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Top Chef Seattle recap, Episode 10: Almost Restaurant Wars

Credit: Bravo

Credit: Bravo

Dear Top Chef producers: This is what a good Top Chef episode feels like – realistic challenges, practically no dramatic back biting, only one shamefully awkward product plug, and lots of good food. Please make note.

I don’t know if it is because of some of the fat that has been trimmed from this group of chefs, or if, on this particular week, the chefs gave them more substance than drama to work with. Whatever it was, this was easily one of the better episodes of the entire season for me.

After a brief reflection over the dearly departed and John (Josh is ecstatic he is gone, Stefan misses his morning smoking buddy), we go straight into the Quickfire.

We see Wolfgang with his uber-pearly whites, waiting for the chefs to unveil ginger as the focus for the Quickfire (insert plug for Canada Dry ginger ale). The chefs have only 15 minutes to whip up a dish that highlights the unique ingredient, one of Wolfgang’s favorites.

With so little time, of course this is a mad dash. While I harp on TC for ridiculous constraints in challenges, I have no objection to such a tight time frame. Does it happen in the real world? No, of course not. But at least it is a condition that actually tests the chef’s skill instead of makes them jump through hoops like circus monkeys.

The tight time frame did force the chefs to make a snap decision on their dishes and stick with it, and some of their instincts were better than others. Lizzie’s creative watermelon and ginger soup won high points with the judges, but Sheldon’s generic beef stir fry was a flop, tasting “like pedestrian Chinese food.” Stefan impressed Wolfgang with his perfect German accent as well as his fresh ahi tuna with ginger vinaigrette. But it was Brooke’s unique ginger-caramel squid with lime and chili powder that blew him away, earning her immunity for the Elimination Challenge.

Speaking of the Elimination challenge, this year there is a new twist. Padma introduces this week’s guest judge, heavyweight restaurateur Danny Meyer, and teases/misleads us into thinking that we have already hit Restaurant Wars. Instead, each chef must come up with their own concept and create a single dish that encapsulates that concept, serving it to 200 diners at Bite of Seattle. The two winners will each get $10,000 and earn the captains spots for the real Restaurant Wars next week.

I love this because it takes all of the democratic process out of picking a concept, and it really puts the two winning chefs on the chopping block. I don’t know whether to cheer the two winners or prepare to see one of them go home next week. No pressure guys.

Brooke wins for “most potentially offensive” restaurant concept with Un-Kosher – combining Jewish foods like a challah bread ham sandwich. Unfortunately, what offended Gail wasn’t the concept as much as the poor execution of her matzo ball and duck confit soup. Stefan veered off the reservation with his German/Thai fusion dish, but only because the judges wished he had pushed his concept further and left out his mango ice cream lollipop. He may have also lost points after a guy compliments his broth and Stefan repays him by drenching him in it.

And what would a week of top chef be without Josie making things so awkward it makes the viewers at home want to leave the room? As always, Josie spends her time rambling instead of plating, and Tom has NO time for that. Her concept is “Home 305”, that is supposed to showcase the flavors of her native Miami. Then, while rambling, she says that Home is a concept that can be in any city, you just have to change the area code. Oh really, Josie? What would “Home 701” taste like? You gonna stick with Cuban soul food when it opens in Bismarck, North Dakota?

Brooke says it best: “Josie’s stand is almost hard to watch.”

But it was the chefs that listed to Meyer’s advice to cook from the soul that did the best here. Josh’s paid homage to his late father, who was a meat and potatoes kind of guy, with Bistro George. His simple and well-seasoned seared rib eye with cauliflower puree and mushrooms with red wine sauce puts him in the top 3. Sheldon also took Danny’s advice to heart, and cooked a soulful dish that obviously meant a lot to him. It didn’t hurt that his authentic and elegant sour tamarind soup packed layer after layer of flavor. And Kristen – shocker – also lands in the top for her deliberately fancy-pants French concept and her Onsen egg (slow cooked eggs with a creamy yolk and runny whites) gets top marks all around.

