Category Archives: Cooking

Top Chef: Seattle/Tom’s Restaurant – Ep 16 – Unexpected Quail and Top Chef History

Welcome to the Finale of Season 10. Or at least the first part of it. Next week, we crown our 10th Top Chef champion (not including Masters/Desserts), and I am pleased to announce right here and right now that it will be a big effin’ deal.
You see, and I am about to spoil the chef eliminated this week, so cover your sensitive ears and turn away to fall down a Buzzfeed black hole and get back to me in an hour…you see…Steph needs to move over. She has counterpart. Finally.

That’s right. As we crown our 16th Top Chef – including the four Masters and two Desserts winners – we now will have our second woman earning the crown. Papa Smurf took the fall this time around – perhaps because he swapped out the red hat for a blue one – and left two women standing for next week’s final task. The food cooked this week was – well – it was kind of uninspiring. It was like bad Chinese food – you ate it up, but forgot all about it shortly thereafter and were hungry for some better food. I blame the layoff from the Alaska episodes for the rustiness shown by Brooke and Papa Smurf – and in fact, we get to witness the distractions of life at home and work that inevitably took center stage for each of them once they returned to Maui and LA. Top Chef ain’t life, and someone has to do the paperwork, cook the food and take the kids to school.

Meanwhile, LCK was resolved. After a lengthy montage showing what occurred during the web series, we are informed that the final challenge we witnessed last week online (Kish vs. Lizzie vs. OTV) had just occurred in the kitchen behind our judges. The result of that challenge was about to walk through that door and become the third Finalist is revealed to be…Kish. Brooke and Papa Smurf are far from surprised. Good for Kish – she made a horrible mistake during Restaurant Wars and has knocked it out of the park on LCK since then. She beat CJ, Josie, Stefan, Lizzie, OTV and Lizzie again to come back. And she has shaken off the rust a bit by having what amounts to a Quickfire just a few moments before rejoining. Considering the Elimination Challenge starts right here and now, that is huge.

Think about it. Brooke and Papa Smurf entered the room, were hit with the Kish news and boom went into a challenge. Kish showed up, cooked for her life for 30 minutes and boom. Challenge. After three and a half hours she had done two challenges and was facing the judges. Talk about a whirlwind. And all three had very different approaches to the sudden challenge. Papa Smurf decided to be super bold and depart from his Asian focus and show off some skills he developed during the break. That’s right – not during his many years of training, but during the last few weeks. Kish decides to not get too deep in her head and to go for simplicity. That’s all well and good, but simplicity and safe are close friends and are often confused for one another. Meanwhile, Brooke has decided to go into the challenge scatterbrained. Seriously, Brooke, what happened? Did the myriad of paperwork you had to file cloud your mind? She was so off her game, she was failing to get her food out of the kitchen on time.

As it turned out, Brooke was able to shake off the doldrums just enough to make some solid dishes, including a stellar dessert. Kish was simple and safe, but did just enough. Papa Smurf stumbled with his new look menu and had no real room to stumble at this late stage. And so he takes his red hat and his ukulele and heads into a very impressive third place. He also joins Edward as chefs who got leapfrogged in the pecking order by the LCK winner.

And that leaves Brooke and Kish to battle it out for the win – and if you think about it, this is the only way this season should have ended. While the gimmick for the season was the three returning chefs, and the introduction of Save a Chef, neither really made an impact. The three chefs were overall rather disappointing. Stefan dominated his season, and was very slipshod with his performance. Josie probably should not have been invited back – she did ok, but really skated by thanks to the mistakes of others. CJ went out very early, but redeemed himself somewhat on LCK. The Save a Chef winner – Lizzie – failed to make it back in the game.

Brooke and Kish consistently put out great food. Kish dominated the early challenges, and Brooke did the dominating in the later part of the season. And here they are at the end. To be honest, I have no idea who I want to win. I like them both, I think they are both very talented and Top Chef worthy, and, well, both are pretty easy on the eyes. I know, I wouldn’t say that about male chefs, but to my defense, I am a male. So…why would I? It matters nothing to who will or should win, but I can’t lie, it matters in my rooting interests sometimes. And to my defense, I was rooting for OTV too, and the Old Timey Villain look doesn’t really float my boat.

