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Top Chef: Seattle/Alaska – Ep 14 – Creating the World of Bitterness

I have a new goal in life. It is to visit Tracy’s King Crab Shack. Have you ever seen a more awesome looking local dive restaurant? And those crabs? They were like “Clash of the Titans’” monsters. Before I depart this earth, or before the Zombie Apocalypse, or before the bizarre “Revolution” technology neatly decimates modern society, I will set foot in that shack and have giant crabs. If I take nothing away from this season, it will be that. And Brooke’s pig tails.

We are still in Alaska this week, albeit finally on land in 49th state. We also have 100% fewer Finns this week – and the chefs lament the Thumb’s departure. Interesting to hear OTV say how much he will miss Stefan, when you consider his initial reaction was not very positive way back in Week 1. Brooke called him good-hearted and Papa Smurf thought he was the frontrunner. Back in Week 1, I would have called him a frontrunner and not good-hearted. Week 14, I reverse that. Stefan lost the vote to CJ this week – and is officially out. That means the last shot for a returning chef to win is if CJ wins the final vote, then wins the LCK final challenge, then comes back in the Final Three in two weeks to steal this thing.

This week, we learned one thing about life in Alaska. We all knew that crabs and salmon were huge in Alaska, but who knew about their love of sourdough? I don’t recall that scene from “Game Change.” I also didn’t realize that starter kits for making the bread were super old. Some are older than I am. OTV said you have to take care of the yeast like a child. And I am instantly worried about his soon-to-born child…Daddy thinks you are bread. Stay away from the toaster.

I also learned that if you gather a bunch of Alaskans together in an outdoor event with food, you are required to have one bear family attend. I mean, there was a bear in the tree hanging out above the salmon feast. It was like having your dog hanging out at the kitchen table waiting for scraps, except, you know, bears.

I also learned that you cannot show much sex on TV, nor allow many bad words, but you can show ample fish guts. Cue the all-powerful fish lobby. Oh, and speaking of fish, could that salmon look more fresh and more delicious? My goodness. I’ve been craving salmon ever since. Again, I must get to that shack – crab and salmon.

When it came down to the Final Four challenge, the food looked really good, even though the actual dishes were kind of boring. When all was said and done, the chefs made three soups and a sandwich. Papa Smurf had been on a roll in recent weeks but this is now two weeks in a row he has arguably deserved to go home and barely survived. Is this just a blip on his path to the win, or has he reached his ceiling? Although, I can’t fault him for not realizing that the locals don’t actually eat “chum” salmon. I mean, how would a chef from Hawaii actually know about that? Other than the fact that it is named “chum,” of course. And, another thing, how snobby with fish can a city be where one entire species of fish is frowned upon as a food source for humans?

But this week was one of those where all of the chefs made good food. It was a nitpick decision, which is always tough, but I would imagine it is much easier for a chef to depart knowing they made good food, but left only because someone had to. However, Lizzie failed to learn from past mistakes and wound up being the one to go. What mistake? Did she not recall CJ’s downfall? Of course she did – his was the memorable moment used in the tiebreaker battle between Lizzie and Monkey. What was that dish? A burger and pickle. So what did she make here? Basically, a salmon burger and pickle. Why tempt fate?

That simple dish has now claimed three chefs this season. It must be stopped before it claims any more.

So, Lizzie bites the dust. She was unspectacular this season, but very steady. She just got to the point where she needed to be spectacular as there is no margin for error at this stage. Unfortunately, she made a fish slider. And anyone who notices these things must have speculated some looming problem after we witnessed Lizzie sobbing over her deceased dad during the fishing portion of the episode. Oftentimes, a chef who gets a teary confessional is a chef who gets a Padma knife later in the episode.

I wonder where our eventual champ is going to rank among the roster of Top Chef winning men and Steph. It will be either Papa Smurf, OTV, Brooke, Kish or CJ at this point. Do we have a Harold, Voltaggio or Blais in that group? Not sure. I think Kish may be on that level – but a Kish win would forever be tainted with the fact that would be the only champ to ever get knifed. I guess we shall see – on the positive side, I don’t believe we have any stinkers in that group, as all five are very good. Just not sure if we have an “all-star” in that group.

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