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Top Chef Seattle - Ep. #1 - 11/07/12 (Spoilers)

OK, girls and boys - we're back. And we're in the Northwest this time. Let's see if they *really* get back to basics and cooking as they've said they're going to do this season!

There are 21 chefs to start. Are they all going to be here at the end of this first episode? Doesn't look like it - they'll be tested in the restaurants of 4 of the judges and each judge will move several of them into the next round. And just who might they be? Tom Colicchio, Hugh Acheson, and Emeril Lagasse, and they're being joined by Wolfgang Puck!

Five chefs meet up at Tom's restaurant, Craft, in Los Angeles. They'll be working a service in his restaurant, making the dishes on his menu. Tom tells them to check out the kitchen, where he'll check their knife skills and see how they mesh with the other chefs in his kitchen. One makes tortellini, one breaks down whole ducks, one filets and portions salmon (this one is a 54 year old chef!), another filets black bass, and the last butchers whole chickens.

Emeril gets another 5 chefs at Table 10 in Vegas. He wants them to all make soup in 1 hour. Two of his chefs are good friends and work together, and live in the apartment building. Another is married and his wife is due with their first child in 3 months. Another tries to chill a gazpacho in a few minutes in the freezer in a shallow hotel pan. (Sorry - that's disjointed - personal life to cooking. Trying to get back into the swing of things.)

Emeril tries the various soups...the chorizo and seafood soup looks very good. The one who chilled his gazpacho (Jeffrey) gets a TC coat - he's the first off to Seattle! The other four are waiting to see what happens to them after Emeril tries the rest of the soups. The two who work together end up split up - one goes home, along with another chef. The chorizo and seafood soup (Kristen) and the guy who plates a bit early (Joshua) end up moving through.

Back to L.A. at Craft. Service starts, and Tom starts calling out orders. Tom asks one of his kitchen staff how John, one of the cheftestants, does and his staff said he did well - so he moves on for cooking halibut very well.

Off to Beverly Hills at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant with 6 cheftestants. Wolfgang wants an omelet - and they're being judged not just on the taste of the eggs, but on presentation. They have 45 minutes. He has a Japanese cheftestant in his kitchen. To the Colorado chef, Wolfgang suggests something with a little steak. He says "I'm an easy guy - as long as they do it the way I want it!" Carla, the former wife of the Rao's owner, seems like a crazy one in the kitchen. Tyler's omelet looks SO overcooked.

Wolfgang tries Tyler's omelet first. He seemed to like it. Kuniko's omelet looks really good! Daniel's omelet is a little overdone, but Wolfgane would like it if he ate it in the dark and didn't have to look at it. Chrissy's omelet is a take on her heritage, the Filipino torta. Puck said it could use a bit of salt. Eliza made the steak and eggs. He thought it was going to be overly complicated, but he liked it. Carla went with a Mediterranean omelet. Only 5 are going to Seattle, and Daniel didn't make it because of the messy presentation. The rest all take their chef coat and are heading to Seattle.

Next up? It's off to Hugh Acheson's restaurant, Empire State South, in Atlanta. He gets 5 chefs to test. What does he want to see? They have 45 minutes to create a beautiful salad. And can I just say I'm THRILLED to see Hugh back on the show? :-D And there's a knighted chef, Bart. Hugh asks "Do you wear a suit of armor in the kitchen?" Bart says "No, we don't." Hugh replies "Good."

There's a chef from Hawaii as well, and this chef, Sheldon, wants to showcase the flavors of Hawaii. There's also someone who is the founder of a community food program (Gina).

Bart's salad was VERY big. Hugh said there was a lot going on, although the spiny lobster was cooked perfectly. But Bart's nervous watching Hugh's face. Brooke's kale salad puts her through to Seattle. Gina's salad was a bit overdone with parts of her cooked veggies. Danyele's grilled watermelon and tomato salad was plated nicely. Hugh says that 3 more will walk out with TC coats, and Gina is asked to pack her knives and go.

Now we're back to Craft. Micah, Elizabeth, Anthony and Jorel are the remaining chefs. Tom notices that Anthony is hanging back and it doesn't look good. Micah jumps in and Tom likes the way he works. Jorel oversalts his beurre fondue, but Anthony seems to do well with what he finally makes (hamachi) and he gets a "nice job, Anthony!" from Tom.

Tom chooses Lizzie and Micah. Both Jorel and Anthony didn't get past the first hurdle.

And that's it for the first episode (I got more on the page than I expected here!). The previews of showing who will be judging and future episodes makes this season look good on the cooking side, but also filled with more drama than I'd like. We'll see.

