Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef Seattle Episode 2 Recap: “A Shock at the Space Needle”

Friday, November 16, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 2 Recap: “A Shock at the Space Needle”

On Week 2 of Top Chef Season 10 the competition gets down to business as our 15 chefs arrive at the Top Chef Kitchen in Seattle. 

A quick reminder of the stakes, the chefs are competing for a feature in Food and Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food and Wine Classic in Aspen, $125,000 provided by Healthy Choice and title of Top Chef.

The Top Chef Seattle Gang's all here!
(Bravo does it to pay the bills. I do it for consistency.)

Quickfire Time:  

The cooks enter the kitchen, eager for their first Quickfire Challenge.

“Alright alright alright!” Wait. Is Matthew McConaughey the guest judge? No. Unfortunately it’s just Tyler Wiard doing his best impression of our favorite bongo player.

Normally here’s where we meet this week’s guest judge. Instead, our lovely host Padma Lakshmi walks out  with two familiar faces and someone I had to look up. Former contestants Josie Smith-Malav, Chris “CJ” Jacobsen, and my favorite Bond villain - Stefan Richter

No Mr. Bond. I expect you to cook!
CJ and Stefan were both memorable characters who lasted deep into their season. Thanks to Wikipedia, I now know who Josie is. 

The season’s first Quickfire is a team challenge. The cheftesants are divided up into groups of three so there are only five dishes total to judge. And, of course, team challenges always make for good television.

The chefs divide up into teams by grabbing a colored apron underneath the prep table. 

John Tesar quickly made the decision to switch from gray to blue apron just to be teammates with Kuniko Yagi.

“I know she’s Japanese. I’m thinking to myself maybe she has incredible knife skills. I’ve watched every episode of Top Chef and I think the decisions you make are just as important as the dishes you make,” John tells the camera.

Apparently the decision of coming across as someone who’s kinda racist and stereotypes people didn’t factor into his thought process at the time. Hey, at least he didn’t refer to her as “origami.”

Their task: Make a dish that highlights one of the local shellfish. We see a tank full of Dungeness crabs, a basket of crawfish, and a big box of mud full of buried razor clams and geoducks. The kicker? Get it onto the table with only 20 minutes. Considering last week they allotted 45 minutes for an omelet, the degree of difficulty has gone up dramatically. 

Frankly I was surprised they busted out the geoducks so early in the season. It’s a giant salt water clam that is native to the Pacific Northwest. A “signature” item from that region with a distinct appearance of being rather phallic. Seriously. Whoever was the first person to eat that definitely had an oral fixation. I’m going to guess this won't be the last we see of geoducks this season.  

Magnum. Ummm...
John Tesar starts to strategize out loud and immediately gets scolded by Padma. Do NOT interrupt Padma. 

Mad scramble time.

Almost everyone digs for the geoduck because it’s one of those products that doesn’t require much preparation as it’s usually served sashimi style. With the time restraint it’s definitely a wise choice. However the savvy Quickfire producers know this as well so it was an “early bird gets the clam” situation. Some teams had adjust and go with some other product.

Sure, Bravo producers, go ahead and let the pretty model cook (Kristen Kish) make the geoduck big penis reference.

Comic relief Carla Pellegrino reminds us that she’s a not only a cook, she’s also a woman. She “wants a James Beard...and a nice ass.” As predicted last week, she’s running around being loud, dramatic and still looking for that white pepper. Prediction: Her own show on Bravo, “LOL Top Ass”

Business in the front...
Party in the back...
John Tesar reminds us again that he’s the “Most Hated Chef in Dallas.” Sigh. I think this might be a weekly occurrence. Maybe they won’t hate him as much if he took those glasses off his forehead. Is that some sort of anti-Guy Fieri fashion statement? 

Tyler Wiard name drops John Elway because working in a RESTAURANT for a two-time Superbowl champion makes you a good team player. Hm. Actually, that makes sense. 

Time’s Up.

Here are the teams and their dishes:

Pacific Crawfish. Picked red chili fennel. Crawfish Cream.

-Orange Team (Lizzie Bender, Carla Pellegrino, Crissy Camba)
Oven Roasted Crawfish. Fennel and Herb Salad.

