Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef Seattle Episode 8 Recap: "Jalapeno Business."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 8 Recap: "Jalapeno Business."

On week 8 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...the chefs wake up at the crack of dawn to find a lovely note from Padma

It says that for today’s Quickfire the chefs will drive out to Bow, Washington to “harvest” their main ingredient. To the chefmobiles! The GPS reveals that the address is for Taylor Shellfish Farm. As a fun car game, the chefs try to guess which shellfish they’ll be harvesting. During the drive Micah tells us that growing up he wasn’t allowed to eat shellfish because his dad’s a pastor and they kept kosher. Hm. I find this befuddling. Please enlighten me in the comments, ‘cause I don’t think that the term pastor is Jewish and don’t think Christians keep kosher.


Field of Dreams
Wow. Is this heaven? The chefs arrive at Taylor Shellfish Farm and immediately pull on thick boots and trudge out to the oyster beds. I swear. This is one of the bucket list things I have to do. Can you imagine just walking out there, reaching down, shucking and eating?! 

The tide starts coming back in and the mud gets deeper. Ok this MUST be heaven because Josie has gotten stuck in the “quick mud.” Soon the mud is up to her knees. Argh. Micah and Stefan decides to be nice guys (must be their kosher-pastoral European up-bringings) and go rescue Josie. Sigh. Seriously people. Look around! You guys should have been team players and just left her. I mean, did you see anyone else rushing to save her?

You want to see happy cooks? This is it right here. They’re all slurping down oysters standing knee-deep in mud. It’s like a Norman Rockwell painting of Top Chef. Everyone is having the best time.

Check out the big brain on Josh! He’s “curious” about the challenge, “I’m thinking we’re either going to have to make something with the oysters, or we’re going to have to like have a shucking contest with the oysters.” Um Josh, it’s Top Chef, not Top Oyster Shucker. 

Fun’s over. Time to cook.

The chefs return to Top Chef kitchen and find Emeril next to our beloved host, Padma. Gotta say, love the side part/barrette hair style she’s sporting today. Adorable.
Oysters and Padma. 2 of my favorites.

It’s an oyster challenge so you know Emeril’s gotta represent! The challenge is simple. 25 minutes and your choice between hot prep or cold. Grab a blue apron for cold and red for hot. There are only 5 of each. Winner get 5 thousand dollars. No mention of immunity. 

Brooke “wouldn’t mind” having that 5 grand. You never hear a contestant say something like, “Only 5 grand? Meh. I think I’ll hold off now and do my best dish when it’s more like 10 or 15 thousand.”

Emeril enlightens us that the oysters that came from this heaven are Samish Bay oysters. That means they’re “beach cultured” oysters, and they tend to have medium brine with plump flesh and a hard to open shell. Some of the chefs clearly having a hard time shucking them, flakes of shell are flying. 

Micah compared cooking oysters for Emeril to Moses meeting God. That sounds about right. Remember Tyler and his failed gumbo? Yeah you don’t see him around anymore do ya? 

Did somebody spit in my oyster?
John plays the “Emeril’s from New Orleans card” and tries to remake the oysters from Drago’s. Them oysters from Drago’s are indeed delicious. Then again, piling on parmesan cheese and butter will make anything delicious.

And....of course Josie’s sauce is broken. Seriously what is she still doing here? Not a single challenge goes by without her flailing about and failing miserably. 

25 minutes flew by. Wow.

-Kristen. (Hot) Oysters with Caramelized Honey Tomato Broth, Celery Leaves & Chili.

-Stefan (Cold) Smoked Oysters with Potato Vinaigrette & Flash Frozen Salt.

-Josh (Cold) Oysters with Pickled Cucumbers, White Soy, Cilantro & Red Chili.

-Lizzie (Cold) Oysters with Crushed Currant Juice, Crushed Pink Peppercorn.

-Brooke (Cold) Oysters with Salsa Verde, Cilantro, Horseradish & Red Chili.

Little gems from the ocean.
-John (Hot) Oysters Poached in Garlic Butter with Swiss Chard & Garlic-Parmesan Foam.

-Josie (Hot) Wood Roasted Oysters with Chorizo & Cilantro Cream.

-Micah (Hot) Crispy Fried Oysters with Arugula Salad, Hot Sauce & Lemon.

