Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef Seattle Episode 4 Recap: “50’s Food Flashback”

Friday, November 30, 2012

Top Chef Seattle Episode 4 Recap: “50’s Food Flashback”

It’s week 4 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle and right away we start off with...DRAMA.

Instead of opening with the Quickfire Challenge, we pick up where we left off last week in the stew room with John Tesar making friends by telling everyone that Kuniko Yagi deserved her demise. (She got sent packing last week.)

“You can do potatoes in your sleep as a chef...”

I don’t know if he’s playing head games or just being a douche. What I DO know is pretty much everyone else thinks he’s a douche. CJ is trying to be civil in curbing the douchiness, but John retaliates harshly, “You’re full of shit right now.” 

Our Mustachioed Crusader (Josh Valentine) jumps in and call Tesar tactless, only to catch an insult of his own about being from Oklahoma. Gauntlets have been thrown!

Valentine blasts some personal salvos, citing all the reasons why Tesar is known as “The Most Hated Chef”

“How many restaurants have you opened and failed? Walked away from? Not showed up for events? That’s why you’re an a**hole!”

Feeling surrounded, Tesar blurts out the most egregious statement of the season.

“You pretend to have balls but you have no balls.”

**Sidebar: For those of you who missed Top Chef Season 3, CJ is a testicular cancer survivor. I haven’t mentioned it because I think it’s uncouth and it doesn’t seem that’s something CJ wants to be known for. I don’t blame him. If you haven’t already you can see why John Tesar gets his “most hated” title. 

Ah...we're one step closer to Top Housewives of Seattle. Oy.

Instead of moving on to the "cooking" part of Top Chef the show cuts to the chefs' apartment. Where we see with a gratuitous scene of Stefan giving Kristen a foot massage. It’s like watching a snail crawling up a princess’ leg. Plus, feet. Really?! That’s not appetizing! *shudder* 

Can we get to the cooking PLEASE??

Finally. Quickfire Challenge

The chefs walks into the Top Chef kitchen and standing in front of a curtain is a puffy shirt wearing Padma Lakshmi with this week’s Quickfire guest judge, Naomi Pomeroy.

Naomi is a James Beard Award nominee, Top Chef Masters alum, and owner of the restaurant, Beast. With that name in mind...

Beauties and the Beasts
Padma lowers the curtain to reveal two giant sides of beef dangling on a hook, hoisted by a mini cranes. In between the swaying bovine carcasses, two huge cleavers embedded into a cutting board. It’s a vegetarian’s nightmare.

The chefs will have one hour to butcher and showcase a dish featuring their favorite cut of beef. Winner will have immunity.

Chef Pomeroy would like them to think of these sides of beef as a blank canvass. How poetic. I might try taking a cleaver to a blank canvass. Imagine if I took a cleaver to a Rothko? Wait. Too soon?

Everyone’s hacking away, trying to get their choice cuts. Frankly it’s looking more like “gimme whatever cut I can get.” The key is quickly get what you need and start cooking.

Tyler Wiard is “in a funk.” He was on the bottom last week with a weak gumbo so now he’s thinking outside the box and making a Hispanic style crudo. His enthusiasm and “aw shucks” personality is quite endearing. Not that I think he’s gonna win. Not at all.

Have you seen the movie Saw?
Gotta say. The high level of techniques shown during this quickfire was really impressive. Stefan made ravioli, John and Micah braised ox tail, Lizzie pressure cooked some shank. To carve out a cut from a slab of beef that size and make some steak frites would be tough enough, let alone attempting these time-consuming preparations. Tip-O-the-Cap to them.

If you really want to understand the difficulty and artistry of butchering a whole side of beef (if you’re reading this then you probably do) check out this great video of Tom Mylan, butcher from Marlow and Daughters in Williamsburg, Brooklyn NY. 

Hour’s up.

Eliza - Grilled Flank Steak with Cherry Cognac Reduction, Asparagus & Potato Cake.

John Tesar - Braised Oxtail, Potato Gnocchi with Roasted Vegetables & Celery.

Josh - Beef Meatballs with Creamy Polenta & Pickled Shallots.

Sheldon - Kalbi Round Steak with Tomato Cardamom Broth & Fennel Salad.

Hanger Steak
Brooke - Grilled Hanger Steak with Smoked Onion Figs & Cauliflower Puree’.
Tyler - Hispanic Crudo with Charred Tomato Sauce & Cilantro Raddish Slaw.

Kristen - Top Sirloin Tartare with Mustard Sabayon & Carpaccio Salad.

