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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Recap Episode 13: "Chefs at Sea."


On week 13 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...


Group hugs everyone!

The remaining five chefs are totally relieved that Brooke and her “Apprentice” chicken cutlet didn’t get sent packing.

Frankly even though there shouldn’t be a cumulative effect on judging, Tom just got fed up with Josie’s incompetence. Because I think David Chang and Padma really wanted to sent Brooke home.

Just when the chef are sitting around feeling good about surviving another day, in walks Padma and Tom.

Don’t worry. It’s not a surprise challenge. 

Usually at this point of the season, it’s time to take the show on the road.

Curtis decided to cut his own hair.
The chefs pack for the trip, and we get some gratuitous moments of nostalgia and self reflection. Hey, we gotta fill the show somehow right?

So Stefan’s mom tricked him into thinking they were going on a vacation and then dropped him off at an army boot camp?! Wow. Them Scandinavians are some cold blooded people! Damn Vikings!

Alright. So Brooke is nervous because she gets seasick. Um...sweetheart, you’re going to be on a cruise ship. Those things are like floating cities! You won’t feel a thing!

Time to cook.

Hey look! It’s Top Chef Master’s host and culinary heartthrob Curtis Stone! He once hosted a show called Take Home Chef where he literally stalked grocery stores to pick up girls! Ah get your mind out of the gutter. He was there to teach them how to cook, and usually for their husband or boyfriend. Still, imagine coming home and seeing this guy cooking with your girlfriend?!
Hey girl. Wanna learn how to cook?

Quick Fire.

The chefs will have 2 hours to make two hundred portions featuring iceberg lettuce. Get it? Iceberg lettuce on a cruise ship? Yeah I didn’t think it was that funny either.

The only good news is these only needs to be one bite portions. So there’s that.

Here we go.

The difficulty has been stepped up because since they’re cooking on a ship, everything is electric. There are no flames allowed. Which is odd because when you think about it, there is plenty of water around to put out a fire! (Yes silly I know.)

Iceberg lettuce. Wow now that’s a stretch. What the hell can you do to elevate that??

Let’s ask our guest judge, Curtis Stone!

“You can do all sorts of stuff with lettuce. You can caramelize it, you can serve (it) fresh of course, there’s a million things you can do with it.”

Um..thanks for nothing Curtis. A million things and you name two. One of which it just leaving it alone and served fresh. 

Guess what. Josh is using bacon again. We get it. You’re the pig guy, but maybe show some versatility? 
 Zzzzzz

Brooke is also using bacon, but at least she’s being clever about it. She’s doing a riff on BLT using a scallop instead of the tomato. A BLS if you will.

Well Lizzy’s using bacon as well. It’s an epidemic!

Then Sheldon makes a great point. It’s all about respecting the product. Anyone can serve up some caviar (or bacon) and make things taste good. The art comes when you can elevate the most basic ingredient, like iceberg lettuce. 

He’s gonna do a Vietnamese lettuce wrap. However, he’s pickling the lettuce core and serving that as well to give his dish some crunch. That’s just freaking brilliant!

Time's up. Let’s see how the chefs did with the bacon, um I mean iceberg lettuce challenge.

“I’m just hoping the only iceberg we see is on the plate and not in the water...” *rimshot*

There it is. Thanks Curtis for that gratuitous lame joke.

Side note: Bravo decided not to upload pictures of the quick fire dishes. So I'll post pictures of my own pork belly.

Stefan.
Braised Iceberg Lettuce, Pastrami, Fingerling Potato & Blue Cheese Sauce.

Sheldon.
Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap with Pork, Shrimp & Pickled Iceberg Hearts.

Pork Belly. That's all they cook. (This one's mine.)
Lizzie.
Iceberg Salad with Crispy Bacon, Shallots & Anchovy Vinaigrette.

Josh.
Iceberg Lettuce Roll with Apple Cider Vinaigrette, Bacon Jam & Blue Cheese.

Brooke.
Iceberg Wrap with Bacon, Scallop, Caramelized Onion & Crispy Quinoa.

Padma, “Am I supposed to put this whole thing in my mouth?”

Congrats Padma! That sound bite will be looped all over the interwebs by press time!

Hm. Apparently everyone did well. Curtis and Padma liked all five dishes. No bottoms today.

Winner? 

Sheldon. Definitely. I mean, to served pickled lettuce heart for the crunch? Just brilliant.

What does he win? Money? Car? Nope. All he gets is an advantage during the elimination challenge. Which frankly at this point is worth more than the measly five grand they usually throw out during quick fires.

It’s a long ways to Alaska, so the chefs get some down time to explore the ship. Time for some non-cooking related filler material. Bear with me here.

Sheldon and Lizzie head to the spa for a manicure! How exciting! Aw Sheldon confesses that he loves manicures. “I hope I don’t get judged on my masculinity,” he says.

Judged on your masculinity because of a manicure? Who would do that thing like that this day and age? Why Josh of course! 
They need to fill time. I need to fill space.

“Where I come from men don’t get manicures. *wink*”

Right. They just like to wax mustaches into curls. *rolleyes*

What are the rest of the chefs doing? Drinking of course! Actually, Josh is drinking a Diet Coke. Weak. Meanwhile Stefan’s double-fisting and over-sharing his previous sexual escapades on ships. 

More filler time.

The remaining five go to dinner at this gimmicky place called QSine. Get it? Q-sine? (That’s a take on Cui-sine for you slower folks) Let’s put it this way, Le Bernardin has nothing to worry about. This place uses an iPad for its menu, hangs lamps upside down for decor, and serves things like “goat cheese cigars,” and “sushi lollipops” out of a drawer. 

What is this? A lesson in how NOT to win Top Chef? 

Oh oh. Here come Padma and Curtis. Impromptu challenge?

Nope. Padma’s here simply to reveal the elimination challenge. The chefs will serve dinner here tomorrow night. The objective? Make an innovative “Surf and Turf” dish.

Remember Sheldon’s quickfire prize of having an advantage? He gets first pick at the ship’s pantry and fridge. Oh and whatever protein he picks is off-limits to everyone else. He should pick pork just to screw with Josh. Ha.

Here we go again. It’s a ritual now for at least one person to begin challenges with “this isn’t what I do.”

Josh goes, “Making whimsical creative kinda fun food like that is not really something that I do.”

We get it Josh. You do chicken, bacon, and (sometimes) other pork products. Ok. I just looked at his restaurant’s menu. He aint kidding. That is LITERALLY the only things on his menu (and a burger.) Wow.

Game day.

The Sixty-Four Thousand dollar question, what will Sheldon pick?

After wandering around he goes with lobster tail and beef tenderloin. *Yawn* Really Sheldon? That’s probably the most boring and unoriginal pairing of a “surf and turf” imaginable. 

Stefan picks pork belly and packaged sushi style eel. 

Josh goes with (yes, again) pork belly, scallops, and bacon.

Brooke jumps off the deep end with frog legs and mussels. Hey, gotta give the girl credit for thinking outside the box here. Plus, frogs being amphibious, it’s kinda like surf and turf on it’s own! Clever girl!

Lizzie choses a whole sucking pig and scallops. 

What would Top Chef contestants do without me?
Like Jeff Houck, food writer of the Tampa Tribune suggested on Twitter, they need to have a season of Top Chef and ban pork belly, bacon, and scallops and see what happens. Seriously.