-Bart (Hot) Oysters with Champagne, Butter & Cream.

-Sheldon (Cold) Oysters with Chilled Old Bay Broth & Ginger Scallion Pesto.

Bottom Dishes:

Bart. He thought champagne and oysters can’t go wrong...but it did. All the richness of from the butter and cream took out the champagne and masked the oysters.

Josie (surprise!). Emeril was being kind. Her broken sauce looked like it was drowning the oysters.

John. His dish had no “pop.” During the presentation John tried to name drop and claim that he combined Brennan’s and Drago’s into his dish - to which Padma coldly replies, “Yeah?” Nobody likes this guy.

Favorites Dishes.

Lizzie. To everyone’s surprise, the currants actually worked with the oysters. On screen it looked like the poor oyster was bleeding! But hey, Emeril liked it.

Micah. Emeril thought Micah took a risk. Not sure what spices he used but I thought making a fried oyster was one of the most conservative preparations? However, fried oysters are also one of the most delicious ones to eat. 

Brooke. Salsa verde had great flavors that didn’t take away from the oyster.
Crispy Oysters are always a good idea.

Winning dish and five thousand dollars goes to Micah and his fried oysters!  Now wrap some bacon around it and call your pops over for dinner! (Oy, I kid because I love. Shalom y’all!)

Elimination Challenge.

The chefs are going to cook for one of Seattle’s hottest sports team. If you’ve seen last week’s show or any of the promos you already know that the sports team is Seattle’s Roller Derby team, The Rat City Roller Derby All Stars!

Oy. Josie tells us she’s been an athlete her whole life, even drops the fact that she used to be a professional football player. I didn’t know there’s a women’s professional football league, but there is! You can find out more about that here.

Ok. The chefs are in charge of the food for the Derby All Star’s season wrap party. Time to pair up into teams! Some chefs know right away who to team up with (Stefan and Kristen) while the perennial losers (Josie) are left standing around seeing who’s left.

Roller Girls! Not the Boogie Nights kind.
It’s important to point out how the “Survivor” social aspect can really impact a cooking show like Top Chef. Making friends with a fellow like-minded and equally talented cook can help during challenges like this. Also important - real estate - so if you’re ever on Top Chef, try not to station next to that annoying, loud mouthed, talentless cook.

Speaking of which. Bart ends up with Josie. He knows no one else wanted her but went for it anyway. As they would can in Belgium, “bonne chance!” 

The twist on this challenge is that each team must create a dish inspired by a roller girl’s roller derby names.

See, all roller derby girls have a nom de guerre to go with their derby persona. Somehow the Top Chef producers find 5 ladies with food related nicknames. Hm. Suspect.

Micah won the Quickfire. Instead of immunity, he gets to pick first and also decides who picks next.

Micah/Lizzie - “Jalapeno Business”

Sheldon/Josh - “Tempura Tantrum.”

Josh is psyched about that pick. Much like his buddy from Texas (John) he likes to stereotype and assumes that Sheldon, who does Asian food, have probably done tempura several “thousand” times. Nice. Dude, you own a place called The Splendid Swine and you can’t cook pork worth a damn! 

Stefan/Kristen - “Eddie Shredder.”

John/Brooke - “Kutta Rump.”

Bart/Josie - “Teriyaki Terror.”

Tomorrow they’ll have two and an half hours to cook for 100 people. Tonight, they get to go watch the game! Just an FYI, there’s a pretty decent movie about Roller Derby called Whip It with Drew Barrymore. If you’ve been inspired by this episode I recommend you check it out.

Key Arena.

Stefan, being his LA/European stylish self donned a sports coat to a roller derby match. Wait, isn’t Bart European as well? What’s his excuse for that lime green paisley shirt? Oh wait. Since this is Top Chef we’ll call that kaffir lime - alright now it’s more acceptable. Meanwhile Josie’s wearing a vinyl member’s only type jacket and ill fitting cap that’s straight out of an early 90’s rap video. Ugh.

Apparently her outfit wasn’t the most offensive thing out there. Her personality was. She’s screaming and hollering and basically being her obnoxious self. Everyone’s just about had enough of her. In the end. Nobody wins. Not even the Roller City All Stars. 

