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Top Chef: Seattle – Episode 2 – Survivor Comes To Top Chef

Welcome to Seattle. Officially. Here we go – Feature. Showcase. Cash. Title. On the line. We have 15 chefs who survived the cut and they are filing in to the Top Chef Kitchen for the first Quickfire. I am sure nothing unexpected will happen…

Guess what! It does. How did I not know that Top Chef was going to pull a Survivor and bring back past contestants to compete with new ones? Was this public? Am I THAT clueless? All of these are possibilities. And yet, here we are. What surprised me is that even after CJ, Finn and Josie were brought in, I never thought this would be what was going on. I even thought – boy, that’s a random collection of past chefs. What I don’t understand is why these three? I can understand Stefan – Finn, as I called him way back in Season 4, since he’s Finnish (I’m so clever) – since he arguably got robbed of the title that season when Hosea benefitted from the genius of Richard Blais and nabbed the win from Finn.

But CJ and Josie? CJ had a respectable sixth place finish in Season 3, but Josie went out in 11th place in Season 2, eliminated before the immortal Michael Midgley departed. It’s almost as if the producers threw a bunch of names in a hat and pulled this trio out. Glad to see CJ – who I liked a lot in Season 3 – but I don’t think anyone was clamoring for his return. And most fans have long forgotten who Josie was in the first place. CJ is hard to forget – not often you get to see a giant.

So, anyway, these three join our 15 and we have 18 chefs this season as a result. To refresh – joining Finn, CJ and Josie: the good-looking crew of JJ, Micah and Kish. The potential villains – Tesar, The Wiz and the Real Housewife. The beard and moustache of Old Timey Villain (OTV). The English impaired Yagi Bear. The man in the Red Hat – now to known as Papa Smurf. The Belgian who has so many potential nicknames – I am sticking with Latex. And the rest of the ladies – Lizzie, Hipster, Brooke, Eliza and Camba.

A lot of good nicknames and last names this year.

Anyway, with so many chefs there is very little room for anything other than the challenges. The non-cooking parts of this week’s episode basically focus on the reaction to the returning players. Just like Survivor – they ain’t happy about this twist – especially OTV. It did seem that Josie was starting to be accepted into the fold mid-episode, but I assume most of the conflict will be between Finn and the group. Just like in Season 4. If anything, Finn seems to have become more arrogant over time.

Quickfire – CJ, Finn and Josie judge with Padma. And, may I say so, so nice to have you back, Padma. My TV was lonely without you. The task was to group into five teams of three and make a shellfish dish in 20 minutes. The teams all seem to race for the geoduck. Or as it is pronounced, gooey duck. No idea why we don’t spell it that way – so much cooler. The reason for the preference – it cooks quicker. Smart reason. Tesar instantly shows that he lacks political correctness by saying he chose Yagi Bear because she was Japanese and must have good knife skills. He also started to strategize while Padma was still explaining. DUDE! Don’t interrupt Padma. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. Padma stops and tells him “excuse me, I’m not finished.” You’ve been warned.

Brooke foreshadows a bit for the Elimination when she notes the contrasting styles within her team – especially with Latex. The Wiz works with John Elway – and as a Dan Marino fan, it makes me not like him. The teams scramble, and Hipster barely finishes, so no plating issues this year.

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