The other part of this challenge is they have to use QSine’s funky serving vessels like glass cups on a wired frame and ceramic painters palette. 

Oh hey. Josh is actually going to attempt something that requires technique! He’s planning on making a pasta out of scallops! Brooke’s not convinced. Neither am I.

“Do you know how to do it?” Brooke asked mockingly. Haha.

Stefan’s gonna take these previous frozen, already cooked Japanese eel and put it in a ravioli. Hm. Seems dubious.

Sheldon’s playing it too safe. He’s preparing exactly what the Padma and Curtis told them not to do. Steak with lobster tempura. No creativity or whimsy at all. Hm.

Josh’s scallop “pasta” is of course, not turning out like pasta. You know why? Because he’s not Michael Voltaggio, that’s why. Michael Voltaggio makes squid into pasta that’s how much of a bad ass he is. (Gratuitous mention of the week.)

Squid Spaghetti. Not pork belly.
Ok so Josh is changing it up and just gonna turn this scallop mush into some sort of scrambled egg mush. Good luck with that.

Time to eat.

The judges this week, funny man Hugh Acheson, head man Tom Coliccio, handsome man Curtis Stone, not a man Padma Lakshmi, and a few Celebrity Cruise flacks.

Here we go.

I can't see frog legs either
Brooke: Mussels & Frog Legs
Mussels & Frog legs with Celery Root & Fennel Puree,’ Papadums & Shallot Chutney.

Kudos all around. Talk about being inventive. I wonder how the mussels and frog legs were cooked though. The only negative was the greasy papadums. 

Stefan: Pork Belly & Eel
Braised Pork Belly with Beer Sauce, Parsnip & Eel Ravioli.

*CRUNCH*

Um. Apparently the crispy skin on the pork belly is a little TOO crispy. You can hear everyone crunching away. So much so Padma and Hugh are making jokes about Tom breaking a tooth. Not good.

Wanna break a tooth? 
Curtis is defending the crispy skin. He says that it’s a cultural thing and people in Europe and Great Britain loves the crackling. Still, that seems like it was a little too much.

Josh: Scallops & Pork Belly.
Scrambled Scallops with Braised Pork Belly & Bacon.

Well, looks like his creativity and willingness to go out on a limb really impressed the judges. Tom thought flavorwise it packed a punch, and Hugh says that for Josh, this leap of faith was a good move. Huh. *scratches head*

Sheldon: Lobster & Filet Mignon
Korean BBQ Filet Mignon, Tempura Lobster, Sesame Cabbage, Kimchi & Teriyaki Sauce.

Sheldon knows he’s in trouble. He admits that his food was uninspired AND his tempura’s soggy. Finger’s crossed.
Scallop mush and bacon bits.

Yup. Judges didn’t like it. The tempura is soft, the sauces lacked punch, but most importantly this was exactly the style of “surf and turf” they didn’t want - two separate dishes on the same plate. Judge expected more of an integration. He could be in trouble here.

Lizzie: Pork & Scallops
Cabbage Stuffed with Suckling Pig & Scallops with Mustard Cream Sauce.

Wow. Stuffed cabbage. That’s ballsy.

Mixed reviews. Since the cabbage wasn’t cooked all the way through, the “roll” sorta fell apart right away. Also the suckling pig is overpowering the scallops. However, Tom thought once you get all of the components together it’s a very flavorful bite. 

There you have it. 

I don’t know. Just really seems like the level of the food is just not up to par as some of the other seasons. I mean, we’re down to the final five and all we see are pork bellies and scallops? 

The judges seem to disagree with me. Tom thought for two and an half hours, they all did a pretty decent job being creative. Well hell, what do I know.

Judges’ Table.

Now that there’s only five on them, everybody gets to stand before the judges.

Let's all make the same hand gesture, shall we?
Some of the highlights were Brooke’s frog legs. It was out there creatively and still tasty. Hugh actually says that Josh had one of the better dishes today. In concept and execution, he knocked it out of the park. 

Really. Scallop goo with sprinkled bacon on top is innovative? Guess you gotta give the dude credit for changing his game plan and turning a mistake into something delicious. Hey some of the tastiest foods came by accident. Remember how potato chips were invented?

On the bottom we’ve got Lizzie, Stefan, and Sheldon.

Lizzie’s stuffed cabbage was too simple and lacked something to bring it all together. Stefan pork was simply difficult to eat, not to mention his ravioli didn’t bring out the flavor of the eel. Sheldon’s limp tempura is pretty much inexcusable and the whole thing was just uninspired. 
Adorables

The winner?

Brooke’s out there frog legs. Yeah if you can combine mussels with frog legs you deserve to win.

She gets a 7 nights vacation on.....Celebrity Cruise in the Caribbean! What a great prize for someone who gets seasick!

Lizzie and Josh are both safe, so it’s down to Stefan and Sheldon.

Oh btw you know they’re doing the Save a Chef hashtag thingy on twitter right? Yeah this week it’s between CJ and Josie. The score is 94% to 6%. I don’t have to tell you who’s in the lead...

In the end, Stefan gets the cut. 

Bye Stefan. Go be smarmy somewhere else!
You can sorta tell that this wasn’t the same Stefan as Season 5. He struggled the entire time, only winning one quickfire in the process. I don’t know if it’s because he’s more successful now and thus less hungry and inventive? Oh well, slight creepiness aside, he’ll be missed.

Down to four. It’s almost finals time!

Thanks for stopping by and we’ll see you next week in Juneau!!

As always, any comments and a follow @ChezWu would be appreciated!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Recap Episode 12: "Wolfgang Cluck."


On week 12 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...

I don’t know about you guys, but it’s taken me a week to get over Kristen’s shocking departure. 


***SPoiler Alert***


Luckily, she prevailed against CJ in Last Chance Kitchen and we’ll be seeing more of her. 

Apparently, I’m not the only one since Brooke is also pretty shook up about it. “Had I ever in a million years thought that it would have gone that way, I would have said something.”

Meanwhile, Josie’s feeling like the stinky kid in class. And poor Lizzie had to listen to her talk away her guilty conscience, “I don’t care what anyone thinks. I know I didn’t get here the pretty way...I’m not here to lose, you know.*tears*”  

Zen Master
I concur Lizzie. Awkward indeed.

Quickfire time.

This week our Quickfire guest judge is Master Sushi Chef Katsuya Uechi. Chef Uechi owns 5 restaurants in the L.A. area and he is the head of the Sushi Institute of America. So yeah, he’s a bad ass in the sushi world.

So that can only mean one thing. Sushi challenge!

It’s simple. Just come up with a sushi dish and impress a sushi master.  (yea.. it’s just that easy...)

30 minutes. No immunity. Winner gets 5 grand.

Chef Uechi gives everyone this advice:

“Sushi is very simple. Rice. Fish. I don’t want you guys to touch too much. Don’t mix up too much ingredients. Always think how to make people who eat, happy. That is most important.” #ProTip

My god. Even his words are like poetry. I can only imagine what his food must taste like.  

Also, if you are at all interested in the art of sushi, do yourself a favor and check out “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” a documentary about the greatest sushi chef in the world. It’s out on Netflix. 

Let’s cook.