Back at the flat. The evening’s agita finally comes to a head. Fed up with the group talking shit about her, Josie gets up from the couch and here we go...

“I’m just saying that *gesturing to her self* this tree right here, you don’t wanna bark up, Micah. Ok you see this right here *still gesturing* knows who she is. You are hiding in a closet!”

This is a curious statement for Josie to make. She’s openly gay and was attacked in 2007 by an anti-gay mob. 

Maybe she linked the group’s annoyance of her behavior at the game as anti-gay? Then when they got back to the house, she finally lashed out by accusing Micah as being in the closet?  It’s all very confusing and has nothing to do with cooking so let’s move on.

Game Day. (Well, cooking game day.)

Micah and Lizzie are making crab stuffed jalapenos (for Jalapeno Business) I think that’s a smart decision and a time-honored tradition of elevating a simple item into something special. However, it’s all in the execution.
She likes me. She really likes me.

John and Brooke are actually getting along and cooking well together. Apparently Brooke reminds John of his long lost daughter. I believe he actually gets misty over telling that story. One things I don’t understand from this season though. Why are we getting SO MUCH back story on John? Every episode he’s getting more screen time and personal history. Is everyone else’s life that boring?

Also, not to be a stickler, but he clearly tasted a sauce and put the spoon back into the pot. Cooties alert

Being at a roller rink’s got everybody feeling nostalgic of the good ‘ole days. John had his first date at a rink and Stefan remembers going ice skating when he was 14 yrs old. Kristen asks him what year that was. Turns out that when Stefan was 14 yrs old, Kristen was only 3. Haha and um...creepy.

Back to cooking. Josie and Bart are not quite on the same page. She thinks their rice need more seasoning and the texture isn’t quite what she was hoping for. 

Times up. 

Here comes this week’s judges. We have Emeril, Tom, Padma and funny man extraordinaire Hugh Acheson! I think this is my favorite line up of judges. Emeril always brings a sense of compassion in a grand poobah kinda way while Hugh is sarcastic, nasty and really funny. 

Padma tells us she used to go to rinks like this and skated once a week. For some reason Tom’s not surprised. Hugh (who obviously thought long and hard about this) gives Padma her roller derby name - Padma Smacks’me. 

Bowl of deliciousness.
Ok banter’s over. Time to go try some food. 

-Brooke/John (Kutta Rump) Thai Beef with Lobster Jasmine Rice & Thai Slaw.
Brilliant. Surf and turf in a bowl paired with soothing comfy rice and then topped off with some sharpness in the slaw. Great concept. From the judges reaction seems like the execution was successful as well.

-Josie/Bart (Teriyaki Terror) Steak Teriyaki with Forbidden Rice, Beet Blood & Green Papaya Salad.
They literally made beef on a stick next to a shot of a what looks like bloody goo. I can’t understand how these two professional chefs could look at their plate and think to themselves, “We’re really good at this!” 

Teriyaki Terror (the girl) was pretty polite. She says this tastes pretty “unique.” Hugh jumps on that right away and asks if “that’s unique good or unique...crappy?” Yeah I think we all know the answer to that question. Basically the judges felt the meat had no caramelization, rice had bad texture and it was under seasoned. All the sadness.
Talk about forbidden. Ugh.

Hugh tried to be a little too clever and suggested “Roux the Day” for Emeril’s derby name. C’mon Hugh. Of course it’s gonna be “Bam Bam!” 

I wonder why no one came up with Tom’s nickname? Oh right, cuz it’s Tom and we’re all already scared of him. 

-Micah/Lizzie (Jalapeno Business) Crab-Stuffed Jalapeno with Avocado Cream, Onion & Pepper Relish.
It could go either way here. Will the judges think of this as a “popper” or did they manage to elevate it? Hugh said, “It’s better than I thought.” Guess when you say fried jalapeno, expectations will be low. Looks like Tom was pleasantly surprised as well. It’s crispy, well flavored. Good stuff.

And they call me "Big Popper"
-Stefan/Kristen (Eddie Shredder) Corn Puree, Chicken Liver & Sunny-Side Up Egg.
Frankly I didn’t get this dish. They called it an “inside out” chicken and that’s supposed to be interpreted as “shredded?” Hm. Of course Tom thinks should they have just shredded some roast chicken and added it the dish. However if they actually did that can’t you just hear him chide the chefs for being boring and literal? Haha damned if you do...