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  1. Minor factual correction: chorizo and seafood soup (which did kind of look amazing to me) went home with half of the pair. I was very surprised - thought she had really played up to Emeril's Portuguese roots wisely there, and I want to eat that soup.

    Loved this episode...not so much for the specific challenges, but for the way the judges handled them. Especially Tom...he took the time to teach, and cut the unteachable. I have a lot of respect for that.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Wahooty

      Oops - sorry - I thought Kristen was the one who made that soup. Thanks for the correction.

      And I agree - I liked that Tom was teaching in his kitchen. And loved watching Wolfgang make an omelet in the "in-between". Having to make 80 of them for the staff meal on his first job will definitely imprint how to make omelets on your brain.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        So - for clarity's sake:
        Kristen Kish ("one half" of the pair) made Pea, Lemon, Apple & Scallop soup – she goes to Seattle.
        Stephanie Cmar (the "other half" of the pair) made cauliflower, lobster, pea tendril & corn soup – she goes home.
        Tina Bourbeau made the chorizo & shellfish soup – she goes home.

        1. re: huiray

          Thanks. I wasn't yet rewinding the DVR while I was watching the show. All I could remember while typing/watching was that Kristen got to go to Seattle.

    2. Nice to see you doing write-ups again Linda.
      Random thoughts:

      - I liked the episode. The kinds of tasks tended to highlight actual cooking skills, and that's what I felt was missing from last season. I had faint hopes that the show would start with a smaller group of chefs (I think there are 15 left now), so that the early episodes don't lean too heavily toward group catering challenges, but that was too much to ask for. And anyway, my favorite season (6) started with 15 or so. At any rate, this was a decent start and I hope the rest of the season follows suit.

      - Likewise, I'm shocked (pleasantly) that the obnoxious lady in Hugh's group got the boot. I'm sure reality TV producers hate passing up on a surefire shit-stirrer like her. While I'm on the topic, am I the only one who simultaneously thinks the judging for quickfires and elimination challenges is more or less straight-up and honest but assumes that the judging for this kind of episode where the first 15 are chosen is done with a lot of input from the producers? Just seems to make more sense to me. If the judges had wanted to cut all but 8 chefs, do you really think they could have? I don't.

      - I'm a little surprised how much trouble the chefs had with making omelets. Not necessarily because it's easy to make the 'perfect' omelet, but just because the technique is so iconic. OTOH, I always have to remember that not everyone learned to cook from videos of Pepin over and over again.

      - Did they ever say why the chorizo and seafood soup lady got the axe? Maybe I missed the telling bit of criticism, but it was a surprise to me when she got the boot.

      36 Replies
      1. re: cowboyardee

        emeril was clear enough about what he wanted in the soups. they probably edited out what specific critiques he had with the rejected Iberian style stew, and flaws in execution like overcooked seafood (easy to do if you want that soup properly hot) can't be discerned on t.v. emeril did make positive comments when things were perfectly cooked, and that dish didn't get such praise.

        the chef from d.c. who flubbed the bacon grease omelet was overconfident, and we did not see him make a test omelet, which wouldn't hurt if he was attempting something unfamiliar.

        1. re: moto

          I'm sure there was some reason or another. But it's unusual for Top Chef for someone to get the ax (or even almost get the ax) without the producers going out of their way to give the audience an idea of what they did wrong. Cutting her without actually airing any significant criticism is jarring.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            Was the chorizo & seafood soup one from the roommate of the model turned chef? With the cauliflower? Because that one he mentioned during tasting that he didn't really taste the cauliflower so it might have been a matter of it being very bland?

          2. re: moto

            Hmm, did all the other cheftestants in Wolfgang Puck's place make a test omelet? We saw Eliza Gavin make one – and scrape off the ingredients to use for the 2nd omelet because she didn't have any more ingredients left to use, heh – but I don't recall seeing anyone else do so...

            Tyler Wiard and Chrissy Camba also used bacon, besides Daniel O'Brien (the guy from D.C., with glasses). Yes, he was overconfident. Didn't take it well when he got booted.

            BTW1 in Hugh Acheson's blog he says that O'Brien "...also misses the Omelet 101 class by Wolfgang." That seems to be contradicted by the video of that segment on the bravo website, where WP appears to show *all* of them how to make one. There is a quick view of D. O'B. towards the very end when WP turned away and starts to walk off - there is a view of D. O'B, the only one with glasses and a chin-patch in the group, in the background.

            Link to Hugh Acheson's blog:
            http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...

