Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef Seattle Recap Episode 10: "Battle Before the War."

Friday, January 11, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Recap Episode 10: "Battle Before the War."

On week 10 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...

America’s favorite chef, John Tesar has been eliminated. You can tell because everyone’s real torn up about it, especially Josh.

Nah. Just kidding. Nobody cared for that guy. 

Just when everyone’s feeling pretty good about who’s still left, Josie breaks the good vibe and yells out, “Asians represent! Asians represent!” 

Hey! What are you still doing here?!

Right. You’ve skirted by yet again. Ugh.

Cooking time!

Having been pretty much MIA since the opening episode, Culinary Legend Wolfgang Puck returns on back to back weeks and joins the ever stunning Padma Lakshmi for the Quickfire. 

This week, chefs will have to work with ginger. According to Padma it’s, “one of the most versatile and refreshing ingredients in the world.” 

Ginger huh? I guess it is versatile in that you can use it for sweet or savory, and it does have a unique flavor that can give your dish a little pop. However, it can easily overpower other ingredients so you’ve gotta be careful how much you use.

Still. Seems like an odd challenge. Aha! No wonder. Sponsor alert!

This challenge is brought to you by the good people of Canada Dry Ginger Ale!

Oh hey guess what? They’ve got just 15 minutes to come up with a dish that highlights this oh so versatile ingredient! 

Yup. 15 minutes. Considering that Wolfgang himself gave people 30 minutes to come up with an omelet, this is going to be very difficult.

“Why so long?” Wolfgang mocks. 

Another episode, another sponsor.


Talk about a mad scramble. Stefan actually hurdles the prep table. He sure can move for an old man.

Some chefs are actually using the canned ginger ale in their dishes. Way to please the sponsors!

Kirsten puts knobs of ginger with other ingredients into CO2-powered foam dispenser and uses the pressure to infuse the flavor. I don’t know if that works, but damn that’s a bad ass move. Almost as bad ass as Michael Voltaggio making brioche with a foam dispenser and a microwave

Time flies by. Here’s what they made in 15 minutes.

Gingered cephalopod.
-Josh: White Chocolate & Ginger Soup with Peaches & Tarragon.

-Josie: Seared Scallop with Ginger-Honey Yogurt & Miso Ginger Sauce.

-Booke: Ginger-Caramel Squid with Fresh Lime & Chili Powder.

-Lizzie: Watermelon & Ginger Soup with Fresh Mint.

-Micah: Ginger Shrimp Salad with Radish, Plum, Ponzu Vinaigrette & Fried Crispy Ginger.

-Kristen: Fennel-Ginger Salad with Brie & Tomatoes.

-Sheldon: Wok Fried Ginger Skirt Steak with Ginger & Oranges.

-Stefan: Ahi Tuna with Lemon Grass & Ginger Vinaigrette.
Take out.

Stefan tries to impress Wolfgang and tells him in German that he grew up in Germany. Heh. He admits on camera, slightly embarrassed,  “Gotta turn on the charm sometimes...”

Maybe it’s wisdom that comes with age, but this season’s Stefan is much more charming and fun. Very different from the season 5 arrogant Stefan. Kudos.

Bottom dishes.

Sheldon’s Chinese takeout-style stir fry tasted like something out of a cheap Chinese restaurant. Wolfgang expected more from this level of competition.

Josh’s dessert lacked flavor, and Puck even made him say the word, “underwhelming” to describe his own dish. 

Good Dishes:

Brooke’s squid. That thing looked delicious and tastes so. Wolfgang said it could go on Chinois’ menu right away. 

Stefan’s tuna. The charm must have worked since Wolfgang said it was really “a nice, simple, California-style dish.”

Hm. So basic Chinese stir fry’s no good, but simple tuna tartare makes the grade? C’mon Wolfie! The rest of you check out this article by Francis Lam and Eddie Huang on just this topic. 

Lizzie. Cold refreshing cold watermelon soup. Meh.

Winner is...Brooke.