-Josh/Sheldon (Tempura Tantrum) Tempura Yuzu Curd with Shiso, Fresno Chili, Sweet Potato & Vanilla.
The concept is to take the fried curd and drag it around the various sauces and flavors on the plate. Seems like a fun way to eat a tempura. Judges all like the concept and the flavors on the sauces but one big problem - the tempura itself was not crispy at all. Womp Womp. 

During the interlude we were treated to a dreamy Xanadu-esque skating sequence featuring none other than our own Roller Goddess, Padma Smacks’me. Ignore the creepy Stefan narration.

Judgement time.

Padma comes in and asks John/Brooke and Micah/Lizzie to the Judge’s table first.

Their dishes were the biggest hits at the party. Top two teams.

Brooke/John’s dish. Lobster went well with the rice. Meat was cooked perfectly. Sauce was delicious.  Great success.

Micah/Lizzie’s pepper. Jalapeno was hot and tasty and didn’t over power the crab. People at the party raved about it.

Winning team is - Brooke and John.

Wait. What did they win? Hm. Nothing. How interesting. Also did you notice the paltry $5,000 for the Quickfire? Did the show run into cost problems during production? Still, they saved themselves $10,000 a few weeks ago because everyone sucked. Anyways. these are things I notice and I notice them for you, my good peeps.

In the stew room Josh and Stefan are bitching about the “jalapeno popper.”  Haters’ gonna hate. 

John walks in and announces that he’s the winner. Nobody cares. 

Josh/Sheldon and Bart/Josie are sent to the chopping block, sparing Stefan/Kristin. Stefan’s so happy and relieved he hugs and kisses Brooke. Maybe he’s not creepy. Maybe European’s are just very friendly! *shakes head*

Let’s dissect the mistakes.
When the hand goes to the chin, you're in trouble.

It is painful listening to Bart/Josie. Because basically, (if you listen to Bart) he did the rice, the beef and a lot of the beets. Josie just did the marinade for the teriyaki. Wow. Based on that mismatch of work load alone Josie should get send packing. 

It’s painful to watch Josie trying to explain and hedge on their dish. Tom’s annoyed too. 
Frankly I think Tom’s been disappointed in this overall season. With the exception of Brooke and Kristen, there hasn’t been any real stars/chefs. Once again, can you imagine Michael Voltaggio or Hung Huynh competing with this group? Yeah me neither. They’d wipe the floor with them.

Remember boys and girls. ALWAYS TASTE YOUR FOOD BEFORE you serve it, or else Tom will be very disappointed in you. You don’t want to disappoint Tom Colicchio. Ever.

The problem with Sheldon/Josh is that soft, non-crispy tempura. Oh and the fact that Josh is a baby and would rather bitch about how a jalapeno popper isn’t high concept enough for Top Chef. Dude couldn’t even mix a tempura batter and he’s calling other people out. 

Everybody hurts.
Also, Tom gave the BEST example differentiating what crappy concession food vs something that’s refined and elevated. Essentially, the key is to use fresh ingredients prepared with care and flavored to perfection. From sauteed mushrooms to foie gras, that rule will never let you down. (Don’t forget to remove the skin from peppers!)

I’d like to say that Josie, because of her continued incompetence and annoying personality gets the ax. I can’t say that because, in the end, Bart gets sent packing. I didn’t catch it earlier that he consistently under seasons his food, but this time it caught up to him. 

Perhaps it’s the American palette? Remember Season 5 when Fabio Viviani also thought that the judges “liked their food salty.” Either way. Good luck Bart. If this cooking thing doesn’t work out you can always go be an architect! You’ve got the name for it!

Next week...

Looks like we’ve got another promo tie-in with a tablet, cooking previous season’s winning dishes, and some sort of twist with said tablet.

Thanks for tuning in!

Let’s follow me @ChezWu, shall we? *nods*

See you next YEAR!!


  1. I loved this episode and loving your commentary! I also thought it was weird that the prizes were pretty meager. Maybe they used up their 2012 budget and had to squeeze out the last episode of the year? Haha!

    1. Thanks for reading! Yeah this was a great episode. Someday I'm gonna visit an oyster farm and just eat all day!!