On week 5 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...we start off back in the stew room to get some reactions on last week’s result.
Nobody cares that Carla Pellegrino and Chrissy Gamba got eliminated. I also don't care since it was pretty obviously neither one of them was going far. However Carla’s departure automatically lowers the show’s (and the recap’s) snark factor by 10 points.
Hey at least she’s now free to develop her new show, “Top Ass!”
Also, we learn that Tyler Wiard is greedy and suggests to Kristen Kish that she charge people $15 for a plate of 'Top Chef Onion Rings' (patent pending). Now that’s the kind of shrewd thinking you need to run a corporate restaurant group! John Elway would be proud.
Everyone’s up and ready to go. But where?
Hey wait. It’s Stefan’s birthday!
Stefan is freaking out. Not for the fact that he’s turning 40, but he’s worried about the "Birthday Curse.' Apparently everyone from his season got sent home on or close to their birthday. You know what I’m freaking out about? That Stefan is ONLY 40 yrs old. I dunno man. Dude looks a WEE bit older than 40. I mean, the difference between Jeffery Jew and this man is 6 years? I guess being a chef DOES suck the life outta you. Better go buy another Porsche Stefan!
Quick Fire Challenge.
Ah. It’s about time we see Pike Place Market.
If you’ve watched any show about Seattle in the past decade you’re probably familiar with this place. Yes, it’s where they throw that big ole piece of fish around like a Nerf football. Hey it’s world famous!
|Today show I'm available!|
Standing next to Padma (the only person who can look this good this early in the morning) is this week’s Quick Fire judge and local chef, Daisley Gordon. This guy looks like a badass. Daisley, yes this is his name, is sporting awesome salt-n-pepper muttonchops and a hip quilted vest. Yes, this is what Al Roker wishes he looks like.
Once again, time to divvy up into teams of two. Much like in life, sometimes your fate comes down to where you’re standing and whose eyes you catch. In that spilt second you can end up with someone amazing or you can go home alone, in tears and shame.
There’s an old Chinese saying that loosely translates to, “The road between enemies is a narrow one.”
Somehow, John Tesar and Josh Valentine end up together. Seriously, wouldn’t you two run the OTHER way as soon as they say “team challenge?”
The other awkward pairing is Josie Smith and Eliza Gavin. Awkward being that they’re the "fat kids” at a pick-up basketball game. Nobody even looked at their direction. I can’t blame the others because if I have to look up both of your names at this point of the season, you’re probably not doing so well.
|Quick! It ain't SLOW fire!|
Time to cook.
This week’s Quick Fire is to make breakfast-to-go for the good people of Pike Place Market. The twist? It’s gotta be on a stick. Oh and you need to set up your entire mobile kitchen from Sur La Table with only $500. 1 hour to shop, set up and cook.
Breakfast on a stick is quite a quandary. Teams are scrambling and deciding on what to make. Some go with pancakes, some waffles, and (surprise!) no omelets.
Everyone grabs a panini press at Sur La Table since it’s the only portable cooking equipment out there.
Right away you can tell which partnership is going to work and which is probably doomed. The teams that click usually have some respect for each other’s skill set. Trouble comes when one chef thinks the other one sucks.
On camera you’ll usually hear, “we have very different styles...” read: “My style is good, she sucks." When that happens, one partner usually folds.
|I'll crush you with my bare hand!|
Couples’ Case Study #1. Josie and Eliza. It’s obvious who’s gonna fold here. You can see Eliza slowing retreating, wilting at the slightest hint of confrontation. Usually the one who backs down is also the one seen complaining on camera.
Eliza whines, “Josie’s one of those chefs that’s used to being right all the time. Josie’s like, "that's the way I’m doing it and that’s why I’m right.”
If I was Eliza I would have reminded Josie of her abysmal turkey every time she dared to contradict me, and then go on camera and tell the world I’m not here to make friends. Ha! (Reality TV cliché)
This when we see that “on a stick” is kinda arbitrary. Just make whatever you can and put a stick through it. People are gonna use their hands anyways.