-Green Team (Kristen Kish, Micah Fields, Tyler Wiard)
Fried & Sashimi Geoduck. Raddish & Bak Choy Salad. Yuzu Chili Vinaigrette.

-Blue Team (John Tesar, Sheldon Simeon, Kuniko Yagi)
Geoduck Sashimi. Ponzu. Apple and Cucumber.

Razor Clam and Grilled Corn Chowder. Fresno Chili. Grilled Lime.

Ah. Much more pleasant looking Geoduck. Sashimi Style.
The bottom dish: Team Yellow. Apparently it lacked seasoning, acid, and Padma called it “watery.” Trying to make a chowder in twenty minutes is pretty ambitious. Emeril would have warned them.

The winning dish: Team Blue. Geoduck sashimi with apples and cucumber. Ponzu. Simple and clean flavors. Apple and cucumber provides sweetness and crunch, enhanced by the acidity in the ponzu. You can see why this was a winner dish.

Ok to make things fair the winning team randomly draw knives to see who wins immunity. Evil prevails and John wins. Looks like we’ll get to hear him tell us about that “most hated chef” thing again next week. Wait, “an extra glass of wine?” I thought he had a problem with recreational self-medicating? *Nervous look*

Quickfire over. Padma now drops the bombshell.

Surprise! Um. Not really.
The three returning chef-judges will now become cheftestants. The 15 cooks are shocked! However, I knew it was coming because the good people of Bravo TV decided to spoil the “SHOCK” by revealing this devious plot twist in their promos throughout the day. Also, technically the shock occurred in the Top Chef kitchen and NOT the Space Needle itself. Tom Colicchio would not approve of this title. Not too bravo, Bravo.

After being shocked, the chefs spew venom and curses! Of course no one’s happy about this. Apparently not even Stefan. Hey he’s got nothing to prove. Because when you drive a GT3 Porsche and own eight restaurants, your life is complete. That whole “runner up and losing to Hosea Rosenberg” thingy doesn’t bother you at all. Ok Stefan, whatever gets you through the night.

Elimination Challenge.

To the lament of Lizzie and Crissy, the chefs will remain with their team. The veterans now form team Red shirts.

CJ tells us that he’s 10x the chef he used to be. He just “came back from a stage at Noma, the number one voted restaurant for the past three years.” For your records, that vote was by Restaurant Magazine and carries “just a little” more weight then Yelp. 

The kids today and their phones. Are you guy tweeting?
Each team will serve one dish to the judges and legendary local Chef Tom Douglas. This week’s judges are Tom Colicchio, Emeril Legasse, Gail Simmons and of course Padma herself. I’m guessing Wolfgang’s not around this week because there’s only room for one legend at a time.

They must use local ingredients and will have 47 minutes (the amount of time for the Space Needle resto to rotate around once) to cook and serve the dish.

30 minutes to shop at the Top Chef pantry.

More gratuitous scrambling montage.

Every team is grabbing seafood of some sort except for the Red team. Stefan mentions grabbing eight quail? 

Yellow team cannot identify their fish. Seriously people. I’m no fishmonger but I can tell the difference between monk, salmon and halibut. (Yellow’s mystery fish turns out to be cod.)

Shopping’s over. Time for some beautiful Seattle exterior shots (spoiler alert: It’s overcast) and for the chefs to retire to their swanky Yo’ MTV Cribs style apartment, Olive 8.

Chefs get to relax and bond a little bit. Model chef Kristen tests out the flirting pool by identifying who’s married and who’s not. Because you know, that’s really important in a cooking competition. 

The crew find out that Patrick Jew is a boy. “Awws” of disappointment fill the room. I gotta say though, he is the youngest looking 34 year old ever. 

Josie tells us why she’s back (to win?) and how she’s been coined the “Global Soul Chef” (by herself?)

Ok back to cooking.

Because of the space restriction, only two teams get to cook at the same time. So of course the rest of the group hovers around to watch. 

First up, Blue Team and Orange Team.

Blue Team’s got a great thing going. Kuniko’s on protein, Sheldon’s on sauce and Tesar - vegetable. Despite having immunity, Tesar is still constantly micromanaging the rest of the team. Can’t wait to see how he’ll act without that comfort blanket.

