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.
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’….
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