She really likes me.

John and Brooke are actually getting along and cooking well together. Apparently Brooke reminds John of his long lost daughter. I believe he actually gets misty over telling that story. One things I don’t understand from this season though. Why are we getting SO MUCH back story on John? Every episode he’s getting more screen time and personal history. Is everyone else’s life that boring?

Also, not to be a stickler, but he clearly tasted a sauce and put the spoon back into the pot. Cooties alert

Being at a roller rink’s got everybody feeling nostalgic of the good ‘ole days. John had his first date at a rink and Stefan remembers going ice skating when he was 14 yrs old. Kristen asks him what year that was. Turns out that when Stefan was 14 yrs old, Kristen was only 3. Haha and um...creepy.

Back to cooking. Josie and Bart are not quite on the same page. She thinks their rice need more seasoning and the texture isn’t quite what she was hoping for. 

Times up. 

Here comes this week’s judges. We have Emeril, Tom, Padma and funny man extraordinaire Hugh Acheson! I think this is my favorite line up of judges. Emeril always brings a sense of compassion in a grand poobah kinda way while Hugh is sarcastic, nasty and really funny. 

Padma tells us she used to go to rinks like this and skated once a week. For some reason Tom’s not surprised. Hugh (who obviously thought long and hard about this) gives Padma her roller derby name - Padma Smacks’me. 

Bowl of deliciousness.
Ok banter’s over. Time to go try some food. 

-Brooke/John (Kutta Rump) Thai Beef with Lobster Jasmine Rice & Thai Slaw.
Brilliant. Surf and turf in a bowl paired with soothing comfy rice and then topped off with some sharpness in the slaw. Great concept. From the judges reaction seems like the execution was successful as well.

-Josie/Bart (Teriyaki Terror) Steak Teriyaki with Forbidden Rice, Beet Blood & Green Papaya Salad.
They literally made beef on a stick next to a shot of a what looks like bloody goo. I can’t understand how these two professional chefs could look at their plate and think to themselves, “We’re really good at this!” 

Teriyaki Terror (the girl) was pretty polite. She says this tastes pretty “unique.” Hugh jumps on that right away and asks if “that’s unique good or unique...crappy?” Yeah I think we all know the answer to that question. Basically the judges felt the meat had no caramelization, rice had bad texture and it was under seasoned. All the sadness.
Talk about forbidden. Ugh.

Hugh tried to be a little too clever and suggested “Roux the Day” for Emeril’s derby name. C’mon Hugh. Of course it’s gonna be “Bam Bam!” 

I wonder why no one came up with Tom’s nickname? Oh right, cuz it’s Tom and we’re all already scared of him. 

-Micah/Lizzie (Jalapeno Business) Crab-Stuffed Jalapeno with Avocado Cream, Onion & Pepper Relish.
It could go either way here. Will the judges think of this as a “popper” or did they manage to elevate it? Hugh said, “It’s better than I thought.” Guess when you say fried jalapeno, expectations will be low. Looks like Tom was pleasantly surprised as well. It’s crispy, well flavored. Good stuff.

And they call me "Big Popper"
-Stefan/Kristen (Eddie Shredder) Corn Puree, Chicken Liver & Sunny-Side Up Egg.
Frankly I didn’t get this dish. They called it an “inside out” chicken and that’s supposed to be interpreted as “shredded?” Hm. Of course Tom thinks should they have just shredded some roast chicken and added it the dish. However if they actually did that can’t you just hear him chide the chefs for being boring and literal? Haha damned if you do...

-Josh/Sheldon (Tempura Tantrum) Tempura Yuzu Curd with Shiso, Fresno Chili, Sweet Potato & Vanilla.
The concept is to take the fried curd and drag it around the various sauces and flavors on the plate. Seems like a fun way to eat a tempura. Judges all like the concept and the flavors on the sauces but one big problem - the tempura itself was not crispy at all. Womp Womp. 

During the interlude we were treated to a dreamy Xanadu-esque skating sequence featuring none other than our own Roller Goddess, Padma Smacks’me. Ignore the creepy Stefan narration.

Judgement time.

Padma comes in and asks John/Brooke and Micah/Lizzie to the Judge’s table first.

Their dishes were the biggest hits at the party. Top two teams.

Brooke/John’s dish. Lobster went well with the rice. Meat was cooked perfectly. Sauce was delicious.  Great success.

Micah/Lizzie’s pepper. Jalapeno was hot and tasty and didn’t over power the crab. People at the party raved about it.

Winning team is - Brooke and John.

Wait. What did they win? Hm. Nothing. How interesting. Also did you notice the paltry $5,000 for the Quickfire? Did the show run into cost problems during production? Still, they saved themselves $10,000 a few weeks ago because everyone sucked. Anyways. these are things I notice and I notice them for you, my good peeps.

In the stew room Josh and Stefan are bitching about the “jalapeno popper.”  Haters’ gonna hate. 