            BTW2 Hugh Acheson also seems incredulous that anyone would pair oysters with an omelet. Well, Hugh, millions of people do so and eat oyster omelets. Y;know, the Taiwanese, Fujianese, Chaozhou folks, many of their neighbors and many of their compatriots in SE Asia and in the Chinese diaspora worldwide. It's called "Oh Chien" in Hokkien.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oyster_o...
            https://www.google.com/search?q=oyste...

            1. re: huiray

              once the components are prepped, the cooking time of an omelet is short enough to allow for a test omelet. a top chef would have sufficient quick technique to get the prep done to allow for it. some of these cooks might be out of practice if their places don't feature 'em.

              calif has a variation of the oyster omelet going back to about 1850, but if it was introduced by a Chinese cook, details have been obscured by time. it would not be the only contribution from the earliest Chinese immigrants to calif that's been forgotten.

              1. re: huiray

                But I see Hugh responded to the comment you left on his blog.

                ETA: Assuming you use huiray on multiple sites).

                1. re: gaffk

                  Yes, that was me on Hugh Acheson's blog. It was generous of him to respond as he did.

                  1. re: huiray

                    I thought his response was so respectful, and I loved his blog. This season might be a winner. I, too, was so happy to see them cut the leader of all movements. Good gosh, woman! Thanks for the recap, Linda.

                2. re: huiray

                  In San Francisco, an oyster omelette goes by the name of "Hangtown Fry". Origins date back to the gold rush days.
                  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hangtown...

                  1. re: huiray

                    Cool that you got a positive response from Acheson himself! I am so happy that you're still doing yeoman's duty again, Linda! I was too tired to read last night after watching and couldn't stand to read you before watching the show. I waited until after dinner tonight, and am happy to have waited and thrilled to see you! Now on to the rest...

                    1. re: huiray

                      Huiray,

                      You just made me drool. Oyster omelets are one of my favorite memories.

                    2. re: moto

                      Wasn't he the one who said something about "standing next to origami? I didn't get it, but my D was beside herself,

                      1. re: Shrinkrap

                        It seemed to me that she was a little taken aback by that comment.

                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                          was that a racial slur? good god! what a dick.

                          1. re: Shrinkrap

                            Yeah, that was just weird. I had to rewind to listen again because I couldn't believe he'd said it. What was that even supposed to mean?

                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                yikes, I really thought I misheard him and because Kuniko didn't make a huge deal of it. (she's not one for drama and I like that) I passed it off. but yeah total idiot, was he trying to be funny?

                                1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                  No, he was just reducing an entire race (Japanese) to a thing (origami). There's a word for that, I believe, that starts with "r".

                            1. re: Shrinkrap

                              Kuniko was making kale chips and I thought his comment was along the lines (paraphrasing) "I knew it was the right decision to set up next to her" referring to her kale chips.

                          2. re: cowboyardee

                            " I'm shocked (pleasantly) that the obnoxious lady in Hugh's group got the boot."
                            --------
                            Heh. Agreed!! Wow, she then went on about Hugh Acheson making a big mistake etc and how she was not just a chef, (she) "...WAS A MOVEMENT." OK, lady, just keep on making MOVEMENTS away from the kitchen. As for telling HA to stop with his comments (!!) and not make her cry, it seemed to me that HA could barely restrain himself from doing just that - and the eye roll he displayed (as caught by the camera) as he turned and walked away from tasting her salad was priceless.

                            1. re: huiray

                              The words "movement" and "kitchen" just don't go well together.

                                1. re: huiray

                                  I kept thinking that the obnoxious lady must mean the Italian woman and didn't remember her getting kicked off. Also don't remember Gina storming off but I just don't watch that closely. A couple obnoxious mustaches in the group for sure.

                                  1. re: Joanie

                                    how can a mustache be obnoxious?

                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                        The dude whose dish was ready too early wasn't this bad but his was bordering on circus barker territory. Wasn't into the facial hair of one other guy, the tall guy who got axed.

                                        1. re: Joanie

                                          does one need to be "in" to a chef's facial hair to enjoy their cooking or how they come across on the t.v.?

                                          1. re: linus

                                            I don't know but the Eater guy nailed my feelings about it.

                                            Josh Valentine is probably chill, but like Jorel, I am only focused on his mustache wax. Each day you put wax on your mustache? Is all the time wasted doing that why you don't have time to shave your neck? These are just questions I have for Josh, who does seem like a great chef and good competitor, but who also looks like a guy who rolls into an old west town with a wagon full of tinctures and bottled leeches claiming he can cure baldness and impotence and then gets run out of the state for trying to sneak a kiss from the minister's 15 year old daughter.

                                            And I have to say, that kale salad looked kind of boring to me.

                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                          i must have missed that fellow on the show. is he a movement as well?

                                      2. re: Joanie

                                        I keep wondering what will show up with the next group.

