Each week we chronicle how Seattle represents in the show's tenth season.
Previously, on Top Chef: Shame! Disappointment! Duck that tastes like Grandma!
Scene: Pike Place Market at night. Brooke dries away tears as the 12 remaining chefs sit in the stew room and ponder the suckitude of their last performance. The nighttime skyline, the view from Kerry Park, and a bus rumbling down Pike Street take us to a new day, hopefully one full of redemption.
An octogenarian lady stands next to Padma. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas wonders if it's Martha Stewart’s mom. Nope, it’s Marilyn Hagerty, the food critic from Grand Forks, North Dakota, whose review of the Olive Garden was this summer’s food nerd equivalent of the Bed Intruder autotune.
Hagerty gives the obligatory “somebody told me I had become viral; I didn’t know what that meant” crack and terms her 15 minutes of fame and ensuing book deal with Anthony Bourdain “a hoot.” Everyone laughs politely. Are they about to make bottomless breadsticks and salad?
Padma asks each chef to make a sweet and savory holiday dish from his or her culture. Hagerty makes aebleskiver, and she does not appreciate it when people pronounce it abbleskiver. Her delivery is perfect Rose Nyland from The Golden Girls.
Neither sweet nor savory: The Truvia Baking Blend product placement happening in this quickfire. With 75 percent fewer calories than sugar, “that will help with your holiday waistline, for sure,” says Hagerty. One final, twisterrific detail—the chefs all have to share a single knife.
Danyele is adopted, so she’s not sure about her culture. Way to be sensitive, Bravo. But she makes bread pudding with ham. Eliza makes a face. Josie and Micah (who proudly proclaims himself a Mexigro and a Blaxican) do tamales. Eliza fries up some hush puppies in honor of her mom calling her “pleasantly chunky” as a kid. This challenge is stirring up a lot of deep-seated childhood issues.
Padma and Hagerty approach; her prim grandma walk is funny next to Padma’s made-for-reality-TV strut. “You created something rather unusual,” she says to Micah of his very usual-looking tamale. “I’ve never seen that before.” Though Stefan is from Finland, he tells Hagerty that his ex wife is Jewish—and he married her twice. “That doesn’t show a lot of imagination,” she scolds him. But she likes his latkes. Yeah, she does.
Hagerty declares Sir Bart’s Belgian waffle and Micah’s taco her least favorite. Micah looks thrilled to be dissed by a woman who confuses tamales and tacos. Her favorites: Josh’s johnnycakes, Stefan’s potato cakes, and Brooke’s apple pie with cheddar. Brooke is the winner! Considering Hagerty tasted her way through lumpia, parmesan bondino, and South African bobotie, this overt preference for starchy, familiar comfort food feels a little…uncomfortable.
Padma bids Hagerty adieu so she can bring on the next challenge. “I’m looking forward to reading your next column,” she says. Padma does not add “ironically” at the end of that sentence, but we all know she’s thinking it.
The chefs will throw a big welcome home party for a local family. And that local family happens to be actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt. Squee! I will endeavor to not turn this post into a Tiger Beat-style Chris Pratt fanblog. Stefan notes that he and Anna have one thing in common: “We were both on Entourage.” But only one of you looks like a thumb.
The couple explains that they are both from Western Washington, they are expecting a baby, and they like to eat. Of course, Chris Pratt says all these things much more hilariously. And they really do like to eat—they tell the chefs to bring on the seafood, carbs, game, whatever. “Pack as many calories as you can into each bite,” Pratt instructs. Oh, and the winner of this challenge gets a Toyota Prius. The chefs race to this car, exclaiming over the gas mileage, and piling into it like a bunch of clowns. Aren’t there 12 of you? It can’t be that roomy.
We get a Space Needle time lapse shot, then John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas leads the brigade of chefs rushing into the kitchen, except he falls and bites it as he opens the door. Danyele ponders her paper-thin wild boar chops, and Josh attempts to redeem himself with pork after last week’s failfest. Kristen and Stefan flirt. A spoon catches on fire.
The party is happening at Chihuly Garden and Glass and the production team could not have picked a more perfect Seattle summer night. Redhook flows abundantly. Look closely and you can see me dodging security guards on the other side of the hedge to report this story. Just kidding. Kind of.
