Top Chef Seattle Episode 10: Battle Before the War
The chefs try out their restaurant wars concepts at Bite of Seattle; Brian Canlis gets a cardigan full of lobster bisque.
Each week we chronicle how Seattle represents in the show's tenth season.
Previously, on Top Chef: The whiny, pickle-addled vanquishment of John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas! Padma in a jumpsuit! Talking smack about the Palace Ballroom’s cookware!
Wolfgang Puck greets the eight remaining chefs in the Top Chef kitchen. And he’s wearing some unconscionably light jeans. Ginger, he says, is one of his favorite ingredients in the world. I was on the edge of my seat hoping that Rachel’s Ginger Beer creator Rachel Marshall would be busting through the door. And instead...we get an uber-lame Canada Dry-sponsored quickfire. Padma intones that Canada Dry has been “delighting taste buds” for more than a century. The chefs have a scant 15 minutes to prepare an equally taste bud–delighting ginger dish…using Canada Dry, of course.
Padma and Wolfgang make the rounds and Puck is not impressed with the wimpy ginger flavor in Josh’s white chocolate and ginger soup. Sheldon hangs his knit-capped head in shame when Wolfgang describes his stir fry as “pedestrian Chinese food.” On the other hand, the judges adore Brooke’s ginger-caramelized squid. And Stefan not only made a Spago-inspired tartare, but also schmoozes up Wolfgang in German, so obviously he’s a favorite. Lizzie rebounds from last week’s reeky scallops debacle with a chilled watermelon soup. Brooke wins the quickfire, immunity, and—presumably—one billion cases of Canada Dry.
B roll of Pioneer Square take us to the elimination challenge! Judging this week: restaurateur rock star Danny Meyer. The chefs all look suitably impressed when he walks in the room. Danny. Pal. Buddy. Please tell me you scouted a few potential Shake Shack locations during your Seattle visit.
Padma lowers the boom: Danny Meyer is here to judge restaurant wars. But, this being Top Chef and all, there’s a twist. Each chef must create an individual restaurant concept, then present it at “one of the city’s premiere restaurant showcases,” which is Top Chef speak for Bite of Seattle. Next week the two best concepts will go head-to-head in the traditional restaurant wars format we know and love.
Danny advises everyone to try and encapsulate their concept in a single dish. He concludes, “If you don’t believe in your concept, nobody out there will believe in you.” Danny Meyer is like the Jiminy Cricket of creating restaurants.
After some cool time-lapse footage of the waterfront, most chefs head to Central Market, while Josie, Micah, and Sheldon make their way to Uwajimaya. Yay, local grocery stores.
Sheldon says he is so excited by the multitude of Asian ingredients that, “I had to change my underwear a few times.” The selection is pretty great, I guess. His concept is Urbano, modern Filipino food in honor of his grandfather. Micah, randomly, lost a bunch of weight eating raw food so that’s his route. Unfortunately Uwajimaya doesn’t have any raw-worthy meat, only sashimi-grade fish.
Chefs start arriving back in the Top Chef kitchen, only to find eliminated chefs Carla, Kuniko, Eliza, and Chrissy are back and ready to do other people’s bitch work as sous chefs. Sheldon grabs his “Filipino sister” Chrissy, while Stefan summons Carla. “I had moments where I wanted to strangle Carla, or shank her,” he recalls. But she is superfast and...WAIT. Did he just say “her butt is always cute”? Four DVR rewinds don’t tell me any different.
Josh’s meat-and-potatoes Bistro George is named for his late father. Josie’s Home 305 concept represents her hometown of Miami, and will be all about Cuban-style roast pork. Kuniko looks nonplussed at helping out with this adventure, while Eliza assists Lizzie with her northeastern-Italian dumplings. So only half of the eight contestants get a kitchen assistant?
Tom sidles in to offer fatherly advice and look askance at Stefan’s German-Thai concept and Brooke’s plans for “unkosher” Jewish food.
Back at the Olive 8 Penthouse of Healthy Choice Meals, the chefs surprise Sheldon with a cake on his 30th birthday. Not to armchair chef this thing, but that’s a pretty weak-looking cake from a group of chefs. You’d think the show could have at least turned this into a quickfire or lined up a sweet bakery sponsor or something.
