TV Recap

Top Chef Seattle Episode 5: Pike Place Pickle

Padma issues an official apology to the artisans of Pike Place Market. Tom does not issue $10,000 to anyone.

By Allecia Vermillion December 6, 2012

Each week we chronicle how Seattle represents in the show's tenth season.

Breakfast on a stick. Photo via Bravo.

Previously, on Top Chef: Canlis! Foot rubs! Onion rings!

 The Space Needle at night and I-5 footage flash us right back to the Canlis kitchen, where the chefs ponder the fleeting nature of being on top. Then it’s 3:45am at the Olive 8 Penthouse of Foot Rubs. Stefan turns 40 today, but he’s afraid of the dreaded birthday curse that plagued chefs during his previous season. Where he also wore that same rainbow T-shirt, by the way. The chefs are up early to go (finally) to Pike Place Market; a 3:45 wakeup call does seem like the only way to beat the tourist crush in the summer.

Padma awaits, resplendent, on the cobblestones outside the main market building, while the chefs stride in. Eliza’s husband apparently proposed to her here, which is sweet, but I’m totally distracted by the fact that Padma’s white-striped pants have flesh-tone pockets on the back that give the appearance of chaps. Standing with Padma is Marché and Cafe Campagne chef Daisley Gordon, rocking one fine beard.

Quickfire time. The chefs pair off and somehow man-catfight foes Josh and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas wind up together.

Padma explains that market vendors start their day crazy early, so they don’t have time to sit down and eat breakfast. The challenge: make them a breakfast to go…on a stick…inside a cupcake. Okay, I’m kidding about that last part, but it could totally happen. “A sausage on a stick is not going to cut it,” Daisley informs the befuddled group. Oh, and nearby Sur La Table is conveniently open at 5am for all your cooking equipment needs.

Everyone runs around the pantry that’s set up on the street, and in and out of Sur La Table. Eliza says that not having a proper burner is actually sort of freeing. Like the one summer she got into a van and followed Widespread Panic around the country, paying her way by selling vegan sushi out of the back of said van. No, she really said that.

Kristen and Micah are partnered up and bond over being the two youngest chefs. Also, probably uncoincidentally, the ones with the most hoodies. Josh and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas are suddenly all buddy buddy as they figure out how to put a taco on a stick. Sir Bart and Sheldon flounder around with a fritzy panini press.

Padma and Daisley make the rounds, starting with Eliza and Chrissy’s ricotta and sausage pancake. Padma’s portion immediately falls off her stick. That one makes its way to Daisley’s least-favorite list, along with Danyele and Lizzie’s European breakfast number.

Josh and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas fare much better, landing on top for their chilaquiles. But Sheldon and Sir Bart take the day with a “green forest” ham breakfast sandwich. Awkward high fives ensue.

Moving right along to the elimination challenge (apparently this was a rare occasion when Quickfire and elimination were filmed back to back). Padma praises all the wonderful ingredients in Pike Place Market, and has the chefs stay in their teams and draw knives. They bear phrases like “spicy dill pickles,” “cardamom bitters,” and “salmon candy.” Everyone groans with envy when Micah draws “cheese curds.” These chefs have no idea what the hell they are about to do, but everyone knows life is just easier with cheese curds.

All these fine products are made by artisans at Pike Place Market. And Daisley has invited this august group to lunch, so the chefs better get cracking in devising a dish that showcases their particular product.

Allow me to sum up most of the confessionals happening right now: “I wasn’t too keen on John’s/CJ’s/Danyele’s idea for pork/burgers/dessert, but I didn’t want to make waves, so I went along with it.” People, did you never watch this show before? Do the words “Carla Hall” not mean anything to you? Going mindlessly along with someone else’s idea is a sure ticket to knife packing.

Josh and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas cruise DeLaurenti, planning a pork and grits dish to go with their truffle popcorn. Danyele and Lizzie peruse a display of Theo chocolate bars. Now that Sheldon and Sir Bart have won immunity, Sheldon says the two are going “balls to the wall” with their salmon candy. The Pike Place Fish guys wish them good luck and offer encouraging high fives on their way back to the Marché kitchen. Props to Top Chef for not inflicting some cheesy fish-throwing challenge upon us all.

John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas notes that cooking for the people who provided your product is an especially big deal. Which is why the parade of crap that happens next is just so painful.