Living in L.A. Brooke eats a lot of sushi. Not surprisingly, Oklahoma Josh does not. 

Sushi rice McMuffin. No thanks.
He’s making “sushi” with tempura bacon, egg omelette, salmon belly, yuzu kosho aioli. 

Um. What is your major malfunction?? DID YOU NOT JUST HEAR WHAT THE MASTER SUSHI CHEF SAID?!?!  *Deep breath*

Talk about crime against food.

Stefan agrees. He suggests yubitsume. I agree.

Everyone assumes Sheldon knows sushi because he’s Asian, he does not. However, he is making this lemon charcoal powder by grilling a lemon rind then pulverizing it in a blender. Very interesting technique. A smokey citrusy powder.

Of course Josie’s catered sushi parties and served sushi on naked bodies. It’s all about the show with her.

I gotta say. For a Top Chef competition there is certainly a lot of bitching and moaning about, “I don’t DO that” when it comes to different types of cuisine this season. 

Lizzie recognizes that sushi is an art but it’s not “her” art. Josh prefers bacon over sushi. What the hell people? You guys are supposed to be the best of the best, adept in all aspects of cooking, and here you are telling me you don’t “do” that? 

You think Michael Voltaggio ever even contemplated not being able to do something cooking wise? C’mon now! (Michael if you ever wanna hang, call me. I’m buying) #ProTipoftheHat 

Time’s up. Let’s see who managed impressed the master sushi chef.

Stefan.
Aliens 5: Josie's Revenge
Yellowtail with Grilled Shitake & Raw Lobster with Seaweed & Unagi

Josie.
Halibut with Yuzu & Bacon Aioli

Lizzie.
Lobster, Micro Greens & Pickled Ginger with Yuzu-Sake Broth

Brooke.
Octopus with Yuzu & Grated Wasabi

Josh.
Tempura Bacon, Omelette, Salmon Belly & Yuzu Kosho Aioli

Sheldon.
Hamachi Sashmi with Fresh Ponzu, Mitsuba & Lemon Charcoal

Judging by the way these dishes looked. You’d think some of the chefs have never had sushi. Josie’s dish literally was a giant log of rice with flimsy slices of halibut on top. Josh’s “pressed” sushi was a sushi rice sandwich with two slabs of rice. Lizzie, for some reason, made soup.

They should have passed out them Kindle Fires again so these guys can google “sushi.” Oy.

I think Chef Uechi agrees with me. When Padma asked how did the chefs do? The reply from the master was a wry, “You guys worked very hard. Thank you.”

I don’t know about you, but I read that as “You’ve brought dishonor to my art. You should all leave in shame.”

Lizzie’s soup is on the bottom. Note to self. Don’t pour hot soup onto cold fish. It’ll make the fish more “fishy.” #ProTip

To no one’s surprise, Josh’s dish was a dud. I think Chef Uechi was embarrassed for him. Greasy bacon has no place in sushi.

On a brighter note. Brooke’s octopus dish was nice. Clean flavors. 

Stefan’s yellowtail also landed on top. Good combination with yellowtail and shitake mushrooms.

The winner? Stefan. 
Yeah! 1 for 27! That's a dismal winning %!!

It’s his FIRST win of any kind this season. Apparently it took him 27 challenges. How the mighty have fallen. By episode 11 of season 5, his original season, he’d won 7 challenges. 

Time for Elimination Challenge.

We have a very special guest this week. One of my personal heroes and daily inspiration, Mr. David Chang!!! #ProTipoftheHat

Alongside David is our head judge, Tom Colicchio. (Did you know that David once worked for Tom at Craft? However, apparently David wasn’t allowed to be on the line because he was too slow. Hehe) 

Ok. Tom has rented a house here in Seattle and has invited a few friends over for dinner, the cheftestants will have to do the cooking.

What Tom in the mood for? That’s right. Fried Chicken. 

David explains that fried chicken is “deliciously simple but deceivingly complex.” He would know. His fried chicken drumstick is coated with a "127-spice Momofuku concoction of dredge.” The secret?  “Just regular flour, some seasoning, and a bunch of don't-worry-about-it." #ProTip

Wanna know who’s coming to dinner? 
In Chang We Trust

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo from Animal and Son of Gun.
James Beard Award winner Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s.
Some guy name Wolfgang Puck.
Oh and a little cook from New Orleans that goes by the name Emeril.
Don’t forget about David Chang!

Ok, THIS is a scary group to cook for, especially if you’re talking fried chicken. 

It’s great watching Tom list this Pantheon of Fried Chicken Gods. Because clearly he knows with this group judging, it's going to be a fun night. 

Much like sushi. Just keep it simple and delicious. 

Winner gets a year’s worth of Terlato wines

Ha. Stefan says 365 bottle will only last him 3 months. I agree.

30 minutes to prep. Go.

Josh is getting all flustered and chubby over this challenge. Finally it's something in his wheelhouse. He’s going to draw inspiration from his grandfather’s fried chicken. He’s brought out a syringe and injecting the brine directly into the chicken. 

Brilliant plan. With limited time allowed, injecting the brine will bring out the flavor and keep the bird moist. 

Josie thinks she’s got this in the bag, “Down South, we eat fried chicken all the time!”

Um. I don’t think Miami is considered “the South.” Apparently Josh agrees. Wait. Did he just bust out the ole Arsenio Hall “Things that makes you go hmmmm” bit??

Way to reference a 23-year-old show dude. *golf clap*

You wanna see somebody digging a hole? Watch Brooke as she describes her plan of attack for this challenge.

She’s going to debone the breast, remove the skin, fried the skin and include the fried skin into the breading, then fry the whole thing together. Basically a fancy chicken cutlet. 

Girl. You’re serving fancy chicken cutlet to the likes of David Chang and Emeril Legasse? What are you thinking?!

Time to go to Tom’s house.

Is this Iowa? No. It's Tom's house.
Once there, they’ll have one hour to fry up them chickens. Note: Judges did not asked for a side dish or salad. They just wanted fried chicken. #ProTipoftheHat

Not to pick on her, but Josie’s gonna do a daikon slaw with chicken wings in an asian style, then her southern fried chicken with a biscuit. Ok. Good luck with that.

Sheldon’s watched one too many gangster movies. He’s pouring the oil double-fisted like a couple’a 40s saying, it’s “for his homies...” Ok this brave soul is also doing two kinds, an umami fried chicken and a “Momofuku” style chicken. Talk about gutsy. You’re gonna serve David Chang a chicken named for David Chang's own restaurant? G-U-T-S

Lizzie’s also going rogue by doing a version of chicken cutlet. She’s crusting it with brown sugar, black pepper and coriander with a side of peach cabbage slaw. 

Here comes another head scratcher. Stefan is going with a chicken stuffed with french cheese and german ham. A chicken cordon blue, if you will. 

You know, sometimes you just have to trust Tom. You can tell when he’s asking you to “put a spin” on something and this is not one of those occasions. He said, “However you do it, just make it crispy and make it delicious.” Sounds pretty straight forward to me.


Seems like some of the chefs totally misread the memo.

Not Josh though. Dude is (finally) cooking like Michael Phelps swimming. He’s giving his already brined drumsticks a smoke treatment. Talk about layering on the flavors.