John walks in and announces that he’s the winner. Nobody cares. 

Josh/Sheldon and Bart/Josie are sent to the chopping block, sparing Stefan/Kristin. Stefan’s so happy and relieved he hugs and kisses Brooke. Maybe he’s not creepy. Maybe European’s are just very friendly! *shakes head*

Let’s dissect the mistakes.
When the hand goes to the chin, you're in trouble.

It is painful listening to Bart/Josie. Because basically, (if you listen to Bart) he did the rice, the beef and a lot of the beets. Josie just did the marinade for the teriyaki. Wow. Based on that mismatch of work load alone Josie should get send packing. 

It’s painful to watch Josie trying to explain and hedge on their dish. Tom’s annoyed too. 
Frankly I think Tom’s been disappointed in this overall season. With the exception of Brooke and Kristen, there hasn’t been any real stars/chefs. Once again, can you imagine Michael Voltaggio or Hung Huynh competing with this group? Yeah me neither. They’d wipe the floor with them.

Remember boys and girls. ALWAYS TASTE YOUR FOOD BEFORE you serve it, or else Tom will be very disappointed in you. You don’t want to disappoint Tom Colicchio. Ever.

The problem with Sheldon/Josh is that soft, non-crispy tempura. Oh and the fact that Josh is a baby and would rather bitch about how a jalapeno popper isn’t high concept enough for Top Chef. Dude couldn’t even mix a tempura batter and he’s calling other people out. 

Everybody hurts.
Also, Tom gave the BEST example differentiating what crappy concession food vs something that’s refined and elevated. Essentially, the key is to use fresh ingredients prepared with care and flavored to perfection. From sauteed mushrooms to foie gras, that rule will never let you down. (Don’t forget to remove the skin from peppers!)

I’d like to say that Josie, because of her continued incompetence and annoying personality gets the ax. I can’t say that because, in the end, Bart gets sent packing. I didn’t catch it earlier that he consistently under seasons his food, but this time it caught up to him. 

Perhaps it’s the American palette? Remember Season 5 when Fabio Viviani also thought that the judges “liked their food salty.” Either way. Good luck Bart. If this cooking thing doesn’t work out you can always go be an architect! You’ve got the name for it!

Next week...

Looks like we’ve got another promo tie-in with a tablet, cooking previous season’s winning dishes, and some sort of twist with said tablet.

Thanks for tuning in!

Let’s follow me @ChezWu, shall we? *nods*

See you next YEAR!!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 7 Recap: “Foiled Again.”

On week 7 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...after a quick postmortem in the stew room, we head straight to the Top Chef kitchen for this week’s Quickfire challenge.

The Girl and the Host
Standing next to our beautiful host Padma Lakshmi is Top Chef winner from Season 4, Stephanie Izard.  Since winning Top Chef, she mostly stayed out of the Bravo limelight and opened up her successful restaurant The Girl and The Goat in Chicago. She’s the first Top Chef winner named Best New Chef from Food and Wine magazine. She’s also the only female chef to win Top Chef. Although I think that is going to change this season. Yup you heard it here first. I predict one of the awesome lady chefs to take it this season.

This week’s Quickfire sounds really simple. Cook whatever you want. The caveat is that EVERYTHING, and I do mean EVERYTHING is covered in aluminum foil. Yup. Everything single can, box, jar is covered completely in foil. You must use whatever item you uncover. It’s cooking with ALL surprise ingredients. So even if you try to shake, rattle, and feel your way around, it’s still going to be difficult to find out what you’ve got underneath. Oh and one more thing. You can only use aluminum foil as your cooking vessel. That means no pots, no pans, just foil.
Aliens can't get us now!

Kudos to the production people on Top Chef. It might have taken forever to individually wrap all the ingredients. Sure, it’s tied in with the good folks of Reynold’s Wrap, but at least they’re being somewhat creative in this challenge.

Only 30 minutes. GO.

Everyone’s squeezing, shaking, probing the aluminum bundles in front of them. Hoping for the best. Kristen must have x-ray vision or something, because she has set out to do a sponge cake?! I’m amazed because how does she even know she’ll get eggs?! Apparently I’m not the only one amazed. Danyele can’t believe it either, “That’s the ballsiest shit I’ve ever heard off!”  Yes Danyele, that’s is probably why neither one of us will win Top Chef. Yup right now I have as much of a chance winning as you do, and I’m on my couch watching.

Bart is really excited about this challenge. He’s shaping the wrap around his head to make a bowl. Frankly I’m impressed at how versatile the foil can be. People are making pots with handles, baking pans, soup pots. I would have made a hobo pouch and called it a day.
Oh Bambi.

-Danyele: Cannellini Bean Stew with Bacon, Asiago Cheese & Tomatillo.
I gotta say. Pretty impressed that she made bean stew in 30 minutes. Though I suspect it was canned beans. Judges kinda agree. Stephanie liked the surprise of tomatillo in the dish.