Seriously. We should just skip to the finale and watch Brooke and Kristen battle it out. These two are CLEARLY heads and shoulders above the rest of the field. I’m hoping they both lead a team in restaurant wars for a preview of the finale.

So Brooke get immunity...but hey wait! No prize? Canada Dry didn’t pony up some cash for the sponsorship?? Hm.

For the Elimination Challenge. Padma introduces a very special guest

Restaurant God
Danny Meyer is arguably the most successful restauranteur in America. His restaurants have won 25 James Beard Awards. He opened up Gramercy Tavern with then rising star chef Tom Colicchio. 

Let’s all fawn over Danny Meyer for a bit. *Swoon*

For Danny Meyer to make an appearance must mean...


Restaurant Wars is one of the most anticipated episodes of every season for viewers and chefs. The chefs (for a night) get to fulfill their dreams and open up a restaurant based on their original concept with no holds barred. For the viewers it’s always fascinating to see how two different restaurants come together from conception to realization. It’s always exciting, full of great food and based on the nature of the challenge, fun drama as well. Good times.

Not so fast.

As the title suggests, things are going to be a little different this time around.  Each chef must come up with their restaurant concept and create a dish that represents it. 

Wow. One dish that captures the essence of a restaurant’s concept. A signature dish, if you will. 

They’ll present the dish and idea to the judges at “The Bite of Seattle,” where the judges will pick the winners. Those two picked will then serve as executive chef and lead a team for head-to-head full scale Restaurant War. Exciting!!

Danny Meyer’s advice? (When Danny gives advice, you listen.)

“It’s obviously going to be a big challenge to encapsulate your entire concept in one dish. And my advice would be to do it from your heart, because you can’t fake soul.”

Wow. Just wow. He’s like the freaking Obi-Wan of restaurant universe. Anyone who’s ever wanted to own a restaurant should hang on his every word. *in awe*

As Brooke puts it, “This is a terrifying situation to be in. Not only that this is part of restaurant wars, but doing it for Danny Meyer, he’s a God of the Restaurant world.”

Each chef needs to prepare 200 portions of their dish for the judges and the people of “Bite of Seattle.” The two winners not only get to lead restaurant wars, they also win $10,000. Ah, so that’s where the money is this week. 

Off to shopping.

Sheldon’s concept is inspired by his grandfather. The name will be Urbano and he’ll serve modern Filipino food. Drawing from childhood memories, he’s going to make a soup that his grandfather used to make. Talk about soul. Way to take Danny’s advice to heart! 

Micah’s going for a “raw” food concept. Spoken like a true Californian, he ate a lot of raw foods right before coming on Top Chef. What the dude should have done was watch Season 2 of Top Chef and note that Sam got kicked off right before the finale partly because Tom said he didn’t “cook” anything! (Sam made Opakapaka Poke, basically a snapper tartare.) 

By now Top Chef producers know that Kristin is a force to be reckon with. So it’s time for a little more back story. We learn that Kristin got out of a relationship and was forced to move out! Who in the world would kick her out?! Bravo show producers. Way to keep us interested by letting us know that Kristin is (as of the taping of the show) single. Heh.
You get by with a little help from your friends

The chefs return to Top Chef kitchen to find Carla, Kuniko, Chrissy, and Eliza in chefs’ whites. These four will serve as sous chefs to help out with prep. The chefs are grateful because it’s gonna be difficult timewise to prep 200 portions. 

Josh’s concept is Bistro George. George is the name of Josh’s dad, who passed away unexpectedly from cancer three years ago. Josh talks about his dad, “I just try to keep his memory alive by talking about him a lot, you know...I think about him a lot...I just remember him.” 

It’s always moving listening to someone talk about recently departed family members, but what really got me was at the end when Josh looked away, you could see the sadness in his expression. Gotta tell ya, even I got a little misty. *tear*

Josie’s explaining her concept to Kuniko, who’s looking back at her like she’s crazy. Her idea is called Home 305. She’s going to pay homage to Miami by going with Cuban flavors. She wants the patrons to feel comfortable in her home. What, is she going to pass out ear plugs with her dish? 