Almost time to eat. Judges arrive and gather around a beautiful outdoor dining area ready to feast on some chicken.
Fried Chicken Sandwich at Son of A Gun.

Wolfgang feeling particularly Puckish tonight. Offering Emeril a seat first with a “Hey Ladies first!”  Oh oh. Think it’s gonna be one of those zinger-filled nights!

Then there’s a debate amongst the judges on the preference between dark/white meat. I’m a dark meat man myself. But I can totally see the finesse it requires to make breast meat juicy and crispy. Hell, I just like fried chicken. Ha. David is right. “If you don’t like fried chicken, I don’t know if I can trust you!” #ProTip

Here we go. You can just tell that everyone’s having a great time hanging out. The atmosphere’s loose. Tom just suggested Wolfgang to open up a chain of chicken joints called “Wolfgang Cluck.” Ha. Look out KooKooRoos!

Tom tells us that growing up, his mom made salt and pepper fried chicken with only the legs and the wings. And since his dad hated chicken, Tom knew his dad was working late when mom was frying up chicken. 

I don’t know why but I love it when Tom shares tidbits of his past with us. I guess because I always see him as such a authoritative figure that knowing things which are more personal makes me a little less scared of him. (Just kidding! Um...wanna play catch? - Field of Dreams people!!)

Baseball Tom. Baseball.
Back in the kitchen. Brooke doesn’t have time to fry up her chicken skin. Now she’s going to serve up plain ole pedestrian chicken cutlet, made up of skinless breast meat. God help her.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record...

Guess what. Josie’s in trouble again. One of her fryers went down so she’s down to one. Lizzie’s a sweetheart and offers Josie her fryers. Regardless, once again, time is not on her side. There will be no Asian chicken wings. And um, what happened to the biscuits? 

Sheldon’s also hit a snag. His oil was too hot so the first batch got scorched on the outside but still raw on the inside. Those gotta go, so he’s not sure if everyone will get a piece. 

Chicken time.

Ok. When he’s presenting to the judges Sheldon looks like he’s about to hyperventilate. He actually had a brain freeze for second trying to remember which style the drumsticks are. I don’t blame you buddy. I’d probably pass out if I had to serve fried chicken to this group.

Can you tell which is which? Neither can Sheldon.

Sheldon.
Umami Drumsticks & Thighs, Wings with Usukuchi (Momofuku style) & Grapeseed Oil. 

Lizzie.
Chicken with Coriander, Black Pepper & Brown Sugar Rub with Peach-Cabbage Slaw.

Josie.
Chicken with Black Garlic, Cayenne, Thyme & Hot Sauce with Daikon Salad.

Right away Jon Shook from Son of A Gun refers to Lizzie’s dish as “Shake and Bake.” Though delicious, Tom thought Lizzie doesn’t quite understand “fried chicken” because given a whole chicken, she only used boneless chicken breast.

"Gut bomb. Not in a good way." - David Chang
Vinny Votolo is appalled, “Come now. People were given a whole chicken?! And you only gave us the breast? That’s just wrong!’ Everyone’s cracking up. #ProTip

Still though. Tom thought her salad was really good and David thought the chicken itself was delicious. I think despite serving a cutlet, she’s going to be safe.

Josie’s confused people by serving “Southern” style chicken on a banana leaf with daikon salad. On top of that, everyone found it greasy, Michelle Bernstein couldn’t even finish her piece. Ironically, Michelle was the guest judge that send Josie home last time around. And they’re both Miami chefs. Awkward.

Sheldon’s chicken was loved by all. However, one problem. Not everybody got a piece. Wolfgang’s blaming Tom and Emeril for taking too many pieces. Still. The flavor’s there and that’s the important thing. Funny though, not once did we see David talk about his resto's namesake wings. Wonder if he gave Sheldon his personal stamp of approval.

Just in time for the Superbowl!
Stefan.
Chicken Cordon Bleu with Garlic Aioli & Lemon.

Josh.
Smoked Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce & Blue Cheese.

Brooke.
Dukkah-Crusted Chicken Breast with Wilted Escarole & Tomato Salad.

Here comes the bombshell of the day.

Apparently Jon Shook and Vinny Votolo once interviewed for a job to work for Brooke. And guess what? She didn’t hire them. Now they’re bad asses in the culinary world and are here to decide her fate. Talk about a Jerry Springer “guess who we’ve got backstage” moment.

Well, the embarrassment didn’t stop there. Wolfgang picks up her chicken and asks, “What is this show called here? (Padma: Top Chef) I wouldn’t even call it The Apprentice.” OUCH.

Yeah. She cooked her chicken too early. About 15 minutes too early. By the time of service her chicken albeit juicy, will no longer had any crunch. So she kept it warm in the oven then refried it to get the crisp back. The result was dry chicken cutlet. Not looking good...

Josh knocked it out of the park. The whole smoked and buffaloed concept totally came across. Tom said it was the tastiest chicken on the table. Josh might get himself a chicken dinner here.

See. Sometimes chefs are like comedians. When you get a bunch of them together and feed them lots of wine, the one-upmanship sets in and the jokes start to fly, often at the expense of others.

When asked about Stefan’s chicken cordon bleu, Emeril says, “I have the blues. *pause* the chicken cordon blues...” *rimshot*

“Wasn’t he already on Top Chef?” Vinny asks mockingly, “You get another chance and you do cordon f*cking blue?” Brutal Stefan. Brutal.

Jon’s embarrassed that all of the L.A. chefs just rolled out the breasts and Wolfgang, without missing a beat, “It’s L.A.! Plastic surgery's everywhere.”*rimshot*

Ah a good time was had by all...of the judges.

Not so much some of the chefs.

Judging isn’t till the NEXT day. So the chefs also have a whole night to stew about how their dishes were received.

In the evening Sheldon plays a ukulele. They hand them out in Hawaii when you turn 13. (ok, they don’t) #ProTip

Everyone’s nervous. Josie’s going around looking for validation by asking if people liked her chicken. Even calm collected Brooke is fidgety. 

Morning comes. Let’s do this.

In walks Padma. I’ll tell you one thing. I wouldn’t want to play poker against her. She NEVER gives anything away. 

Judges want to see Josh, Lizzie, and Sheldon.

Wow. 5 judges at the table today. Don’t recall the last time that’s ever happened! 

Imagine having David Chang, Wolfgang Puck, Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Emeril Legasse all staring at you. Can’t even. I think I would just stare solely at Padma and try to zen out. 

The good news is, these guys are the judges' favorites. 

All three delivered a good dish, but Josh’s traditional Buffalo fried chicken came out on top. He gave what the judges wanted. A crispy, delicious, lip smacking goodness piece of fried chicken. Grandpa would be proud.

You can see how this was Josh’s challenge from the get go. The problem will come for him, in the end when judges start to look for a bit more of a range in the repertoire. But we’ll see. I’m sure Josh looks at Kevin Gillespie as his idol. Newsflash Josh, we've watched Kevin saute. We watched Kevin simmer. You, sir, are no Kevin Gillespie. 

Here comes the sadness.

Keep it simple stupid!
Brooke, Josie, and Stefan face the chopping block.

There will be no throwing people under the bus, no one else to blame but themselves, so let’s see what they have to say.

Brooke knew she screwed up. She got into her own head and over-thought the whole process. Instead of impressing, she disappointed the judges.