Micah - Oxtail Polenta with Truffled Romanesco Cauliflower.

Carla - Sirloin Medallion Wrapped in Bacon, Asiago Risotto with Marsala Sauce.

Stefan - Braised Top Round Ravioli with Marjoram & Aged Parmesan.

CJ - Top Round Tartare, Raw Juniper & Kohlrabi

Chrissy - Grilled Hanger Steak with Brown Butter, Parsley & Radish Salad.

Lizzie - Braised Foreshank with Turnips & Dill.

Less Successful dishes:

Lizzie’s beef foreshank was just too tough. If you’ve ever tried to make osso buco you’d understand just how ambitious it was to do this in under an hour. Pressure cooker or not.

Eliza’s flank steak was cooked well, but why on Earth did she pair asparagus and cherry? Judges didn’t like that combo either. Bottom.

Poor Tyler. His Hispanic crudo just “fell short and it was also a little under seasoned” as well. He looks like he’s about cry.

“I can’t do ANYTHING right.” *slump*

The Contenders:

CJ’s tartare was “fantastic,” and Naomi complimented him on the knife work. I thought CJ showed some of his Copenhagen influences here with the raw kohlrabi and juniper as I’ve seen a few dishes from NOMA with those products. You know what, from his earlier bravado during the challenge, CJ thought so too. 

Beef sushi. NOMA Style.
“This is the kind of dish if they don’t like it, then ‘screw you.’ They don’t know what’s good.” Bold words.

Naomi also liked John’s oxtail with gnocchi. He managed to successfully braise the oxtail, and create a "lovely"sauce due to the gelatin in the bones. From CJ’s (albeit edited) reaction you’d think his prom date just left with John. Ha!

The final contender was Josh’s meatball and polenta. This was a stroke of genius. Beef is beef. So regardless of cut, if you can break it down prior to cooking by making a meatball, you’ve removed the “is it tender?” factor out of the equation. The flavors all came together and the meatball was “perfect.”

When in doubt. Go with Polenta.
Note to self. Master the heck of out how to make a killer polenta. I cannot tell you how many times through 10 seasons a top 3 dish involved polenta. You know why? Because when done correctly it’s the perfect warm gooey delicious hug from the inside you can give someone. I have just one word for you chefs..."Polenta. There's great future in Polenta."

As if the Bravo producers themselves orchestrated this riveting scenario, the top 3 dishes were made by the same 3 chefs who had it out last night. How fortuitous! (Obviously they didn’t, but isn’t funny how things turn out? Ah reality’re so cheeky.)

The best beef goes to...

John and his oxtail. Personality aside, to pull off braised oxtail and gnocchi in that time limit is really impressive. Say what you want, the man can cook. 

Elimination Challenge

Canlis, a family-owned iconic restaurant has been open in Seattle since 1950. Its’ chefs and staff have won multiple awards and nominations ranging from James Beard Foundation to Food and Wine Magazine to Wine Spectator Magazine. 

With that, Padma introduces Mark and Brian Canlis. The brothers explain how 62 years ago their grandfather’s vision became the “Birthplace of Northwest Cuisine.” Since then, most of the old menu items are gone except for one, the Canlis’ Special Salad. So the challenge is, for one special night only, to revive Canlis’ original menu.

Sweater are very IN in Seattle.
The winner of this challenge will receive $10,000 furnished by Healthy Choice. Oh did I mention this will be a double elimination challenge?! WOMP.

Time to divvy up the menu items.

I don’t know the exact science behind who-gets-what. Chefs are yelling out what they want and somehow Stefan is in the center of it all, playing the role of auctioneer.

In a stroke of evil genius, Stefan bogarts the calf liver and suggests Carla take squab. 

Carla says she’s nervous on camera. I have no idea why, given her personality, she didn’t refuse the squab and fight for something she’s comfortable with. 

Chrissy ends up with the signature Canlis’ Special Salad. Of all the dishes this is the one that’s been around for 62 years. It’s going to be difficult to duplicate such an iconic flavor. Any misstep could spell trouble.

Since he has immunity, John volunteers to expedite. This seems like a good idea at first and no one said anything. If you don’t have to expedite, you can just concentrate on your dish. However, the expeditor is the organizer who calls out orders and decides when and how the dishes get sent out. So he has control the tempo and pace of the ENTIRE service. That’s a lot of power for someone who doesn’t have any stakes in the challenge.

Day of the event.

