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Top Chef Seattle - Ep. #2 - 11/14/12 (Spoilers)

OK, we're finally off to Seattle. Let the games begin!

The chefs check out the TC kitchen *and* each other. Padma arrives with previous cheftestants Josie (TC2), Stefan (TC5) and CJ (TC3). They'll be the judges for the first Quickfire. The cheftestants are to divide into 5 groups of 3, and they are to make a dish highlighting local shellfish (crabs, mussels, live crawfish, razor clams and geoduck). They only have 20 minutes to complete the dish.

As Padma is still explaining the rules, John starts talking to Kuniko about how to prepare the geoduck, and Padma interrupts John and calls out "Excuse me! I'm not finished!" to get him to stop talking, and then finishes what she needed to say.

Two teams take the geoduck, leaving another who wanted geoduck to have to go with razor clams. The all-women team (Carla, Chrissy, and Lizzie) are a mess. Carla's going to be a problem - completely all over the place and *constantly* talking ("I want to be a James Beard; but I also want a nice ass!").

John and Sheldon seem to be working well with Kuniko and getting their point across as to what the team needs to be doing. Other teams come very close to *not* getting their two plates up to the serving area, but manage to do so. So no one is auto-eliminated because they didn't finish on time.

Gray Team (Bart, Jeffrey, & Brooke): Crawfish with Pickled Red Chili, Fennel, and Crawfish Cream - CJ said "old school" and Stefan said the crawfish were cooked very well.

Orange Team (Lizzie, Carla, & Chrissy): Oven-Roasted Crawfish with Fennel & Herb Salad - Lizzie knows it's a messy dish. CJ said he would have preferred more acid, and Josie said the flavors are nice and it was seasoned well.

Green Team (Micah, Kristen, & Tyler): Fried & Sashimi Geoduck, Radish & Bok Choy Salad with a Yuzu Chili Vinaigrette - Josie said she liked seeing the Geoduck prepared two ways to see the contrast; CJ would have liked to have seen the sashimi cut more thinly.

Blue Team (Sheldon, Kuniko & John): Geoduck Sashimi, Ponzu, Apple & Cucumber - CJ loved the texture and liked the apple with it; both Padma and Stefan thought it could use a tiny bit of salt.

Yellow Team (Eliza, Danyele & Josh): Razor Clam & Grilled Corn Chowder with Fresno Chili & Grilled LIme - CJ liked the grilled lime, but Stefan thought it also needed some more seasoning with salt. Josh said in an aside saying "Stefan is kind of a dick!" He didn't like hearing the criticism from him.

The least successful - was the Yellow Team's Razor Clam chowder.
The most successful was the Blue Team's Geoduck with Ponzu and Apple.

Next up - those three each get to draw knives to see who gets immunity. And who pulls it? John Tesar.

WHOA!!! Padma announces that Stefan, CJ and Josie are rejoining the ranks of the cheftestants as contestants. And *every* one of the original TC10 cheftestants are pissed off. And in the camera aside? Stefan is STILL a jerk! LOL It seems he drives a GT3 Porsche, and has 8 restaurants. @@ And CJ has just gotten back from a stage at Noma, rated the best restaurant in the world, so he's confident.

Each team stays as a team for the Elimination Challenge - which means CJ, Josie and Stefan are now a team. Tomorrow they'll be cooking at the top of the Seattle Space Needle at the Sky City Restaurant. Each team will serve one dish to the judges and legendary Seattle chef, Tom Douglas. They'll use regional ingredients, and will have 47 minutes to prep and cook their dish, as that's the time it takes for the Needle to go around once. They have 30 minutes to shop in the TC pantry before they head to their evening home at Olive 8.

They go "shopping" and Stefan suggests taking 8 quails "just to have it". The Yellow Team doesn't know what kind of fish they are taking, as there's no head.

The suite they're in at Olive 8 is gorgeous. Stefan goes right to the kitchen and opens the wine. They go around to say who's married or not, and it's noticed that Jeffrey is wearing a ring, but he says he's engaged. His father didn't have an issue with Jeffrey being gay when he came out at age 25, but his mother did. She eventually got over it and they both love his fiancé.

They arrive at the Space Needle the next morning and Jeffrey explains that two teams will work at a time. The Blue and Orange teams start first. Blue team seems organized; the Orange one? Not so much. Meanwhile, the veteran Red team are seeing that everyone is doing seafood - and they *might* do the quail instead of seafood.

The judges arrive, and Tom Douglas asks "What do you want me to set up for you while you're here?" Gail Simmons wants to go fishing and Emeril notes that he was introduced to pink (singing) scallops by Tom Douglas.

Kuniko burns the poaching chili oil and has to start over. The Orange team seems discombulated because Carla will NOT stop talking. ALL of the other chefs are watching and saying "I would *not* want to be on her team!" LOL

Blue Team: Chili Oil-Poached Ling Cod with Dashi, Spot Prawn Shabu Shabu
Orange Team: Courtbouillon-Poached Salmon with Seasonal Vegetables & Beurre Blanc

As both teams go back to the kitchen, Carla cuts her hand after reaching into her knife bag. The medic says no nerves were cut.

The judges try the Blue Team's dish. They were concerned that it was going to be spicy-hot, but it wasn't. The dashi was nice and smoky, and the spot prawns were perfectly done. Gail said "As the first thing to put in my mouth in Seattle? Not bad. :::::a bit of a pause:::: And *that* came out wrong!"

