Top Chef Seattle Episode 11: Restaurant Wars
Making restaurants out of nothing at all in Georgetown. Plus, the twist heard 'round the world.
Each week we chronicle how Seattle represents in the show's tenth season.
Previously, on Top Chef: Painful Canada Dry promotion! Brian Canlis’s one-man wet T-shirt contest! Sheldon talks dirty about Uwajimaya!
No quickfire today, folks. Back at the Olive 8 Penthouse of Healthy Choice Steamers, the chefs drink Redhook and discuss the art of restaurant war. Brooke notes that all the girls have some sort of classical French training, but laments that Kristen has never actually run her own kitchen.
The guys' team only has three people, two of whom have never, ever cooked Filipino food before. “What kind of herbs?” Josh asks Sheldon, conferring about his prawn dish. Sheldon gently admonishes, “Not even herbs, bro. We don’t do herbs.” But it’s totally legal here now, guys.
“We hop in the Toyota Avalon and head to the Georgetown Ballroom” is totally a normal sentence people say in conversation. The chefs marvel at the event space. They are especially psyched about the patio…until they figure out that the patio is actually the empty space where they must build a kitchen. Twisty!
Pedersen’s Event Rentals makes a delivery while Brooke and Josie pick out linens. Brooke gives the side eye to Josie’s suggestions and tells the camera “that the type of restaurant that we’re opening takes maybe a little more…class?” Sheldon’s back to his favorite underpants-soiling grocery store, Uwajimaya, to shop for mung bean paste.
The skyline. Pike Street. Westlake. These things are very close to Georgetown Ballroom. Right? Sheldon is smart; he browns his meat for broth the night before. And look, here’s Lizzie, roasting her bones in advance so she can get a jump on stock the next morning. Josie also plans to roast her bones, then just stands around adjusting her “Chef Josie” headband instead.
Later that night at the Olive 8 Penthouse of Josie Is Lame, the women strategize. Kristen insists they cook each dish a la minute, despite Josie’s plea to just halfass it, already. Then for some reason Josie saunters over to the boys’ team to spill a few state secrets about Atelier Kwan’s plans. Woman, you couldn’t be more wrath-inducing if a team of professionals edited you to look that way.
Nighttime. Sunrise. Buses. The day of restaurant warfare has arrived. Kristen’s dessert is “a cross between an American macaroon and a French macaron.” Ha! That’s hilarious. Wait…seriously?
Josh is making balut, a Filipino dish that consists of “an unhatched chicken egg; it’s got feathers and beaks and everything like that.” Let’s hope Josh isn’t writing the menu descriptions.
Brooke and Stefan assume the oft-cursed front-of-house roles. Since the boys’ team is a chef short, Stefan immediately sends a dishwasher named Pedro back to help prep. Go, Pedro. Top Chef should make him a contestant right now, just for twists and grins. Stefan gives servers the most skeletal of explanations of the food and instructs them to “have candles here for sexytime” at the bar. He glances at the blackboard up front to remind himself of the restaurant’s name, Urbano, as he greets incoming guests.
Red alert: gelatin crisis at Atelier Kwan. Josie is way behind schedule, so Kristen tells her to omit the gelatin from her bouillabaisse broth. It was supposed to impart a light, foamy texture, but Josie’s chaos is ruining Kristen’s precise vision. Kristen generally freaks out all over the place and says she would prefer a dishwasher instead of Josie.
Lots of the Seattle chefs we’ve seen so far reappear at restaurant wars, including T-Doug, Thierry Rautureau, Jason Franey, and Ethan Stowell. Methinks I spy Renee Erickson and Mark Canlis in the background, too. The judges arrive, and oh no! Padma forgot her dress. Oh wait, if I peer closely, I guess she is wearing some sort of backless scrap of cloth. The perfect ensemble for a day in Georgetown.
While the name is sort of stomach-curdling, the judges dig Lizzie’s charcuterie soup of pulled rabbit in a chicken and rabbit broth. The drama-inducing bouillabaisse, not so much. Some stuff is overcooked, some is under, and all the chefs lament the postage stamp of broth in the bowl.
Meanwhile, back at Urbano, Tom Douglas is thirsty and tired of waiting around for his table. Stefan encourages one lady to hurry up and leave her table already, but she tells him she hasn’t even had dessert yet. “Really, bitch?” he fumes to the camera. I want to track this woman down and put her in our Perfect Party section.