Orange Team is a mess. Carla is still doing her best Charo impression while the chefstestant peanut gallery is thankful they don’t have to work with her. 

Meanwhile the team of returning veterans are contemplating using quail as their main protein. CJ feels “really” good about this while Josie is skeptical. You figure as a team who has been through this once they would know better than to change plans five minutes before cooking. Outlook hazy. 

Really? We're talking about fishing?!
Judges arrive and banter about Seattle and the vivacious Gail Simmons wants to go fishing. Emeril as usual, is enthusiastic. Tom looks fascinated. Padma couldn’t care less about singing scallops. (I know I know, it’s all in the editing...I’m sure everyone was tickled by the banter. Also they’re only on their first glass of Hanna wine!)

Blue Team elected to have Kuniko present the dish to the judges and, despite self-proclaiming “not being good at speaking English,” does great job explain their Chili Oil Poached Cod with Dashi and Shabu Shabu Spot Prawns. 

Guess who does the talking for the Orange Team? Yup. You guessed it. Mrs. Pellegino introduces their Poached Salmon with Seasonal Vegetables & Beurre Blanc.

As if she hasn’t gotten enough screen time, Carla decides to cut herself. Medics come and bandage up the boo-boo. Thankfully she’s “all pretty again.” Oy.

Judges really like Blue Team’s dish. Cod’s not too fiery, dashi’s nice and smokey, and the spot prawns are fresh and light. 

Gail said, “The first thing to put in my mouth in Seattle? Not bad.” *laughter ensues* “Wait. That came out wrong.” Oh Gail. I’m just glad you weren’t talking the geoduck.

Orange Team also has a good dish. The under seasoned salmon was counter balanced by the well flavored beurre blanc. All is well with the first round. Judges are pretty optimistic. I think Tom’s just glad he won’t have to go back there and give them the “you’re not going to win with deviled eggs” speech. I concur.

It's Red and Gray Teams turn.

Red Team hits a snag right away. Their cherry broth is not so “rad” and Stefan is used to bigger breasts. Yes Stefan, that’s what happens when you change menu at the last minute. 

Gray team is on a bumpy road as well. Jeffery seared the halibut on both sides and it might be too well done. Actually, you can tell right away that fish is over. He pretty much killed the top sear and it’s still gotta sit under the heat lamp. Don’t expect Jeffery to work at Le Bernardin anytime soon.

CJ presents Red Team’s Quail Breast with Confit Spot Prawns. Cherries & Porcini. 

Jeffery describes the Gray Team’s Pan Roasted Halibut. Mushrooms. English Peas. Wheat Beer with Herb Sabayon
Can you tell I'm over cooked?

Right away judges note that the quail is over cooked, the spot prawn is over cooked, and there’s a bitter note to the broth. Outlook now not so good.

As expected, Gray Team’s halibut is a rock and unexpectedly their English pea sabayon tastes like nutmeg. There are no winners here.

During the interlude we learn that a 22 year old Tom Colicchio almost went all Nirvana and moved to Seattle because of a split up with a long time girlfriend. This endearing tale was highlighted by Tom violently swirling his wine glass. At one point even Emeril looked down and gave the wildly spinning glass a look of concern. Oh Tom it’s ok. We’ve all been there...

Last round.

Yellow Team finally figures out they’re working with cod. However, they manage to lose their mushrooms. It’s ok because they poach the Red Team’s leftovers. It’s still early in the competition. Nobody will call you on that, yet.

Green Team appears to be in good shape. Micah is kind to take a team player role and not be the natural leader he claims to be. They’re humming along. Much like this recap, the final team gets the least screen time.

Kristen Kish presents their Crispy Seared Salmon. Seasonal Vegetables & Spot Prawn Butter Sauce. For the record she would be my team’s presenter for every challenge. 

Danyele “With a Y” explains their Pan Roasted Cod. Mushrooms. Fava Beans. Pickled Green Apple & Garlic Scape Pistou.

Essentially, they’re the same dish. Both with a nicely cooked piece of fish over fava beans, sea beans and mushrooms. Though the Yellow Team’s sauce is too little and too garlicky. 

