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Top Chef: Seattle – Episode 8 – Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Sorry for the delay, but not only has my agenda been jam packed, I just cannot understand why Bravo keeps running new episodes during holidays. It’s almost as if they don’t have a calendar in the corporate offices.

This week’s episode furthered the plotline of Josie as a Crazy Person, and added some new elements to the Saga of Monkey – the Most Hated Glasses on TV. We learned some more about Monkey’s personal life and his falling out with his daughter. This was brought out during his pairing with Brooke, leading to some emotion and a very good working relationship with the younger woman. And then (SPOILER ALERT) at the end of the episode after it was announced that they had won the challenge, Brooke is shown reveling in the win, while Monkey laments how much sweeter a solo win would have been. Come on. I really hope that was an out of context quote and he was really not being that dickish. But, based on the behavior in previous episodes…not very confident about that.

Meanwhile, we got an early read on what the episode would focus on at the very beginning when Stefan “The Thumb” woke up and began railing about Josie and how the mere sound of her voice caused him distress. The whole thing blew up when the chefs attended the roller derby to watch the inspiration for their Elimination Challenge compete. Josie was there to be THAT fan at every sporting event who yells crap at the players from far away and who tries to get rhythmic clapping going, chants and perhaps the wave. THAT fan makes me want throw everything I have the ability to throw at them. THAT fan is what makes people not want to go to games. It ain’t about you, THAT fan. Shut up. And watch the damn game.

OTV (Josh, for those new to the column, short for Old Timey Villain) continues to complain about the Josie Show back at Olive 8. It seems Josie had a few too many which led to her loudness. OTV mentions some spilled beer and loudness. Micah is with OTV and the group out on the patio while Josie lies down on the couch, presumably to pass out. I read this next incident as Josie knew they were talking about her and heard Micah’s voice, so she decided to confront him. He told her no one was calling her names, and she said she had every right to call him an a-hole or a d-bag. She then waved her hands up and down her body and said, “This tree right here?!? Don’t bark up it.” She then implied that Micah was “hiding in the closet,” which I assume meant she thought she was outing him. Then she ended with “Namaste, bitches,” which I think implies the exact opposite of what Namaste is supposed to mean. OTV spoke for the viewers when he asked, “What just happened?”

What just happened was Josie continued to go crazy, and this season continued to have a lot of attention being paid to chefs behaving badly. Whether it be the insanity of Josie, the obnoxiousness of Monkey, the chatter of the Real Housewife, or the surliness of OTV, there have been plenty of Chefs Gone Wild. Who knew that a season featuring all of this anti-social behavior would have Stefan The Thumb nowhere to be found? He may not be mellow, but he sure is more enjoyable to watch.

Something else he gets…talking about the product placement in glowing terms will guarantee you some face time on camera. It may also shave off a piece of your soul, but hey, camera time.

Quickfire – The chefs head to the shore and are told to dig up their own oysters to be used in the challenge. How many other shows send contestants into nature and witness them eating the local wildlife raw and in the wild? The challenge is to make oysters on the half shell for Emeril. Daunting task. Five of the chefs will make them cold, the other five hot. Overcooking is a big risk with oysters as they are a very delicate meat. Five grand to the winner, no mention of immunity.

Papa Smurf Sheldon wanted hot, but got cold. Brooke can’t open the shells very well and Micah is excited to cook for Emeril. Bart the Latex Salesman (check your Seinfeld trivia based on his last name) is making the risky champagne sauce oysters, as there is just a short time to cook. Monkey is making garlic butter New Orleans-style, except he is layering with a light foam of parmesan and garlic rather than cheese. The Thumb is smoking oysters – which I think is now legal in Colorado. Josie is making Spanish Rockefeller and has her sauce break with only 4:30 left.

Kish – Hot (she sure is!) – Oysters with Caramelized Honey Tomato Broth, Celery Leaves and Chili – Emeril likes the celery.

Thumb – Cold – Smoked Oysters with Potato Vinaigrette and Flash Frozen Salt – Emeril says there is a nice crunch.