Lizzie’s going for a northern Italy theme. It’s gonna have influences from Hungary, Austria, Croatia. It seems interesting, but she didn’t mention any relatives or childhood influences so I’m not sure the “soul” factor is there. Listen to Danny!

Oh oh. Here comes Tom.

I can’t even imagine what it’s like for the chefs when Tom shows up for these pow-wows. I get nauseous with nerves just sitting here watching from my couch. Ugh.

Tom goes up to Stefan and asks, “What are you, making an omelet?” I love how Tom’s always ribbing Stefan. I think since they’ve known each other a while now he’s more comfortable joking around with Stefan than say ... Josie.

Stefan’s concept is um, German Thai. Yup. German Thai. Finnish dude making German Thai. That’s gonna go well. Oh yeah, and lots of soul there too. *roll eyes* 

“Ten Thousand dollars huh? This is gonna do it?” Tom asks, unconvinced. “Have fun!”

Sorry Stefan. Doesn’t look like you’re winning that ten grand.

Brooke’s going with a fancy matzo ball soup with duck confit. Her concept is Un-Kosher, Jewish food gone awry. Think challah ham sandwiches. Huh. She’s got immunity, so she can do whatever the hell she wants. Though Brooke being Brooke, I’m not going to count her out.

Kristin tells Tom she’s feeling the heat, but obviously Tom’s impressed by her. She’s already racked in $35,000. She says she wants more without sounding greedy. Too cute. 

She’s doing French contemporary. Tom made the mistake by suggesting bistro, but then corrected himself, “Yeah, your food doesn’t strike me as being very bistro.” 

I sure it’s edited so we don’t get to see Tom interact with every chef, but imagine Tom came in and talked to just the few we see then left?! How disheartening would that be? It’d be like “Hey!!! What about me?!”

Sorry Josie. He’s just not that into you.

Ok time to Saran wrap things up for tomorrow.

Back at the loft.

Stefan puts in a Healthy Choice Four Cheese Lasagna into the microwave. Really? They want us to believe that at the end of a long cook day, chefs are eating Healthy Choice frozen entrees? C’mon.

Hey it’s Sheldon’s birthday! He’s 30 years old. Aww the gang even got him a cake! I wonder if they actually baked it or if they got it from the Healthy Choice frozen cake section. 

Bite of Seattle.

Everybody could use an extra 10 grand. Josh says if he wins he’ll take a vacation with his wife to New Orleans. Dude, you live in Oklahoma. That’s a quick 10 hour drive to NOLA. Plus it’s cheap there! Live a little and take that trip! (Yes. I’ll promote New Orleans tourism any chance I get.)

Surprise! Josie’s croquettes are not done. Geez. Have she ever finished on time? She says she wants to shoot herself in the head. Hey hey. Gun jokes are not funny. Try stabbing yourself next time. 

Alright. People are starting to arrive and here comes the judges.

Time to scrutinize.

Danny recalls that the first time he met Tom was at a food show like this one. Tom (with a full head of hair then) made Sea Urchin with Crab Meat and Mashed Potatoes. That dish brought the two together. Wow. The dish that started Gramercy Tavern.

Tom says he still makes that dish. Yup. You can find a variation of that dish at Colicchio and Sons

This week the judges are Tom, Danny Meyer, Padma and the always vivacious Gail Simmons.

Here we go. We’ll go in pairs because that’s what the judges did.

Josh - Bistro George
Seared Eye of Rib Eye with Cauliflower Puree & Mushroom Red Wine Sauce.
Bistro Rib Eye

Lizzie - Mia Filino
Mustard Green Canederli with Fonduta & Crispy Speck

Judges liked Josh’s dish. It’s presented nicely, though Danny thought the steak wasn’t seasoned enough. Tom thought the dish conveyed the earthy, comfortable vibe that Josh was going for. Good sign.

Damn. Danny knows exactly where Lizzie’s dish comes from. “Lizzie’s dish is a classic recipe from the northeastern part of Italy near Friuli and Austria...and you got to really get it right to pull it off.” 

