Each week we chronicle how Seattle represents in the show's tenth season.
Previously, on Top Chef: Chihuly! Chowder! Taco tamales!
I-5 and Safeco Field at night take us back to the stew room from last week’s episode. Danyele says she just wants to put all her anxiety behind her. But the fact that the show’s editors gave this statement screen time suggests the opposite will happen.
The sun rises over Seattle. Two dudes in flannel shirts clink espresso cups (really, Bravo?). A ferry horn sounds. Sunshiny music plays in Stephanie Izard. Awww. Her original restaurant in Chicago, Scylla, was my husband’s and my date-night spot. Love. Plus, as Padma notes, she is the only Top Chef victor to go on to be a Food and Wine Best New Chef and the only woman to win Top Chef. So far.
For the quickfire, the chefs can cook anything they want, using whatever ingredients they select from the pantry. Don't worry guys, no megatwist here. Oh, wait! Every item in the pantry and fridge is wrapped in Reynolds Wrap foil. You can tear open as many of these mystery packets as you want, Padma intones. You just have to cook with everything you open. And the only cooking vessel the chefs can use? Reynolds Wrap!
Lots of squeezing, shaking, groping, and sniffing ensue. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas opens what he thinks is a pot of herbs and finds…a pineapple. Kristen unearths some eggs, and makes a freaking sponge cake. Sir Bart seems to be delighted with this game; he even makes himself a hat/strainer out of foil. Everyone says the words “Reynolds Wrap” over and over; clearly the producers instructed the contestants to give those guys maximum bang for their product placement buck.
Padma and Steph make the rounds. One hint that Brooke will be on the bottom: Padma starts literally fanning her mouth in disgust after sampling her raw onion-packed bacon-roasted yams. Micah’s undercooked lamb panzanella and Josh’s “uninspired” chicken dish join her there. Steph anoints Sheldon’s smoky scallops, Danyele’s stew, and Kristen’s sponge cake her favorites. Kristen’s cake wins the day (and immunity). Making that sucker in 30 minutes using aluminum foil as both mixing bowl and baking pan was pretty damn impressive.
Real challenge time. Padma tells the chefs they will be heading to Remlinger Farms for head-to-head cookoffs at the berry festival. Micah says, “Berries are so sweet and tangy; I’m really excited to cook with these bundles of joy.” If only the production team could edit out his sarcasm. For Josh, however, this head-to-head format somehow brings back memories of his wrestling days. Up pops a screen shot photo of said wrestling days. Josh is wearing light jeans, an equally light denim shirt, and there is nary a facial hair in sight. He even has a letterman’s jacket thrown rakishly over his shoulder. Mind = blown.
The five chefs that rocked the quickfire get to choose their opponents for tomorrow’s cooking challenge. Sheldon chooses Micah, and Danyele goes Josh so they can have a little Oklahoma-Texas throwdown. Stefan selects John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas because they are both old and pompous. Josie takes Lizzie and the only person left for Sir Bart is Brooke. Cloches under the table hold their assigned berries—blackberries, raspberries, gooseberries, tayberries, strawberries, and blueberries.
For some reason, Whole Foods loosens its sponsorship stranglehold and lets the chefs shop at Central Market in Shoreline. Hooray, local markets! Stefan finds the other chefs have absconded with all the good-looking fresh tuna, and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas is giving him major shit about his choice to use frozen tuna, Fair warning: He will mention it approximately 449 times before the end of the episode.
“It’s Top Chef, who uses frozen fish? I’m definitely beating Stefan,” John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas’s giant glasses tell the camera. Which means Stefan will definitely beat him.
Back at the Olive 8 Penthouse of Tuna Turmoil, John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas continues this refrain. Stefan is so annoyed that he can hardly focus on caressing Kristen over there on the couch.
Sunrise over Seattle! Alki Beach! The intersection of Eighth and Olive! An I5 sign! Mt. Rainier! The Top Chef Toyota fleet hits the road, heading to Carnation and the lovely Remlinger Farms.
The chefs race to the makeshift outdoor kitchen, and Danyele has to throw a few elbows to get anyone to make room for her cutting board. We are seeing a lot of Danyele this episode. That’s definitely not a good sign. The world’s cutest overalled farmer dude pulls up in a tractor, pulling wooden crates of fresh-picked berries. Lizzie and Josie have raspberries; Lizzie (who cooked for Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, by the way) wants to highlight the berry’s femininity. Josie, on the other hand, is making something by the ungodly name of “raspberry rock and roll” that’s a play on a summer roll, but with raspberry aioli and raspberry wasabi. Josie, the 1980s called…and they don’t want your freaky berry roll, either.