As the chefs arrive, Brooke tells the camera that “Bite of Seattle is a huge deal.” Well, not really, but at least this one is full of Seattle restaurant folk for us to enjoy. Josie, per usual, is a total catastrophe. But the most gloriously horrifying moment belongs to Stefan. Moments after Brian Canlis compliments him on his lobster broth, Stefan experiences a major blender malfunction, spraying the youngest Canlis brother with lobster bisque all up and down his hip cardigan. It’s like the world’s most ineffective, fishiest-smelling wet T-shirt contest.
It’s nice to see Gail again. She and her judge cohorts start off with Josh’s simple, but lovely rib eye plate and Lizzie’s mustard green canederli, an Italian-style dumpling that everyone agrees is too heavy.
Heyo! Here’s Thierry Rautureau, Maria Hines, and Canlis chef Jason Franey eating those heavy dumplings. Maria is rocking some seriously festive tie-dye.
Next, Sheldon’s sour tamarind soup blows everyone’s minds—in a very good way. Stefan, on the other hand, is busted for basically recycling a dish he made in the finale of his original season. Tom Douglas likes Sheldon’s soup, too; we get a shot of him snarfing a bowlful and exclaiming, “I’m going to this restaurant!” T-Doug, serve this up in your new Via6 space and I will be there on opening day.
The judges get all squinty-eyed when Micah explains his “Raw by Micah” idea. “Is this a concept you thought a lot about?” asks Gail. That’s not a good sign. The palpable disgust on Tom’s face is erased by Kristen’s onsen egg, served with camembert-mustard sauce and buttered radishes. And after so many restaurants dispensing homey homestyle hominess, the judges all but applaud when Kristen says that her style is “a little more formal.”
Here’s a shocker: Josie is disorganized. Ethan Stowell beverage director Sennen David waits at the front of the ever-growing line. “You can’t get any closer to my heart than this right now,” she says of her roast pork. “How about getting some closer to our plate?” retorts Tom. Zing! The judges dig the broth and duck confit in Brooke’s modern take on matzo ball soup, though Gail considers the matzo ball itself “offensive to my people.” But here’s a shot of Salty’s owners Gerry and Kathy Kingen saying how much they enjoyed it.
Monorail with the Space Needle! The Space Needle from a different angle! Now we’re back in the stew room, where the judges rehash the day in front of a comically large display of Canada Dry cases. Padma glides in and requests the company of Kristen, Josh, and Sheldon. The three of them had the best dishes, but only two will be leading the charge on restaurant wars. Kristen and Sheldon take the win (happy birthday indeed, Sheldon) while Josh stands around looking awkward and mentally twirling his mustache in an evil manner.
Now Kristen and Sheldon must go back to the stew room and select their teams…before they know who is going home this round. Danny Meyer advises them, “Staff your restaurant with the kind of people you can really teach and who can execute your food just as well as you do." Yeah, but Josie has to be on one of these teams, right?
Let the awkward teammate selection begin. Somehow it shakes out that Kristen’s team has all the girls, and Sheldon chose all the boys.
Now Padma summons Micah, Josie, and Lizzie. Danny tells Josie, “I put my fork in that pork and the fork fought back.” No wonder the man has 25 James Beard awards; Fork in the Pork would be a good name for a food truck.
Sadly it’s Micah’s turn to go, felled by a plate overly full of presliced raw fish. But he’s savvy enough to wring out some additional seconds of screen time by talking about how he can’t wait to face off in Last Chance Kitchen.
Next week: Restaurant wars is on in Georgetown. And hopefully we learn the answers to burning questions like: How will Josie screw up Kristen’s restaurant concept? Does Danny Meyer give relationship advice, too? And is anyone else craving a Canada Dry?
Coolest Seattle moment: Seeing actual Seattle chefs—and lots of 'em—on screen. And hopefully Top Chef reimbursed Brian Canlis for his dry cleaning bill.
Lamest Seattle moment: "Bite of Seattle is a huge deal."
Line of the night: Sheldon's declaration of boxer-soiling love for Uwajimaya.