Here we go back into the Josie show. It’s the same absurd excuses with Josie. Her fryer was down, she didn’t have enough time...blah blah blah.

Tom’s having a migraine. You know that look the principal has after she gives you detention for the umpteenth time? Yeah that’s Tom right now. 

“This seems to be happening a lot now, you running out of time. You ran out of time on the last challenge with bouillabaisse...an hour for fried chicken is plenty of time, so I don’t understand how you could even say I ran out time and I couldn’t put it on paper towel.”

When Josie tried to reply back Tom stopped her abruptly. 

“Exactly. You’re wasting time.”

Wow. Pulled the words out of our collective mouths huh? She’s been wasting EVERYONE’s time all season long. Can’t help feel like Tom’s finally had enough.

The nail in the coffin though? 

Josie tries to validate to Tom that she “(ate) had a piece and it was delicious and Lizzie and everyone else thought it was delicious."

Yeah good luck with that.

Tom, sarcastically,  “So I guess Dave and Wolf and you know Emeril and Jonny and Vinny and Michelle, Padma and um me um we don’t know um we have no idea what we’re talking about?”

The most terrify thing about this exchange is that NO OTHER JUDGES chimed in. Silence is golden. #ProTip

Moving on to Stefan.

Stefan’s excuse, he grew up in Europe and there isn’t fried chicken there like in America. Heh. Drive that one out and you can fertilize the lawn.

Unfortunately Stefan failed to do his research. Wolfgang himself has a traditional recipe for “wiener backhendl,” Viennese-style fried chicken. 

DOH!

Well, after getting pummeled about making the damn chicken cordon blue, Emeril really drops the hammer by letting him know that it wasn’t even a good chicken cordon blue. 

Yeah. Serving the judges bad banquet food is asking for it. 

Padma is furious. “Such a bullsh*tter!”

During the deliberation it’s pretty clear that Brooke is safe. I don’t care what they say about past dishes doesn’t take into account and there are no prejudices, unless you’re gonna start tasting the dishes blind like that “other” new show...it will come into play.

But much like last week, for some reason Padma’s defending Josie again, stating that at least Josie gave them an actual fried chicken.

There’s no arguing this week. I think Tom’s finally had enough. I think he had enough last week but Kristen’s insistence on taking all of the blame was something he couldn’t just outright veto and not come across biased.

This week Josie once again presented a poor dish and cited time as a problem. AND she tried to chat her way out of it. Now, she’s finally out of excuses.

To the collective cheer of Top Chef viewers who’re not relatives or close personal friends of Josie, she is told to pack her knives and go. *Crowd roars*

Bitter to the end. Josie thought it was stupid to get send home for her fried chicken. 

Here comes the hugs and kisses...between the chefs AFTER Josie leaves. Man. I feel their pain. Last time I waited this long for someone to leave was Thanksgiving.

Well. There is it. Josie’s finally gone. Off to Last Chance Kitchen you go where you will face Kristen. I highly recommend everyone to go watch it right now. 

With the albatross off our shoulders. We can focus and concentrate more on the food!

Thanks stopping by and I’ll see you next week!

As always any feedback and a follow @ChezWu would be highly appreciated!




Thursday, January 24, 2013

Restaurant Spotlight: Noodie’s in New York City

image
Some nights just call for a quick, easy, and affordable dinner, but one that doesn’t lack in uniqueness or flavor. On those nights, go to Noodie’s in Hell’s Kitchen. It’s a casual Thai eatery, dimly lit and narrow, with just a few tables.  Although the d├ęcor is simple, the conversation piece is the wall opposite the seating, covered in a rainbow of bowls and plates of all sizes.

The cuisine matches the wall—colorful and bright. I recommend starting with the rock shrimp, served with spicy mayo and black sesame seeds. They are just the right amount of crispy. Next, enjoy one of Noodie’s noodle bowls like the Kwaytiew Puk, or vegetable noodle soup, thin rice noodles, assorted steamed vegetables and ear wood mushrooms, scallions and crispy tofu with floating mushroom dumplings.  The noodle bowl is comforting, warm, and rich in flavor, so you won’t even notice it’s vegetarian.

Just don’t forget to wash it down with a Thai iced tea.

(post by Caitlin Heikkila)

Friday, January 18, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Recap Episode 11: "Restaurant Wars."


On week 11 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...

RESTAURANT WARS!!!

It’s finally here. The most anticipated challenge for viewers and chefs. 

Last week the chefs battled it out individually to determine which two got to lead the restaurants and turn their concept into reality.

Kristen came out on top with her upscale French with a twist, and Sheldon followed suit with his modern Filipino concept.
The Magnificent 6. Yeah I only recognize 6. 

A war between these two concepts couldn’t have come at a better time. The culinary world is also debating between high-end 5-hour tasting menus (Per Se, Alinea...etc) and elevated soulful places (Momofuku, Mission Chinese...etc)

It will be interesting to see which one of our Restaurant War chefs’ concept will prevail. I’ll tell you one thing though, concept aside, it’ll all come down to execution and taste. 

The twist here is that Sheldon’s team lost Micah last week, so they’re down to only 3 people: Sheldon, Josh and Stefan. If you’ve seen previous seasons, you’d know that going into this particular challenge with 3 people is borderline impossible. However, Kristen, in a surprising move, decided to pick Josie over Micah in the hopes of NOT having to go into Restaurant Wars short-handed. And from this season’s performance, it’ll be interesting to see if having Josie on a team is actually worse than having one less person. 

Honestly the fact that we even have to ASK that question is kinda embarrassing for Josie. It’s a total “fool me once” situation. But I guess each week is different so we’ll see.

The teams get together the night before to strategize.

Brooke is slightly concerned that, while Kristen is a great cook, she doesn’t have the experience of “running the whole show and being in charge of a group of people.” 

Over on the modern Filipino side, neither Josh or Stefan has ANY experience cooking Filipino food. So that’s going to be a challenge. On the plus side, Stefan has been through Restaurant Wars once before, not to mention the fact that he owns 5 or 6 places, so that experience is going to come in handy.

Time to check out the facility.

The chefs arrive at the Georgetown Ballroom to see what they have to work with space wise.
I can't figure out how they split this place up?

Oops. This place doesn’t have a kitchen!

By checking out the floor plan, they realize that the kitchen is going to be built from scratch in the courtyard. 

Stefan is perturbed, “I don’t know who’s smart ass idea it was to build a kitchen from scratch and a restaurant from scratch. Who does that?!”

Kristen doesn’t like Josie’s personality, so she decides to send her away with Brooke to pick up the rental equipment. Ugh. Then why is she on your team!? 

So here’s poor Brooke hanging out with Josie at the rental place and trying to pick out accent things like plates and napkins for their resto and it’s going...well, I’ll just let Brooke sum up the experience,

“I have a very different disposition than Josie. And the type of restaurant we’re opening takes maybe a little bit more...class?” *awkward giggle*”

Thank you Brooke.

Sheldon and Josh head to Uwajimaya, the Asian food store, while Stefan goes solo to shop for their “accent” items. See, Stefan doesn’t need supervision because all Europeans who like “flowers and pebbles and little vases” probably have class. 