Apparently she didn’t get it right. The whole thing was tasty but too heavy. The fonduta became this “slice of American cheese” covering the knodel. 

Sheldon - Urbano.
Sour Tamarind Soup with Pork Belly, Shrimp & Snapper.
Grandpa's soup

Stefan - Bangkok via Munich.
Thai Lobster Bisque with Shrimp Dumplings, Potatoes & Radishes.
Bavarian Cream Mango Lollipop

Stefan’s bisque was tasty, but Danny says the lollipop didn’t stand up taste-wise and deterred from the whole dish. Tom thought this German fusion Thai concept is ok but Stefan didn’t show it through the food.

Sheldon’s soup is a sinigang. A very traditional Filipino stew with shrimp, pork, fish or chicken. Looks like Sheldon went with a combination variety. Judges thought he managed to keep it “authentic yet very elegant.” Danny thought “It’s very very clear he’s cooking from his heart.” Wow. That’s some props. I see a winner here.

Micah - Raw.
Salmon, Snapper, Himachi, Squid, Scallop & Mackerel with Raw Vegetables.
Sushi Sampler

Kristen - Atelier Kwan.
Onsen Egg with Camembert-Mustard Sauce & Buttered Radishes.

Right away you know Micah’s in trouble. Tom was literally shaking his head in bewilderment while standing at his table. Basically his dish looked like a sashimi sampler with a salad underneath. Really. Not. Good.

Danny makes a great point (of course,) “We all have a context for raw fish called really good sushi and if this is not adding to the dialogue on really good sushi, who needs it?” WOMP WOMP.

Gotta say. It also amazing to watch Tom reacts to what Danny has to say. It’s watching two kindred spirits discussing and agreeing on a really high level. 

Everyone’s impressed with Kristen’s egg. Onsen egg is Japanese traditional boiled egg slowly cooked in water of hot springs. So imagine a very delicate soft boiled egg. It is extremely difficult to cook it perfectly, especially when you’re doing 200 of them. Talk about impressive.

Brooke - UnKosher
Matzo Ball Soup with Duck Confit & Toasted Black Rye Bread.

If this is home, I'd run away.

Josie - Home 305
Puerco Asado, Black Bean Chorizo Croquette, Pickles & Mojo Sauce.

Whaddaya know. Josie’s behind again. Guests are waiting. Judges are waiting. I’m waiting - waiting for her to get booted that is. Ugh.

She’s doing her schtick again, “(It’s) very Cuban. You can’t get any closer to my heart than this right now.”

Tom’s clearly annoyed, “Hopefully you’ll get it closer to our plate.” HA.

Then comes the most egregious asinine comment of the day, courtesy Josie, “Home is a concept that can be in any city, all you have to do is change the area code.”

Um what?! That’s exactly the opposite of home. What does area code have anything to do with feeling at home? Padma looks bored. Danny looks confused. Even sweet Gail looks like she’s fed up with the “show.” 

When they finally did get the food, the pork is completely dried out and flavorless. Ugh. So done with her.

Now Brooke’s matzo ball soup with duck confit seem really delicious, however the matzo ball seems to have failed. Gail thought it was “offensive” to her people. And just like the culinary genius he is, Tom thought it would have been great if Brooke made the matzo ball out of the rye bread Brooke made. What a brilliant idea. Danny agrees, of course. 

The judges chat over the highs and lows of the day. Seems like Micah with his cold and soulless raw fish plate, Stefan’s confused German-Thai, and Josie’s homeless looking pork are doomed for the Knife Packing District. No surprises there.

Day’s over. Time to stew.

During the interlude. Padma asks Tom and Danny about the early days of Gramercy Tavern. Danny tells us, “If the food is really delicious and people freak out about the concept, you might be onto something. Cuz that means you’re breaking new ground and next thing you want to watch for is how many people copy you.”
Reliving the ole days.

I could watch and listen to Danny Meyer talk about restaurants all day. If you want (and since you’re reading this you’d probably want) check out the film, Danny Meyer, The Restauranteur. Highly recommended.

