Each week we chronicle how Seattle represents in the show's tenth season.
Previously on Top Chef Seattle: Twists! Cuts! Thumbs!
Vistas of the viaduct, a ferry, and the monorail flash by, then Food and Wine editor Dana Cowin awaits the chefs in the Top Chef kitchen—along with Padma (rocking some fabulous prom hair) and a map of the world. It has 17 kinds of dumpling on it. Wait! That’s exactly how many chefs are in the competition! It's a Quickfire! Everyone rushes to grab a dumpling.
Micah is the last to the map and draws Kazakhstan. He is extra dejected when he learns this is a real country. Carla has an African dumpling called fufu; I’m pretty sure the producers made her choose it just to hear her say “fufu” over and over.
Hooray, our first awkward Seattle product placement! The Top Chef kitchen is stocked with Kindle Fires from Amazon and each chef has five minutes to study up on dumplings. There are lots of shots of chefs poring over their Kindles, and CJ makes the producers extra happy by proclaiming “Hey, these things are kind of awesome!”
Everyone goes to work. Brooke can’t find any flour, a scarcity that particularly sucks when you want to make a dumpling wrapper. Time’s up and—sadness!—Kuniko didn’t get anything on the plate. Dana Cowin and Padma make the rounds to sample everyone’s dumplings. Cowin greets Sheldon with perhaps the most exuberant judge greeting in all of Top Chef history: ”I’m so excited to meet you! You’re Food and Wine People’s Best New Chef!” Sheldon’s gracious response: “Yeah.”
The ladies declare Brooke’s wrapperless Indonesian siomay and Carla’s little chicken-and-lamb fufu their least favorites. However they are all about Josie’s Korean mandu and Micah’s Kazakh manti with ground lamb. Josie wins immunity.
Annnd it’s time for the elimination challenge: cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the staff at FareStart. It’s actually a perfect idea for a challenge, so we will just ignore the fact that this episode was filmed in July.
The chefs are divvied into two teams (gray and red). And in a Top Chef first, the team leaders will be….Tom Colicchio and Emeril Lagasse. The two chef-judges strut in wearing their white coats. It seems like the editing team missed a perfect opportunity overlay this scene with a few verses of "Damn it Feels Good to Be a Gangsta."
Tom and Emeril will instruct their respective teams on their preferred style of Thanksgiving meal, but the contestants do all the actual cooking. Emeril requests a New Or-lee-ans repast, complete with cornbread dressing, sweet potatoes, gumbo, and a Creole-spiced turkey. Tom wants to relive his maternal grandmother’s Italian-American Thanksgiving, which includes pasta and a turkey with plenty of butter and herbs stuffed under the skin.
John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas gets busy sucking up to Emeril. “Chef, do you care if I put a little bacon in this cornbread?” As if anyone is going to say no to that. Emeril requests jalapeno as well, prompting Tom to mock, “What is this, Mexican Thanksgiving?” Chrissy aks Emeril for permission to say “Bam” while CJ dispatches a heart-stopping amount of butter into the business end of a turkey.
Tom is kind of amped up; maybe he just completed some sort of off-camera coffee Quickfire? Meanwhile, Stefan and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas have a slapfight about prep space lending credibility to our previous prediction that the two would come to blows by episode six.
Broncos fan Tyler works on Emeril’s gumbo while sharing some warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving memories. “One tradition at my house was getting really, really hammered early.” Actually he has been sober now for the past seven months, which is seriously awesome. But also concerning, because random caring and sharing like this usually foreshadows that contestant going home.
Josie is not seeing good color on her turkey. She is having major envy of the red team’s bird, all “glistening, big, and majestic.” Jeez, and I thought geoducks prompted some dirty talk.
Tom and Emeril stroll in for some reconnaissance. Emeril is so jazzed about his team’s spicy meal that he does a little dance there in the kitchen. He still does not say “Bam.” Carla reams out Stefan for calling her “sweetie” and “honey” instead of “chef.” She laments in a confessional that it’s “hard to be a successful woman chef,” but with her accent, she pronounces it “suss-sex-ful.”