I am just very pleased to see that the men’s 14-1 advantage over the women as Top Chef winners didn’t get larger. Both of these women will be worthy of the title, and to be perfectly honest, I think they are about 50-50. I think the winner will fall about midway among the 10 Top Chef winners (throwing out Masters/Desserts for obvious reasons here) – I see it from top to bottom, Blais, Voltaggio, Harold, Hung, Qui-Gon, Steph, Kish/Brooke, Sbarro, Hosea, Ilan. Of course, I can change my mind on that tomorrow.

Quickfire – None.

Elimination Challenge – Prepare an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert. Oh, and serve them in Tom’s restaurant, craft, to his dinner crowd. And another thing, Tom is expediting the meals. Yikes!

Papa Smurf starts off with spot prawns. Brooke chooses, rejects and chooses once more the short ribs. She also notices Papa Smurf’s selection of quail and points out the risky trip outside the box by the Hawaiian. Brooke selects sweetbreads as another ingredient but is unsure what to do with them. Kish has elected to make a dessert called, “chocolate thing chocolate.”

Brooke is in the weeds and is burning pistachios. However, she is making a nice looking brown butter cake. As for Papa Smurf…he has never made a dessert. I hope he was trying to be funny. Meanwhile, Tom is shouting the fear of God into them as they work the kitchen. Man, Tom is a scary boss. Judging the challenge – Tom (from the kitchen), Monobrow, Emeril, Padma, John Besh and Martin Yan.

Papa Smurf – Sashimi Spot Prawns, Court Bouillon, Radish and Asian Herbs – Emeril loves the radish part, and thinks the prawns were cooked perfectly. Yan thinks it was a very difficult dish to make.

Kish – Chestnut Veloute, Duck Rillette and Brussels Sprouts – Yan found some kick, and Mono thinks it was good, but had too much bitterness. Besh thinks it could have used some acidity.

Brooke – Crispy Veal Sweetbread Salad with Kumquat, Beets and Mustard – Padma loved the intensity of the salad. Yan found surprises in the dish. Mono wanted the sweetbreads cleaned better and not cut so thin.
Back in the kitchen, Brooke has messed up and needs to re-plate a dish. Yikes. Kish is about to pee her pants, and Brooke shoots Tom a look that would kill a lesser man.

Kish – Seared Ahi Tuna with Veal Mustard Jus and Meyer Lemon Puree – Yan loves it and thinks it had a perfect sear. Besh thinks it was borderline salty – and blames the kitchen expediter. Snerk.

Brooke – Braised Short Ribs, Parmesan Sauce, Nettle Puree and Squash Dumplings – Yan said the ribs were perfectly cooked; Mono loved the sauces and Emeril faved the nettle.

Papa Smurf – Roasted Quail, Pine Nut Puree, Garam Masala and Tangerine – Yan said it was brave and difficult. Mono said the pine nuts were an ode to hummus, but this is not Sheldon. Emeril thinks he was brainwashed and wants to know where Sheldon went.

Brooke – Brown Butter Cake, Whipped Goat Cheese and Blackberry Sauce – Besh can only say “Holy smokes.” Yan loved the textures and balance, and makes a Yin and Yang reference. He really did.

Kish – Curry Chocolate with Cashews – Besh can only say…interesting, interesting. This dish is U-G-L-Y, it ain’t got no alibi. Padma likes the combo of flavors, but Yan is just confused by it. Mono calls it basic.

Papa Smurf – White Chocolate Mousse with Apple and Fennel – Padma loves the flavor and the combining of apple and fennel. However, the others feel the raw fennel is just overpowering.

Judges Table – Regarding Papa Smurf, Emeril and Mono praise the prawns. Tom actually digs the quail a bit, but not so much on the pine nuts. They all ding him for the bad the fennel choice – not peeled, raw and just too much. Regarding Kish, Tom found the soup nice and velvety, but Mono called it one-note. The tuna was perfectly cooked, but Tom thought it was too bitter. Nobody really liked the chocolate that much, including Kish. Regarding Brooke, Tom found the sweetbreads to be nice and crispy and Brooke admitted to trying to do too much with them. Emeril praised the ribs and Padma felt the sauces were better than everything else. Tom said the cake was perfect, but it was not restaurant caliber.

It was pretty that Brooke was essentially the winner and that Papa Smurf was on the bottom. I wondered for a moment if they would let all three cook next week, but it was not to be. Sheldon, Papa Smurf, met his end one challenge short. Padma was visibly saddened to see him go.