Blenders are apparently a hot-ticket item in this challenge; everyone is fighting over them. Even jolly Sir Bart swears up a storm in his confessional and calls John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas a jackass. Kristen tells us that she was born in Korea, her mom abandoned her, and the police who took custody of her ended up naming her. By the age of four months, she had been adopted by a family in Michigan. Winning the challenge’s $10,000 prize would allow her to travel to Korea: “I need to see where I came from.”
Meanwhile, back at the outdoor kitchen, jolly Sir Bart tries to talk shit as he and Brooke prepare their blackberry dishes. His version of talking shit is to tease Brooke about being a “fancy pants.” That’s cold, dude. Let’s try to keep the discourse civil, okay?
Tom stops by to make the rounds, dispensing fatherly support or disdain depending on the person and the dish. AGAIN with the frozen tuna talk, John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas? Tom chides him for throwing his partner under the bus, and John Whinypants McForeheadglasses retorts that he’s instead “making a political statement today” because that tuna isn’t sustainable. Can I borrow your enormous spectacles to magnify my eye roll?
Crowds descend on the berry farm to taste and judge the chef’s dishes. Micah awws over Remlinger’s family-friendly vibe and says he misses his daughters. Their names are Sage and Saffron; he wanted to give them culinary names, but “thought that Cayenne and Cinnamon sound like stripper names.” So do most of these berries, though.
As the competing chefs bicker, Kristen quietly does her own thing. She has no opponent, since she won immunity, but she is still cooking a matcha goat milk custard with macerated tayberries.
The judges arrive just in time to witness Josie doing a weird carnival-barker-on-ecstasy impersonation when she should be busy wrapping her gross-sounding rolls. Gail gives Tom a knowning look and wonders, “is she high?” Cut to a group of Real Housewifey looking ladies complaining that Josie’s service is so slow, she must be “actually killing the crab in the freaking cooler.” What are these ladies doing at a berry farm?
Tom, Gail, Padma, and Stephanie settle in to discuss Lizzie’s daring cabbage roll with heritage pork, bacon, and raspberry, and lament the rubbery nature of Danyele’s chicken and pine nut terrine, which sits (along with a blueberry mostarda) on a crostini so thick that the chef can her people trying to crunch into it from yards away. Padma says John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas has “two dishes going on in the same cup with his white gazpacho with chorizo and gooseberries.
Meanwhile, guests on the farm play cornhole. We need a lot more cornhole in Seattle.
The interstitial is a really mean compilation of chefs complaining about Josie’s laugh. “A little bit of me dies every time,” says Josh. “It hurts my soul.”
A shot of the cityscape at night tells us the contestants are back in the stew room, awaiting their fates. Padma sashays in and beckons Josie, Sir Bart, Micah, Danyele, and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas. Usually the winners get called up first, so Padma quickly dashes everyone’s hopes when she tells these chefs they lost their competitions today.
Stephanie Izard’s hair is giant and puffy in judgement. Tom tells Micah that his strawberry-marinated fried chicken was decent, but his biscuit was lame and Sheldon’s victorious strawberry ahi dish “just popped. Sir Bart’s blackberry soup was great on its own; it didn’t need the random salmon nubbin garnish. After last week’s affirmation session, the judges scold Danyele for “getting halfway there with your concept, then stopping.”
As for John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas, he thought he represented his gooseberries quite well, thankyouverymuch. He says he’s not making any excuses. Tom’s snort and Sir Bart’s eye roll indicate otherwise.
Time to bring in the winners. The judges don’t mess around; they anoint Kristen the winner straightaway. Wow, another double victory. Kristen marvels,”I’ve never won this much money just for cooking and doing what I do.” Stefan pops onscreen to kiss her. Wait, did he just call her “wifey “?
Time to talk more smack about the losing chefs. Gail says that Josie’s rocking funtimes raspberry roll was disturbingly pink, and looked like Pepto Bismol. “And after that, I needed Pepto Bismol,” says Tom. Zing! Golden product placement opportunity, guys.
Danyele’s rubbery crostini send her packing. Going home probably prevents her from another nationally televised meltdown, plus she seems overdue for a bang trim. Meanwhile, back in the stew room, another tiresome round of bickering ensues.
Next week, the chefs tangle with geoducks, roll with the Rat City Roller Girls, and hopefully provide answers to burning questions like: Who is Josie’s weed dealer? How does Josh look in a wrestling unitard? And what, exactly, is a tayberry?
Coolest Seattle Moment: Remembering what summertime looks like on this most crappy of December days.
Lamest Seattle Moment: I still can't get over that dumb B roll of two guys in plaid shirts clinking coffee cups.
Stefanism of the Night: After surveying the room and learning that every other chef has used the same frozen Tuna, Stefan jumps around gleefully and commands John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas to avail himself upon a portion of Stefan's anatomy.