On week 3 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle, it’s Turkey time!!
From last week’s preview and subsequent promos, we know that in some way head judge Tom Colicchio and culinary superstar Emeril Legasse will be involved in this holiday season feast. Will they actually get their hands dirty and cook? Let’s find out.
As always, a quick reminder of the stakes: 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.
(Hm. The initial prize money for the first season of Top Chef was $100,000. Glad to see that they’ve kept up with inflation and then some! Bravo indeed!)
**During the opening voice over Padma says TWELVE chefs remain...which is wrong. Not sure where she got that number from but we have SEVENTEEN chefs remain. Yes, that’s why I’m here.
|Around the world in 17 dumplings|
Joshua “The Mustache” Valentine donning his brown hipster cap of the week leads the chefs into the Top Chef Kitchen.
Standing in front of a map of the world (complete with chef’s knife icons) is our beautiful host, Padma Lakshmi and one of the most important people in the food world, Editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine, Dana Cowin.
Cue gratuitous reaction of how important is it to impress the Editor-in-chief of the magazine who’s namesake is part of the final prize package.
“You fail during this challenge you might as well go find another career.” Josie tell us on cam. Wait. Who’s Josie again? Damn. How many times do I have to look up this chef for her to be memorable?!
This week’s quick fire - dumplings!
The chefs are to make dumplings from around the world. Most every country/culture have some type dish that is composed of an outer wrapper with a filling inside. The selections on the board (represented by the chef’s knife icons) ranges from Fufu (Africa) to Jiaozi (China). 17 choices. 17 Dumplings. (and 17 chefs! Ahem)
Dana tells us that she has “eaten her weight in dumplings” and will be judging them on “what they can do with a wrapper, a filling, and a sauce and some authenticity.”
Judging by Dana’s size, I’m gonna go ahead and say she’s maybe had 3 dumplings in her life. Have you looked at her? Seriously, how do you make a living eating and drinking around the world and stay that thin? Sigh. I digress.
|Hey Bravo's gotta pay bills!|
Since some of these dumplings will be very foreign to the chefs, Bravo gets a product tie-in with Amazon’s Kindle Fire! Each chef gets five minutes to research their dumplings and say great things about the Kindle Fire before spending the rest of an hour to make their dumplings.
This will be a sprint and grab situation, first come first serve.
I wonder if they draw knives each week to see who goes into the kitchen first. Especially since in some of these challenges it’s a clear advantage to be closer to Padma. Well, that’s always a good thing regardless of challenges.
Here come’s the mad dash!
After the dust settles:
-Sheldon Simeon got Jiaozi, a Chinese dumpling. Full of smiles, he confidently tells Danyele on screen. “I know what I’m doing already.”
-Kuniko Yagi landed Japan’s Takoyaki. Takoyaki is basically an octopus ball. Kuniko is from Japan, so if you ask John Tesar he’ll probably tell you that due to that fact alone Kuniko should win.
-Brooke Williamson doesn’t have flour to make a wrapper for her Siomay, an Indonesian seafood dumpling. So it looks like she’ll be serving a “nudie” dumpling.
|The Siomay has no clothes|
I have no idea what CJ picked because he’s too busy doing a quick commercial for the Amazon Kindle. “These things are kinda awesome!” Ugh.
.....and of course Carla Pellegrino’s acting like this is a silent movie with her gestures and flailing about. She has Fufu from Africa. I get the feeling some of her fellow chefs wish she just got the first half of that.
Time. Hands up. Utensils down.
BOOM. Kuniko has NOTHING on her plate. Yup, she lost track of time and forgot to plate her dish. She’s “extremely” embarrassed. If you ask John Tesar about this he’ll probably tell you how since she’s Japanese, she’d have to perform Hari Kari. Ok maybe he wouldn’t go that far.
Here are the bottom dishes:
-Brooke Williamson: Soimay - Chicken & shrimp with peanut sauce & daikon. Judges thought it was tasty, but without a wrapper she can’t be considered and landed on the bottom.
-Carla Pellegrino: Fufu - Chicken and lamb filling with a red sauce. Last time I checked there aren’t a lot of tomatoes in Africa. Dana agrees. X-nay on authenticity.
