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Top Chef: Seattle – Episode 12 – The Colonel Would Be Ashamed

I love the complicated challenges and the elaborate set ups that Top Chef puts their contestants through each and every season, but sometimes it is the simplest of challenges which proves to be the most difficult. Case in point – this week’s challenge to make something moms (and dads – no sexism here) around the country have been making for centuries. Something you can take a short ride from your house to seek out and find dozens of restaurants and fast food joints that will serve it to you with fries, slaw and a large soft drink.

Fried chicken. So easy, but perhaps too easy for these six over-tired, talented chefs. Tom made it clear to them – nothing fancy needed, just make good fried chicken. Did you ever hear of Popeye’s? That line of instruction is probably what doomed them. These chefs are too creative and have been plowing through so many huge challenges with minimal sleep for weeks at this point – to make them step back and do something easy is almost cruel. This is one of those challenges where bells and whistles, and fancy techniques or creative twists, would not be beneficial to them. Just make the chicken good. And amazingly, not enough of them managed to do that.

Both challenges this week focused on simplicity – make good fried chicken, and make good sushi for the Quickfire. Raw fish and deep fried bird are not really connected in any way, except that they are basic staples for two types of cuisine, and are treated as holy manna by those who love them. There are people whose sole purpose in life is to seek the best fried chicken in the world (for me, it is a truck stop in Central Pennsylvania), or the place that serves such good sushi it transcends dinner and becomes art (still looking for that place).

The chicken challenge got into the heads of too many chefs – only one chef seemed to not only make great chicken, but managed to not make any mistakes. Watching the judging, I don’t recall a recent challenge where it was so obvious who won. In fact, not only did OTV win this challenge by a mile – he was the Secretariat of fried chicken – but also this week was his finest hour. He dominated the elimination challenge and piled on the wit in his exchanges in the kitchen with Josie and Brooke. His only set back was making bacon and egg sushi. Really?

OTV made up for it later as he prepped his chicken. Josie was chirping about how her fried chicken recipe and how this style of cooking is in her blood. You know, Southern cooking. OTV asks her, “you mean…South Florida?” Because Josie’s from Miami. Let me agree here with OTV – Miami ain’t the South. Yes, it is IN the South, but it ain’t the South. It’s Havana North and NYC South. Let’s be honest. OTV makes an Arsenio “things that make you go hmmm” joke, but I would have gone C+C Music Factory instead.

Then the comedy team of OTV and Brooke took over. He asked about if she was making healthy fried chicken, because it doesn’t exist. She is only using the breast. He asked if she was skinning it. She was. He threw up a little in his mouth. In fairness, Brooke has an elaborate scheme to fool the world-class judges by infusing the skin into her batter to make it seem like it has skin. Come on, Brooke; just use the skin the way God or Gandalf intended. OTV threatens to break up with her, and Brooke breaks out her irresistible giggle. Awww….I’m rooting for these two.

But here is where I bury the lead, the Josie Show is over. Finally. It was only a gazillion weeks overdue. Greasy fried chicken on a banana leaf finally ended the insanity. Let’s check out the challenges now.

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