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Top Chef Seattle recap, Episode 4: ’50s food and freak outs

Credit: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

Aaaaaaand here comes the drama.

Up until this point, Season 10 has given glimmers of hope that the drama wouldn’t overshadow the food like last season. I felt like every week on the Texas season, I was lamenting mediocre dishes prepared by people I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with (not all of them of course, but the hose-beast otherwise known as Heather dominated the experience).

But this week jumps right in with a catfight, and we finally get a real taste of why John T. is “the most hated chef in Dallas.” While I didn’t think his initial comments about Kuniko, last week’s reject and my fantasy team heartbreaker, were all THAT offensive, his reaction to being challenged peeled back the layers of crazy. As soon as CJ chimes in with the “come on man, that’s not necessary” spiel, Tesar lashes out. Josh chimes in, Tesar insults Oklahoma, and it turns into a stew room full of awkward.

If it was up for debate, it is now clear who this season’s bad guy is going to be.

The tension from the stew room spat carries over to the next day, and I love how Stefan is voyeuristically soaking up the drama without getting involved. “I feel like the Real Housewives of Seattle.” He was too busy flirting with Kristen to be too bothered by it. But CJ and Josh are now officially gunning for John.

QUICKFIRE

Once the cooking actually starts, things are looking up, as guest judge and TC: Masters veteran Naomi Pomeroy unveils two massive hanging beef carcasses. The chefs have an hour to butcher their own cut and prepare a dish.

During the Quickfire, we also see the cracks forming in Tyler’s foundation – he doesn’t seem to take failure very well, and is way inside his own head.

Lizzie’s tough shank, Eliza’s miss with her cherry and asparagus paired with flank steak, and Tyler’s bland bottom round crudo receive the lowest marks from Pomeroy. And in a must-have-been-planned-by-the-producers moment, Josh, CJ, and John wind up with the top dishes. And, predictably, score one for the bad guy – John wins, earning immunity. I’m not saying it was rigged…I’m just sayin’….

ELIMINATION

We are taking a trip back to the ‘50s this week.

This week takes us to Canlis, a Seattle institution that opened in 1950 and became the epicenter for the development of Northwestern cuisine. In a throwback, the chefs must recreate the original 1950 menu from when Canlis first opened. The winner gets $10K, but two chefs will be eliminated.

As the team divvies up the old school menu, a few chefs feel a little slighted. Stefan sort of takes over the dish distribution, and Carla isn’t pumped when she gets saddled with the squab dish. Considering how she reacted to being called “sweetie” last week, I’m surprised she took that one lying down. Likewise, Kristen gets two sides, a fried onion dish and mushrooms. Not exactly the sort of thing that lets a chef showoff.

Since he has immunity, John takes on the task of expediter on top of the steamed clam bordelaise. How altruistic of him. Or, perhaps he just wanted the chance to bark orders at all of the other chefs, who are clearly beneath him. He seemed to relish the role, but didn’t seem to be very good at it. His expediting becomes the main excuse that Josh gives for why his French onion soup comes to the judges cold.

The most glaring deficiency in the in the setup of the kitchen – and how some of the chefs handled this challenge – was the “grill room.” Rather than a normal open grill, Canlis has a WWII-style pillbox of a grill. Lined with copper, the little room only has room for two people in it, and Bart and Sheldon wind up doing the grilling for the entire group.

No one is hurt by this quite as much as Carla. She has to let those two cook her squab for her, and she does a terrible job of guiding them. During the first half of service, squab after squab comes back to the kitchen rare. Rather than quality-check the birds, Carla just tells them to cook the squab more. By the time the judges are served, they have swung the other direction and are way over cooked, landing her in the bottom.

With her are Josh for his cold soup, CJ for his sous-vide shish kabob, and Chrissy’s sad and wilted Canlis salad. Josh gets a pass because his cold soup was really an expediting problem – though he can’t blame John for the saltiness – and CJ dodges a major bullet, considering he failed nearly every technical aspect of his dish. Ultimately, Carla’s poorly prepped and even more poorly cooked squab and Chrissy’s soggy salad earn the ladies the right to pack their knives.

For the positives – Tyler’s crab cocktail, Lizzie’s marinated herring, Kristen’s side dishes, and Stefan’s calf’s liver are the top plates of the evening. In a testament to the power of simplicity, Kristen wins for her onions and mushrooms, much to her surprise.

Bad news: Last Chance Kitchen is officially back. Also, it was apparently nominated for an Emmy last year, which blows my mind. Spoiler…Kuniko wins. Not that LCK matters this early in the season, no one will win out from the first round. I’ll start recapping that once it matters.

Next Week: Everyone falls apart and Tom is ready to eliminate all of the chefs and just be done with this season.

- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog

9 comments Add your comment

Nick Danger

November 29th, 2012
10:17 am

First time I read your blog. The LCK spoiler guarantees it will be the last time…

Tom

November 29th, 2012
10:29 am

I vote for an all star season with the least liked, most abrasive chefs from past seasons. Btw, keep up with the LCK spoilers since I think LCK is a stupid idea and never watch it anyway.

GaPeachy

November 29th, 2012
10:37 am

How in the world did they eliminate Carla when the men’s dishes were inedible from the way the judges were speaking. So she left too mnay bones, if it tasted better than that salty french onion soup and that mushy rice/flavorless kabob, one of them defintely should have been sent home over her. Bad move TC judges!

LisaM

November 29th, 2012
12:55 pm

Totally agree GaPeachy…CJ should have gone before Carla. They didn’t like anything about his dish and people did mention they liked Carla’s flavors. It seems all my early favorites are leaving quickly. Jeffrey Jew, Kuniko and now Carla….I like Kristen too and Stephan makes me laugh….John T may be the villian of season 10 but compared to some characters from past season, he seems pretty tame..at least so far.

sansho1

November 29th, 2012
5:45 pm

Complaining about spoilers in a recap? Okaaaay…..

Edward

November 30th, 2012
11:02 am

How a chef handles something seemingly simple has always been a great test of their skills. Kristen’s take on the onions and mushrooms is a prime example, as was Puck’s early test of omelet making as well as Acheson’s salad challenge. Poaching an egg is another. If a chef can’t do those things well, I question their abilities on other tasks.

lorielle

November 30th, 2012
3:38 pm

More sneaky advertising from Dish Network. I guess Borglenbess thinks we are stupid. Wouldn’t use them if they were the last company on earth.

Helen

December 3rd, 2012
7:41 pm

I have watched Top Chef from the beginning and there is always a villan an arrogant ass who is very insecure. Well come on CJ take him down make it your mission. Stephan is just plain creepy and the Asian chick must be nuts to find him charming, get out much oooh what a creep. Have a good season and lets get him out so work hard.

Saldiven

December 4th, 2012
11:04 am

I’m not sure I understand the hatred for LCK. To me, it makes perfect sense. Most real tournaments are double elimination, not single elimination, unless they have some sort of pool play involved (unless time constraints don’t allow it). Before LCK, I always thought it was ridiculous that better chefs could lose out for a single bad performance while mediocre chefs keep riding along producing middle-of-the-road material. LCK also keeps more fans interested in the show because there’s a chance that a favorite can work their way back into the competition. Lastly, I think the LCK works better to determine who is better chef d’cuisine material than the majority of the main show because LCK does away with all the team challenge BS.