-Kuniko’s empty bowl meant an automatic out.
-Josie’s Smith-Malave: Mandu - Pork, tofu, shitake mushrooms filling. She made a complete dish spiced up with kimchi scored high with the judges.
-Stefan Ritcher: Klopse - Ground lamb, mashed potatoes and capers. He knocks it out by bringing the flavors his grandmother to the challenge. Dana was impressed by his Klopse.
-Micah Fields: Manti - Ground lamb with dates, curry & cinnamon. He brought some middle eastern bold flavors by adding mints and dates. It looked delicious.
The TOP Dumpling goes to...
|I Do You Do We Do Mandu|
Stefan rolls his eyes. Sigh. Always the bridesmaid and never the bride. It’s ok Stefan, go look at the pictures of your Porsche GT and tell yourself you own many restaurants.
Padma tells us it’s time to give thanks. The challenge is to make a Thanksgiving dinner for the organization, FareStart. This organization recently won the James Beard Foundation Award for Humanitarian of the Year. In case that’s not enough, they get an extra Thanksgiving dinner this year.
Here we go. It’s a team challenge. Two teams (Red and Gray) are simply divided by splitting their formation in half.
Well who’s gonna lead the teams and help them guide their menu?
“Oh guys!!!” Padma calls in the heavy.
With a Tarantino-esque music in the background, Tom and Emeril swagger in like the bad asses they are. In case you’re missing the fact that these guys ARE bad basses? Padma’s here to remind you by quoting Scarface, “Say hello to my little friends.”
Everyone is super excited.
|Mister Blond and Mister White|
Tom will be helping out the Red Team while Emeril will guide the Gray Team.
Each epic chef will “set the tone” by sharing some of their own inspirations to guide each team. They won’t do any of the heavy cooking, but more of a prepping, tasting, and tinkering type of deal. Each cheftestant is still responsible for their own dishes.
Both teams go to their corners and begin to strategize. Spoiler alert: It’ll be Cajun vs. Italian
Emeril suggests bringing some creole flair while Tom talks about giving the American Thanksgiving tradition an Italian twist. That’s it. Simple. Let’s go.
During this crucial moment Josie proudly tells Emeril that since she has immunity, she should be responsible of cooking the turkey. For some reason, NO ONE on the Gray Team object!
Sure. Let’s give the MOST crucial dish to the one person who could care less about how things turn out. No matter what happens, she knows she’s not going home.
Time to prep.
Right away Tom shows his “playful” cutthroat mentality. He tells Bart Vandaele to take ALL the fresh herbs just to screw over the Gray team. Meanwhile Emeril’s going with the more friendly approach and teaching Tyler Wiard about the nuances of making gumbo. Don’t forget, when it comes to gumbo - it’s all in the roux.
Not saying that Emeril isn’t a fierce competitor, but you can tell while Emeril’s doing his best weekend football coach impression, Tom’s more like a Marine Corp sergeant giving out orders. Tom REALLY wants this one.
At one point talks of jalapeno going into Emeril’s corn stuffing and Tom jokingly scoffed, “Jalapeno? Hey what is this, Mexican Thanksgiving?” Heh. I guess only one ethnic influence is allowed.
|Is she having a laugh?|
Faux pas of the evening. Persona non grata thus far Chrissy Camba actually had the nerve to sidle up to Emeril and invoke his immortal catch phrase, “BAM” while adding a few drops of vanilla into a cream mixture. What’s worst is she asks for permission then blurted it out before Emeril could say yes or no!!
You don’t need to be a good poker player to tell that Sir Legasse was NOT amused. I don’t care if Chrissy wins this whole thing or can make the best soup in the world, she’s probably not going to be working anywhere near New Orleans anytime soon. Oy.
“Yum yum yum!” Tom brings a spoon full of stuffing to Emeril to taste. Seeing these two so relaxed and in their element, having a great time just goes to show that despite all the television shows, all the accolades, all the posh restaurants, a chef’s heart is still in the kitchen. *tear*
CJ (Red team) decides to take over the leadership role because he knows it’s more important that team wins. He’s going around making sure there are no weak links. So much so he had the audacity to slap Tom on the shoulder and asks “You feeling good chef?” Um...have you have forgotten your place CJ?!