Micah, on the other hand, looks into his soul and comes up with Raw, a concept that he says is something you have to know how to do in order to satisfy the housewives in Beverly Hills. What about that doesn’t scream “from the soul?” He wants to show “what raw foods can do for you.” Well, I know what raw foods can do for Micah. They can send him to Last Chance Kitchen.

Josh looks like someone stole his puppy when the judges announce Kristen and Sheldon as this week’s winners, and next week’s captains. But if Josh is smart, he is breathing a sigh of relief, because one of the two of them is SCREWED.

Kristen and Sheldon have to pick their team for next week…before they find out who is going home. It winds up boys vs. girls, and Sheldon gets the short end of the stick with the last kid picked – Micah. Once Micah gets sent home, Sheldon now has to run restaurant wars shorthanded.

Good luck with that Sheldon. I hope you fare well on Last Chance Kitchen next week.

P.S. Carla makes a return this week as Stefan’s Sous Chef….and apparently forgot to take her crazy pills. I was honestly a little disappointed.

- By Jon Watson, Food & More blog

9 comments Add your comment


January 10th, 2013
10:08 am

Stupid that they did it this week instead of last. Should have done this challenge with 9. The loser goes home and then restaurant war teams are even.


January 10th, 2013
10:47 am

I like Micah, but he was just too inconsistent. Kristen and Sheldon are great choices for team captains. Kristen will be difficult to beat, but if the girls get distracted by Josie (a big possibility!), Sheldon and the boys could pull it off to win Restaurant Wars.


January 10th, 2013
4:44 pm

I think that even if the girls’ team loses next week that they won’t send Krisen home. She is so clearly outpacing everyone else in this competition. They’ll find another scape-goat just to keep the competition going.


January 10th, 2013
10:01 pm

I loved when Stefan turned the blender on and it sprayed all over the Canlis brother; good thing he was not a judge for this challenge. I was talking to my DISH co-worker about Restaurant Wars and so far she thinks Sheldon’s concept is the best, but I’m still unsure who will pull out the win. Wednesday nights in my family’s home is a busy television night, as my husband’s shows air at the same time as mine. Luckily, we have a DISH Hopper with 2,000 hours of entertainment space we never worry about giving up our favorite shows. He likes to watch his shows in the den and I like to watch my shows in the bedroom; Wednesday nights are no longer a battle.


January 11th, 2013
11:00 am

Ok just saw this last night, was doing a detox with my husband and we couldn’t dare look at all of that food. I am soooooooo mad Josie is still there. Sure Micah’s concept wasn’t great but I think he just didn’t explain it well and his plate was sloppy. Instead of talking about housewives in BH, he should have talked about how over weight he was until he started eating raw foods and it had a big effect on his life, that would have connected with the judges more. But Josie is always annoying, loud, and akward. Plus I never hear them say anything remotely good about her food, at least Micah has done a few impressive dishes. Anyway, I am praying Josie is gone next. On a sidenote I really like Stephan this season, I dispised him on his season but he has really grown on me.


January 12th, 2013
12:06 pm

Would someone please do an IP ban on Maya already? The spam sucks!


January 14th, 2013
12:42 pm

I wonder if Kristen deliberately chose Josie for her team so she’d legitimately have someone to take the fall if her team loses. There’s no way Josie will get those dishes out on time.

And ditto what Edward said.

Krystle Meyer

January 15th, 2013
2:33 pm

DISH Network sucks. That is all.

Corvin Tompkins

January 16th, 2013
11:35 pm

I have been devoted to watching “Top Chef” since day one. I absolutely love the show. i have to admit though that i am extremely embarrassed about the elimination decisions for the last two weeks…..especially the show that aired on 1-16-2013. the fact that you eliminated Kristen and Josie is still on the show……I am so very embarrassed about the judges decision to the point of disbelief, bitterness, and nausea. Extremely poor form.