The judges are assembling in the FareStart dining room. Joining the group are FareStart CEO Megan Karch and Luc and Rover's chef, chapeau enthusiast, and Top Chef Masters alum Thierry Rautureau. Josie is first out of the kitchen with her triple-spice turkey, but egads that bird is undercooked. Danyelle brings out Emeril’s mother’s stuffing, and the judges agree that John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas nails Emeril’s other stuffing recipe. The man likes his stuffing—no shame in that game. Hey look, there’s Ray’s chef Wayne Johnson!
Oy, the gray team is struggling. Kristen brings out some underseasoned root vegetables. Broncos fan Tyler’s gumbo is a major flop. Kuniko’s potato pave is downright raw. “Let’s go back in the kitchen and actually cook it!” exclaims Thierry.
Hey look, there’s Skillet founder Joshua Henderson! He finds John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas’s deconstructed pumpkin pie to be “a little grainy.” Side note: John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas’s habit of perching his glasses on his forehead, poindexter style, is DRIVING ME INSANE.
Tom’s team brings out his preferred stuffing recipe—a protein-packed combination of foie gras, pancetta, pork belly, and kale. The recipe was passed down from generation to generation, says CJ, causing Thierry to call bullshit. Padma cheerily wishes everyone a happy Thanksgiving as summer sunlight streams through the windows. At least we are proving to the world that it doesn’t always rain in Seattle.
The judges ooh and aah over Tom’s team’s turkey. “There’s probably three pounds of butter stuffed up underneath the skin,” he says. Emeril was skeptical of Lizzie’s mashed potatoes, but the judges are wowed by her buttery talents.
Tom and Emeril recuse themselves from judging, but the others are unanimous—Tom’s red team dominated, despite Brooke’s kickass sweet potato biscuits. Padma ushers CJ, Carla, and Lizzie to judges table and proclaim their dishes the best of the night. Tom praised Carla’s carrot soup, but admitted he was confused when she originally said she was making cabbage soup. “I think she said carrot but it sounded like cabbage,” Lizzie translates in her own adorable accent. Dana Cowin likens Lizzie’s potatoes to those of the great Joel Robuchon, high praise indeed. The word "moist" gets thrown around way too much as the judges compliment CJ on his turkey.
The clickety-snap judges table music plays and Carla’s soup wins the day, prompting a flurry of subtitled exclamations and a little dance. However Broncos fan Tyler, Josie, Sheldon and Kuniko don’t feel like dancing. They are headed to the judges table and only three of them are coming back.
Hey, that’s a snazzy new camera wipe. It slides back and forth between the chefs’ faces as the synthesizer of impending doom rumbles. Inquiries ensue. Tyler effed up the gumbo when he added more roux, but didn’t balance it out with more tabasco and Worcestershire. Since Hawaii does not enjoy the same robust kale season as our part of the world, Sheldon was afraid of overcooking his greens to mush, so instead they turned out stringy. Kuniko breaks my heart when she falteringly offers that she tried to learn about Louisiana and Southern cooking, since it was all unfamiliar. Josie is pure class, informing the judges that Kuniko jumped in to help a bunch of her teammates.
A shot of the Seattle Great Wheel takes this cliffhanger into a commercial. Then Padma looks especially pained when she informs Kuniko that it’s time to pack her knives. Noooo! She already seemed like a shoo-in for fan favorite. And she never did get to drink that coffee.
Back in the stew room, John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas is on the fast track to becoming the most hated chef in Seattle by bagging on poor Kuniko. “I’m one of her biggest fans, but you can cook potatoes in your sleep,” he says.
Next week, the chefs tackle some major butchery in the Canlis kitchen, as well as these pressing questions: Will Stefan and Carla have hate sex? How many personalized headbands did Josie bring to Seattle? Are Kristen and Sir Bart still on this show?
Gratuitous Space Needle shots: 2
Seattle chefs spotted as guests at FareStart: 3 (counting Thierry)
Dirty turkey talk: 1
Line of the night: "It's one of my favorite holidays: food, football, and sleep."—Emeril on Thanksgiving.