Market peeps starts to roll in and we get a gratuitous quick sound bite from the CEO of Sur La Table, which started as a single retail store at Pike Place Market! (See. My recaps are fun AND educational!)
-Josh & John: Chilaquiles: Tortilla, Salsa, Quail Egg, Avocado-Heirloom Tomato Relish.
Basically a mini breakfast taco, on a stick. They managed to put the skewer through the top part of the tortilla thus fitting the qualification.
|This counts as "on a stick."|
-Eliza & Josie: Ricotta, Raspberry & Sausage Pancake with Jalapeno Maple Syrup.
Looks like a layer cake. Dessert and breakfast combo. Even though it fell apart on Padma, she’s still stabbing at it with her stick to pick it up.
-Micah & Kristen: Bacon & Cinnamon Waffle, Pecan Maple Syrup, Boysenberry & Strawberry Jam.
-CJ & Tyler: Salmon & Cream Cheese Crepe with Avocado, Arugula & Tarragon.
It’s a grilled skewers wrapped with a crepe filled with cream cheese/avocado/arugula. CJ is lobbying for a win. He’s getting a little desperate.
|The foil does the trick.|
With the help of some aluminum foil, they managed to make a grilled cheese sandwich on a stick. Can’t go wrong with bacon/egg/cheese sandwich. The genius lies in how they jimmied it to fit on a stick.
A sad stick of literally just berries and pancetta. Sad and lonely.
-Brooke & Stefan: Croque Monsieur: Pressed Ham & Cheese Sandwich with Toasted Fig.
Another grilled cheese sandwich. Only since it’s thin and pressed it kinda snaked around the skewer like a wave. Also the fig was a nice touch.
The bottom two dishes:
Eliza and Josie’s floppy pancakes. Guest judge Gordon didn’t care for the ricotta pancakes and thought the whole thing was hard to eat.
|This took an HOUR to make. What is this, Top Tooth Pick?|
Danyele and Lizzie’s lonely stick of berries. Seriously guys. One hour for that?! Michael Voltaggio would have made a perfect egg with runny yolk and paired it with sous vide unicorn sausage on an edible skewer made from frozen dove tears by now!
Sheldon and Bart’s bacon egg and cheese sandwich was a no brainer. That thing looked delicious and hearty. Plus pureed spinach adds a really nice touch.
Josh and John’s breakfast taco was also a hit. Well seasoned and flavorful. Something about eggs in taco/burrito just makes sense. Maybe these two CAN work well together?
The winning dish belonged to Sheldon and Bart. Immunity for both!
Speaking of immunity...
|Can I stab my partner?|
The good news for those teams on the bottom is that here’s another chance for redemption. Bad news is, you’re stuck with the same yahoo that got you here in the first place. Hey, at least the feeling’s mutual.
Time to draw some knives.
On the knife there’s a label with the name of some special products made by the artisans of Pike Place Market. There are things like salmon candy, cheese curds and cardamom bitters.
Yeah. They all sound delicious right? *shakes head violently*
The challenge is to make a dish highlighting their chosen product. They’ll have to impress the diabolical artisans who created such things as rose petal jelly and coconut curry chocolates. This lunch challenge is worth $10,000 and the time limit is only two hours.
Sun Tzu (Ancient Art of War) once said, “Every battle is won before it is fought.” That axiom couldn’t be truer than in times like this. If the team can’t plan correctly and efficiently BEFORE action takes place, then all is lost.
Couples’ study #2. CJ and Tyler. Tyler knows he’s out of his depth in this competition. He’s always talking about how if he’s not careful he could be the next one going home. The fear is strong with this one. So when his delicious and creative idea was met by CJ’s plain and boring one, Tyler folded like cheap suit from a dollar store.
|You might see this face later...|
Tyler: “My idea was a potato oyster chowder with a dill pickle fritter...(upon seeing CJ’s disapproving look, put his hands up) but I’m down with any … I’m down.”
