Top Chef: Seattle – Episode 2 – Survivor Comes To Top Chef

Welcome to Seattle. Officially. Here we go – Feature. Showcase. Cash. Title. On the line. We have 15 chefs who survived the cut and they are filing in to the Top Chef Kitchen for the first Quickfire. I am sure nothing unexpected will happen…

Guess what! It does. How did I not know that Top Chef was going to pull a Survivor and bring back past contestants to compete with new ones? Was this public? Am I THAT clueless? All of these are possibilities. And yet, here we are. What surprised me is that even after CJ, Finn and Josie were brought in, I never thought this would be what was going on. I even thought – boy, that’s a random collection of past chefs. What I don’t understand is why these three? I can understand Stefan – Finn, as I called him way back in Season 4, since he’s Finnish (I’m so clever) – since he arguably got robbed of the title that season when Hosea benefitted from the genius of Richard Blais and nabbed the win from Finn.

But CJ and Josie? CJ had a respectable sixth place finish in Season 3, but Josie went out in 11th place in Season 2, eliminated before the immortal Michael Midgley departed. It’s almost as if the producers threw a bunch of names in a hat and pulled this trio out. Glad to see CJ – who I liked a lot in Season 3 – but I don’t think anyone was clamoring for his return. And most fans have long forgotten who Josie was in the first place. CJ is hard to forget – not often you get to see a giant.

So, anyway, these three join our 15 and we have 18 chefs this season as a result. To refresh – joining Finn, CJ and Josie: the good-looking crew of JJ, Micah and Kish. The potential villains – Tesar, The Wiz and the Real Housewife. The beard and moustache of Old Timey Villain (OTV). The English impaired Yagi Bear. The man in the Red Hat – now to known as Papa Smurf. The Belgian who has so many potential nicknames – I am sticking with Latex. And the rest of the ladies – Lizzie, Hipster, Brooke, Eliza and Camba.

A lot of good nicknames and last names this year.

Anyway, with so many chefs there is very little room for anything other than the challenges. The non-cooking parts of this week’s episode basically focus on the reaction to the returning players. Just like Survivor – they ain’t happy about this twist – especially OTV. It did seem that Josie was starting to be accepted into the fold mid-episode, but I assume most of the conflict will be between Finn and the group. Just like in Season 4. If anything, Finn seems to have become more arrogant over time.

Quickfire – CJ, Finn and Josie judge with Padma. And, may I say so, so nice to have you back, Padma. My TV was lonely without you. The task was to group into five teams of three and make a shellfish dish in 20 minutes. The teams all seem to race for the geoduck. Or as it is pronounced, gooey duck. No idea why we don’t spell it that way – so much cooler. The reason for the preference – it cooks quicker. Smart reason. Tesar instantly shows that he lacks political correctness by saying he chose Yagi Bear because she was Japanese and must have good knife skills. He also started to strategize while Padma was still explaining. DUDE! Don’t interrupt Padma. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. Padma stops and tells him “excuse me, I’m not finished.” You’ve been warned.

Brooke foreshadows a bit for the Elimination when she notes the contrasting styles within her team – especially with Latex. The Wiz works with John Elway – and as a Dan Marino fan, it makes me not like him. The teams scramble, and Hipster barely finishes, so no plating issues this year.

Project Runway All-Stars 2: Picture This

Last week on Project Runway, the designers had to make “wearable art” inspired by “aerosol art,” more commonly known as “graffiti.”  In this variation on the textile challenge, the contestants had to spray paint  a design on some fabric and then use the results to make an outfit.  Emilio won and Suede was sent home.

The following morning, Carolyn simply tells them that the next challenge will be an interactive one, and then sends them off to Joanna, who will fill them in on the details.  Joanna  introduces the designers to Sandra Micek, an executive from USA Today.  Together they explain the challenge.  USA Today has collected photographs sent in by fans of Project Runway via Twitter.  Some of the pictures were sent by fans from other countries, including Spain, Russia, and Indonesia.  The designers are to pick a photograph and then make an outfit inspired by it.  Sandra also tells them to think about the story behind their picture, and asks them, “What is your headline?”

As there are only two computers with USA Today’s photolibrary downloaded into them, only two designers can make their choices at a time.  Since Emilio won the last challenge, he gets to go first, and he invites Casanova to use the other computer.

Before the two men start searching the photolibary, Sandra tells the designers that the winner of the challenge will be featured in USA Today.  Emilio picks a picture of a young girl who reminds him of his niece.  Casanova chooses a photograph of a black person in a white, androgynous outfit.  He decides to make something similarly androgynous.

Althea picks a picture of a British train station and Ivy chooses a monarch butterfly.  She tells us that it represents change and evolution.  Kayne chooses a picture of vintage jewelry and Uli picks a picture of clouds taken from inside an airplane.  Joshua picks a colorful abstract painting and Anthony Ryan chooses a picture of a walkway.  Laura chooses a picture of water ripples and Andrae chooses a picture of a pensive-looking black girl.  He thinks she looks “forlorn.”

The designers then sketch, and Althea decides to make pants, since she’s only made dresses thus far.  Emilio decides on an exuberant look matching his girl’s personality.  Then it’s off to Mood, where the designers spend 30 minutes and $150.00.

Back at Parson’s, Laura decides to make her own print. When she complains to Joshua about the fact that she was picked last to use the photolibrary, they have a talk about her relations with the other designers.  He advises her not just to mind her manners, but also to not get caught up in people’s drama.  He warns Laura that if she focuses too much on other people, she’ll get distracted from her own work.

Joshua decides to make his top first, as that will be more complicated than his skirt.  Andrae DR’s that he feels like an outsider.