The chefs get busy with their induction burners as the judges enter, dry-witted seafood chef Rick Moonen in tow. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas has to literally adjust his giant glasses in disbelief. He used to work for Rick Moonen. Oh, and the seafood chowder he made that night is based on what he learned working under the seafood maestro. The plot thickens. Hopefully the chowder does, too.
Anna Faris and Chris Pratt arrive, along with a bevy of family and friends (she grew up in Edmonds, he’s from Lake Stevens). The extended clan seems very sweet and normal.
Time to eat. I must say, Sheldon’s braised pork belly with seared scallops and congee looks ah-mazing. Sir Bart’s elk is beautifully cooked. “If this isn’t a front runner, it’s going to be the best fucking night of my life,” says Pratt. Stefan’s goulash with dumplings, says Faris, is what a pregnant woman craves. Cut to Stefan feeding some to Kristen. Subtle.
Brooke takes the couple’s request for seafood and meat and gives them a ballsy" squid stuffed with lamb. Pratt’s mom and sis swing by the table to tell everyone that he was totally a fat kid growing up.
Gail is dubious about the apricot in Kristen’s delice de Bourgogne tortelloni, but pairing dried fruit with a runny triple-cream cheese proves a brilliant idea. Eliza’s elk is a catastrophe, but the ever-cheery Gail praises the huckleberry sauce’s much-needed hit of acid. Yep, Pratt cracks an acid-dropping joke. During the commercial interstitial, he and Faris do a snarky Bachelorette impersonation. Bravo, stop wasting your time with all those shahs on Sunset and give these kids their own show.
Stop. Tesar time. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas exchange awkward greetings with his former boss. He says, “Ironically a wise old man taught me the base of this chowder,” which contains cockles, manila clams, crab, and Penn Cove mussels.
More cuteness between the Faris and Pratt families, involving memories of that one time when Chris Pratt and his brother-in-law ate raw squirrel together. The ties that bind.
Service finished, the chefs are in the stew room, sitting in front of some cases of Snapple that surely must be left over from a 1990s-era product placement. Padma prances in and beckons Kristen, Brooke, Sheldon, and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas. They have everyone’s favorite dishes! Praise ensues.
Tesar, glasses perched firmly on his forehead once again, gets downright teary-eyed when Moonen terms his chowder “celebratory soul food.” Brooke’s lamb-filled squid is declared the winner. We have clearly moved on from the days when a really good onion ring could score you a win. Has any other chef won a quickfire and an elimination challenge in one episode?
Now, the clickety-snap music of judgment plays as the bottom four line up: Eliza, Danyele, Micah, and Josh. Tom allows that unlike last week’s trainwreck, their dishes weren’t actually bad. Padma chides Josh for his ginormous unseasoned shoulder cut, “you keep saying you’re known for pork, man.” He allows that he should probably stop cooking pork. Padma says he should probably just stop talking about his mad skills.
Tom talks smack about Eliza’s elk and carrots and she thanks him for the “wonderfully humbling” feedback. Danyele, however, is on the verge of tears. In as genuine an emotional moment as you’ll ever find on Top Chef, Danyele’s voice cracks as she wonders aloud if she’s cut out to be on a show like this. Gail and Tom say encouraging things about just being herself. It would be really cruel to eliminate her right after that Hallmark moment.
A nighttime shot of the ferris wheel. Eliza is sent packing. She says she won’t shake hands with everyone because she’s fighting a cold (didn’t she just prepare and serve food for a ton of people?) but comes forward to give everyone a hobbity little nod. I love that weirdo, and her freak flag was furled too early for my taste. Back in the stew room, Danyele says, “Good job not crying up there.” Eliza bids a classy farewell.
Next week, the chefs fight over a blender and we hopefully learn the answers to pressing questions like: Where will John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas perch his glasses next? Will Kristen and Stefan have adult relations? Can Danyele get her groove back?
Coolest Seattle moment: Chris Pratt’s mom confessing to her son that she couldn’t help but run up and touch one of the Chihuly sculptures. We see where he gets his comedic timing.
Lamest Seattle moment: Lizzie making a king salmon dish that remind the judges of a Filet-o-Fish.
Line of the night: Chris Pratt instructs the chefs to buy “only the best Pacific Northwest squirrel at Whole Foods.” Hee, product placement joke.