Stefan does everything short of hauling out an old-timey vaudeville cane to get people to leave. What he does not do is stop by the judges’ table to explain the Filipino dishes being served. They call him over to explain Josh’s miki dish, he responds, “Miki is afma;ldkfn with asmafnkdnf.” Say what now? It takes the judges a minute to realize he just totally blew them off. “He made us feel worse than the bouillabaisse,” laments Emeril.
Clearly meaningful discourse on Filipino food is not Stefan’s strong suit. He ducks back into the kitchen to help serve Sheldon’s “adobe pork.” “It’s adobo pork,” Sheldon yells after him, looking as put upon as little Sheldon could possibly look. Good thing Tom and Danny Meyer interrupt their festival of mutual admiration to proclaim this dish the best thing they’ve eaten all day.
Sheldon says he “couldn’t feel more prouder” about their showing today, and he’s so sweet that we instantly forgive any and all grammatical errors. Meanwhile Kristen continues to fume over Josie’s comically bad time management skills. The judges fume over how rude Stefan was in his front-of-house role. They debate what was suckier, Urbano’s service or the sauceless bouillabaisse at Atelier Kwan.
All the chefs are summoned to the Table of Judgment, lining up with military-level precision. The judges immediately start nitpicking Kristen’s dishes: the lack of wine in her beef bourgignon; the heaviness of her macaroon macaron. Kristen is unaccustomed to being on the bottom; she usually wins gracefully, but her face is all shades of pissy here.
Brooke’s curse-breaking front-of-house skillz and Lizzie’s horrifyingly named, yet very tasty charcuterie soup earn praise. Then Tom, Padma, Emeril, and Gail turn their attention to the bouillabaisse. Josie blah blahs about how she thought it was dumb to use so little sauce, but she was just doing what Kristen wanted. What Kristen wants at this moment, I imagine, is to murder Josie, or perhaps waterboard her with her own broth.
Now it’s time to shower praise on Urbano. Tom tells Sheldon, “You don’t see too much Filipino cuisine out there, probably because we’re waiting for a chef like you to do that.” Josh had hardly even eaten Filipino food before this, so Tom’s praise—“It didn’t read Filipino, but it did read good”—must have been a huge relief.
Urbano wins! Unanimously! Sheldon wins! Stefan is very, very lucky that he’s on the winning team and won’t be bounced for his awful service.
Time to scrutinize the ladies once again. Tom declares Lizzie and Brooke safe, setting up a tension worthy of a Breaking Bad season finale. They have to send Josie home, right? They would never boot superstar/superchef/supermodel Kristen…right?
Tom says that tonight’s decision hinges on the sauce on the bouillabaisse. And to his credit, he delivers this statement in a way that doesn’t make it sound ridiculous. Kristin makes veiled references to Josie’s time management, but otherwise takes responsibility as the leader. She mutters “bite my tongue; bite my tongue” (which the show helpfully subtitles) while Josie finds the nearest bus and promptly throws Kristen under it: “You didn’t get enough sauce, and she sauced your plate.”
Finally, it’s time for Padma to send Josie packing. Cheers must be erupting across America at this moment. The camera closes in on her face. “Josie…” she purrs. “You’re safe.” OH, COME ON. This episode had so many overt signs pointing to Josie’s dismissal that I did fear Kristen’s departure, but that’s laying on the bait-and-switch a little thick. Kristen is headed for that big Last Chance Kitchen in the sky.
“I think Josie is more surprised than Kristen,” says Tom. Viewers, there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here: Tis better to take no responsibility at all than too much.
Stefan responds to the news by hugging, kissing, caressing, and rubbing Kristen vigorously. She’s proud to leave “with integrity intact” and laments, “I’m really irritated everything couldn’t have been perfect.”
The remaining contestants turn their baleful gaze to Josie, who’s all, “Last time I checked, we were all here to win.” We fade out with Seattle’s nighttime skyline, and the knowledge that this season’s most annoying contestant will live to irritate us another week.
Next week: Josh and his mustache struggle to make sushi and OMFG DAVID CHANG!!! And fried chicken! And hopefully the answers to pressing questions like: Will Josie get shanked in her sleep? What really happens when you cross a macaroon with a macaron? And how will Stefan occupy his hands now that Kristen is gone?
Coolest Seattle moment: Going to Georgetown was an unexpected, and cool, move on the show’s part.
Lamest Seattle moment: Too bad all the great local chefs in this ep didn’t get to do much beyond stand awkwardly in line. And nobody got sprayed with lobster bisque.
Line of the night: Stefan’s “Really, bitch!” might be the new “Bitch, please!”