-Micah: Grilled Lamb with Tomato Fennel Panzanella.
That lamb looked so rare I think it just bleated. (Yes I had to look that up.) Padma agrees. “That lamb looks quite rare...” she said cautiously. 

-Stefan: Hot Smoked Salmon with German Potato Salad. (With a glass of champagne)
How does he keep ending up with these Scandinavian products?! 

-John: Beef Egg Drop Soup with Braised Pineapple
I’m not sure how this works. Ground beef in egg drop soup just sounds wrong. Also contrary to what John thinks, pineapple isn’t a staple in Chinese cuisine. 
Even Hobos won't eat this.

-Brooke: Bacon roasted Yams with Bacon, Onion & Apple Salad.
Brooke’s a great chef but she missed the mark here. The raw onions were too pungent for Padma.

-Josh: Roasted Chicken with potatoes, Poblano, Tomatillo & Carrots.
Stephanie liked the heat of the poblanos. Honestly this dish like an actual hobo pouch.

-Kristen: Almond & Chocolate sponge cake.
Yup. Sponge cake. She actually pulled it off. IN 30 MINUTES. Judges loved the texture, great flavors. Looking good.

-Bart: Beer Poached Cod with Butter Beer Sauce.
Even though it look over cooked, Stephanie thought it was beautifully done. Poaching fish is always a good way to go.

-Sheldon: Lemon Grass Smoked Scallops with Tomato and Shallot Salad.
Judges thought the smokiness came through nicely. Sheldon says he got lucky with the mint. Nice looking dish.

On the bottom we have Brooke’s uncooked onion salad, Micah’s raw lamb, and Kevin’s uninspired hobo pouch.

Sheldon, Kristin, Stefan, Danyele, Bart, and Josie all did a good job. Hey wait. We didn’t see Josie’s dish! I’m not complaining because I can’t stand her bawdy personality. She’s like the Guy Fieri of Top Chef contestants. Ugh.

In the end Kristin and her amazing 30 minute sponge cake takes win and the immunity. 

Elimination Challenge Time.

It’s head to head competition!  The chefs will battle head to head at the Remlinger Farm’s Berry Festival, and you guessed it - the main ingredient will be berries.  Each chef will need to create a dish highlighting their specific berry for 150 people.

The top finishers from the Quickfire got to pick who they wanted to cook against. Kristin will cook alone since she has immunity.

Sheldon challenges Micah because Micah’s the youngest and will push him the hardest.  

Danyele picks Josh so they can have a Texas/Oklahoma battle. I would have picked Josh because the man owns a pork restaurant and can’t cook pork. 

Stefan goes with John. An interesting choice since despite being a douche, John can actually cook. Maybe Stefan’s channeling his inner Bond villain and will play head games with the mentally volatile John.

Josie takes Lizzie. It came down to choosing between Lizzie and Brooke. Hell I wouldn’t have wanted to challenge Brooke, but Lizzie’s no joke either. I mean, she’s cooked for Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, TWICE! Frankly though, dude’s been in jail for a VERY long time. I’m sure he would have enjoyed whatever you served him. Well, maybe not Josh’s pork dishes. 

Bart ends up with Brooke, who is flattered that being the last one picked meant nobody wanted to mess with her. 

Tomorrow, they’ll have 3 hours cooking out doors for 150 people. The guests will cast ballots to decide who wins the head-to-head battle. Loser faces elimination, and one winner will take home 10 thousand dollars.

Each duo reaches under the table to find out what they assigned berries are. 

John/Stefan: Gooseberry
Josh/Danyele: Blueberry
Micah/Sheldon: Strawberry
Bart/Brooke: Blackberry
Josie/Lizzie: Raspberry
Kristen: Tayberry

Time to go shopping.

We’ve got a little traffic jam at the fish counter. Sheldon beat Stefan to it and bought all of the fresh tuna, forcing Stefan to buy the frozen saku bloc tuna instead. John immediately gets on his case about this, “It’s Top Chef. Who uses frozen fish?”

This little tete-a-tete continues back at the loft. Where it is hard to tell who’s getting inside whose head. However, what I can’t stand is the obviously flirting that’s going on from Stefan to Kristin. He’s laying all over her like a cheap blanket. Leave her alone!

Pretty scenic shots of Seattle. Somehow they found footage of a sunny clear day! The gang drives about 40 minutes outside of the city to Remlinger Farms for the Berry Festival. FYI, they do birthdays and company picnics!

The lovely drive to the farm reminds Stefan of his family and the realization that there’s more to life than cooking. Oh oh. Usually talking about family life is a death knell. 

Once we get there everyone dashes to the outdoor kitchen. Poor Brooke had to remind people that this isn’t football. Well, cooking here apparently IS a contact sport. Spaces are extremely limited and no one’s gonna do anyone else any favors. 

