TV Recap

Top Chef Seattle Episode 12: Wolfgang Clucks

Fried chicken follies and the ultimate comeuppance.

By Christopher Werner January 24, 2013

The chicken coup. Photo via Bravo.

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

Previously, on Top Chef:  Tons of Seattle chefs! “Really, bitch!” Georgetown! Josie being Josie!

Six chefs remain. In the penthouse the cast recounts last week’s shady showdown between Josie and Kristen. Cue the tears from Josie. “I feel heavy this morning. This is the only elimination I’ve felt some sort of guilt.” We feel a bit bad for her— and then remember why she’s crying in the first place.  

But there’s no rest for the weary; it’s time to hit the Top Chef kitchen, where raw seafood of all sorts awaits. The challenge: Create a dish that will impress L.A. sushi legend Katsuya Uechi. And there’s a twist! From this point forward there’s no more immunity for the winner, but he or she will win a boatload of cash. The furrowed brows give way to smiles.

A few of the chefs—Oklahoma boy Josh in particular—seem a bit flummoxed. Not Brooke, who brags about eating sushi three times a week. Her simple preparation of octopus with yuzu and grated wasabi puts her alongside Stefan as the two favorites. Stefan finally manages to eke out a win thanks to yellowtail with grilled shiitake and raw lobster with seaweed and unagi.

We say sayonara to Uechi and welcome David flippin’ Chang (Momofuku Noodle Bar, Milk Bar, Má Pêche, etc). Tom informs the group that he’s got a few friends in town, and he’s tasking the chefs with making them a dinner of fried chicken. The challenge lies in creating something that is “deliciously simple but deceivingly complex,” says wise one Chang. How true this will prove.

Tom's list of friends elicits drooling from the chefs. There’s Chang, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook of Animal and Son of a Gun, and Michelle Bernstein of Michy’s. Emeril and Wolfgang are joining, too.

The chefs get to work. Josh brines his bird from the inside. Brooke is deboning hers and doing something funky with the skin; she’ll fry it and use it in the breading. Josie is being Josie and brags about her secret blend of spices and flours. “Fried chicken—pshaw—got this one in the bag.” 

The chefs head out of town to some undisclosed waterside location (which narrows it down to anywhere, really) where Tom has rented a house. More babbling from Josie. My moral compass suggests she's due for her comeuppance. Or is this the producers playing us again?

As the contestants hop to it inside the house, the judges retreat to a picturesque patio; a ferry is conveniently docked in the background (nice touch, Bravo). There they soak up each other’s awesomeness, to borrow the words of Janis Ian. Someone cracks a joke about Wolgang opening a chain of fried chicken restaurants called Wolfgang Cluck. Yuck, yuck.

Crisis time. One of Josie’s fryers isn’t working, she’s running out of time. But still: “I know how to make the most delicious fried chicken you’ve ever damn tasted.” Interesting string of words there. Sheldon’s oil is too hot. Lizzie worries she’ll be booted for not taking a classic approach—she's doing more of a marinade than a crust—but takes solace knowing she’s cooking “from the heart.” It somehow doesn’t sound cheesy. Must be the accent.

Crises averted? Of course not, that would make for boring TV. The judges admonish Josie’s dish— a southern preparation with a blend of black garlic, cayenne, thyme, and hot sauce—for being grossly greasy. “I had to put it down, I just—I can’t,” says Bernstein with disgust. Turns out she had sent home Josie in a past season. Strike two? Lizzie’s coriander, black paper, and brown sugar rub is moist and good but the judges ponder whether she understands what fried chicken should be. Meanwhile, Sheldon’s drumsticks and thighs with umami and wings with usukuchi and grapeseed oil get nods of approval. “Look at my bone!” beams Wolfgang. Nibbled clean, he says it is testament to Sheldon’s success. This does not bode well for Brooke’s boneless preparation.

Indeed, the dukkah-crusted chicken breast flops. “What is the show called here? I wouldn’t even call it The Apprentice,” burns Wolfgang. He’s on a roll. “It’s L.A.—plastic surgery everywhere,” he says after Jon laments the chefs representing his hometown, Brooke and Stefan, only served breasts and no wings or thighs. Stefan, by the way, created a cordon bleu. Of this trio only Josh impresses with his smoked fried chicken with hot sauce and bleu cheese.

Back to the penthouse the chefs go. The judges continue to soak up their awesomeness at the awesome rented house. The elimination round will happen the next day. Perhaps Padma was overserved.

The first ones called to the judgement table are Josh, Sheldon, and Lizzie. Their three dishes were the favorites. Josh is the winner! He walks away with a year’s worth of wine. Stefan looks more envious of this than the actual win.

In come he, Brooke, and Josie. Commence the schooling. Shocker: Brooke’s deboning left the chicken lacking in flavor. Josie’s greasy mess produced “a gut bomb, and not in the good way.” She rattles off an excuse about running out of a time but that doesn’t do her any favors. “An hour to fry chicken is plenty of time,” reprimands Tom. “I don’t understand how you can even say I didn’t have time to put it on a paper towel.” Trumped. With Stefan, the judges are basically like WTF, cordon bleu? He responds with something about not having fried chicken growing up in Europe, but Wolf calls his bluff: One of the more popular dishes in his native Austria is fried chicken. Padma is not impressed. “Such a bullshitter. Such a bullshitter,” she says as he leaves the table. Tell it, girl.  

“One of you will go home for something as simple as fried chicken,” Toms informs the trio before bringing down the hammer. Time for that comeuppance? Time for the comeuppance! Josie is sent packing. 

After she says her goodbyes Josh sums up what we’ve all been thinking: “Thank god the Josie show has been cancelled.” 

Next week: Everyone loves life sans Josie and heads to Alaska on a cruise ship.

Coolest Seattle moment: Aside from the B roll Seattle took a backseat to Tom's rental property. Which was, admittedly, gorgeous.

Lamest Seattle moment: The fact that no Seattle chefs made an appearance was particularly glaring, especially when so many great ones warranted a cameo. 

Line of the night: Wolgang's plastic surgery dig made Seattle au naturel all the more appealling. 

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