Sheldon emphasizes that since Filipino people are very hard working, their food is very soulful. I love it when people stereotype themselves. Like what, big fat lazy Americans eat nothing but soulless processed cheeseburgers? Um...wait. Damn!

Kristen’s place is called Atelier Kwan. Atelier means workshop, and is often used to describe an artist’s workshop. While there are many restaurants with the word Atelier attached to it, the most famous and revered is L’Atelier de Joel RoBuchon

This is a concept she’s been thinking about since 5 years old. Growing up she’d watch French chefs on TV and she’d emulate them. She didn’t know what French cooking was but she would just pretend and copy what they were doing. 

As if I couldn’t love her even more. I did the exact same thing growing up, only it was Japanese food for me.

Man, this MUST be stressful because I just spotted a gray hair on Kristen!

Taking Charge
Ok, restaurant and kitchen equipments are coming in. They weren’t kidding about building the whole thing from scratch. There are hotboxes and fridges and ranges. Stefan’s taking over the arranging the equipment mis en place. This is where his experience comes in. You can tell he’s totally in charge and knows exactly what he’s doing. 

On the other team’s side, Kristen wants things set up so she can touch and oversee every dish that goes out. Everything has to be perfect.

Though early in the process, it’s important to get the food prep started. Josie chimes in that she needs to get her bones roasting to get the bouillabaisse stock started. Off she goes.

Sheldon’s doing the same thing. He’s browning up his chicken wings so they’ll be ready to go tomorrow. Actually, not quite the same thing because we’re seeing him cooking the damn thing. Meanwhile...

“Have you started roasting?” Kristen asks.

“I’m gonna do it now.” Josie.

You know that slacker in school who’s always behind during group projects? Yeah. That’s her.

Hey guess what? Lizzie roasting her bones! Can we guess what Josie’s doing?

Not roasting the bones.
Hey you got a tv show I can be on? Rock 'n Roll!

With the oven empty and ready to roast some bones, Josie says she’s just gonna do it tomorrow, 

“Ideally I would have gotten that on today, but there’s just really no time. Doesn’t really matter. I feel confident that I can get it done. Tomorrow. That’s just how I cook. I don’t rush things. *Shrug*”

Exactly. That’s why we’ve seen you BEHIND in almost EVERY challenge. Argh!


Dear Josie,

Honestly, I don’t know why you’re here. Because it seems to be me you don’t really enjoy cooking. You rather stand around the stove, mugging to an audience while you push pans around and put on a show. There are plenty of other forums for that. This here, this is called Top Chef, not “Top Stand-Around-And-Be-Hungry-While-I-Tell-You-About-How-I-Played-Football.” So please be like Lebron James and take your “talents” back to Miami.

Sincerely,
Mykl Wu


Kristen’s frustrated, you’re frustrated, we’re all frustrated.

Someone keep an eye out for an iceberg.

Both places are starting to look like a restaurant. 

Sheldon’s tables are covered with, (er, is that taupe? kahki?) kinda brownish table cloths and Kristen, white, of course.

Day’s over. Time to unwind and gear up for tomorrow.

Stefan pops open a bottle of wine. It’s like the third or fourth time we’ve seen him do that throughout the season. Hey you know what, chef’s cook and drink. Well, not if you’re Tyler, hopefully. (Totally support you buddy!)

Brooke’s 4-year old made a drawing. Awww, that’s so cute! No wait, that’s Brooke’s drawing of their floor plan. 

Team Atelier Kwan is discussing how to make tomorrow’s service go smoothly. Josie suggests pre-plating some items and Kristen shuts it down. 

As an upscale restaurant, she wants things done a la minute. While I can see where she’s coming from, there are things you can pre plate to make things easier for yourselves during service rush. 

Josie immediately runs outside and bitches to the other team about Kristen’s decision to not listen to her suggestion, “...I have to step back because you know, I’m not the executive chef tomorrow so...I’m a solider tomorrow. I’m a solider.”
All the planning in the world...

A solider in what army? France? 

Stefan and Josh couldn’t care less.

Game Day.

Everyone’s busy prepping along.

Lizzie tells us about her dish. She’s going to take the charcuterie course and put a spin to it. Charcuterie was originally a way to preserve meat and vegetables, thus usually at restaurants they serve a charcuterie plate filled with different cuts of meats and pates and pickles. She’s going to turn that into a soup course with rabbit broth and pickled golden beets. Very interesting. 

Josie’s making a bouillabaisse with bay scallops, halibut, Dungeness crab and duck confit potatoes in a seafood broth.

Kristen’s doing the third course, a beef bourguignon with braised short ribs and garlic puree.

Brooke’s doing a cheese course, and Kristen will finish off with dessert, her take on the American macaroon.

Let’s take a look at Sheldon’s menu.

Stefan’s doing kilawen, a type of Filipino ceviche with chili, spice, and white soy.

Josh will follow with the balut. Tradition balut is basically a chicken fetus. An egg with a half formed chick inside. Yeah, it’s got feathers and beaks and claws oh my!

No worries people. This updated version will feature a soft cooked egg in shell topped with tamarind braised duck leg and foie gras mousse.
Third course will be miki, a Filipino chicken noodle soup with fresh noodles.

Next up is adobo, a popular Philippine dish with pork belly, mung bean puree topped with pea shoot salad.

Josh will finish up with dessert, a halo halo. It’s basically fruits with shaved ice. 

Ok time to finish setting up the dining room, also called “front of the house.” And “back of the house” means kitchen. Savvy? Good.

Brooke and her husband have opened up 4 restaurants, so she’ll be taking over the “front of the house” duties.

Kristen confesses she’s never taken the role of an executive chef of a restaurant of this volume. She’s currently working at Stir, a place that holds tasting dinners for 10 people. That’s almost night and day from this type of restaurant mainly because of the rhythm is so completely different. With 10 people each night you know exactly what you’re going to do and when you’re going to do it. There is no “rush.” And this lack of experience at an executive chef level is what Brooke was worried about. 

Oh btw, Josie’s stock - not done.

In other shocking news. Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. *roll eyes*

Stefan’s doing his “front of the house” final prep. Since they’re short handed, he immediate surveys the staff as to their previous experience and expertise.

Someone with expediting experience? Good, you’ll do that tonight.

Dishwasher? Go back to the kitchen and help with the prep.

Let me tell you. A good dishwasher can be one of the most useful and helpful positions in any restaurant. Because obviously the dude doesn’t just show up at the end of the night and do some dishes right? What do you think he’s doing the other 7 hours? He’s slicing carrots, breaking down chickens, peeling potatoes. Essentially, he’s helping the cooks cook. A good dishwasher is basically your utility man. He can do a little of everything.

Any chef knows this and Sheldon puts the aforementioned dishwasher to work right away. Also, Sheldon knows that this guy is his prep guy. How does Sheldon know this? He knows this because he started out as a dishwasher. See where hard work gets you? That’s right! On Top Chef!
Foreshadow 

Oh just in case you forgot? Josie’s still screwing up.

She’s supposed to mix the seafood broth with gelatin so later on they can foam it up with an iSi canister. But that can’t happen because the stock’s still not done. So they have to skip the gelatin and add cream and soy milk instead. Yup. I think I see an iceberg. Somebody warn Jack and Rose.

It’s about that time...