Quickfire Hits
• You know, next to my own, it is hard to find cuter families than Papa Smurf’s and Brooke’s. I mean really. It was a bit out of control. Pillow tossing. Silly dancing. Smurfette. A robot wearing a hat. Little Hudson – what came first, the kid’s name or the restaurant? Pig ears. Um, wait a minute.
• No disrespect meant, but Mr. Brooke sure married up. Is it me, or does the lucky man look a lot like Linguine from “Ratatouille”?
• Hey, Roy the Boy is back!
• Best line – Papa Smurf to Brooke upon leaving the kitchen: “There are chicken breasts back there for your fried chicken.” HA!
• Second best line…same source, addressing Kish’s cuisine choice: “You don’t cook Asian, you Asian person.”
• That’s twice Papa Smurf was waiting for the ingredients to speak to him and they failed. My advice – stop talking to the food telepathically.
• Excuse me for one second. Hey, Bravo! Did you really greenlight a show called “Married to Medicine”? Have you just embraced the “30 Rock” and “SNL” parodies of your network?
• Kish is “sweating in places I didn’t know I could sweat.” I am embarrassed with myself that I found that kind of hot. I know, double the therapy sessions, stat.
• Extra – Tom is a drill sergeant.

Next week – The final challenge is done in front of a live audience, in what appears to be the Iron Chef Kitchen Stadium. Even though it was not – because that’s another network. Defeated chefs return to help out, and it appears past winners are in the audience.

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Top Chef: Seattle/Alaska – Ep 15 – Midnight Train To Georgia

You know that thing where you lose a reality show but you don’t care because you have a beautiful baby girl waiting for you at home? Of course you don’t because only one person in the world knows that feeling. It’s OTV’s world and we’re just livin’ in it.

The Final Three in this cooking competition remains in Alaska to cook for sled teams and the Governor of Alaska. And you cannot see Russia from his house. It is exciting for Brooke and Papa Smurf as they punch their tickets to the Finals in Los Angeles and await the identity of the LCK victor to round out the official Final Three. But even though these were fun and strange challenges, which is not what this episode will be remember for in the annals of Top Chef. In fact, if we were doing the memorable moments challenge next season, CJ’s burger is not going to be the one for Season 10. It will be OTV getting the news that his baby was coming and he was going to miss it. Barely. I mean, if the chefs get to go home right after the Final Two is determined, and the Finale happens in Los Angeles, that means that OTV got to go home somewhere between 1-3 days or so after the birth of his child. His wife was even a week past the due date – if only his kid had waited the full 10 days that my kid waited to emerge; OTV could have possibly been there.

But then we wouldn’t have enjoyed the wonderful television that we got instead. After the chefs had completed their prep time the day before the Elimination Challenge, we join the three of them at the bed and breakfast. Brooke was getting weepy about missing her son, and OTV was getting nervous about his late-arriving kid. The guilt he felt about leaving for the show was building. He asked Brooke about how long she was in labor. Days. “Thanks for the mood killer,” said OTV. Not helping there, Brooke “OTV’s wife” – as the graphic indicates – calls OTV from the hospital. She is starting to have it get to her. She “just wants you to be here,” she says to her helpless husband. “OTV’s mother-in-law” gets on to inform him of the contractions. Great, always helpful for the mother-in-law to get involved, amirite?

Well, OTV doesn’t sleep at all. And really, who can blame him? But that cannot be at all helpful for him as he gears up for a huge challenge. We eventually get the moment – OTV Skypes with his wife after all is done – still no name, but she permits her face to be seen, interesting – and there is a third party to the conversation. Ladies and gentlemen – meet Georgia Valentine. A young lady who possesses perhaps the greatest name ever for a Tennessee Williams character. And if you do not get a little misty eyed watching surly OTV meet his daughter for the first time, then you really need to make a doctor’s appointment. Mrs. OTV tells him it wasn’t so bad, perhaps they could have another one. Awesome. And mazel tov, OTV.

