Prelude to Top Chef Seattle Episode 6: and why I’m covering #TopChef

Well chefs and aspiring chefs, it’s that time of year again. No, I’m  not talking about the Holidays (though those are a blast, too.) I’m talking about Top Chef! specifically, Top Chef Seattle.

First, lets dispense with the formalities.  BravoTV contacted me to follow along with the show and give my opinions, recaps and take on recipes for this season.  So, this is an official partnered post and requires a disclaimer…

bravo, top chef

I’m required to disclose a relationship between our site and Bravo. This could include the Bravo providing us w/content, product, access or other forms of payment.

Legal requirement: Done.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on, shall we?

Unfortunately I don’t have a recap of episode 5 for you.  As much as I love Top Chef, I haven’t been keeping up with it this season. not because I didn’t want to, but because we were running an experiment to see if we could live without cable TV.  For the most part, the answer has been yes… But there are things that Internet TV alone still can’t give us, and Top Chef is one of those things.

(Don’t worry, our cable box should arrive today. At that point I’ll be glued to the TV every Wednesday at 10/9c watching, taking notes and giving my opinions on the food, the challenges and the contestants.) For now, I’m going to head toward the internet and give you a taste of some of the other recaps out there, all while getting as up-to-date as possible on the happenings so far.

Before moving on, please take note that I am taking a lighthearted approach to my commentary on Top Chef Seattle. Why? Because it’s a reality TV show, that’s why. because in real, every day life, chefs don’t run around trying to figure out how to make a meal in two hours from oddball ingredients like truffled popcorn, candied salmon and coconut-curry-chocolate mousse. (Or at least they shouldn’t be doing that.)

So, if you’re interested in a lighthearted, satirical and fairly irreverent take on what is truly one of my favorite television shows, read on!

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Top Chef, it’s a reality TV competition in which a bunch of aspiring chefs go on-camera in front of a judgmental world to cook for the chance to win a bucketload of money. Like most shows of this genre, the cameras are there to showcase ever mistake, no matter how small and every argument, no matter how trivial.  By the end you, the viewer, will have learned to love and hate the contestants and be rooting like mad for your favorite to win…  Unless of course they get booted before the final competition.

So let’s see what’s been going on up until this point on Top Chef Seattle:

Episode 1: Keep it Moving

In this episode we are introduced to our judges. Of course we have Tom Collichio, Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson. There’s a surprise twist however. Wolfgang Puck will be a guest judge this season, something that does not necessarily bode well for the contestants since Chef Puck has probably forgotten more about cooking than the sum total of culinary knowledge of all the hopefuls combined.  In short, you’re not going to fool this man with a  fancy garnish or a great sauce. You’re going to have to cook, and cook well.

Of course, Padma’ back as host, because Top Chef just wouldn’t be Top Chef without Tom and Padma.

The first episode doesn’t start out in Seattle at all! It starts with a competition held by the judges in one of their own restaurants.  Each judge can choose up to 5 contestants to send to Seattle, but each has the right to send none as well. now there’s a pulse-pounding start to a competition for you!

They cook, some fail. Some go home. Out of 21 hopefuls, 15 move on.

In the end though, this is episode 1. We haven’t gotten to know these contestants yet and it’s hard to feel bad for anyone just yet.  Let’s move on to Episode 2, which we assume takes place in Seattle.

Episode 2: A Shock at the Space Needle

Now we’re getting down to business.  We start with the Quick Fire challenge, which is to be judged by three Top Chef Alums, CJ, Josie, and Stephan. In this challenge, the contestants must get into groups of 3 and cook something wonderful from local shellfish.  This shouldn’t be difficult in Seattle, which has an abundance of fresh, local, amazingly succulent shellfish.

Everyone picks geoduck…

Really people. Geoduck. you’ve got the best choice of seafood in the Pacific Northwest and you opt for the ONE thing that allows phallic jokes!?!  You should have gone with mussels, Y’all!

In the end, John wins immunity and we’re off to the meat of the issue, the elimination round… But wait! Before that can happen, Padma drops a bomb on the hopefuls… CJ, Stephan and Josie weren’t just judging. They’re coming back to compete!

So off they go to the space needle, where the same three person teams assemble, but each member must cook their own dish in the time it takes the needle to rotate once. (47 minutes.)  In the end Kuniko wins and Jeffery goes home.