Things I’ve learned this week: Apples with seafood is a good match, Chef Douglass likes the middle of his fish translucent and Tom is a romantic. *He’s still twirling that wine glass.*

Judges all agree that this was a good start and since they all made similar dishes, this should be easy to judge.

Meanwhile in the Stew Room, the veterans wax poetic about how tough judging will be. Good thing because they’re about to walk down memory lane. 


Chili oil cod. Winner.
Blue Team wins!  It was pretty obvious from the get-go that they’ve got it made. John (who is still wearing those damn glasses on his forehead) talks about how harmonious the team worked together. Smiles all around. Group hug. Kuniko wins by coming up with the idea and cooking the fish. Though not showy, she has led by example thus far. 

The two bottom teams are Red and Gray Teams.

There’s a brief “coming attraction” moment between Josh Valentine and Jon Tesar. They debated over whether or not the veterans have an advantage. Ah *cue The Carpenters* “We’ve only just begun...”

Back at Judge’s Table, it has come down to whose mistakes are more egregious. Stefan’s over cooked little quail breast? Or Jeffery’s rock of a halibut. Between you, me and everyone else watching, chances are they’re not going to go through all this “shock” just to send Stefan packing. Right?

I wish I was driving my Porche...
Alas, pretty boy Jeffery’s over cooked fish has done him in. I couldn't tell how over done the quail was, but I could tell even watching on television (also by Jeffery's own admission that he fired the fish 14 min before serving) that fish  was completely over cooked. It’s back to the beach with them spiffy sunglasses and bow tie for you. I’ll miss your perfectly coiffed hair. Apparently so will Padma. 

Stefan (and the rest of the Red Team) look completely relieved. Consider this your welcome back present. I doubt the judges will be as kind next time. 

Week 2‘s in the bag. Next week?

Thanksgiving special! I don’t know about your family, but expect a lot of turkey, stuffing, tears and terms of endearment shouted across the room.

What did you think? Do you think the veterans learned their lesson? How long will Carla last with her drama act? Will John Tesar get into a fight? 

Personally I'm really glad we got right down to business and started cooking right away.

Oh did I mention Last Chance Kitchen is back??  (YES!) That's the REAL shocker this week!

Have a great week people and I'll see you next week! 

Feel free to follow me on twitter @ChezWu!


  1. Best part of this episode was Padma reprimanding John Tesar. I thought it was weird for the past three contestants to be judges on the Quickfire, and then let back into the season only to find themselves at the bottom of the judging panel. I just started a new work schedule at DISH so I’m going to miss next week’s episode. I don’t think I will be home in time to catch any of the re-runs so I’m recording it on my DISH Hopper. There is over 2,000 hours of DVR recording room so recording the rest of the season won’t be a problem. I didn’t know much about Tesar before the season started and I wasn’t sure I would like him as the show has made him out to be the bad boy this season, but he has already proven himself a worthy opponent.

    1. First of all thanks for joining the conversation. John Tesar has been cooking since the heydays of celebrity chef-dom of the 80's-90's and things certainly could have gone differently for him. Even Tom asked in the first episode why he was doing this...and from they way they're featuring and editing him thus far it seems like he WILL have a confrontation or two with his fellow chefs.

      My prediction? No "villain" has ever won the whole competition yet and I'd be intrigued how far John will go. You gotta admit though, he IS being very competitive and trying to think think one step ahead of his fellow cooks.

      Frankly I just want him to stop wearing them glasses on his forehead and stop telling us how hated he is!!

      See you next week Sam!

  2. Your TC10 recap was spot on!

    Tesar's catty gossiping while (gasp!) Padma was talking, to Tom's over-swirling wine glass. Rock on.

    I was totally annoyed with Carla (ty Bravo), and agree that Tesar is in the mix for a little more than winning TC10.

    I was slightly disappointed about pretty boy taking the fall so quick-I had him pegged "worth watching," in my pre-show "Fishing for a Winner" post. Seems I got caught up with his boyish hair-thingy, too.


  3. Thank you! I thought it was so weird to see Tom unhinged like that! Btw your "Fishing for a Winner" post has been a HUGE help! It's a great index of who's who! Thank you for that!