Now for my moment as amateur head doctor. OTV went from this moment of joy to start the day to his elimination at the end of the day. Did this affect him negatively? Yes, I think it did. Not negatively in a cosmic way – you will take a healthy little baby girl over a reality show any day of the week. But it was negative performance-wise. I think OTV was rather distracted as he conceptualized his dish, as he prepped it, and certainly as he prepared it. The conceptualizing was the main problem with the dish – as Tom later told him, it was physically impossible to make it in the time allotted – and I am certain that OTV’s mind was elsewhere throughout this challenge. If I can go a step further, perhaps subconsciously he knew that he could not pull this off and that he actually wanted to lose. Could the guilt of missing the birth of his daughter have sabotaged his game deep down inside, beyond the facial hair and into the depths of OTV’s soul? I don’t know. He probably doesn’t know either. I’m just throwing it out there. Either way, OTV had a great run on the show and can hold his head up proudly.

I speak about him in the past tense because he failed to survive the final LCK competition. So he is out – in sort of a nebulous order of finish. He was eliminated from the main completion in the Final Three, but someone else will replace him in the F3. He is kind of fourth then, but fifth in the sense that we head to the Finale with four chefs alive to win, and OTV is not one of them. Way to confuse the organized mind, Top Chef!

Anyway, we learn here that the final LCK completion is taking place in the here and now – and it would have to be when you think about it. How else would they know who made it through the Save a Chef? That means that the Finale is essentially filming right now – tough job for the Top Chef editors to bang this out in only a couple of weeks. OTV has lost a lot of weight as he joins Kish in the final battle. CJ and Lizzie come out and Tom informs us, and them, that with 61% of the vote, Lizzie has won Save a Chef. Wow. I found that to be a bit of an upset, and I think CJ did too. And that ends the chances of the three returning chefs. Top Chef fails to match Survivor’s record for returning contestants – where a returnee has always reached the end of the competition whenever they employed that gimmick. OTV, Lizzie and Kish battle it out for the LCK win, and we do not know who made it through. That will be revealed in the next episode – but we do know that it will be Kish or Lizzie.

The big news there is that there is a 66.6(repeating) chance that the second female Top Chef champion will be crowned. I’d have to say that Brooke is the odds on favorite right now – although the roll she was on in Alaska is now over after the delay and the return to LA. Kish would be second if she got back in the game – she is only out because she refused to stand up for herself. Lizzie and Papa Smurf are about even in my mind – both are solid chefs but neither has brought out the “wow” factor the way Kish and Brooke have done this year.

One way or another, it should be an interesting finale.

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.

Top Chef: – Ep 13 – Love, Exciting And New…

Bye bye Seattle! We join the chefs right after Josie’s departure, as Brooke takes deep breaths to recover from her narrow survival. OTV continues his image rehabilitation by telling her and Lizzie that they were way better chefs than Josie and deserved to be there. Padma and Tom interrupt the scene – prompting an adorable, “oh hi” from Brooke – and tell the chefs that Washington State is going to be no more. We are heading to the 49th state. The home of Rob Morrow and Janine Turner.
The site of weird Russell Crowe hockey movies. The place where Sarah Palin can see Russia from her house. Seward’s Folly. The great state of Alaska. Wheeeee!

The best part is that the chefs are taking a cruise up north. Admission…I REALLY want to take a cruise to Alaska. That sounds incredibly awesome. This is a Celebrity Cruise – which is less awesome. I can’t think of something less interesting than taking a cruise with D-level celebrities. I don’t want to share a table with a Big Brother runner-up, a Real Housewife of New Jersey and the wacky neighbor from According to Jim. Of course, when discussing cruise ships, I show my age by instantly going to The Love Boat for references. Love. Exciting and new. Come aboard. We’re expecting you.

All of the action takes place on the boat this week, much to Brooke’s chagrin. It seems she has an irrational fear of boats. I am guessing she watched Titanic too many times when she was a teenager. She wants to overcome this fear because her kid has started to express the same fear. Kids are great that way – they don’t listen to the wise crap you try to relay, but they pick up on your phobias. Or in the case of my kid, piggyback on your illnesses. I am dealing with a foot injury right now that has put my doggie in a brace. The other day, my boy saw my brace and after about three beats told me about how his ankle was hurting.

But enough about me, we have old photos of Stefan the Thumb to look at! We also have more bizarre stories of his upbringing. It seems his mom dropped him off at an Army base from time to time – you know, the dreaded Finnish Army – and would say, “have a good effing time, pick you up in eight months.” Someone needs to write The Stefan Movie. Hire the dude that played Charlotte’s husband in Sex And The City to play him. Not that I ever watched that show, of course.