OTV – Cold – Oysters with Pickled Cucumbers, White Soy, Cilantro and Red Chili – Emeril asks if he shucks a lot? No, he does not.

Lizzie – Cold – Oysters with Crushed Currant Juice, Crushed Pink Peppercorn – Emeril liked the drizzle.

Brooke – Cold – Oysters with Salsa Verde, Cilantro, Horseradish and Red Chili – Emeril has shell shards. Not good.

Monkey – Hot – Oysters Poached in Garlic Butter with Swiss Chard and Garlic-Parmesan Foam – Emeril says the cheese is not heavy.

Josie – Hot – Wood-Roasted Oysters with Chorizo and Cilantro Cream – Emeril said there was not overpowering chorizo flavors.

Micah – Hot – Crispy Fried Oysters with Arugula Salad, Hot Sauce and Lemon – Emeril likes the seasoning, it was not overpowering.

Latex Salesman – Hot – Oysters with Champagne, Butter and Cream – Padma asked if he roasted at end? Yep, he did.

Papa Smurf – Cold – Oysters with Chilled Old Bay Broth and Ginger Scallion Pesto – Emeril liked the hints of ginger.

Bottom Group – The Latex Salesman, the richness of the champagne sauce masked the oyster flavor. Josie, for her broken sauce. And Monkey for the cheese that had no pop.

Top Group – Lizzie. Emeril loved chance she took with berries. Micah. It was risky, and the spices popped. Brooke. The salsa had beautiful flavors, and didn’t take away from oyster. Winner – Micah. It was his first win, and he being a single dad – needs the money.

Elimination Challenge – Roller girls. Josie is super psyched, as we have already discussed. It seems she was a “Pro” football player. I think I remember that from her season for some reason. Lizzie is just worried that she won’t have to cook on roller skates. The chefs will be cooking for the wrap party of their season. The chefs will be cooking in teams of two. Monkey winds up with Brooke – Brookey – which I am not sure is a nickname she authorized. Latex Salesman commented that no one wants Josie, but he’ll be a team player. Big mistake.

Five skaters are present and all have a nickname – Teriyaki Terror, Jalapeno Business, Eddie Shredder, Kutta Rump and Tempura Tantrum. As the QF winner, Micah gets the first choice and takes Jalapeno. Papa Smurf is next and takes Tempura. Thumb takes Eddie. Brooke –Kutta. Josie gets Teriyaki.

During prep, the key moments include Josie wanting aggressive spice based on her heritage. But Latex is afraid of over-spicing his part of the meal. Thumb teases Monkey about going to roller rinks in the 50s. Monkey reveals that on those old dates he ate pizza and the girl ignored him. He also revealed how his wife left him years ago with his 18 month old daughter. Monkey sure has a past on him. OTV & Papa Smurf at making a tempura dessert – Tantrums in your mouth sauces. That team is the husky mustaches team.

Thumb scoffs at Micah’s team’s choice of a stuffed jalapeno as not being bold and daring? He also tells Kish that in 1986 he was 14 years old…and she was three.

Padma, Emeril, Tom, and Monobrow are doing the judging. Or should I say, Padma Smacks Me. Heh. And Bam Bam Legasse.

Monkey/Brooke – Thai Beef with Lobster Jasmine Rice and Thai Slaw – Padma says it smells nice. Mono says the flavors build well; it has a nice acid, and limeyness of the slaw. It sure is spicy and Mono says it was quite bold.

Josie/Latex – Steak Teriyaki with Forbidden Rice, Beet Blood and Green Papaya Salad – The roller girl calls it unique. Mono asks if it is unique good, or unique crappy. She says it was too earthy. Mono suggest that means unique crappy. Tom wonders why skewer individual pieces, since you have to sauté each of them.

Lizzie/Micah – Crab-stuffed Jalapeno with Avocado Cream, Onion and Pepper Relish – Jalapeno Roller Girl is totally eyeing up Padma! Mono says it was better than he thought, and then he reacts to the hot ad spicy part. Tom said the flavor was great. Jalapeno says they took a party food and elevated it.