Crowded house
Danyele whines, “Can somebody just make space for a cutting board please?”

A real Top Chef wouldn’t have whined. Michael Voltaggio would have stared down the rest of the cast until someone beta person (like Danyele) backs off and whimper in tears.

In comes a tractor full of fresh picked berries.

Lizzie and Josie are battling it out with raspberries. Lizzie is assembling some ground pork with red cabbage leaves and Josie is doing her raspberry Rock n’ Roll. Her take of a california roll. You know who else makes things “Rock n’ Roll?” and has the worst reviewed restaurant in Time Square? Yeah, that GUY

With the lack of space comes with the lack of equipment. Bart’s looking for a spare blender, and while John has one just sitting there, he refuses to let Bart use it. When Bart reaches for it, John literally barked him out of it. Once again, a real Top Chef like Michael Voltaggio would have just taken it. 

Josh Valentine not only cannot cook pork, apparently he can’t use a blender either. The rules of blending hot liquids are this: Don’t fill it all the way up and HOLD the LID down! He violated both rules and sprayed everyone with his hot cream. *ahem*

Here comes Tom Colicchio with the “cook n’ chat” portion of the day. Always a good time. *Not really* Right away he zings Stefan for making a mess of his station. Tom then asks Stefan if he can beat John.  Stefan saying mockingly, “Listen. He’s 53 years old.” Ah. Let the head games continue!

When Tom reaches John’s station, the “good natured” jabs between Stefan and John all but dissipate when, once again, it’s brought up that Stefan is using frozen tuna. Like a true instigator, Tom incites the conflict then backs away to enjoy the drama. 

For the boring berries. Who made Padma's dress?
Micah tells us about his two beautiful daughters. He knew that he was going to name his kids with something “culinary-derived” but decided Cayenne and Cinnamon sounds like stripper names so he went with...Sage and Saffron. Umm. Ok. ProTip: Don’t name children after things you put in your mouth.

Josie’s not ready. She’s going to have to roll by order. That pretty much means people will be waiting and she won’t get her food out. In a hard “Hands up. Utensils down.” situation she’s have nothing to present. 

Guests start to show up.

This week’s judges are Stephanie Izard, Food and Wine’s Gail Simmons, Head Judge Tom Colicchio and host Padma Lakshmi.

Let’s get started.

Blueberry Battle:

Danyele presents a Chicken Pine Nut Terrine with Blueberry Mostarda and Josh gives us a Savory Goat Cheese Mousse with Blueberry Compote.

Can you say Lunchables?
*Crunch* Jesus, did somebody chip a tooth? I don’t know if they cranked the mic when it’s time to bite down on that crostini, but it sounded like people crunching on day-old bread. Tom says Danyele’s chicken terrine was flavorless and rubbery. Last thing you want is to serve Tom rubber chicken. *bad-dum-dum!* Meanwhile Josh’s blueberry had some heat to it, nice flavor, but could have used some crunch. Looks like Josh wins this battle.

Raspberry Battle:

Judges get to Josie’s station and Tom impassively reads the sign “Rock n’ Raspberry Roll.” Yeah. Josie’s still got nothing to serve. Instead she breaks into her best Food Network schtick. “Whassup guys! We’re having fun at the Berry Festival today...”

“Is she high?” Gail asks. While Josie’s continuing her one-woman disaster show. She’s literally stalling for time, explaining some drivel about “highlighting some of the northwest’s great product...”

“Keep cooking.” Gail snapped. 

Josie’s dish is a summer roll with Sockeye Salmon, Dungeness Crab & Raspberry Aioli. Frankly, the thing looked like a bloody mess. Tom’s expression reads: “Are you really serving this to me?!”
Bloody Pepto

You know you’re in trouble when potential cast of Real Housewives of Seattle are mocking you. 

On the flip side, Lizzie’s serving a Raspberry Steamed Cabbage Roll with Heritage Pork and Bacon Stuffing. Now that’s a delicious pairing. Sweetness goes really well with pork. Good move. Judges loved her dish and totally trashed Josie’s performance and her dish. Mayo with summer roll? 

Strawberry Battle:
Wanna see a good summer roll? How about Sheldon’s Ahi Poke, Strawberries & Sweet Chili sauce. Now that looks like a light summer roll. Sweet and spicy is always a good thing.  Micah gives us Strawberry Fried Chicken with Strawberry & Bacon Biscuit. 

Gooseberry Battle:

Cheeseburger Cheeseburger Cheeseburger...Soup
John’s White Gazpacho with Spanish Chorizo, Gooseberries & Sweet Grapes goes up against Stefan’s Cali Crudo with Radishes, Gooseberries & Spiced Vinaigrette. The tuna crudo needed a little sauce and a little more gooseberry, but overall Tom liked Stefan’s dish. However, John’s hot chorizo in cold gazpacho really turned people off. Looks like “cheeseburger soup” won’t be a new restaurant trend in 2013.

