Disclaimer: There are no spoilers in this recap at all. Seriously.
With 15 chefs making the cut last week, we jump straight into the action, complete with some guest judges and a big ole’ twist.
After nine seasons, Top Chef now has more runners-up than Real Housewives has plastic surgeries, and Stefan, CJ, and Josie are standing with Padma to introduce the Quickfire. The chefs split themselves up into teams of three according to apron color, and John gets right into being offensive by snagging a blue apron after he sees Kuniko grab one because “She’s Japanese…maybe she has incredible knife skills.”
Of course, because while us ‘Mericans were learning to walk, every little Japanese boy and girl is catching flies with chopsticks and juggling Ginsu knives.
The teams have a very short 20 minutes to prepare some form of local shellfish – complete with many jokes about everyone’s favorite phallic bivalve, the geoduck. The orange team looks like the clear favorite to crash and burn, due mostly to the fact that Carla is one part diva, one part Real Housewife, and two parts nutcase. What else is there to want in life than to “be a James Beard and have a nice ass”?
It seems that John’s premonition about Kuniko wasn’t that far off base. (My instincts told me the same things, though it wasn’t racially motivated. She was an early sleeper pick for my Top Chef team.) Their geoduck sashimi with ponzu, apple, and cucumber won John, Kuniko, and Sheldon their first Quickfire. Unfortunately, immunity wasn’t on the table for everyone, and they drew knives so see who got the free pass. John comes out the winner.
And here comes the big crotch punch for all of these Top Chef newbies: Those three veteran guest judges? They are now full-fledged competitors and will be sticking around for the entire season (or, at least until they get eliminated.)
If the Twitter feeds are any indication, most of the Top Chef public was just as indifferent to Josie’s return as I was. I saw a lot of “OMG! CJ and Stefan are back!” I scrolled through hundreds of tweets…not one mention of ole’ Josie. Hopefully she can prove to be more memorable than she was in Season 2.
The teams stay together for the Elimination challenge, with the newly added veterans donning the red aprons. We get a few cut scenes where they talk about their escapades since leaving their seasons of Top Chef, Stefan delivers and epically ego-maniacal rants about how many restaurants he owns – oh, how I’d forgotten how delightfully crass that little thumb of a man can be – and there is understandable frustration from the rest of the cast.
The challenge this week is simple, a trend that I hope continues. The teams must cook a dish highlighting local Seattle ingredients for Tom Douglas at the Sky City Restaurant at the top of the iconic Space Needle.
Seriously, what is it about women named Carla on this show being crazy? At one point, while team Orange floundered in the kitchen over their poached salmon, the rest of the teams stood by in awe to watch the collagen-injected Tasmanian devil scamper around the kitchen and babble unintelligibly. After cooking was finished, she nicked her hand while putting up her knives and proceeded to freak. I’m pretty sure I could see the medic holding back a laugh while she talked about her relief narrowly avoiding nerve damage.
For all of the hullabaloo over the veteran chefs, they did little to impress. CJ had the huevos to change the dish right before cooking began and incorporated quail. Perhaps he has forgotten how this show works. Fortune favors the bold, not the stupid. But, it does give Stefan the chance to slide in some booby references, which is always fun. CJ’s cherry emulsion came out a little less than “super rad” and the quail was overdone, and this didn’t sit too well with the judges. The red team winds up in the bottom.
Along with them is the Gray team (Jeffrey, Brooke, and Bart). It pained me that Jeffrey was responsible for turning their halibut into a “hockey puck”, considering I wasted my second round draft pick on him. But that overcooked fish lands their team in the bottom and gets Jeffrey booted off the show.
But, once again, John’s racist instincts paid off. The Blue teams wound up sweeping the episode, both times with Kuniko being the driving force. Her brilliant decision to poach cod in chili oil clinched the win. I loved how nonchalantly she just started another batch after letting her first pot of oil burn, something that clearly freaked her teammates out. The Blue team comes out on top, and Kuniko is the first Elimination challenge winner of Top Chef Seattle.
Highlights and quotes:
NO SECOND CHANCE KITCHEN!
“For the first thing to put in my mouth in Seattle, not bad. That came out wrong.” – Gail
“There is not one person that I met that didn’t say ‘Stefan…you should have won.’ Of course I should have won.” – Stefan