Judges’ Table.

Kristen, Sheldon and Josh gets called first. 

These three did the best job from concept to execution. They all had great ideas, and their dishes did the best job in reflecting and representing that concept.

Josh’s neighborhood bistro was nicely represented by his seared ribeye. It’s flavorful and homey, just like the neighborhood joint he was aiming for.

Kristen’s deftly executed soft egg with the indulgence of cream and butter shows us the upscale and formal high end place behind her concept.

Sheldon’s complex and authentic soup takes something rustic and elevates to another level, exactly what he had wanted to showcase.

Which two of these chefs will see their dream concept come to fruition?

Looks like the battle next week will be between high end French vs. Modern Filipino!

Kristen and Sheldon gets the nod to lead next week’s Restaurant Wars.  

Poor Josh looks dejected. It’s ok buddy. You did your pops proud. *pat on back*

Kristen and Sheldon will face off with their restaurants in less than 48 hours. They’ll get spaces that are completely empty, and will have to create the whole thing in that time. Everything will have to built from scratch. Yikes. 

In the past I’ve always disliked the “create the decor” part of Restaurant Wars. However,  seems like they’ll at least have a little more time than usual, so I’m interested in seeing how they’ll pull everything together. 

Atelier Kwan. Nice ring to it.

The two leaders now must go back to the stew room and pick their teams. However, they’ve gotta pick wisely because someone is still going home. So choose poorly and you’ll be short staffed. You do not want that, especially for restaurant wars.

Oh the winner of restaurant war wins a Toyota Avalon. 

While I’m happy that these two won, I’m also nervous because usually the executive chef of the losing team from restaurant wars gets sent home. And I don’t want either of these chefs to go yet. *nervous*

Time to pick teams.

I’m not sure how they determine this but Kristen gets first pick. She picks Brooke.

This was a no brainer. Brooke’s easily the most talented out there.

Sheldon goes for Josh. They’ve always worked well together and frankly the field is pretty even, except for Josie, of course.

Kristen’s second pick is Lizzie. You can just feel Stefan crying on the inside, especially since Sheldon picks him up right away. He doesn’t get to cook with his (imagined) girlfriend.

Actually, I think Kristen was hoping that Stefan would last to the third round. So now she’s stuck between Micah and Josie.

She picks Josie. 

Wow. What a Crazy Ivan move. In a way I’d think Josie’s more harmful than not on a team. Not to mention she’s clearly betting that Micah is going home. 

Here comes Padma.

The chopping block calls for Josie, Lizzie, and Micah.

Yeah Kristen needs a cigarette. I don’t blame her.

These three had the weakest dishes. There were conceptual problems as well as execution of the dishes. One of them is going home.

Micah’s making some excuse about the lack of edible raw proteins at the store. Tom looks like he’s got a migraine. Stop with the excuses! Yeah. Tom just called your dish a “pu-pu platter” of fish. Hey! What’s all the hate on Chinese restaurant food! heh.

Lizzie’s dumpling wasn’t cooked all the way through. She starts trying to bail the water outta her lifeboat by doing more explaining of the origin of the dish properly, but *finger wag* no no no...Danny knew exactly what she was trying to do. She simply missed the mark in the execution.

Josie’s pork=just bad. Yeah. Tom’s fed up with “the Josie Show.” She’s so busy with putting on a show that she’s forgetting some of the basic things - like making edible food. 

So who gets the cut? Could we finally close the curtains on “The Josie Show?” But wait, what will I write about then?! Hm double edged sword indeed.

Alas. There will be no joy in Mudville.

Micah’s plate of cold fish gets the boot. See Micah, should know your Top Chef history before coming on the show! Oh well. Frankly, despite being a good cook, you were a little too cocky for your own good. But hey, good luck in Last Chance Kitchen!

Really looking forward to next week's all out Restaurant Wars. Should be exciting!!

Once again thanks for stopping by. If you get a chance, give me a quick follow @ChezWu, I'd appreciate it. 

Cya next week!

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