The judges file into the Marché dining room, along with market folk like Kurt Dammeier of Beecher’s, Seattle Popcorn Company’s Cara Davis-Jensen, Theo Chocolate’s Debra Music, Miles Thomas of Scrappy’s Bitters, and Woodring pickle maker Dale Nelson. They tuck into Brooke and Stefan’s tough duck with some gnarly sugary cabbage and rose petal jelly. Hugh Acheson proclaims that J&J’s grits totally suck, and even Kristen and Micah’s trio of cheese curds doesn’t particularly impress. Sheldon and Sir Bart get decent marks for the candied salmon with sweet and sour salad. It’s essentially salmon jerky, but the words “candied salmon” should inspire winces among more landlocked viewers.

Hugh Acheson asks Pike Place Fish guy Anders Miller what happens to the tossed fish that get dropped. “We have a stunt fish,” he admits. Apparently Top Chef has no problems outing other companies’ production secrets.

Hey, CJ does a pretty good Tom impression. He and Broncos fan Tyler have spicy dill pickles. After much brainstorming and bold experimentation, the two decide to make…a burger. Sure, Broncos fan Tyler had a risky-sounding chowder idea, but CJ mimics Tom lecturing them, “What’s wrong with a good burger?”

The pervasive friction and doubt really shows out at judges table, where Padma, Tom, Hugh, and company are talking some serious smack. And oh, they do not like that burger, starting with that “spongy gross bottom bun,” made with crumpets from the market. Hmmm…guess we won’t be seeing a Top Chef burger special over at the Crumpet Shop. “It’s all so bad,” laments Tom of the dishes. He declares that none of them dishes deserve the win...or the $10,000 prize. Padma actually apologizes to the market judges assembled around the table. Ouch.

Dramatic music swells as Tom puts on his stern face and enters the stew room. He scolds the group for a lack of imagination and technique. That $10,000? Off the table. New plan: “We’re sending an entire team home tomorrow.” The good news, says Tom, is that the show is doing Last Chance Kitchen again. Okay, Bravo, we get it—you want us to watch Last Chance Kitchen.

The Quickfire wine flows as contestants throw themselves a major pity party. John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas says the “worst thing in the world” is having Tom tell you your food sucks. That pork and grits, he says, “really was the worst plate of food I’ve put out in 30 years.” That guy really digs superlatives. I wonder if he was editor of his high school yearbook.

Ever the fatalist, Broncos fan Tyler says, “if it’s my time, it’s my time,” and promptly receives a lecture from Josh about having a bad attitude. Settle down, Josh; that waxed mustache is looking less hipster and more old-timey villain by the minute. God, there is another discussion of Last Chance Kitchen. Got it, Bravo. Coming through loud and clear.

A shot of the monorail glides by and Padma calls CJ and Tyler, Brooke and Stefan, and Josh and John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas to the judges table. The stream of insults about these chefs’ dishes come hard and fast. Everyone is dismissed to the stew room, but CJ just can’t help himself. He stops and turns around to ask, “One last thing, how was that dessert to you guys?” Because he considered Danyele and Lizzie’s coconut curry chocolate mousse tart to be an abhorrence, diabolical, and a travesty. All in one cake. “Uh oh, because your burger was even worse,” retorts Hugh Acheson. Oh no he di'int!

Tom has it out for that burger. Padma can’t forgive a duck that tastes like dessert. Acheson is still offended by the grits. The three of them turn to Gail for the tiebreaker. But Gail’s the nice one!  CJ and Broncos fan Tyler are eliminated. CJ is kind of a tool about it, but Broncos fan Tyler embraces his inner Jack Handey and finds some peace.

The remaining chefs speculate on who might win Last Chance Kitchen. Next week they will probably change Padma’s catchphrase to “Please pack your knives and go to Last Chance Kitchen.” What a depressing episode.

Next, on Top Chef: Anna Faris! Chris Pratt! And, hopefully, the answers to burning questions like: Did Eliza ever go to Burning Man? Will John-the-most-hated-chef-in-Dallas ever stop putting his damn glasses on his forehead? And, I forget—is Top Chef doing Last Chance Kitchen again?

Line of the night:  Hugh Acheson on Brooke and Stefan’s rose-scented duck. “If you get too much, you feel like you’re eating someone’s grandmother.”

Gratuitous Space Needle shots: 2

Coolest Seattle moment: That’s a tough one. This episode didn’t do much for us.

Lamest Seattle moment: That whole damn challenge, honestly. I’m all for showcasing the vendors in the market, but there are better ways to accomplish this. And I don’t mean a fish-tossing challenge.

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