Greetings, Top Chef devotees and my mom! This week’s foray into the wild culinary world of Seattle was titled “A Shock at the Space Needle,” which means we can reasonably expect both something shocking and a trip to Seattle’s most famous landmark. Lucky for us, the episode totally lived up to its name.
First, the shock: This episode takes place in Seattle! Alright, well, that’s sort of to be expected actually. But then we find out something slightly more shocking: Josie and CJ and Stefan from Top Chef seasons past are judging the Quickfire challenge. Chrissy says Stefan looks like a thumb, an observation so astute that it should earn her immunity. The contestants will have to break into teams of three and prepare a dish using local shellfish in 20 minutes.
This challenge basically conveys two things: Geoduck looks pretty phallic and Carla is essentially a superannoying version of Sofia Vergara. When it comes to the former, for some reason a bunch of the chefs want to use geoduck. Hmmm…wonder why that is? Kristen helpfully explains, “Geoduck is great except it looks like a penis. A really big one.” Well, it didn’t take the show very long to make that obvious joke. Now, how to fill the rest of the season’s episodes? As for the latter, Carla herself says it best: "When I cook, I want to look good. I want to be a James Beard, and I want to have a nice ass." Then she basically spends the rest of the episode rolling her r’s just to make noise. No, really, she does.
The blue team wins with its geoduck sashimi. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas wins immunity, which he says is one of the top five achievements of his career. Really, dude? Where does it rank with D Magazine naming you the most hated chef in Dallas? Because you mention that every 30 seconds.
Then, we get the actual shock of the episode: Josie and CJ and Stefan are competing this season. Like, the whole time. For the title. The new contestants’ reactions includes a lot of bleeping, but the viewing audience everywhere rejoices at the dramatic possibilities. Over/under on the episode in which John and Stefan get into a huge fight? Six? Anyone? Padma informs the judges that tomorrow they will be cooking for…Tom Douglas!
Cue B-roll of boats and the monorail, then a short clip of the cast oohing and aahing over the view from their apartment at Olive 8, a brief discussion of the problems that come with roommates, and a hint at the drama to come. Oh Bravo, you never let us down.
When it comes to the first actual challenge of the season, the producers decided to just cut to the chase and head straight to the Space Needle. We can picture this conversation as they plotted the episode: “We need a sophisticated, subtle, highly regarded restaurant in Seattle to really set the tone this season.” “Book Bindery?” “More iconic.” “Canlis?” “Too obvious." “The Walrus and The Carpenter?” “Eh…” “Oh, I know! SkyCity!” “PERFECT, because it SPINS.” Thank goodness the very tall CJ is on hand to explain, "It’s like an iconic place.” He went once when he was seven years old, and will never forget the “good potatoes" he ate there.
Each team has to put together a dish using the Pacific Northwest’s bounty of beautiful proteins in the 47 minutes it takes for SkyCity to make a complete revolution. Wait, is Tom Douglas wearing a sportcoat? This is a special occasion, indeed. Our esteemed guest judge explains such Pacific Northwest-y things as singing scallops, Vashon Island, and perfectly translucent centers on fish. Way to represent, mister.
The Quickfire-winning blue team is up first. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas, Kuniko, and Sheldon poach cod in chili sauce, and the judges dig it. Gail actually sings its praises a little too enthusiastically: “For the first thing I put in my mouth in Seattle? Not bad… oh, that came out wrong.” And here I thought this was a family show.
The blue team shares the kitchen with Carla, Chrissy, and Lizzie of the orange team, who put together a poached salmon and beurre blanc combo that Padma kind of loves. What really matters about the orange team, though, is that Lizzie will likely kill Carla before the season is over. Every confessional Lizzie gives this week is about how annoying she finds her teammate, which means the ish is gonna hit the fan very shortly. Stay tuned.
Next, the veterans on the red team share the kitchen with the new kids from the gray team. Josie, CJ, and Stefan decide that since everyone’s making fish, they’re going to make quail. (You know, because of all the wild quail in Seattle. Duh.) The gray team’s Brooke, Jeffrey, and Sir Bart put together some roasted halibut and mushrooms. T-Doug tries to be nice, but the whole panel is less than pleased overall and thinks both dishes are overcooked. We might have our chopping block, ladies and gents.
Now it’s time for a weird interlude in the middle of the commercial break, where Tom Colicchio tells the judges about the time he almost moved to Seattle. He was 22 and needed a road trip because he was having girl problems, and “Seattle was the next up-and-coming West Coast food town.” He bailed at the last minute, a stroke of laziness that T-Doug says he appreciates: “I’m a big fish in a small town.” Ouch, T-Doug. Just, ouch. Are people throwing truffle popcorn at the TV screen over at Bottleneck Lounge right now?
Finally, the yellow team and the green team face off. The yellow team—Josh, Danyelle, and Eliza—makes cod with mushroom, apple, and fava beans, and the judges are pretty into it. The green team—Micah, Broncos fan Tyler, and Kristen—makes a bunch of peppermint mochas and pumpkin scones...err, wait, no, that was my barista this morning. Wrong green apron. These guys actually made seared salmon and vegetables, and the judges think it’s the better salmon dish of the night.
After all the food is devoured, Padma and crew waste no time getting to the judging table and hand the blue team their second win of the night. The overall winner: coffee-loving Kuniko, whose fish was pretty much perfect. Aww, she's adorable, and more than deserves the win after being called “Origami” and other random sorta-racist comments these past two episodes. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas delivers the bad news to the rest of the group: the red team and gray team are on the chopping block.
The judges proceed to lecture the veterans on the red team, who can’t seem to figure out what they did wrong. “I think something possibly was imperfect,” says Josie. “Clearly,” snaps Padma. Way harsh, Tai. The gray team gets a slightly less severe verbal lashing, but in the end they’re the losers. Poor Jeffrey goes home for the unpardonable sin of overcooking the halibut, and our happy bunch of chefs loses their first member.
On next week’s very special Thanksgiving episode (filmed in what, July?), look for Thierry Rautureau, along with the answers to these pressing questions: Will Kuniko get to drink any coffee? Which contestant will flip out at Carla first? Who is the bigger geoduck: Stefan or John? We can’t wait to find out.
Gratuitous Space Needle references: 7
Phallic geoduck references: 1
Accidental dirty jokes by Gail: 1
Line of the episode: “I’m used to bigger breasts usually.”—Stefan, on the quail he’s preparing. What a geoduck.