My favorite part of the episode was the dinner the chefs enjoyed together at the on ship fancy restaurant, Q’sine. Cute. This was the kind of acid trip restaurant I could see Chris “Glasses” Jones from last season develop. Bizarro little tapas served in funky dishes and other plating vessels. By the way, Plating Vessels has one hell of a debut album. This restaurant looked like it would be tons of fun – where else are you going to get a sushi lollipop? I bet Thumb laments he never thought of that combo. Chocolate Tombstone? That’s the Plating Vessels’ first single.

But the best part was how the conversation devolved quickly into a trash talk medley between the chefs. OTV got it rolling by needling Brooke – “Keep not listening to me, Fried Chicken.” HA! First and only time in history, “Fried Chicken” has been used as a nickname and an insult at the same time. Thumb calls him “breakfast sushi.” OTV even hilariously starts to sing a version of the Hangover song, “Five best friends ever…” It was a very endearing moment for all of them – while many viewers want to see the contestants scuffle with each other, I am more interested and fascinated by the dynamic which brings them together. Think about these five – Lizzie from South Africa, Papa Smurf from Hawaii, Thumb from Finland, Brooke from Southern California and OTV from Oklahoma. They have nothing culturally in common – except for food and this show. They have only known each other for a few weeks, but they interact like the cast of St. Elmo’s Fire. It’s one of the reasons I love this form of reality television.

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.

Top Chef: Seattle – Ep 11 – The Episode Where I Get Mad At Padma

That’s right, I’m very sad to say, but right now…we’re fighting, Padma. Because what transpired in this episode seemed to stem directly from Padma. And the result that it produced was so awful, so ridiculous, and shines a bright light on a couple of warts upon the skin of the show that I have long said I did not like. If you have not watched the episode yet, well, you really need to stop watching because I am going to spoil it early on.

To recap from last week, Restaurant Wars was split into two episodes this year – last week, the chefs battled over concepts, and this week the two winners led the teams in opening restaurants based on those concepts. Kish and Papa Smurf won last week with concepts focusing on fine French dining with a twist and Filipino cuisine inspired by Papa Smurf’s grandpa…er…Grandpa Smurf. With Micah’s elimination, Papa Smurf’s team was one person short, and as it turns out, they are doing a Battle of the Sexes in the Wars. Last week, I questioned the logic of Kish choosing Josie and whether or not it was better to have her on the team, or to be shorthanded. To answer the question – it was better to be shorthanded.

Papa Smurf’s team made good food with only nitpicks against the menu. The problem was Stefan the Thumb’s bad service and hospitality. I mean, he was not good. One dish came to the judges without him around and unable to actually describe it. When he did, he did so in such a way that the judges felt they were condescending and insulting to their intelligence. At one point, he answered a question with what sounded like this answer, “bbbadehdah, bauaddityyalyy.” Seriously, no idea what he said. He was like Benicio Del Toro in The Usual Suspects. He was like a Charlie Brown grown-up. Guests were backed up, it was a disaster. Now, I think his troubles were partly his fault, mostly perhaps, but partly a result of the lack of a fourth teammate. He had to prepare his food, set up the front, train the staff, manage the staff and be the host. He had to rely on the random Redshirt waiters to take on a lot of responsibility. And it backfired. If Papa Smurf’s food wasn’t as good as it was, The Thumb would have been gone.

As it turns out, Kish’s team wound up losing the War and one of the women was going to leave. Brooke and Lizzie each rocked their dishes, so they were safe. That made it a Kish vs. Josie decision. Kish made a big mistake in taking on a LOT of responsibility. She wanted to have a hand in everything that went out. As Tom said, her concept was in her head, and was not properly relayed to her team. She even made two dishes, which had faults, but were not criticized to the point where you would think they were the worst dishes.

Josie’s dish, however, was clearly the worst dish served in this challenge. To me, that should be both Strikes One and Two. To quote Tom from years ago…it’s a cooking competition! Where the disconnect between the judges and reality came in to play was the fact that we saw things they didn’t know. We saw Josie refusing to begin her prep the day before, despite Kish’s urging. We saw Josie’s dish was not ready in time as a result, leading to Kish having to order her to cut corners in order to get it out on time…and for that, it was actually on time as the tables had to wait for that course. We saw all of the kitchen drama, the judges didn’t. They saw Kish biting her tongue and refusing to drive the bus over Josie. Meanwhile, Josie had no problem getting behind the wheel to save herself by blaming Kish’s concept and leadership for her faulty dish.