Blackberry Battle:

Brooke serves a Spicy Smoked Chocolate Pudding with Blackberry Tapioca, and Bart creates a Blackberry Soup with Salmon & Rhubarb Yogurt. Really Bart? Salmon in blackberry soup sounds about as disgusting as, well, salmon in blackberry soup! Even a little child taps into her survival instinct and refuses to try that concoction. All the judges like Brooke’s dish, comparing it to s’mores. Yeah, chocolate, marshmallow and graham crackers sounds a helluva lot better than salmon berry soup. 

Tayberry Non-Battle.

Kristen went with a Matcha Goat Milk Custard with Macerated Tayberries. All the judges raved about her dish. The olive oil macerated berries were Stephanie’s favorite item of the day. 

Seems like the smart move here was to go with something semi sweet/savory and pair it with the sweetness/tartness of the berries. Most of the winning dishes had a soft savory custardy component topped with something crunchy. 

Oy. John and Stefan are still bitching about that frozen tuna. It’s gotten to the level where John’s heckling guests who’re voting for Stefan. “You guys can rest easy tonight knowing you voted for frozen tuna.” What a sad little man you are. 

You know how we didn’t know who the hell Josie was at the beginning of the season? Well, we know her now and frankly we all wish we didn’t. Quote of the episode belongs to Josh, “It hurts my soul when Josie laughs. A little of me dies every time.”  Amen brotha. Amen.

Back in the stew room Stefan’s had enough. It’s fun to see these two battle out of the kitchen. Stefan goes around the room and EVERY one of the other chefs have used the saku bloc frozen tuna. Having been essentially overruled everyone, John finally shuts it. To top it off, Stefan suggests that John performs a certain latin-termed service on him...

Here comes Padma rounding up five chefs.
John. Josie. Bart. Micah. Danyele.

Why do you guys disappoint me so?
Normally the first round to Judges Table are the winners. However, even those who got called knows that this was a march to oblivion. 

Among the damned: John, Danyele, and Josie got hammered the most.  Josie yapped too much and served a heavy pepto bismol-looking roll, Danyele’s chicken terrine was like chicken bologna, and John, well John has a lot of excuses. You know when someone starts a sentence off with, “I’m not making excuses but...” exactly - here comes the excuses.

The winners.

Brooke. Josh. Sheldon. Stefan. Lizzie. Kristen.

The group got a general overall kudos and judges wasted no time in singling out the winning flawless dish. Kristen’s Custard with Macerated Tayberries. 

I’m telling you. This girl’s a machine. She has been on or near the top every single challenge. Looks like my comparison of her and Michael Voltaggio isn’t too far off. *pats back*

Cover your eyes!!

Ugh. That weasel Stefan sneaks in for a kiss on the cheek. Gross. What’s even more disgusting is that Stefan refer to her as “wifey?” No no no no no.

At this point I think the going home chef has gotta be between Danyele and Josie. No matter who goes home, my money says the other one isn’t long for this world.

In the end Danyele gets the ax. 

Just too many mistakes, and frankly every one in the room knows that she’s too young and too inexperienced to be Top Chef. Who knows, we could see her in the future?However, she says she was ready to go. Good luck in Last Chance Kitchen Danyele.

As a final coup de gras, we’re treated to a non sequitur Stefan and Josie altercation. 

Regardless of personality or drama, if Josie doesn’t get her act together she’s definitely next on the list.

Thanks for reading peeps!

Looks like next week we’ll have some muddy shell fish digging and Padma on roller skates! Whee!

Have a great week people and give yours truly a follow on twitter @ChezWu!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 5 Recap: “Pike’s Place Pickle”

On week 5 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...we start off back in the stew room to get some reactions on last week’s result. 

Nobody cares that Carla Pellegrino and Chrissy Gamba got eliminated. I also don't care since it was pretty obviously neither one of them was going far. However Carla’s departure automatically lowers the show’s (and the recap’s) snark factor by 10 points. 

Hey at least she’s now free to develop her new show, “Top Ass!” 

Also, we learn that Tyler Wiard is greedy and suggests to Kristen Kish that she charge people $15 for a plate of 'Top Chef Onion Rings' (patent pending). Now that’s the kind of shrewd thinking you need to run a corporate restaurant group! John Elway would be proud.


Everyone’s up and ready to go. But where?

Hey wait. It’s Stefan’s birthday!  

Stefan is freaking out. Not for the fact that he’s turning 40, but he’s worried about the "Birthday Curse.' Apparently everyone from his season got sent home on or close to their birthday. You know what I’m freaking out about? That Stefan is ONLY 40 yrs old. I dunno man. Dude looks a WEE bit older than 40. I mean, the difference between Jeffery Jew and this man is 6 years?  I guess being a chef DOES suck the life outta you. Better go buy another Porsche Stefan!
Quick Fire Challenge.

Ah. It’s about time we see Pike Place Market.