                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      I also enjoyed that they were doing tests that "matter". I happened to come across the penultimate show of last season (the ridiculous ice-hacking, cross-country skiing, shooting, and cooking in a gondola). I just thought, this is the most ridiculous thing ever. (I thought that last season when I watched it the first time, but it seemed even more outrageous the second time around)

                                    2. The preview of coming episodes made me nervous with contestants digging in mud and something about a bear. Doesn't bode well for back to basics, but I am hopeful and looking forward to getting to know more about these people and what they can do in the kitchen.

                                      Thanks, Linda. It's especially good to have you back.

                                      7 Replies
                                      1. re: chicgail

                                        Yeah, that part of the previews (the mud flats) bugged me as well. But perhaps they were clamming for geoduck? They *are* doing the show in Seattle - Puget Sound is known for geoduck, I believe. I think they were filming during the summer. When is geoduck season? Or *is* there a geoduck season? LOL

                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                          One of the previews at bravotv.com for "Next Episode" is called "Everyone Wants Geoduck," so I expect you're right. (I haven't watched it.) But waist high "mud flats" sound a lot more accessible than sending them out in the wild, so to speak. Although it should make for a messier than usual kitchen.

                                          1. re: momjamin

                                            Damn good guess on my part, then, as I haven't watched or read any of the blogs at Bravo's website.

                                            1. re: momjamin

                                              Oh, but they *do* go out on a muddy flat beach in some future episode - this is shown in the "teaser" clip for the series.

                                            2. re: LindaWhit

                                              They are also shown digging (by hand) for a limited number of geoducks in that raised "mud pit" in the TC kitchen in one of the previews for episode 2.
                                              http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                Trust me, LW - we have LOTS of mud flats around here when the tide is out... and there was talk about them doing a shoot near a beach on Vashon Island, just off Seattle proper. MOST Geoduck is harvested by divers, however, with special permits. Can't wait to see how this plays out...

                                                1. re: gingershelley

                                                  <MOST Geoduck is harvested by divers, however, with special permits.>

                                                  My, how things have changed. Glad I grew up when I did and the beaches were ours. As a child and growing up in the area on Puget Sound....there're no memories like the memories I have while pulling those odd looking creatures outa the mud... stretching their long bodies and wondering if there was any end to them.

                                            3. Thanks for the recap! It's always hard to keep up with the contestants this early, so I don't have much to say, but I did enjoy seeing the interactions with the chef judges, and the focus on cooking and getting around a kitchen.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: momjamin

                                                I'm so happy to see a chef from Hawaii! I hope he lasts for at least a while. I'm sure that he, like almost all of us Hawaii home cooks, can do some interesting fusion food.

                                              2. Seems a bit of a drag for a first episode.

                                                Thanks for the recap, however, LindaW.

                                                11 Replies
                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  See, I kind of liked this slower set-up, ipse. The judges choose the top 15 (or however many there were) after seeing how they work in a kitchen, how they do "basic" tasks, vs. just going on their submitted videos, recommendations from their compatriots in the industry, and in-person interviews and starting off bang-boom with a Quickfire challenge. I thought it gave a better introduction to all of the cheftestants, including highlighting those who sweat a LOT (quite a few of them! LOL)

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    Maybe that should be the next Quickfire challenge ... who can cook the fastest while sweating the least!

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      i wonder if they bring additional t.v. lights into the kitchens, which are notoriously hot places from the get.

                                                      1. re: linus

                                                        I'm sure they do, but TV sets are notoriously cold too. So, who knows.

                                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                                          some t.v. sets are notoriously cold (letterman, 'friends'.) those are shot in studios. location shoots tend to be hot, as the air conditioning must be shut off to avoid interfering with sound.
                                                          but, you're right, in this case, who knows? over the years, it appears things get pretty hot on 'top chef,' just from what i've seen.

                                                          i'm indifferent to sweating chefs. i can't remember the last time i went into the kitchen of a restaurant to check on the perspiration quotient.

                                                          1. re: linus

                                                            One episode of some show showed somebody's sweat dripping into the food, and I'm afraid that scarred me for life.

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                Didn't Howie also do that way back in TC3?

                                                              2. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                Yes, that one was disgusting. I thought it was funny that one of the blogs talked about "boob sweat."

                                                                1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                  I have not seen that, but my daughter thinks http://www.buzzfeed.com/whitneyjeffer... is pretty amusing.

                                                                  That was too far off topic, right?

                                                      2. re: LindaWhit

                                                        Tom Colicchio in his blog also says that they (the judges) wanted to have the chance again to do this real-time pre-selection, similar to what they did at the start last season.
                                                        http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...