Joanna comes in to make her rounds, and she’s accompanied by Alison Maxwell, the style editor from USA Today.  They start with Andrae, and agree that his look could be “brilliant or bonkers.”  Laura chose a beautiful picture, but should concentrate on making something many people could wear.  Laura snottily DR’s that she does not make clothes for “farmers,” but makes fashion-forward garb.  That attitude strikes me as inappropriate unless 1) you’re very, very good and/or 2) you’re making avant-garde or haute couture.  Neither of those apply here.  Emilio tells Joanna that he’s doing a t-shirt dress and loves the attitude of the girl in his photo.  Joshua is making a structured, multi-colored shirt and Joanna cautions him to make sure it doesn’t look “too arts and crafts.”  Alison likes Uli’s work, but Joanna fears that Kayne’s look, with its black lace and red fabric, could look very “hookery.”  Joanna likes Casanova’s pants, but not his hat.

Ivy talks about how her butterfly made her think about how things evolve, and Joanna responds that she thinks Ivy has found some real energy.  Anthony Ryan tells Joanna about how he’d depended on designing clothes to get him through his battle with cancer.  His headline will have to do with “always moving forward.”

Joanna is pleased that Althea is stretching herself by attempting a suit, but she wonders if the result will be as “special” as the photo that inspired it.  At the end of her rounds, Joanna tells everybody, “I’m sure you felt emotion when you chose your picture.  Make sure that emotion transfers into your final product.”

The following morning, it’s the day of the runway show.  The designers busily work until the models come in– and some of them continue to work.  Then it’s time for hair and make-up.  Casanova thinks that Kayne’s look makes his model look like “a Parisian prostitute with a chicken on her head.”  One of the women describes Josh’s gaudy shirt as looking like something from Rainbow Brite.

On the runway, Carolyn introduces the guest judges.  Tavi Gevinson is 16 years old and the creator of the fashion blog, “Style Rookie,” while Charlotte Ronson is a fashion designer.  Then it’s time to start the show.

Kayne made a sleeveless red dress with black lace covering a cutout in the back.  He also made a feathered headdress.  Laura made a sleeveless cream gown with blue spatters that look like she had an accident with about a dozen pens.  She then dyed the bottom half of the gown brown, which makes it look as if the model had waded through mud.

Andrae made a green, red, and yellow dress out of pieces of cloth that have been zipped together.  He also had the model wear a bunch of strings with the same color scheme in lieu of an actual necklace.  Casanova made white, billowing pants and a matching sleeveless top with the back cut out.  He also made a wide brown belt and a fedora of the same color.

Althea made a khaki suit with a green top.  The jacket has mid-length sleeves and the pants are capris that seem not to fit properly.  Joshua made a bright blue skirt out of some shiny fabric.  He also made a sleeveless, color-blocked shirt using red, orange, and yellow fabric.  He then added black trim and what might be black buckles or clasps across the front.

Uli made a long, off-white dress that has a long slit up the front.  It also has a plunging back and a sculpted bustier that looks a bit like a corset.  Ivy made an orange sleeveless top and black and orange skirt.

Anthony Ryan made a snug white skirt and a sleeveless black and royal blue shirt.  The shirt has black mesh across the front.  Much of the back was cut out, and strips of black fabric were sewn across the gap.  Emilio made a sleeveless dress with a loose, bright yellow top and a very poofy light gray skirt with yellow lining.

Carolyn then calls Laura, Andrae, Joshua, Anthony Ryan, Emilio, and Althea.  They will have to face the judges, while the other designers are safe.

The judges then start with Althea.  Everybody seems to hate the pants, although Charlotte does like the jacket.  Carolyn thinks the whole outfit is drab.

The judges praise Anthony Ryan for his ability to have his photo and outfit reference each other.  Tavi, in particular, likes how he captured the spirit of the photo.  Georgina does ding him for his color scheme, saying that he’s used it before.  She urges him to take a chance and use something different next time.

The judges don’t like Joshua’s look at all.  Georgina thinks it’s too costumey, and Isaac thinks it’s simply too much.  Tavi doesn’t think the blue skirt and multi-colored shirt go with each other.  Nor can she see either garment going with anything else.  Ouch.

Andrae explains how he’d made his dress out of zippered panels.  He also says the mood is supposed to be “forlorn,” and Isaac says he doesn’t see “forlorn.”  (Neither do I, as I don’t associate bright colors with “forlorn” or any other synonym for “sad” you care to name.)  Georgina then tells him that putting zippers and stretch fabric together causes the fabric to buckle, which is exactly what has happened with Andrae’s dress.

Laura tells the judges that she dyed her own fabric.  The judges are suitably impressed.  Tavi also thinks that Laura did a good job of capturing the mood of her photo.

Last up is Emilio.  Isaac thinks the dress is light and modern.  Charlotte thinks it’s a fun dress– but might be hard for people to actually wear.

The judges then have their chat, starting with the designers they’d liked.  Anthony Ryan had made a sexy outfit and Laura had done a good job dying her dress.  Emilio’s look was bold and light, but would not be an easy dress to wear.

As for the designers they didn’t like, Andrae’s look resembled something from Footlocker and his styling– with those colored strings– was awful.  Althea had made a nice jacket, but horrible pants.  In her defense, khaki can be a difficult material to work with.  Joshua’s look was schizophrenic and an overly literal interpretation of his photograph.

Carolyn then announces the judges’ decision.  Emilio is in, and Anthony Ryan is the winner.  Laura and Althea are safe, leaving Joshua and Andrae in the bottom.  Joshua is in, so Andrae is out.

Next week:  The designers have to make androgynous designs and work with male models.