Each week we’ll watch chef Jason Stratton display his mad skills and sartorial flair in the show’s 13th season.
Okay, I usually skip the part where the chefs pour wine and relive the most recent drama, but I’m still not over this whole gummy potato thing. Neither is Jason. “The reason I was upset, it took fucking chutes and ladders to get to the point of ever admitting that there was a mistake made,” he tells insufferable Phillip and his equally insufferable man bun.
“What you call gummy, I may enjoy,” he retorts. “Does that make me wrong?”
The next morning, a pair of non-sponsored minivans wend their way to San Diego, hometown of bearded chef Chad. (Well, technically he grew up in Spokane…and is opening a restaurant there.) His restaurant is just 12 blocks from the pier where the vans deposit the chefs.
Padma awaits with local chef Javier Plascencia. The chefs will spend 20 minutes making their best version of a fish taco. Oh, and it’s another sudden death quickfire. NBD. In a stroke of hometown pride, bearded chef Chad wins. And I must admit, his thresher shark taco with an oyster, sea urchin, and soy salsa sounds pretty amazing.
Angelina, meanwhile, was so busy plating her tacos that she forgot to put them on the actual plate. She says so many swear words. Every one is justified. Now she must choose another chef to compete against. If she loses, she’s going home. She chooses to fight for her life against Wesley, which makes sense since he spent much of the quickfire challenge wandering around looking for his lost lobster, then made a taco without any sort of functional tortilla.
Wesley ekes out a win, thus sending Angelina home. If she had just put those tacos on the plate, she’d still be in the competition.
Down one competitor, the chefs turn to find Tom, Emeril, and Richard Blais arriving, bearing a few six-packs of beer. Everybody takes a bottle and Emeril proposes a toast. I’m sure Top Chef just wants to give everyone a chance to kick back with a beer; this nice gesture has nothing to do with the impending elimination challenge.
What’s that? Oh. Each of the judges created a collaboration beer with two excellent local breweries, Stone and Ballast Point. Now each chef must produce a dish that captures the essence of the particular beer in his/her hand.
Jason, rocking a yellow and brown plaid jacket, stocks up on calamari at Whole Foods. He’s planning to balance Tom’s wheat beer, made with lemon, coriander, and banana, with a squid and pork meatball.
Finally, finally—Top Chef gives Jason's backstory some screen time. He explains that he recently left his executive chef roles at Spinasse, Artusi, and Vespolina. “I wasn’t really feeling the creativity,” he explains. “Being here my battery is recharging.”
Later that night, Emeril drops by with an armload of wine (and a bottle in each of his back pockets for good measure) to do some caring and sharing. I keep admiring Jason’s purple socks.
The next morning as Jason preps his surf-and-turf meatball, replete with squid tentacles and grilled banana, Carl observes to the camera that Jason likes to cook “old-school dishes that are sort of forgotten about.”
We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a totally unnecessary close-up of Wesley True’s butt crack. Get a belt, dude.
Meanwhile, Isaac creates an ersatz mayonnaise out of bananas, which he obviously dubs banannaise.
When Jason presents his tentacly pork-and-squid meatball, the judges are straight-up horrified. Blais dubs it “one of the weirdest cuisines I’ve ever had.” The kindest comment is that they taste like the filling of a dim sum dumpling.
Jason stands up for his dish, explaining that in Catalan cuisine “you find a lot of dishes with soft on soft” texture. Uh oh…this explanation is veering toward the Phillip-esque.
Tom’s not having it: “This is bait, man.” By which he means it’s slimy and too fishy.
When the judges repair to their chambers, talk of least favorite dishes immediately turns to Jason’s meatball. “He’s almost like a food historian that wants to show you how much he knows about an old historical dish,” says Tom. He and Padma agree some dishes become history for a reason.
It’s clear Jason is on the bottom. Ugh.
The winner: Aww, magenta-haired Karen takes her first win for her roasted duck breast with cocoa nib, beet puree, and ras el hanout roasted carrots. Quite a reversal from almost being axed last week.
The loser: When Blais tells Jason those meatballs were strange in an I’ve-been-abducted-by-an-alien sort of way, I went into a sort of full-body cringe, preparing for the worst. But it’s Wesley who is sent knife-packing, due to some overcooked lamb and a sort of Jackson Pollacked spatter of beet puree.
Next, on Top Chef: The chefs return to LA to cook a dish representing where they were 10 years ago. Apparently this dredges up some upsetting memories. Can’t wait!
- All these outdoor challenges in southern California must give these chefs wicked sunburn. Seems like a lost opportunity for a Coppertone sponsorship.
- Seriously, though...I'm enjoying this show so much more without the distraction of awkward Reynold's Wrap challenges and other overly contrived product placement. I know, I know...that's like saying you like a magazine much better without the ads. But this season's successes and failures have been about the actual cooking. As it should be.
- Legit question from a friend: Do the 20 minutes allotted for a quickfire include time spent putting on your chef coat? If so, that sucks.
- Has Tom worn these spectacles before? His seem designed for the sole purpose of casting withering glances over the top of them.
- Did the chefs who brought out their dishes toward the end of the beer challenge get the benefit of tipsy judges?
- Now the groups has divested itself of the chefs who were clearly struggling. Things should get even more interesting from here.