Wait, potato oyster chowder with a dill pickle fritter sounds delicious! Especially when compared to CJ’s crappy “pork burger” idea with just pickles on top.
Tyler says to the camera: “CJ’s idea seems a little too simple, but he’s a Top Chef veteran and I’m definitely trusting him (nods).”
Tyler, honey child, back where I come from there’s a name for someone like you, let’s put it this way, it ain’t “Chef,” and it rhythms with chump. Ok it’s chump.
|I fart in your general direction!|
Couples’ Case Study #3. Josh and John. We’ve all known friends who stay in a bad marriage because of the kids, right? Well here we have two people that positively despise each other, but because they don’t want to disturb the dish, decides to compromise and play nice. They’re doing pork and grits to go with the truffled popcorn. Sounds like decent plan. However instead coming up with suggestions to elevate the food, both of them just backs off from anything either of them care about and what we have left is a neglected dish consisting of poorly cooked pork tenderloin and grainy grits. Not good. Not good at all.
Time’s almost up.
The tasting table is at Chef Daisley Gordon’s restaurant, Marché and in walks the artisans who made them wacky products and our judges. This week we have Papa Colicchio, Top Chef Masters Alumni Hugh Acheson, vivacious Gail Simmons, and of course our beautiful host Padma Lakshmi.
After some banter about these artisanal products, here come the first round of food.
-Josh & John: Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloin with Truffle Popcorn Grits
-Micah & Kristen: Cheese Curds Three Ways: Béchamel, Raw & Fried
-Stefan & Brooke: Rose Petal Glazed Muscovy Duck with Braised Cabbage
-Sheldon & Bart: Candied Salmon with Sweet & Sour Salad
Ok. Not a good round. At first everyone’s kinda being polite and trying to find something good to say before really criticizing, but once the table realizes that they weren’t alone in thinking "this kinda sucks,” the flood gate opens.
Stefan’s cabbage and duck dish was way too sweet, with no hint of the rose petal. Josh and John’s pork was cooked terribly with no sear, and Hugh bluntly said that the grits “suck.” The cheese curds were over-fried and lost in the sauce. While Sheldon and Bart’s salad was passable, they still missed mark on “highlighting” the salmon.
|ALL THE SADNESS|
All in all a majorly poor showing, however, we did learn that the “flying fish” dudes? Yeah they cheat and use a stunt fish. So when you see people throwing that fish around? It’s the same damn fish all day long. Yum.
Meanwhile back in the kitchen Danyele and Lizzie are making a coconut curry chocolate tart even though they’re not “dessert” people. Sigh. When will these cooks learn to leave desserts alone? Either that or learn that one molten chocolate cake recipe and just do that. No one’s ever been sent home for a perfectly executed molten chocolate cake.
CJ explains why his pork burger idea with a pretty dead on Tom Colicchio impression, “There’s a million dishes I can make with pickles, but I also can just see Tom going like, ‘I mean...CJ what’s wrong with a good burger, executed perfectly it’s a perfect you know accompaniment to a pickle!’ So...that’s why I chose a burger.”
You can see that instead of cooking his food, he’s just trying to play the game and starting to outthink himself. This is clearly where having been on the show before is a liability.
Also in the television business this is what we call “foreshadowing.” Things usually don’t go well when that happens.
Either way, we’ll see what Tom’s actual impression is of that burger.
|Meat Wad. Now in a bun.|
-Josie & Eliza: Curry Cardamom Broth with Manila Clams & Seared White King Salmon.
-Lizzie & Danyele: Coconut Curry Chocolate Mousse Tart.
-CJ & Tyler: Pork Crumpet Burger with Spicy Dill Pickles.
This meal has taken a turn for the worse...
Right away guests and judges have issues with CJ’s burger. The bun is soggy and falling apart. Pickles are too big and not crispy enough. Then comes the coupe de gracé, delivered by none other than Tom Colicchio himself,
“You couldn’t think of a better thing to do with a pickle than put it on a burger? How freaking original?! I have a burger with pickles on it! Wow!”