Stefan and Brooke go get their big girl clothes on. Brooke looks so cute in that dress!

Guests start to arrive and Stefan has a brain freeze on the name of his place. It’s Urbano dude. Urbano.

What he didn’t have a brain freeze on is to keep people boozed up. Buzzed customers are happy customers. #ProTip.

10 Seasons of Restaurant Wars!
Here comes the judges.

This week we have Restaurant God Danny Meyer, Food and Wine’s Gail Simmons, Head Judge Tom Colicchio and all around Good Guy Emeril Lagasse.

Well, so far the judges like the graphics and the scenery. For what that’s worth. Ha.

Here comes the food.

Lizzie. First Course.
Charcuterie: Rabbit, Pickled Turnips & Yellow Beets in Chicken & Rabbit Broth
Everyone raves about this dish. They’re completely taken by surprise with the soup presentation not to mention how flavorful it was. Unanimous kudos.

I gotta say it must be super delicious. Because can’t you just see Tom say, “This is just some shredded rabbit in chicken broth!” Apparently so. Good job.

Time for the bouillabaisse. 

I’ll give you one guess how that turned out.

Josie hasn’t even tested the foam sauce with the iSi canister. They about to plate the damn thing and she hasn’t even see if the foam works. 

It doesn’t.

So now they’re scrambling and pouring the sauce on while Brooke’s using a hand blender trying to thicken it up. Time to count up the lifeboats.

Yup. Kristen says she would have preferred one of the dishwashers instead of Josie. Guess Micah’s looking pretty good right about now huh?

Guests are waiting. Judges are waiting. Everybody’s waiting.

Finally, here it comes.

Somebody cue Celin Deon
Josie. Second Course.
Bouillabaisse: Halibut, Dungeness Crab, Bay Scallops with Shellfish Broth.

Houston. We’ve got problems.

Emeril’s halibut was overcooked, scallops practically raw. Gail’s dish had very little sauce. Nobody has enough broth. When I say nobody I’m including the surrounding tables. Now the judges can hear others bitch about this dish too. Great.

Hey apparently Tom used to plant diners and have them sit next to restaurant critics to audibly rave about the place?! Bravo Chef. Good trick! #ProTip

Now discount all good reviews about Colicchio places. (Just kidding Tom. I kid because I love.)

Over at Urbano, Stefan’s trying to get the tables turned.

By “turning tables” I mean to get the diners paid up and out of their tables so the next group can sit down. Seems like people are having too good of a time and don’t really want to leave. See, that’s the downside of keep giving people wine.

Kristen’s in the weeds. (That means overwhelmed) By the amount of tickets in front of her you can tell that she’s kinda confused as to what dishes have gone out and what still needs to be done. Once you get lost like that it’s very hard to recover.

Kristen. Third Course.
Beef Bourguignon: Braised Short Rib, Garlic Puree, Mushrooms & Carrots.

Problems continue. 
Beef Stew

Tom wishes the dish had more sauce and Gail’s missing that signature red wine bourguignon flavor. When a reinterpretation of a dish doesn’t take it far enough, the result is often just a smaller portion of the original. She didn’t take it far enough.

She’s so behind that instead of washing the dishes, her dishwasher’s plating them and making blue cheese quenelles. 

Brooke. Fourth Course.
Baked Gougeres, St.Agur Blue Cheese, Roasted Radish & Stone Fruit Compote.

Poor Emeril’s having a hard time with the sticky pine nuts. Danny’s afraid it’s so sticky he’s gonna lose a molar filling on this one. Wait. Danny Meyer’s got cavities? He’s fallible? NO!! 

Other than that Tom found it classic (read: boring) and thought it all works. *yawn*

Kristen. Dessert.
Almond Cake Macaron with Coconut Custard & Caramel Buttercream.

Yeah. Though everything on the plate was tasty, they’re not getting the “macaron” concept. That especially offended Gail who said if she could come back as any one culinary item it would be the macaron. I can totally see that. She’s very much like a macaron. Little sweet vivacious thing. Adorable.
Stink eye. Wonder who she's looking at.

Dinner is over.

The general consensus is Kristen had set such high standard that it was hard to meet the expectation. I mean, imagine how many hundreds if not thousands of beef bourguignon has this table have made let alone tasted? So to say that you’re gonna reinterpret something like this you better bring something special to the table. It doesn’t seem like Kristen did.

Urbano.

People are still lounging around, taking their time to leave. And...here comes the judges.

During the interlude, diners are requesting to see the chef’s kitchen - during service. Ugh. Ok people, listen very carefully to what I’m about to tell you.

DO NOT ASK TO SEE THE KITCHEN DURING SERVICE.

While it’s exciting and fun to watch chefs working, cooking, plating...etc, it’s not cool and it’s distracting for them. Some restaurants have an open or partially open kitchen so diners and food enthusiasts can gawk and stare all they want. However, if a place doesn’t have an open kitchen, don’t bother EVERYONE involved on touring the kitchen. By everyone I mean the servers, the cooks, and your fellow diners. While I’m sure you’d enjoy visitors to come cheer you on at your cubicle or boring office, during service cooks are in a rhythm and the last thing they want is people interrupting them. If you’re the last table of the evening and the rush is over, maybe. That’s only if your “interest” gets you an invitation. But never during service let alone in the middle of rush. Plus, it’s an insurance risk. God forbid you slip and fall in the kitchen or something. So one more time with cherry on top, DON’T do it.

Ok lecture over. Back to the action.

Stefan’s reading the servers the riot act. No more water, no more sparkling wine, no more wine period. Judges are here and they need to be seated! Everybody out!

“Who would you rather upset? Judges or 40 other people who’ll never come back to your restaurant?” Words of wisdom from Stefan.

Tom tells us that before opening his first restaurant, he and Danny flew to Italy to eat and look for inspiration, and the whole concept of Gramercy Tavern was mapped out on an airplane napkin. Wow. #ProTip 

Stefan. First Course.
Kilawen: Yellowtail with Cilantro, Spicy Chili & White Soy Sauce.

Everyone loved this dish. What’s not to like? Fresh delicious yellowtail paired with different contrasting sauces with some crunchy acidy radish. Refreshing. Good start.

Moving smoothly here.

No beaks here. 
Josh. Second Course.
Balut: Poached Egg, Duck Confit & Foie Gras Mousse.

Stefan’s obviously in a “kick ass” zone mentally here. So much so he’s not playing the warm host to the judges. He introduced this dish assuming everyone here knows exactly what a balut is and he didn’t further sell the dish by explaining that instead of eating an unborn chick, it’s an updated version with duck confit and foie mousse.

With that said, it’s a delicious dish. C’mon, soft egg, duck and foie? Just make sure you season the damn thing and it’ll sing.

One problem though. Tom said there’s nothing remotely Filipino about this dish. Well, since Josh was the one who cooked it, I’m surprised there weren’t BBQ flavored bacon bits sprinkled on top. Of course it’s not gonna taste Filipino.

Third Course.

Um...Stefan? Wanna tell us what the third course is?

Apparently not. Stefan is in such a zone running roughshod over his servers he’s forgotten to tell the judges what the dish is at all! He waltzes on by, completely ignoring them!

Tom doesn't like you right now
Well let me help you out.

The third course is Sheldon’s Miki. An Filipino soup with Prawns, Tapioca Roll with Achiote.