Episode 3: Tom vs. Emeril : Turkeypocolypse

Our cheftestants start the quick fire challenge with the task of making international dumplings.  They are each handed a Kindle Fire to use to look up recipes for dumplings they may or may not have heard of before. (Wasn’t it nice of Amazon to hand them all a Kindle?!?) There are issues and severe lacks of geographical knowledge but in the end Josie wins immunity and leaves Kuniko, Brooke and Carla at the bottom.

For the actual challenge, Tom and Emeril form our cheftestants into two teams and take each other on in a Thanksgiving dinner battle. In the end, as sad as I am to say it, Tom’s team bested Emeril’s and Kuniko ended up leaving, leaving CJ the winner of the night.

Episode 4: `50’s Food Flashback

Now were talking! Y’all know I love me some Retro Food, so I can’t wait to re-watch this episode a few times over the season.

We start the show with arguing and shouting by chefs John and CJ, about Kuniko’s exit. (I’m sure this will turn into something somewhere.) Anyway, on to the quickfire, where we find sides of beef, brought by Naomi Pomeroy, owner of acclaimed Portland restaurant Beast. The challenge: Cut off whatever bits you want to cook and make something awesome… In one hour.

Mayhem ensues, someone gets cut (by herself, accidentally), pressure cookers are called into play, but in the end John is on top for the second time, followed closely by CJ and Joshua.  (John might be the most hated chef in Dallas, but it appears he can cook pretty well.)

Things get old school for the elimination challenge. Enter Brian and Mark Canlis, owners of Seattle’s Iconic Canlis restaurant. The chefs are tasked with recreating one dish from the original Canlis menu, circa 1950. (Note. The challenge was to recreate, not reinvent!)

In the end good and bad things come out of the kitchen with John expediting.  The win went to Kristen for fried onions and a mushroom side. The losers were Carla for squab two ways (overdone and undercooked) and Chrissy for a salad in need of far less dressing.

Episode 5: Pike place pickle

Ah, the Pike Place Market in Seattle. A veritable paradise for anyone who loves fresh, local produce, the best in artisan foods and, of course, people throwing fish at each other. The historic market is the scene for all of episode 5’s challenges, so let’s jump in, shall we?

The cheftestant’s day started with a true Pike Place wakeup call at zero-dark-thirty to undertake the quickfire challenge. This time they have to make breakfast for the early rising  farmers market vendors.  Oh, and it has to be on a stick. Fun, right? Yeah, not so much.

First, it’s off to Sur La Table to get something to cook with, because apparently nobody had thought to bring a hotplate or a grill. Next it’s on to such odd concoctions as Tacos on a stick (Why?) and a waffle kebab looking thing (again, why?). At the end of the round, Bart and Sheldon (Names we haven’t seen on top of a challenge so far) take the quickfire, leaving Danyelle and Lizzie at the bottom.

But wait, this gets worse.  Much worse.

On to the elimination challenge. And it is…

To cook with items sold at the farmers market. But not just ANY items. That would be far less dramatic and less pain-inducing, creatively speaking. No, what the chefs had to work with was the odd assortment of ingredients that follows:

  • CJ and Tyler got pickles, so they decided on a burger-thing. It makes sense, I suppose.
  • John and Joshua got truffle popcorn.. So of course they made Grits out of the popcorn… I know. I don’t get it either.
  • Josie and Eliza ended up with cardamom bitters. Their thought: clams in cardamom curry broth. A great idea, or it would have been if they’d cleared the clams of sand and pebbles. (Yes children, I said PEBBLES)
  • Danyelle and Lizzie get coconut mouse chocolate, so they make a tart out of it. But add other chocolates and present poorly.
  • Stefan and Brooke get Rose Petal Jelly. So many things could have been right with this. Too bad they decided to add it to duck and candied cabbage. That poor duck.
  • Kristen and Micah get cheese curds. This one should have been easy, but they decided to go with cheese curds three ways… Over thinking an ingredient much?
  • Bart and Sheldon got stuck with one that would send shivers of terror down my spine: candied salmon. Yeah, I don’t know what I would have done, either, but a salad probably wouldn’t have been it.
In the end, this round produced food so uninspiring and weak that Tom declared no winners at all. They were just sent back to their rooms in shame.
Too bad. There are some very talented chefs in this group, but they all choked on this challenge.

That catches us up, folks.  The next episode of Top Chef Seattle airs tonight (Wednesday) at 19/9Central on Bravo. now that I’ve caught you up, please make sure to catch the episode. And after that, hit the Last Chance kitchen and help bring Kuriko back for the finale! Just get on Twitter and tweet out #savechefkuniko. Do it.

top chef, season 10, seattle, kuniko yagi, bravo

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