It’s Faux Thanksgiving time. The gang gathers at FareStart kitchen and have five hours to complete their turkey feast. Everyone’s humming along, getting set up when Stefan spazzes out about not having enough space.
Exchange of the day:
John Tesar (Gray team): “(mumbles)...this kindergarten...”
Stefan (Red team): “(Whiny) No you’re kindergarten!”
I know actual kindergartners who share space better than these two.
Kuniko (Gray team) is responsible for a Potato Pave. Layered potatoes. Since it’s a relatively simple dish, she’s spending a lot of her time helping out others.
On the flip side, Lizzie Bender (Red team) is working mashed potatoes. Yes. She’s making an even simpler dish than Kuniko. She’s also not running around helping others with their dishes.
Kristen Kish (Gray team) casually asks Kuniko about her dish. She hasn’t started yet, but she “thinks” she’ll have time. "Gokouun o inorimasu" Kuniko. (That’s Japanese for “good luck.”)
We get a peek at Josie’s (Gray team) turkey and talk about cajun. Those things looked burnt. She’s turning temperature down, repositioning the turkeys and now have to go with a “low slow” approach. Which anyone who has ever cooked a turkey on Thanksgiving will tell you that’s how it should have been done in the first place!
Just to rub it in. We see CJ (Red team) basting their glistening golden turkey and it’s glowing like something out of a Pulp Fiction suitcase.
Just when you were appreciating the peace and quiet where everyone goes about their cooking, we hear some squawking from the Red team’s side.
Whaddaya know. Realizing she hasn’t had as much screen time this episode, Carla decides to throw a tantrum at CJ and Stefan for tasting her yet-to-be seasoned carrot soup.
“You guys decide to call me sweetie and honey...and tell what the f**k to do is another.”
Once again we’re reminded dramatically by Carla that she’s a (successful) woman chef and she’s had it rough. Stefan throws a dig in about European women and that’s why he left Europe. Way to bust out the world's smallest violin, buddy.
Time’s up. Here we go.
This week’s guest judges: Editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine Dana Cowin, Executive Director of FareStart Megan Karch, and Chef/Top Chef Masters contestant Thierry Rautureau, owner of Rover’s & Luc.
First up, Gray team.
-Josie: Triple Spice Turkey with Cayenne & Hot Sauce
-Danyele: Emeril’s Mom’s Dressing. Bread Stuffing with Chorizo & Cayenne
-John: Emeril’s Cornbread Stuffing with Ground Turkey and Diced Bacon
-Tyler: Andouille & Shrimp Gumbo
-Kuniko: Potato Pave
-Sheldon: Braised Greens with Ham Hocks
-Brooke: Sweet Potato Buttermilk Biscuits
-Chrissy: White Chocolate & Pecan Bread Pudding
-John: Spiced Pumpkin & Goat Cheese Ricotta Torte
Josie, determined to finally make an impression with us viewer, is the de facto team leader by presenting the menu to the judges.
Right away the judges note that despite the “cajun” exterior, Josie’s turkey is undercooked. Everyone agreed that the flavor is good (C’mon, it’s straight out of Emeril approved spice jar!) it was “just a little” undercooked. Chef Thierry Rautureau laughingly said it was “not recommended by the USDA.” WOMP.
Other low points were Kuniko’s raw and unseasoned Potato Pave, Tyler’s lackluster gumbo and Sheldon’s undercooked braised greens.
Funny how these professional chefs ran into some of the very same problems home cooks make on Thanksgiving - not enough time. Unfortunately, the judges aren’t understanding relatives who’ll keep drinking and wait for you to finish cooking. Well, some relatives anyways.
Some other highlights were Brooke’s biscuits and Chrissy’s pudding. Dana especially liked the extra texture the pumpkin seeds added to the biscuit, and everyone liked the warm and cinnamony bread pudding.