It is this disconnect that often hurts the judging process. They don’t see what’s going on. And, if you ask me, they should NOT speculate about what may have happened and judge the food. They could not really understand what happened between Josie and Kish – all they could get out of it was that Kish ordered the changes to the dish, that the dish was delayed coming out, and that Josie has ALWAYS been late with her service. Do the math guys, and figure it out.

Top Chef Seattle – Ep 10 – You Can’t Fake Soul

I’ll get right into the crux of the elimination this week, by saying something rather simple. Why would you want to open a restaurant that serves raw meat, when you could just go get sushi? Is there such a big clamoring for an all-Carpaccio theme restaurant? Is there a yearning in the American public for one place where you could get as much raw beef as you want? And even if there was, would you want a plate covered in gobs of random raw meat, vegetables and various sauces? It was just a bad, bad, bad idea.

And it took such an epic fail of a restaurant concept to overcome the latest episode of “The Josie Show.” The problem with “The Josie Show” is that each episode seems just too formulaic. Josie claims to make food close to her heart and soul. Josie tries to serve the food to a room full of hungry people. Josie fails miserably and does everything short of a ventriloquism act to distract the hungry people while she cooks at a speed barely measurable on film. Tom gets pissed at Josie. And the food comes out badly. And she survives to cook another day. If they don’t start mixing up the plots of “The Josie Show,” it’s going to go the way of the sitcom with the monkey doctor.

So, that prelude is basically what this week was all about. Restaurant Wars was split into two parts this season – the Final 8 have an individual challenge this week, leading up to the official wars next week. Each chef has to come up with a concept and then serve a dish which personifies their restaurant concept. The two favorites will be selected as Executive Chefs for the Wars, and will pick their teams right there in the Stew Room. The trick…they will not know who is in the Bottom Three as they select the teams. One team will wind up fighting Restaurant Wars with one fewer team member as a result. Nice twist, Show.

I’m going get right in there and spoil who wins the challenge. If you don’t care to know, well, watch this for a few minutes, and then watch the friggin episode. I mean, you know I’ve posted this column late. I always post this column late. No excuses.

Is everyone gone that wanted to be gone? Someone do a head count. I’ll wait.


OK, so Kish and Papa Smurf each earned the win, with OTV falling just short. Both winning concepts were good ones – but I worry for Kish. She chose a French theme, but the food is not the issue. The problem is going to be the fact that she wants it to be a formal dining experience. She will have less than 48 hours to open this restaurant, and that concept seems to be rather complicated. Papa Smurf used his grandfather as inspiration to go for a modern Filipino theme – which should prove easier to set up. The trick there is I am uncertain if his team members have much experience with this cuisine. I assume Papa and OTV were battling for the second slot as their concepts were similar – OTV using his dad for inspiration for his steak and potatoes style restaurant. I wonder if Papa Smurf got the nod because of the complexity of his concept.

So, here’s the fun part of the episode – in my opinion. And maybe this is my love for Survivor coming out, but it is a rare case where strategy comes front and center in Top Chef. Kish and Papa Smurf have to select a team. Kish picks first – not sure if that meant she was main winner of the challenge, or if she won Rock, Paper, Scissors or something. She makes a smart pick – Brooke. Not only has Brooke done lots of winning recently, but Kish knew she was safe due to her immunity win at the Quickfire. Papa Smurf counters with an equally smart pick – OTV. He knew he was safe because he stood with Kish and Papa in the winner’s circle. Now for the tricky part – who should Kish take next between Lizzie, Thumb, Micah and Josie. I personally think you want Stefan the Thumb for this one, but Kish goes with Lizzie, as Papa grabs Thumb right away. Kish mutters a curse after this. Did she really think Stefan would last to her? I wonder why she took Lizzie – does she consider her to be a better chef, or did she like her concept more than his and thus thought Lizzie would be one of the middle chefs this week?

Clearly, both Papa and Kish knew that Micah and Josie were in trouble. Kish had the choice here and went with Josie. That surprised me a lot. The question to me lies with this – is it more beneficial to have Josie or lose Micah? Josie has proven to be a difficult teammate to manage this season – and the previews for next week show that may in fact be the case. Are you better off with the fourth set of hands, or to go shorthanded but with presumably fewer staff issues? I guess we shall see next week how that works out for Kish.