If you’ve watched any show about Seattle in the past decade you’re probably familiar with this place. Yes, it’s where they throw that big ole piece of fish around like a Nerf football. Hey it’s world famous!

Today show I'm available!

Standing next to Padma (the only person who can look this good this early in the morning) is this week’s Quick Fire judge and local chef, Daisley Gordon. This guy looks like a badass. Daisley, yes this is his name, is sporting awesome salt-n-pepper muttonchops and a hip quilted vest. Yes, this is what Al Roker wishes he looks like.

Once again, time to divvy up into teams of two. Much like in life, sometimes your fate comes down to where you’re standing and whose eyes you catch. In that spilt second you can end up with someone amazing or you can go home alone, in tears and shame.

There’s an old Chinese saying that loosely translates to, “The road between enemies is a narrow one.”

Somehow, John Tesar and Josh Valentine end up together. Seriously, wouldn’t you two run the OTHER way as soon as they say “team challenge?”

The other awkward pairing is Josie Smith and Eliza Gavin. Awkward being that they’re the "fat kids” at a pick-up basketball game. Nobody even looked at their direction. I can’t blame the others because if I have to look up both of your names at this point of the season, you’re probably not doing so well.

Quick! It ain't SLOW fire!
Time to cook.

This week’s Quick Fire is to make breakfast-to-go for the good people of Pike Place Market. The twist? It’s gotta be on a stick. Oh and you need to set up your entire mobile kitchen from Sur La Table with only $500. 1 hour to shop, set up and cook.


Breakfast on a stick is quite a quandary. Teams are scrambling and deciding on what to make. Some go with pancakes, some waffles, and (surprise!) no omelets. 

Everyone grabs a panini press at Sur La Table since it’s the only portable cooking equipment out there.

Right away you can tell which partnership is going to work and which is probably doomed. The teams that click usually have some respect for each other’s skill set. Trouble comes when one chef thinks the other one sucks. 

On camera you’ll usually hear, “we have very different styles...” read: “My style is good, she sucks." When that happens, one partner usually folds.

I'll crush you with my bare hand!
 Couples’ Case Study #1.  Josie and Eliza. It’s obvious who’s gonna fold here. You can see Eliza slowing retreating, wilting at the slightest hint of confrontation. Usually the one who backs down is also the one seen complaining on camera. 

Eliza whines, “Josie’s one of those chefs that’s used to being right all the time. Josie’s like, "that's the way I’m doing it and that’s why I’m right.”

If I was Eliza I would have reminded Josie of her abysmal turkey every time she dared to contradict me, and then go on camera and tell the world I’m not here to make friends. Ha! (Reality TV cliché)

Times up.

This when we see that “on a stick” is kinda arbitrary. Just make whatever you can and put a stick through it. People are gonna use their hands anyways. 

Market peeps starts to roll in and we get a gratuitous quick sound bite from the CEO of Sur La Table, which started as a single retail store at Pike Place Market! (See. My recaps are fun AND educational!)


-Josh & John: Chilaquiles: Tortilla, Salsa, Quail Egg, Avocado-Heirloom Tomato Relish.
Basically a mini breakfast taco, on a stick. They managed to put the skewer through the top part of the tortilla thus fitting the qualification. 
This counts as "on a stick."

-Eliza & Josie: Ricotta, Raspberry & Sausage Pancake with Jalapeno Maple Syrup.
Looks like a layer cake. Dessert and breakfast combo. Even though it fell apart on Padma, she’s still stabbing at it with her stick to pick it up.

-Micah & Kristen: Bacon & Cinnamon Waffle, Pecan Maple Syrup, Boysenberry & Strawberry Jam.

-CJ & Tyler: Salmon & Cream Cheese Crepe with Avocado, Arugula & Tarragon.
It’s a grilled skewers wrapped with a crepe filled with cream cheese/avocado/arugula. CJ is lobbying for a win. He’s getting a little desperate.

The foil does the trick. 
-Bart & Sheldon: Green Forest Breakfast Sandwich: Eggs, Cheese, Pancetta, Bacon & Spinach.
With the help of some aluminum foil, they managed to make a grilled cheese sandwich on a stick. Can’t go wrong with bacon/egg/cheese sandwich. The genius lies in how they jimmied it to fit on a stick.

-Danyele & Lizzie: Summer Berries with Crispy Pancetta.
A sad stick of literally just berries and pancetta. Sad and lonely.

-Brooke & Stefan: Croque Monsieur: Pressed Ham & Cheese Sandwich with Toasted Fig.
Another grilled cheese sandwich. Only since it’s thin and pressed it kinda snaked around the skewer like a wave. Also the fig was a nice touch.

The bottom two dishes:
Eliza and Josie’s floppy pancakes. Guest judge Gordon didn’t care for the ricotta pancakes and thought the whole thing was hard to eat.