Everyone is enjoying the beautiful kitchen at Canlis. For once there is just cooking. No yelling, no drama, just cooking. *sigh of content*

Kristen has two side dishes. Fried onions and sauteed mushrooms. She’s not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse because fewer ingredients means EVERYTHING needs to be perfect. But then again, how is she going to showcase her talents with two sides dishes?

Josh is making the classic French Onion soup. I’m not sure if he’s happy about it or not because he’s telling us there aren’t a lot of onion soups floating around in Oklahoma. He also felt the need to share that in the 50’s his grandparents used to eat bull testicles. Sorry buddy. Zimmeran’s got that market cornered. 

Tom can you get the photog to get more cooking shots?
Meanwhile Carla clearly has NO idea which direction she wanted to prepare the pigeons (Oh you didn't know? Yeah, pigeons.) She’s doing her best HULK SMASH impression by literally pounding these little pigeons flat. Oh Carla...the lights starting to dim, aren’t they?

Is CJ confused? Because I swore he said that he was going to sous vide his shish-kabob before sending it out. Ya you know. That popular popular 50‘s cooking technique, cooking “under vaccum.” Hm. We’ll see.

Guests are starting to roll in. Time for service.

Joining us this week as always, our lovely host Padma Lakshmi and head judge Tom Colicchio, also culinary superstar Emeril Legasse along with James Beard Award winner Hugh Acheson. Top Chef alum Naomi Pomeroy and the Canlis Brothers are also there, but not as actual judges.

First up. The Appetizers:

Tyler - Fresh Crab Cocktail
Judges really liked the salad. Tyler kept it simple and let the Dungeness crab shine. Tom also particularly liked the chopped lettuce at the bottom of the cup, a nice surprise. Way to go Tyler. You did something right after all! 

Lizzie - Marinated Herring
Everyone loved the herring. It’s got tons of acid, flavorful, and most of all judges loved the ballsy move of serving it with saltine crackers. Big hit all around.

You call this Onion Soup?!
Josh - French Onion Soup
There were some issues with Josh’s soup. It’s cold, too salty, and not enough cheese on the hard-to-eat crouton. My question is, why was it not in one of those two-toned onion soup crock bowls?! If at any time on Top Chef you get to use those things it's now! Ugh. Kitsch opportunity squandered. 

John - Steamed Clams Bordelaise
John’s clams were good. Good flavor, cooked nicely, it’s steamed clams for christ sake! Moving on.

Chrissy - Canlis Special Salad
Her salad was way over dressed, croutons soggy, and just not crispy and fresh like the original. What did I tell you. There’s a saying in baseball that “you never f**k with a streak.” Well this salad has had a 62 year long streak! She was doomed from the start.
The term here is "drenched."

Brooke - Seafood Salad A la Louis
Her salad looked like a cover of Life Magazine. All the shellfish were nicely cooked. However, Naomi had issues with the green beans being slightly under cooked. Oh Naomi, don’t you know that Tom likes his vegetables al dente? 

Overall Tom thought the appetizer course was very nice. He felt “visually” it channeled the 50’s. 

Second Course:

We see the first hiccup of the night. Carla’s squabs kept getting sent back to the kitchen. It's either over cooked, undercooked, or just plain inedible. Not good. 

John, as if he needs MORE screen time, steps up to introduce everyone’s dishes.

Sheldon - Fresh Hawaiian Mahi Mahi
Nicely done. Bright, fresh, nicely emulsified beurre blanc.

Pigeon of Doom

Carla - Whole Milk Fed Squab
While Padma enjoyed the squab, Tom DISMISSED it (literally with a gesture of his hand and an irritated expression) Breast should have been removed and it wasn’t boned properly. Discussion over. 

Micah - Mixed Vegetables
Somehow Micah screws up the veggies. Carrots way under, turnips were too done. But you get a sense for some reason he’s getting a pass.

Stefan - Calf’s Liver & (Kristen’s) Crispy Onions
Everyone liked the liver. Tom thought it was nicely cooked and seasoned, and Emeril’s just glad Stefan “finally respected the product...finally left something alone.”

Bart - Double Cut New York Steak
Nobody was really that passionate either way about the steak. I think he gets by another week.

Josie - Gargantuan Baked Idaho Potato
Ah it’s baked potato. Could have been hotter, could have had crispier skin, but it’s a POTATO. As long as it’s cooked and seasoned, it’s gonna be ok.

CJ - Shish Kebab with Pilaf
Another poor showing for CJ. Under seasoned, pilaf not up to par, and the lamb was mealy. Tom suspects he sous vide the kabob. Yup he sure did. Hopefully we’ll find out why??

