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Top Chef Seattle recap, Episode 3: Thanksgiving in July

Credit: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

“If you fail during this challenge, you might as well go find another career.” – Josie

I wonder if Josie has ever watched this show before? If she had, as soon as those words left her lips she should have smacked herself in the face. That is just courting disaster.

Josie made that comment because Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine magazine and familiar face on Top Chef, is this week’s guest judge, which clearly sets all of the chefs on their toes.

For this week’s Quickfire, the chefs start with a mad dash to a map with 17 knives on it, each representing a different style of dumpling from the corners of the world. In this season’s first unabashed product placement, the chefs are given 5 minutes on an Amazon Kindle Fire to look up their style of dumpling if, for example, you were Micah and got stuck with manti, a dumpling native to Kazakhstan. Considering that he “didn’t know that Kazakhstan was real,” this internet access saved him.

And thanks CJ, for at least trying to make your “These things are kind of awesome” Kindle plug sound somewhat genuine.

There were quite a few missteps for some of the chefs during this challenge. Brooke couldn’t seem to get her hands on any flour, which is sort of an important part of a dumpling wrapper, so she had to make naked dumplings….essentially a meatball instead of a dumpling. Carla can’t seem to work the internet with only one hand, and isn’t able to look up the Nigerian FuFu dumpling, instead making a totally random Italian style dumpling. (I doubt her search for “FUBU” brought up much other than poorly fitting jeans.) And Kuniko has me worried that timing issues may be her undoing, as she can’t finish her takoyaki (Japanese octopus dumplings) in time to plate them, so she ends the Quickfire empty handed.

Stefan lucks out and gets Klopse, a German dumpling that he grew up eating, and his version impresses Cowin, landing him in the top 3. Surprisingly, Micah is right there beside him in the top 3, proving that he can adapt quickly, as only a few minutes online and he turned out a very successful version of the Kazakh dish. And Josie’s Korean mandu, with pork, tofu, shitake mushrooms, scallions, ginger, and kimchi is also a hit, ultimately earning her the Quickfire win and immunity for this week’s Elimination challenge.

Elimination Challenge

It is Thanksgiving (In July, because there was no way this was filming in November, but we will suspend a little disbelief)!

The chefs are divided into two teams, where each will prepare a Thanksgiving meal for FareStart, a culinary job training and placement program for the homeless in Seattle. For this week’s fun little twist, Tom and Emeril are brought in to each lead one of the teams and guide their Thanksgiving meal.

Tom and Emeril dramatically enter the kitchen in their chef’s coats with a lounge music rip-off version of the music from Kill Bill blaring over them, punctuated by Padma’s embarrassing Scarface reference. How…epic?

Red Team (Tom): Carla, CJ, Bart, Micah, Josh, Lizzie, Stefan, and Eliza

Gray Team (Emeril): John, Brooke, Sheldon, Tyler, Kuniko, Chrissy, Josie, Danyele, and Kristen

In the biggest shocker of the evening, Emeril’s decides to have his team make a creole-style Thanksgiving, while Tom’s team goes Italian. It was actually a nice change of pace to see Tom and Emeril mixing it up in the kitchen, both of them really seemed to come alive while they were working with their teams. It looked like they were really having fun with it. Sometimes it is easy to forget that those guys are chefs, first and foremost, and are most at home in the kitchen.

Here are the highlights and lowlights from both teams:

- When are you people going to learn that it is a huge mistake to give the person with immunity the most important dish on the team? Why everyone on the Gray Team thought it was a good idea to let the one person who didn’t care if they lost cook the turkey, I’ll never figure out. True to fashion, Josie totally screwed up the bird, blackening the outside and leaving the middle unsafe for human consumption.

- Carla is bonkers. See also: Episodes 1 and 2

- The Gray Team gets totally smoked by the Red Team in a unanimous decision by the judges.

- It is becoming very clear that Kuniko can’t keep up with the pace of Top Chef, as she is again having timing issues. Her potato pave comes out under-seasoned and raw, and she winds up in the bottom three.

- Tyler is super-pumped to be learning gumbo from Emeril himself. Too bad he didn’t pay attention and added too much roux without compensating with more seasoning. His gumbo comes out under seasoned with a bitter finish, landing him in the bottom three. Sheldon joins him for his undercooked Kale salad.

- Despite being bonkers, and causing all sorts of kitchen drama, Carla’s carrot soup leads the pack from the Red Team to victory, as their Italian-style feast unanimously won over the judges. CJ’s turkey with 3lbs of butter under the skin and foie gras stuffing was also a huge hit, as were Lizzie’s half butter, half mashed potato puree.

- Carla wins the elimination challenge, much to CJ’s chagrin.

Oh, Kuniko. You were supposed to be my dark horse. You are obviously talented, but I should have seen your mousiness for what it really is – you may be able to cook, but you can’t hang on Top Chef. This is a different ballgame and you have to keep up with the pace. Sadly, Kuniko packs her knives this week, and I’m down yet another chef on my Top Chef fantasy team. I think the wife may sweep me for the 3rd year in a row.

In other horrible news, Last Chance Kitchen is coming back. Ugh.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, see you next week!

- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog

3 comments Add your comment


November 22nd, 2012
6:25 am

Where can I find the recipes? I would love to have the carrot and meatball soup and the sweet potato biscuits.

Big Daffy

November 22nd, 2012
10:04 am

LeRoy -you must not be from around here.

The Hedonist

November 28th, 2012
3:47 pm

Looking forward to John “the time bomb” Tesar exploding…