Tom loves the tapioca noodles, the plate looks beautiful and everyone thought it was fantastic. 

Oh hey here’s Johnny-Come-Lately.

“Everything good so far? Can I do anything for you?” Stefan asks.

When Padma asks him to explain the last dish, he first got confused with the “final” dish and then realized they wanted to know about the “previous” dish.  

“Miki is a cellophane noodle with *mumbles something unintelligible*” and walks away!

Don't ask Stefan about this dish
Wow. The whole table felt like they just got scolded.

“The way that he made us feel, was worse than that (Josie’s) bouillabaisse.” sassed Emeril. Service is making the people at your tables feel comfortable and taken care of, dammit Stefan! #ProTip

That was probably, nay, THE most shockingly rude treatment by a host to the judges in 10 seasons of restaurant wars. Given who these judges are, I don’t think they’ve EVER been treated like this at a restaurant.

Sorry Stefan, I don’t think Danny Meyer will be calling you any time soon. WOMP.

Sheldon. Fourth Course.
Adobo: Pork Belly with Mung Been Puree & Pea Shoots Salad.

Ok. Tom says this is the best dish all night. Danny can’t stop eating it. I see a trend here, and it’s looking pretty good for Sheldon.
Dish of the night

Josh. Dessert.
Halo-Halo: Coconut Sorbet, Avocado Mousse, Banana & Shredded Coconut.

Stefan. Dessert.
Dark Chocolate with Macadamia Nuts, Ginger & Peppermint Oil.

Ah dessert. The flavors were good and judges seem pleased with it. Seriously the dessert course is always an afterthought. Unless it really missed the mark or is really something special, it’s not going to sway things either way.

Dinner’s over.

Despite the overall tasty foods, Tom’s so disgusted by the service and Stefan’s attitude that he’s not sure if he’d return to this restaurant:

“...it’s something I learned from Danny. People will go to a restaurant for food, and they’ll return for hospitality. So, I don’t know if I will return to this restaurant right now.”

Talk about a WOMP.

Well, service is over. Everyone’s exhausted.

Brooke feels like it’s a toss up. I don’t. It’s pretty clear who had the better food. The only caveat is whether or not Stefan’s rude service turned the judges off so badly that they throw the food out the window. 

It’s Stefan’s service vs. Josie’s bouillabaisse.

Bye Danny! So long and thanks for all the advice!!

Line ‘em up!

All 7 chefs line up in front of Judges’ Table. Ready for their verdict.
You don't need to be an expert in body language...
Atelier Kwan is up first.

Kristen’s beef lacked bourguignon, dessert too overhanded. This is the first time she’s been chided for her food and her disappointment shows.

Brooke is being praised for her front of the house skills. As she should from someone we has opened 4 restaurants. Good job.

Lizzie’s charcuterie soup is a hit. Everyone love it. Winning dish contender.

...and here comes the bouillabaisse.

The first words out of Josie’s mouth are, “You know Kristen help me plate...your plates. So...um...you know. *looks over at Kristen*”

Here we go.

In one of the most shameful display of cowardice, Josie deflected all blame to Kristen.

There were no admittance of the fact that the main reason the dish went down was because she didn’t start her stock early enough so that it could be thickened properly with gelatin. No mentioning of the fact that she didn’t test using the canister to sauce the plates. No mention of her turning her back on Kristen and that Lizzie had to come help plate. None.

There she is. Just trying to weasel her way out of another possible elimination. 

In 10 seasons of watching this show, I can honestly say I have NEVER felt more disgusted by a cook than her. Hell, frankly I’m not even to honor her with the title of a cook, let alone chef. 

Anthony Bourdain once wrote,

Male, female, gay, straight, legal, illegal, country of origin—who cares? You can either cook an omelet or you can’t. You can either cook five hundred omelets in three hours—like you said you could, and like the job requires—or you can’t. There’s no lying in the kitchen.”

Josie’s behavior this entire season and especially this episode contradicts every letter in that paragraph. It’s amazing how some people can look in the mirror and live with themselves.

Sigh.

Moving along to Urbano.

Tom really liked Sheldon’s concept. He says that there aren’t that many places serving this type of food out there and perhaps the world’s been waiting for a chef like Sheldon to come along. That’s some praise from Tom!

But let’s talk about the service. Oh oh.

Emeril’s disappointed. Tom is really not happy that Stefan didn’t explain some of the dishes. 

Stefan concedes that it was poor service, however he argues that it’s because he’s a chef and not a server. This oughta go over well.

Yeah. They’re not even going to dignify that with a response. 

Moving on to Sheldon’s dishes. 

All of his dishes hit the sweet spot. It was modern and still kept that Filipino flavor. He knocked it out of the park with every dish.

Josh’s egg dish had nothing Filipino about it, but it was good. Kudos.

The verdict.

It’s unanimous. Urbano wins.
How am I gonna get that car back to Hawaii?!

Yeah. The writing’s been pretty much on the wall all night. To turn that concept into reality and to successfully elevate Filipino comfort food to such a high level is quite a feat. Sheldon is the big winner and gets the Toyota Avalon!!

Congrats! Now you get to pay the freight and ship that baby back to Hawaii!! Doh!

Now the sad part. Somebody has to go home.

Tom just has one question. “What happened with the gelatin (and the sauce)?”

Well, I’m not going to further painstakingly describe Josie’s disgusting behavior but you get the idea by now. She’s throwing Kristen under the bus, hopping on the bus, driving Kristen over, and backing up for good measure.

Meanwhile Kristen’s standing there rocking, whispering “Bite my tongue. Bite my tongue.”

In an amazing display of honor that’s worthy of a Bushido Samurai, Kristen tells the judges that it was her responsibility, takes blame for the dish and essentially commits Top Chef seppuku. 

THIS is what being a CHEF is all about. Taking responsibility in your actions and behaving honorably. This type of action and sense of moral code is what every chef and cook should strive to have. This is why no matter what happens, she will be infinitely more successful in whatever she does than that other sorry excuse of a television personality wannabe. #ProTipofthehat

All the sadness
So now what?

Gail is sad. Tom is sad. I’m sad. Hell, I think Emeril’s about to send himself home.

Everyone is torn.

Sigh.

Bye Kristen. You’ll always be my favorite of this season. Second only to Michael Voltaggio in the history of Top Chef. I get the feeling this won’t be that last of you.

Ok. Now we put our feelings aside and take a closer look at the facts.

The fact is that Atelier Kwan wasn’t very good. The concept was too lofty and thus what was delivered couldn’t match expectations. The only really good dish belonged to Lizzie. Kristen’s beef fell a bit short and her dessert much less refined than promised. Not to mention her BIGGEST mistake - she didn’t assemble the right team.
Hey Girl. I'll see you soon!

By picking Josie just to have an extra body, she doomed herself from the get-go. That plus the fact that she’s never managed a staff or a restaurant of this size killed her.

So with that said, it was the right call by the judges. Kristen had to pack her knives and go. 

Now...go watch Last Chance Kitchen!!!

Phew. In the immortal words of Big Chris in Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, “It’s been emotional.”

Thanks for stopping by and hopefully we’ll see you next week under more pleasant circumstances!!

As always, any feedback and a follow @Chez would be much appreciated!