Kristen - French Mushrooms (and Crispy Onions)
Tom and Huge raved about the mushrooms. They were caramelized well, not too much moisture - one of Tom’s favorites of the evening.


Danyele - Vanilla Ice Cream and Royal Hawaiian Supreme

Eliza - Mint Sherbet and Fresh Hawaiian Pineapple Parfait

It's SO natural looking!
Zzzzzz...honestly nobody really cared about the dessert. It was sweet, it was green, it was fine. Moving on.

During the post dinner discussion, the Brother Canlis were kind of offended by Chrissy’s salad. Considering it was their namesake, it was way over dressed and just fell flat.

Carla’s squab was pretty much unforgivable. It wasn’t properly boned, really over cooked, Emeril couldn’t even cut into his piece.

CJ’s kabob wasn’t seasoned well, wasn’t cooked well, and the rice was soggy. Just a poorly executed dish.

Lastly, Josh’s onion soup was way too salty, and not enough goopy cheese on the croutons. 

Judges’ Table

Padma comes into the civil and peaceful kitchen area of Canlis which the chefs used as this week's stew room and picks out Lizzie, Kristen, Tyler, and Stefan. It’s good to be the chosen few.

This Judges’ Table was at the restaurant itself. So the ambience was slightly different. Somehow it seem...not as scary, but the whole place had a more insidious Twin Peaks vibe. 

Padma tells the four chefs that they had the best dishes of the evening. Tyler lets out a tremendous sigh of relief, Lizzie is her composed self, and Stefan, inspired by the earlier foot massage, moves in on Kristen with a arm-around-the-shoulder-smooch-on-the-cheek maneuver! As they would say during 50's, “Oh my word!”

Hugh summed it up best when he said that the “50's was such an iconic time of reveling in simplicity...”

Kristen Kush wins with her simple by perfectly executed Sauteed Mushrooms and Cripsy Onions!

I'll pay you $10,000 to never touch me again.
She’s elated. Hell, $10,000 for ‘shrooms and onions, why not! 

*Stefan! Stop touching her!!*

The touchy feely Stefan gives two thumbs up and is “super happy” Kristen won. Super creepy.

Once again it just goes to show that you don’t have to be showy to win a challenge. Just execute to perfection. That is all. (Easy said than done huh.)

Dead Chefs Walking time...

Carla, Chrissy, CJ, and Josh are called to the “dark side” of the Judges’ Table. Two of them are going home.

Time for some answers. Let’s see how these guys fight for survival.

Josh could not believe his soup was cold! Hugh helped him out by asking about John’s expediting. Obviously last night’s bad blood was evident to everyone in the room.

Chrissy had no defense. Too much oil, too little mint and lemon. 

Carla didn’t check on her dishes as it was being cooked. That’s a HUGE no no. It didn’t matter that she wasn’t actually operating the grill. It was her dish and she should have been making sure that every single one of those squabs were cooked correctly before letting it go out. The multiple dishes sent back meant she failed in doing so. Tom's disgusted. The proverbial fat lady just hit the crescendo. 
Why must you disappoint me so?
Yeah. CJ did sous vide his lamb kabobs. That’s why they were mealy. It was also dry and flavorless. Being the wily veteran, he quickly admits his mistake but argues that he shouldn’t go home for that dish.

In the end...

Carla and Chrissy gets the boot.

Oh Chrissy, you see what happens when you tread on Emeril’s trademarked catch phrase last week? “BAM!” now you’re gone.

Carla Carla Carla. I wish, like your fellow chefs, that I can say that I’ll miss you...but we all know that’s not the truth. Plus, I’m sure Bravo Andy’s already working on developing your own show, “LOL Top Flipping Out of Vegas Strip?” Eh. Working title. "Top Chef, Top Ass?" Possibly.

Aww I kid. I’m sure she’s a lovely and fun person, just REALLY would not want to cook in the same kitchen with her. 

Bye ladies. Good luck in Last Chance Kitchen!

Next week...

Well. The only thing you need to know about next week is this:


Remember in season 5 when Tom was so disappointed he came back to the stew room and totally bitched everyone out with the famous, “You’re not going to win Top Chef with deviled eggs!” speech?

Well it looks like we’re due for an encore!

Have a great week!

As always. Be great if you followed me on twitter @ChezWu



  1. Wow, so interesting, it was like watching the show! Too bad they don't show it here in Sicily. I found you on Twitter.

    1. Thanks so much for reading! Glad you liked it! We'll be here all season long so stay tuned!