This took an HOUR to make. What is this, Top Tooth Pick?
Danyele and Lizzie’s lonely stick of berries. Seriously guys. One hour for that?! Michael Voltaggio would have made a perfect egg with runny yolk and paired it with sous vide unicorn sausage on an edible skewer made from frozen dove tears by now! 

Top dishes:

Sheldon and Bart’s bacon egg and cheese sandwich was a no brainer. That thing looked delicious and hearty. Plus pureed spinach adds a really nice touch.

Josh and John’s breakfast taco was also a hit. Well seasoned and flavorful. Something about eggs in taco/burrito just makes sense. Maybe these two CAN work well together?

The winning dish belonged to Sheldon and Bart. Immunity for both!

Speaking of immunity...

Elimination Challenge.

Can I stab my partner?
The good news for those teams on the bottom is that here’s another chance for redemption. Bad news is, you’re stuck with the same yahoo that got you here in the first place. Hey, at least the feeling’s mutual.

Time to draw some knives.

On the knife there’s a label with the name of some special products made by the artisans of Pike Place Market. There are things like salmon candy, cheese curds and cardamom bitters. 

Yeah. They all sound delicious right? *shakes head violently*

The challenge is to make a dish highlighting their chosen product. They’ll have to impress the diabolical artisans who created such things as rose petal jelly and coconut curry chocolates. This lunch challenge is worth $10,000 and the time limit is only two hours.

Sun Tzu (Ancient Art of War) once said, “Every battle is won before it is fought.” That axiom couldn’t be truer than in times like this. If the team can’t plan correctly and efficiently BEFORE action takes place, then all is lost. 

Couples’ study #2. CJ and Tyler. Tyler knows he’s out of his depth in this competition. He’s always talking about how if he’s not careful he could be the next one going home. The fear is strong with this one. So when his delicious and creative idea was met by CJ’s plain and boring one, Tyler folded like cheap suit from a dollar store. 

You might see this face later...
Tyler: “My idea was a potato oyster chowder with a dill pickle fritter...(upon seeing CJ’s disapproving look, put his hands up) but I’m down with any … I’m down.”

Wait, potato oyster chowder with a dill pickle fritter sounds delicious! Especially when compared to CJ’s crappy “pork burger” idea with just pickles on top. 

Tyler says to the camera: “CJ’s idea seems a little too simple, but he’s a Top Chef veteran and I’m definitely trusting him (nods).”

Tyler, honey child, back where I come from there’s a name for someone like you, let’s put it this way, it ain’t “Chef,” and it rhythms with chump. Ok it’s chump.

I fart in your general direction!
Couples’ Case Study #3. Josh and John. We’ve all known friends who stay in a bad marriage because of the kids, right? Well here we have two people that positively despise each other, but because they don’t want to disturb the dish, decides to compromise and play nice. They’re doing pork and grits to go with the truffled popcorn. Sounds like decent plan. However instead coming up with suggestions to elevate the food, both of them just backs off from anything either of them care about and what we have left is a neglected dish consisting of poorly cooked pork tenderloin and grainy grits. Not good. Not good at all.

Time’s almost up.

The tasting table is at Chef Daisley Gordon’s restaurant, Marché and in walks the artisans who made them wacky products and our judges. This week we have Papa Colicchio, Top Chef Masters Alumni Hugh Acheson, vivacious Gail Simmons, and of course our beautiful host Padma Lakshmi.

After some banter about these artisanal products, here come the first round of food.

Meat wad.
-Josh & John: Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin with Truffle Popcorn Grits

-Micah & Kristen: Cheese Curds Three Ways: Béchamel, Raw & Fried

-Stefan & Brooke: Rose Petal Glazed Muscovy Duck with Braised Cabbage

-Sheldon & Bart: Candied Salmon with Sweet & Sour Salad

Ok. Not a good round. At first everyone’s kinda being polite and trying to find something good to say before really criticizing, but once the table realizes that they weren’t alone in thinking "this kinda sucks,” the flood gate opens.

Stefan’s cabbage and duck dish was way too sweet, with no hint of the rose petal. Josh and John’s pork was cooked terribly with no sear, and Hugh bluntly said that the grits “suck.” The cheese curds were over-fried and lost in the sauce. While Sheldon and Bart’s salad was passable, they still missed mark on “highlighting” the salmon.

All in all a majorly poor showing, however, we did learn that the “flying fish” dudes? Yeah they cheat and use a stunt fish. So when you see people throwing that fish around? It’s the same damn fish all day long. Yum.

Meanwhile back in the kitchen Danyele and Lizzie are making a coconut curry chocolate tart even though they’re not “dessert” people. Sigh. When will these cooks learn to leave desserts alone? Either that or learn that one molten chocolate cake recipe and just do that. No one’s ever been sent home for a perfectly executed molten chocolate cake.