Yeah Nostradom-CJ. See your future now?
The cardamom broth is also a failure. The clams were not cleaned (there's sand and grit in the bowl) and the fish flavor overpowers the cardamom.
The tart didn’t work either. Poorly constructed and poorly flavored.
This round. 0-3.
|Not a good day for Top Chef|
You know it’s bad when Padma says, “Well, that was an interesting dinner.” Yeah that means it sucked. While Gail’s sorta being nice, Tom was visibly upset and embarrassed.
Padma apologizes to the artisans and the whole thing ended with a whimper, “Have a great evening...”
In the stew room, the chefs seem uneasy. I think everyone knows they didn’t put their best plate out there today. However, they didn’t expect this...
IN WALKS TOM.
Talk about an “Oh sh*t” moment. Everyone’s stunned with their jaws opened like mouth breathers. Wow! I think Josh’s mustache literally uncurled!
You know it’s not gonna be a good talk when it starts with, “We were really, really disappointed today.” Tom tells everyone. (That’s TWO “really’s” )
|Maybe it'll taste better if we're drunk|
“This was actually a pretty poor showing. Food just wasn’t up to par. These dishes just showed a lack of imagination, lack of technique. We actually had to apologize to these artisans. We thought these dishes for the most part were pretty bad.”
Also there will be no winner this round. The $10k is off the table, and antire team will be going home. Yeah, Tom is UPSET.
DO NOT ANGER TOM.
But then, Tom throws them a bone. See, it turns out that having done years of reality TV has taught Tom a thing or two. At this point in the competition, the chefs start to get weary, to get slow, to think to themselves, "if I ride in the middle for a while, I'll win in the end." But that mentality results in bad food. So Tom lets them know that they are doing Last Chance Kitchen, so they DO have a chance to get back in. Take some risks. If you’re lucky enough to stick around after tomorrow, it’s time to push.
After a night of sweating over their possible doom, the chefs return to the studio stew room to face the music.
On the bottom: John and Josh, CJ and Tyler, Stefan and Brooke.
Every team takes their beatings. With a showing as poor as this one, there isn’t much any team can say to defend their food and try to save themselves. They’re going out with some dignity ... oh wait, I spoke too soon.
|Can we send them all home and start over? What's Voltaggio doing now?|
Before leaving to let the judges make a decision, CJ pulled the ultimate punk move and tried to throw Lizzie and Danyele’s dessert under the bus.
“I wonder what you guys thought about that dessert?” CJ bitches. “It was an abhorrence I thought. A debacle, it was diabolical, it was a travesty...”
|Thanks! I'll be here all week!|
To which full-time superstar/part-time comedian Hugh Acheson said, (without skipping a beat) “Oh oh, cuz your burger was worse...”
Judges laugh, other chefs laugh, I’m laughing...all at CJ’s expense. He storms off like an embarrassed brat.
“It’s like under handing pitches to a pro baseball player.” Quipped Josh.
The judges are pretty much split on which was the worst dish. Which left poor little Gail, who's always the 'nice' one, to deliver the tie-breaking vote. We don't get to see Gail shove the dagger into their hearts, but in the end CJ and Tyler’s pork burger was judged to be the most offensive dish. I think CJ being a veteran and that punk move at the end really did him in. Maybe now he’ll focus on cooking, and his anger will get him through the gauntlet of Last Chance Kitchen.
Good luck CJ – well, sorta good luck. I mean, seriously, you cooked at NOMA and you've been on the show before. Just cook food dude. Cook good food and you win. There's no need for tactics and arguments. Food good = win. Food bad = loose. That's why we're watching Top Chef. If we wanted drama and reality show strategy, we'd be watching that other show in development, "Top Ass."
Oh and Tyler. One day at a time bro. One day at a time.
|I told you you'd see me again...|