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Top Chef: Seattle – Episode 7 – Drat! Foiled again!

After this week’s elimination, we have this season’s Top 10 in place (sort of, thanks to LCK and the text contest) and it becomes a legitimate exercise to begin speculation based on performance and edits as to who will be left standing when the season winds down. I’ll be doing that a bit later on. But first, we have a Massive Product Placement Challenge on our hands, and a good, old-fashioned head-to-head berry battle. Well, maybe that’s not old-fashioned. Except perhaps in Berry Country. Which is very different from Bear Country.
Boy, I’m digressing already and we’re only in the first paragraph.

Our Top 11 get the dual challenges of cooking while only using aluminum foil, and then seeing who can win head-to-head battles while using berries. And for the second week in a row, the winner of the Quickfire went on to win the Elimination Challenge. In this case, that winner of the Quickfire, due to the odd number, was not slated to go head-to-head with anyone. This meant no pressure – no worries about what someone else were doing, and no worries about elimination. That led to – just like Brooke last week – freedom to just cut loose and cook. And again, it worked. Perhaps more chefs down the road will take this path and just go for it after winning immunity.

Another thing we got was the ongoing antagonism between Monkey and everyone – while most of it has focused on OTV in the previous episodes, this week it was Stefan The Thumb’s turn to battle. It took the form of smack talk that started early on and just kept going throughout the head-to-head challenge. Monkey latched onto Thumb’s odd decision to use frozen fish – oftentimes, a kiss of death on Top Chef. Thumb kept insisting it was some sort of magical frozen fish that was better than gold or something. He got mad to see Monkey use it against him, whatever. Of course he’s going to use it against you – if you lose the battle you are going to face elimination. Every man, woman and Monkey for themselves.

We got another interesting plotline which based on next week’s previews could be something on the way. That plotline is that Josie is one odd duck. She had nothing for her dish – and she knew it, so she instead presented her food in a rambling, insane demo style that made the judges wonder if she was high. The telling shot was the long, long line at her station while Lizzie had no one waiting endlessly for a dish. The extra scene featured Monkey and OTV commenting about the nails on the chalkboard nature of her laugh. In the Stew Room, post-elimination, Josie flipped the bird to Thumb and got into it again. Next week she mixes it up. Are we about to witness the overdue unraveling of Josie? Honestly, I’m still surprised to see her on the show again – were there no other female chefs who were willing to come back?

Quickfire – Padma arrives with Steph, still the only woman to win ANY incarnation of Top Chef. Regular, Masters or Just Desserts. That’s still incredible to me. Steph is now apparently Food & Wine’s Best New Chef. And she still has awesome hair. The challenge is enwrapped in the episode’s product placement. Meaning that it is enwrapped in Reynolds Wrap. The whole friggin kitchen is wrapped in foil. Chefs have to select their ingredients – but everything is in foil. If they open it…it’s in the dish. We learn that Kish has a photographic memory here – which comes in awfully handy if everything is kept in the same place. Another twist – they can also only use foil to cook with. Nice. Micah wants to be Superman for this and see through things. That would easily be the lamest use of Superman powers in pop culture.

Latex Salesman is excited about the challenge and comes within one step of covering himself in foil.
Monkey gets pineapple and gets all sad. Kish amazingly decides to make a sponge cake in 30 minutes, with random ingredients and only foil to cook with and on. Hipster actually constructs a pot out of foil. I also wonder – did they just mop in there? Because the chefs keep slipping and sliding everywhere.

Hipster – Cannellini Bean Stew with Bacon, Asiago Cheese and Tomatillo – Steph likes the tomatillo addition to the dish.

Micah – Grilled Lamb with Tomato Fennel Panzanella – Padma found the lamb to be quite rare.

Thumb – Hot Smoked Salmon with German Potato Salad – He says something snarky about Asian flavors. I don’t know; I couldn’t make it out.

Monkey – Beef Egg Drop Soup with Braised Pineapple – Hmm…sounds gross.

Brooke – Bacon Roasted Yams with Bacon, Onions and Apple Salad – Padma thinks it was raw. Brooke had me at bacon roasted.

OTV – Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Poblano, Tomatillo and Carrots – Steph liked the poblanos’ heat. I wonder if OTV or Hipster found the tomatillos first.

Kish – Almond and Chocolate Sponge Cake – Steph loved the moist texture.

Latex – Beer Poached Cod with Butter Beer Sauce – Isn’t butterbeer from Hogwarts? Anyway, Latex Salesman also fashioned a bowl out of the foil – he apparently also made a strainer. How did he find the time? Steph liked the fish.

Papa Smurf – Lemongrass Smoked Scallops with Tomato and Shallot Salad – Steph can really taste the smokiness.

The bottom feeders this week were Brooke for seasoning issues, Micah for rare lamb and OTV for chicken issues. Steph then surprisingly names six for the top – Josie, Latex, Thumb, Hipster, Papa Smurf and Kish. The cake earns the win for Kish, who gets immunity. The Top 6 becomes apparent as soon as the Elimination Challenge is unveiled. They pick their head-to-head opponent. This style of challenge was Steph’s first in her season. Kish will be cooling solo.

Papa Smurf takes Micah first, seemingly for his age, but one wonders if that’s who he thinks is the weakest of those to select from. Hipster takes OTV for an Oklahoma/Texas battle. Thumb takes Monkey, which I found odd. He knows Brooke, so I get that, but I wonder if he thinks Lizzie is stronger than Monkey. Anyway, Josie takes Lizzie, leaving Brooke for Latex. They have to cook something with a berry ingredient for 150 guests, three hours to cook and ten grand on the line.