Top Chef: Seattle – Episode 9 – Monkeying Around With Pickles

Yes, I know that is a really strange combination of four words. However, I went with it. Because, this episode was all about Monkey. And pickles. It was also about extremely sharp knives. And rancid scallops. It was also about Top Chef nostalgia – which is always a good thing.

But the big, big thing is that Monkey is as dead as the old monkey in “Project X.” Look it up, that scene resonates. And, of course, Monkey went out with class and respect. Oh wait, this is Monkey. He doesn’t do that. He blamed the Show and the unexpected twist which admittedly did not benefit him at all. And then he praised himself for not hoarding all of the ingredients and sabotaging Lizzie in their last minute battle to avoid elimination. One would hope that if he did that he would be instantly disqualified for preventing his opponent from accessing the required ingredients.

This is clearly a grand day in the history of Top Chef – the elimination of the season’s main villain. And he wasn’t even a fun villain, he was just mean. And now, spoiler alert…he’s done and gone. Except for that dumb “Save a Chef” contest – in which case, he is just a couple of days away from being done and gone. When I get into LCK a little bit later on, double spoiler alert…CJ beats him. Done. Most Hated Chef in Dallas is now the 9th place finisher on Top Chef. He lost to OTV, which should make Josh happy. He lost to Josie, which should make all fans of poetic justice happy.

In addition to losing Monkey from the show, we also got to do so in one of the coolest challenges in recent memory. Nine chefs remained in Season 10…a perfect moment to bring in the show’s history. The nine chefs are randomly given a past season and a clip of a memorable moment from each one. They must make the dish in the question, with their own twist on it. There is a twist…Season 10. Padma says that she is holding on to it. It comes in to play at the end when we awkwardly get five chefs appearing at the Judges Table – three at the top and two at the bottom. Instantly, I thought it meant a final duel between the two since the Show has fallen in love with the LCK concept. Monkey and Lizzie fell to the bottom and between the two of them; Lizzie was clearly the worst one. She would have been out without the twist.

That’s because, for some reason, Lizzie had bad scallops. It’s not Top Chef, I guess it is Top Bad Scallop. How did this happen? How could the store sell rancid scallops to a customer on this high profile cooking show? Man, that is just awful advertisement. Lizzie chose to plate the dish with the bad scallops – and honestly, she was damned if she did and damned if she didn’t. She had to have a protein on the plate, or else she would have been on the bottom anyway. I guess it would have been bold to cook Jamie’s scallops with different seafood, but she may not have had ample time to pull that off.

But she plated the scallops – and we have learned from the Jamie Experience that, well, you know, Top Scallop. There are only two Top Chef dishes which would cause worse problems – desserts and risotto. And since there were no desserts listed in the nine moments, the only thing which could get in the way would be if anyone would be stupid enough to make risotto. Even if the dish is risotto. Just…stop…making…risotto, Chefs. Monkey got the Season 3 Howie moment where he and Bourdain got into it over risotto. He claims to have not had a proper flat surfaced vessel to make it and thus made a crappy risotto. OTV got a final jab in where he disagreed about the good pots and pans, but it wasn’t necessary.

Monkey and Lizzie had to compete by using the Season 10 moment – CJ’s crappy hamburger and pickles. Monkey grabbed the jar of pickles and implied that he was going to keep the whole thing and not share with Lizzie. He then swiped all of her dill. The tight quarters almost seem to lead to some sort of fisticuffs and an indignant Monkey confessional where he thinks not being a gigantic dick excuses just being a regular dick. As soon as the dishes are unveiled, it becomes obvious who won. The Elimination Challenge and special cook-off had to be healthy. And Monkey put a fried egg on his burger. A. Fried. Egg. Really?

So, Monkey is gone, gone, gone. And we have eight chefs left. My ranking of the Final Eight, from bottom to top…(of course, there is Save a Chef and LCK which will lead to potentially CJ, Monkey or Yagi Bear rejoining)…Josie, OTV, Lizzie, Micah, Papa Bear, Thumb, Brooke and Kish. That’s right – four of the eight left are women, and two of the favorites to win the season are women. Could it be?

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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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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