Overall, the judges were kind and cordial as to not blast Emeril’s team. But we pretty much see which direction this is headed. Let’s see how the Red team fare.
-CJ: Braised Turkey with Tom’s Stuffing
-Carla: Carrot Soup with Turkey Meatballs
-Bart: Fennel, Gorgonzola, Orange & Pumpkin Seed Salad
-Josh: Sweet Potato Ravioli with Pecans
-Micah: Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Cranberries, Bacon & Shallots
-Lizzie: Potato Puree
-Stefan: Panna Cotta with Orange Cardamom Crisp & Candied Pecans
-Eliza: Chocolate Tart with White Chocolate & Mint Syrup
CJ, the self-proclaimed leader of the Red team, brings out their beautiful turkey and explains to the judges how Tom’s stuffing with “foie gras, sausage, kale, fennel” has been passed down from “generation to generation.”
Nobody’s buying that foie is part of Tom's “generation-old recipe.” No offense Tom, maybe if your last name was Medici instead of Colicchio.
Compared to Josie’s bird, this one wins hands down. That’s what happens when you follow Tom’s recipe, put tons of butter underneath the skin and baste every 30/45 minutes. I know Thanksgiving’s over but Christmas is coming up and you can find his recipe here.
Other favorites were Carla’s velvety carrot soup with meatballs and Lizzie’s buttery mash potatoes. Judges loved the simplicity and seasoning on both chef’s dishes.
This just goes to show that seemingly simple dishes, if executed properly, can be the most delicious and magical thing on the table.
|You know I should have won Top Chef Masters, n'est pas?|
Despite Emeril’s best effort to bring up Brooke’s biscuits, and lovely biscuits they are, the vote is unanimous. Gray team loses.
Now they need to figure out who goes home from the Gray team.
It’s going to be a tough choice between Tyler’s weak gumbo, Kuniko’s crunchy (not in a good way) potatoes, and Sheldon’s undercooked greens. Oh did I mention they’d love to send Josie home if she didn’t have immunity? Well, at least now I’ll always remember her as the “Turkey with immunity.”
CJ, Carla and Lizzie head to the winners’ circle. Apparently Tom thought Carla was making CABBAGE and not CARROT soup? Dana thought Lizzie’s potatoes hit Joel Robuchon’s stratospheric standards and Tom told CJ his turkey was roasted to perfection.
Yes. I’m as surprised as you are. A mistaken identity soup beats out 3 Michelin Star quality potatoes and a perfect turkey? You know who else was surprised? CJ. He looked about as happy as Stefan did during the Quickfire results. The veterans are taking a beating thus far.
Speaking of which...
Josie, Tyler, Sheldon, and Kuniko are called to the “knive packing district.” (Trademark: ChezWu)
Josie is embarrassed. Her biggest worry was that her turkey was dry and overcooked. Tom is equally surprised she didn’t know her turkey was undercooked. I guess she’s never heard of a thermometer.
Tyler conceded that after adding more roux he failed to add more worcestershire and hot sauce, thus resulting in a bland dish.
Kuniko had 5 five hours to make potatoes. Josie tried to help defend her. If only she had put that effort into cooking that damn turkey.
Sheldon’s not going home for them greens so don’t bother scolding him down.
In the end, Kuniko and her raw potatoes gets the ax. Wait. Wasn’t Kuniko the winner last week?
Wow. Sometimes cooking’s a lot like fashion. One day you’re in, and the next day you’re out. Only in this industry the saying is “You’re only as good as your last dish.”
Good bye Kuniko. Please don’t hold a grudge. If you do? Go after Josie.
In the stew room. John Tesar continues to carry on his “most hated” persona by picking fights with everyone. He’s clearly playing head games but the rest of the chefs don’t seem to recognize it, yet.
3 weeks in. What’s coming up next week?
-To nobody’s surprise John and Carla gets into it.
-Giant slabs of meat!
-Double elimination! 2 chefs get sent home.
-Josh wear a new hipster hat and cusses again.
Hope you had a great Thanksgiving! See you next week!!
Feel free to follow me on twitter @ChezWu!
Feel free to follow me on twitter @ChezWu!