CJ explains why his pork burger idea with a pretty dead on Tom Colicchio impression, “There’s a million dishes I can make with pickles, but I also can just see Tom going like, ‘I mean...CJ what’s wrong with a good burger, executed perfectly it’s a perfect you know accompaniment to a pickle!’ So...that’s why I chose a burger.”

You can see that instead of cooking his food, he’s just trying to play the game and starting to outthink himself. This is clearly where having been on the show before is a liability. 
Also in the television business this is what we call “foreshadowing.” Things usually don’t go well when that happens.

Either way, we’ll see what Tom’s actual impression is of that burger.

Round 2.
Meat Wad. Now in a bun.

-Josie & Eliza: Curry Cardamom Broth with Manila Clams & Seared White King Salmon.

-Lizzie & Danyele: Coconut Curry Chocolate Mousse Tart.

-CJ & Tyler: Pork Crumpet Burger with Spicy Dill Pickles.

This meal has taken a turn for the worse...

Right away guests and judges have issues with CJ’s burger.  The bun is soggy and falling apart. Pickles are too big and not crispy enough. Then comes the coupe de gracé, delivered by none other than Tom Colicchio himself,

“You couldn’t think of a better thing to do with a pickle than put it on a burger? How freaking original?! I have a burger with pickles on it! Wow!” 

Yeah Nostradom-CJ. See your future now?

The cardamom broth is also a failure. The clams were not cleaned (there's sand and grit in the bowl) and the fish flavor overpowers the cardamom. 

The tart didn’t work either. Poorly constructed and poorly flavored.

This round. 0-3.

Not a good day for Top Chef
You know it’s bad when Padma says, “Well, that was an interesting dinner.” Yeah that means it sucked. While Gail’s sorta being nice, Tom was visibly upset and embarrassed. 

Padma apologizes to the artisans and the whole thing ended with a whimper, “Have a great evening...”


In the stew room, the chefs seem uneasy. I think everyone knows they didn’t put their best plate out there today. However, they didn’t expect this...


Talk about an “Oh sh*t” moment. Everyone’s stunned with their jaws opened like mouth breathers. Wow! I think Josh’s mustache literally uncurled!

You know it’s not gonna be a good talk when it starts with, “We were really, really disappointed today.” Tom tells everyone. (That’s TWO “really’s” )
Maybe it'll taste better if we're drunk

“This was actually a pretty poor showing. Food just wasn’t up to par. These dishes just showed a lack of imagination, lack of technique. We actually had to apologize to these artisans. We thought these dishes for the most part were pretty bad.”

Also there will be no winner this round. The $10k is off the table, and antire team will be going home. Yeah, Tom is UPSET.


But then, Tom throws them a bone. See, it turns out that having done years of reality TV has taught Tom a thing or two. At this point in the competition, the chefs start to get weary, to get slow, to think to themselves, "if I ride in the middle for a while, I'll win in the end." But that mentality results in bad food. So Tom lets them know that they are doing Last Chance Kitchen, so they DO have a chance to get back in. Take some risks. If you’re lucky enough to stick around after tomorrow, it’s time to push. 

After a night of sweating over their possible doom, the chefs return to the studio stew room to face the music.

On the bottom: John and Josh, CJ and Tyler, Stefan and Brooke.

Every team takes their beatings. With a showing as poor as this one, there isn’t much any team can say to defend their food and try to save themselves. They’re going out with some dignity ... oh wait, I spoke too soon.
Can we send them all home and start over? What's Voltaggio doing now?

Before leaving to let the judges make a decision, CJ pulled the ultimate punk move and tried to throw Lizzie and Danyele’s dessert under the bus.

“I wonder what you guys thought about that dessert?” CJ bitches. “It was an abhorrence I thought. A debacle, it was diabolical, it was a travesty...”

Thanks! I'll be here all week!
To which full-time superstar/part-time comedian Hugh Acheson said, (without skipping a beat) “Oh oh, cuz your burger was worse...”

Judges laugh, other chefs laugh, I’m laughing...all at CJ’s expense. He storms off like an embarrassed brat.

“It’s like under handing pitches to a pro baseball player.” Quipped Josh.

The judges are pretty much split on which was the worst dish. Which left poor little Gail, who's always the 'nice' one, to deliver the tie-breaking vote. We don't get to see Gail shove the dagger into their hearts, but in the end CJ and Tyler’s pork burger was judged to be the most offensive dish. I think CJ being a veteran and that punk move at the end really did him in. Maybe now he’ll focus on cooking, and his anger will get him through the gauntlet of Last Chance Kitchen.

Good luck CJ – well, sorta good luck. I mean, seriously, you cooked at NOMA and you've been on the show before. Just cook food dude. Cook good food and you win. There's no need for tactics and arguments. Food good = win. Food bad = loose. That's why we're watching Top Chef. If we wanted drama and reality show strategy, we'd be watching that other show in development, "Top Ass."

Oh and Tyler. One day at a time bro. One day at a time. 

I told you you'd see me again...