Kish gets the tayberry and instantly thinks about goat milk. Papa Smurf and the Thumb battle over fresh tuna, leading the Thumb to go for the frozen tuna. Latex and Monkey go at it over a blender – with Monkey even provoking the Belgian to call him a jackass. Later on, the blender gets its revenge on OTV by spraying gravy on him. OTV sees into the future and thinks Hipster is spending far too much time on her chicken.

Hipster vs. OTV in Blueberry

Hipster – Chicken Pine Nut Terrine with Blueberry Mostarda – Steph found it very, very, very crunchy. Tom said it was rubbery and lacked flavor.

OTV – Savory Goat Cheese Mousse with Blueberry Compote – Tom felt he did a good job with the spices, and Gail said it was well-balanced and delicate. Tom jokes about how if you want a crunch, just eat Hipster’s dish. Ouch.

Winner – OTV

Josie vs. Lizzie in Raspberry

Josie – “Rock’n” Raspberry Roll – Sockeye Salmon, Dungeness Crab and Raspberry Aioli – The judges wonder if she’s actually killing the crab back there. Gail loved the berry usage, just not the taste. Tom can’t believe she made a spring roll with Mayo.

Lizzie – Raspberry Steamed Cabbage Roll and Heritage Pork and Bacon Stuffing – Padma loved it. Steph felt it was a great combo and risky dish.

Winner – Lizzie.

Papa Smurf vs. Micah in Strawberries

Papa Smurf – Ahi Summer Roll – Ahi Poke, Strawberries and Sweet Chili Sauce – Steph found it odd, but it worked. Gail liked the berry highlight.

Micah – Strawberry Fried Chicken with Strawberry and Bacon Biscuit – Gail liked the chicken, but the others were more meh about it.

Winner – Papa Smurf.

Monkey vs. Thumb in Gooseberries

Monkey – White Gazpacho with Spanish Chorizo, Gooseberries and Sweet Grapes – Steph found the berry overpowered. Padma found it too dense.

Thumb – Cali Crudo with Radishes, Gooseberries and Spiced Vinaigrette – Gail thought it was beautiful and Tom liked the sauce.
Winner – Thumb.

Brooke vs. Latex Salesman in Blackberries

Brooke – Spicy Smoked Chocolate Pudding with Blackberry Tapioca – Gail and Steph each thought the dish was smart.

Latex Salesman – Blackberry Soup with Salmon and Rhubarb Yogurt – Tom found it to be pretty bland.
Winner – Brooke.

Kish – Matcha Goat Milk Custard with Macerated Tayberries – Tom liked the custard, and Steph seemed impressed by the maceration.

Monkey, Josie, Latex Salesman, Micah and Hipster get sent in. Thumb mocks those who are worried, “Of course that’s the bottom, are you high?” Tom tells them that the diners selected them as the bottom – just as the judges would have done. Micah had a good concept, but Gail thinks it was too chewy and not enough strawberries. Josie’s was poorly executed and had awful mayo in the roll. Latex had some texture issues and should have not added the salmon. Hipster was halfway to a good concept, according to Tom, but just stopped. Padma thought it was lunchmeat salty. Remember that. Monkey was close, but had grainy chorizo. He blamed the crazy kitchen, but Tom reminded him that everyone had the same cooking challenges.

Meanwhile, the top chefs come in and Kish is announced the winner. Two weeks in a row for the double wins – first Brooke, now Kish. That’s three wins for Kish now, and we have to start looking at her as being a threat to join Steph.

Back to the bottom – Latex was a nitpick loss, so he’s safe. Micah did a lousy job on the berry and is in trouble. Josie didn’t have a clear flavor, while Hipster needed to cook hers to order. Monkey was full of excuses, but used the berry well. I felt that it was either Micah or Josie to go, but it turns out to have been Hipster.

LCK – Hipster vs. CJ

Because of Padma’s criticism of her dish tasting like salty lunchmeat, the two will have to make a sandwich with lunchmeat. CJ doesn’t usually do that. Hipster is excited. They have 15 minutes to shop, and 20 to make the sandwich. Hipster is making the sandwich she makes every day for herself. If she loses, at least she can eat the sandwich. CJ is making his own butter for his. Camba is wearing a “Big Ceej” T-Shirt. The Wiz encourages him to reach is “inner Ceej”, and Hipster is hoping he doesn’t mean her.

CJ – Vietnamese Inspired Ham and Butter Sandwich with Apple and Radicchio

Hipster – Oven-Roasted Turkey, Bacon and Avocado Sandwich with Pickled Onions

Tom found CJ’s to have too much bread, it had nice flavors. Hipster’s was the exact opposite, the bread fell apart. He suggested putting the lettuce on the outside to protect the bread from the avocado.
CJ survives again, and Hipster takes the sandwich.

Quickfire Hits
• Monkey thinks that the Quickfire presents a better shot at radio reception – only if you use those stupid glasses with the foil, Monkey.
• I never heard of a tayberry until this challenge. I was hoping for a snozberry. But who’s ever heard of a snozberry? Of course, the music makers and the dreamers of dreams.
• Seriously? Kish and Thumb snuggling on the couch again? What’s up with that?
• We learned that you can say “dickhead” on basic cable. Good to know.
• Kish was an orphan in South Korea before coming to America. Glad she found a family.
• Should I start calling Brooke, Fancy Girl Brooke?
• Micah named his kids Sage and Saffron. Wow. At least they weren’t stripper names like Cayenne and Cinnamon.
• Please just boot Monkey already, because if I have to write about his dickishness for more episodes.

Next week – Mud and roller derby

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