Thumb/Kish – Corn Puree, Chicken Liver and Sunny-Side Up Egg – Chicken inside out. Emeril said it was delicious- the liver perfect, egg overdone. Tom felt there was missed opportunity to shred chicken on top. Eddie likes the concept.

OTV/Papa Smurf – Tempura Yuzu Curd with Shiso, Fresno Chili, Sweet Potato and Vanilla – The boys tell the judges to smear the curd across all of the sauces. Emeril thinks it was a great idea. However, the main part was not fried enough. Mono found the rest to be cool. Emeril suggests the small fryer can create a problem, but the tempura was delicious.

Winners – Monkey, Brooke, Micah, Lizzie. The big winner is Monkey/Brooke. Meanwhile, OTV and Thumb trash talk the popper in the Stew Room. Monkey sends Josie & Latex and OTV and Papa Smurf to the Judges Table. Thumb & Kish are proud third place finishers.

Latex did rice and beef and red beets. Josie did marinades. Tom asks if they tasted. Latex made one plate before sending it out. Tom wondered about how he didn’t think it was lacking seasoning. They hoped that Josie’s beet flavor seep in and would… But Tom cuts them off and scolds, if you mix something properly seasoned and something bland, you end up with bland. When he pounded Latex for yet again failing to season properly, you knew the writing was on the wall. And he got Josie for not going back to taste again and simply taking him at his word that he seasoned it properly. Mono called it syrup on boring porridge.

OTV thought they did well and pushed the bold envelope. OTV suggests that the problem had to be the tempura. He throws Papa Smurf under the bus here, but reluctantly, and Papa didn’t seem to take offense. OTV talks about feeling pressure to get things out to the judges, and thus the early release of the food.

Then OTV made the CJ mistake and tried to find out why their dish was worse than one of the winning dishes. Oh, OTV. Did you not see what happened to CJ? He called the popper a concession stand meal. Tom said that once they roasted it, peeled it, made a nice salad, stuffed it, etc. it was no longer concession stand. Padma added that none of Micah/Lizzie’s elements went wrong, but OTV/Papa Smurf did. Tom finished by saying the main part of their dish was a disaster. Boom. Or Bam.

And the Latex Salesman is out. Padma offers to send him a bag of salt, and he quips that it was not healthy. No one complains about his seasoning back home. Except some of the biggest names in the culinary business on a nationally televised competition program.

LCK – We have the Battle of the Tall Men. The challenge is to take “bland and boring” and make “full-flavored and delicious.” They have to make chicken breast – which is the culinary version of a blank canvas.

Latex is making a tea sauce, which Tom found interesting. He is also going heavy on the salt. CJ is going more subtle, and is apparently really warm in that room, as he is sweating. A LOT.

CJ – Marinated Chicken with Mushroom Reduction, Greek Yogurt and Roasted Lettuces

Latex – Roasted Chicken, Carrots, Greek Yogurt, Tea Infused Sauce and Speculoos Cookie

Tom says that CJ had clean flavors, and smokiness, but the tarragon was overpowering, even though the chicken was moist. Latex solved the seasoning problem – the salt brought out sweetness, the spices were there, and the chicken right on money. They both nailed this challenge.

Winner – CJ. The streak continues.

Quickfire Hits
• In the car on the way to get the oysters, Thumb jokingly whined, “Are we there yet, Mom?” Interesting that Brooke is Mom to Thumb in this disturbing afterschool story.
• Monkey even wears his glasses on the forehead while driving! STOP IT! I must add that I missed last week’s hysterical moment when Monkey crashed into the kitchen doors. That bears mentioning.

• He may be frustrating, and obnoxious, but Monkey knows his business. Case in point – oysters taste like the water they live in. His father was a bayman. He is not a bayman like his father was before. Can’t make a living as a bayman anymore. There ain’t much future for a man who works the sea. But there ain’t no island left for islanders like me. Yo yo yoooooo!
• Seeing all of those Bart photos, you kinda knew he was in trouble.
• Extra scene – Padma. On skates. Thumb admits to being the Season 9 DVD to make a Padma reel. Great idea. Oh, and nice 70s effects on the skating, Show.

Next Week– It seems the chefs are assigned a past season and have to make a dish from that season.

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