They then try the Orange Team's dish. Tom notes the salmon isn't seasoned at all, but Padma notes that the beurre blanc was so flavorful.

Next up are the Red and the Gray teams. The Red team doesn't like the cherry emulsion, so Josie's going to try and come up with something else. Brooke on the Gray team is concerned that the halibut is overcooked.

Red Team: Quail Breast with Confit Spot Prawn, Cherries & Porcini
Gray Team: Pan-Roasted Halibut, Mushrooms and English Peas, Wheat Beer with Herb Sabayon

The judges try the Red team's dish first. Tom immediately said that the quail is overcooked, and Emeril said the Spot Prawn is overcooked, and he's getting some bitterness with the broth. Tom Douglas said "Wow! You guys are tough!" He thought it was a pretty well-developed dish.

They try the Gray team's dish - Tom Douglas said he likes the pickled radish on top, and that you don't get the wheat beer flavor at all...Gail said it tastes like nutmeg. Padma notes her halibut is overcooked, and it LOOKS overcooked. She calls it "hockey puck" and she's right.

Next up - Yellow and Green Teams. Both teams seem to be well organized, until the Yellow team seems to lose their mushrooms...but they find them.

Green Team: Crispy-Seared Salmon, Local Vegetables (Morels, Fava Beans and Sea Beans glazed in Sherry Vinegar) and Spot Prawn Butter Sauce
Yellow Team: Pan-Roasted Cod, Mushrooms, Fava Beans, Pickled Green Apple and Garlic Scape Pistou

They try the Yellow team's dish, and Tom Douglas notes there's not enough pistou. Emeril said he loves the apple, and Tom C. said it was the best part of the dish, as the pistou is overloaded with raw garlic. The Green team's dish seems to be received better, as Tom Douglas liked the Spot Prawn butter sauce, and Tom C. said the salmon was perfectly cooked. Gail thinks the Spot Prawn's texture was lost.

In the Stew Room, the vets explain what it's like being in the competition and the Stew Room. Josie said they'll second guess themselves over and over and over again while they sit and wait for Padma to walk in. And then Padma walks in and asks to see the Blue Team. And they have the best dish of the day! Kuniko gets raves for the chili-poached ling cod, John gets praise for the Spot Prawn, and Sheldon said the dashi worked very well with the other flavors.

Emeril announces the winner - and it's Kuniko! They go back to the Stew Room and tell the Red and Gray teams are to both go see the judges. (I'm thinking the Gray team is going to be the losing team overall.) The judges skewer the Red team, and Tom C. really gives it to Stefan re: the quail being overcooked. Stefan says "But the quail was so small..." and Tom C. grimaces. Stefan realizes he's being an idiot with his excuses and apologizes.

The Gray team seemed to not be cohesive in how they conceived their dish. Bart and Brooke's styles of cooking are very different (classic French and rustic, respectively). Emeril called out Jeffrey for starting the fish too early in the time frame he had to cook (14-1/2 minutes) and then it sat under a heat lamp. The teams head back to the Stew Room during deliberation. Gail said she didn't want to hear from Stefan that the quail was too small and that's the reason they were overcooked. Tom C. said the halibut was just too overcooked.

John Tesar asked the Red Team how they feel, having been here before. Stefan said it's throwing up time.

They're back in front of the judges. And Padma tells Jeffrey Jew to pack his knives and go. The overcooked fish was just too much to overcome. Padma seems upset to see him go.

Previews look interesting - Emeril and Tom Colicchio are in the kitchen cooking with the cheftestants? Looks like they're making a Thanksgiving dinner.

Whew. This was a long one, trying to get everything in. But it's done for this week. :-)

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  1. Wow! Episode 2 and the season is already almost ruined for me. I don't want to see veterans of the show competing against newbies regardless of who the returning competitors are. I hope they get booted off quickly.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Chimayo Joe

      Yeah, that was a bit of a surprise. And I *really* want Stefan to go home earlier than he did in his season. What a surprise - his food (when prepared individually) might look good, but I still don't like him.

      1. re: Chimayo Joe

        Yeah, that shocked me too. I don't know what to make of it, though -- on the one hand, the veterans do have an unfair advantage. On the other hand, it's also their chance for redemption. They're also not recent vets. If they were, I'd be more inclined to be irritated.

        1. re: Chimayo Joe

          Ugh, bringing back the vets a la Survivor is foolish (the same goes for the TC version of Redemption Island from the previous season). If they want to bring them back why can't it be during All Stars?

          1. re: Chimayo Joe

            This season is high on the douchebag scale...Carla and the mustache guy can leave on the next plane out of Seattle as far as I'm concerned.

          2. Wonderful recap as always, Linda!

            1. I thought Stefan snidely commented that he currently ran 8 restaurants and owned a Porsche GT3. Hmmmmm.

              Not sure why he is there then if he is doing so well. But I do I expect a serious dose of Schadenfreude to occur as he fails along the way, If only for his ironic and totally unecessary return.

              The elves are in full force though.
              BTW, recycling is for plastic items, so I guess the 3 returnees qualify. Right?

              Oh Bravo, you continue to parade out the oh-so-lame scripting and same old Shtick So sad.

              Even though I watched, thanks for the recap Linda.

              4 Replies
              1. re: jjjrfoodie

                Yup - note my @@ eyeroll in the original post re: Stefan. Based on the preview for next week, it looks as if he gets bent out of shape at one of the original TC10ers. I vaguely remember a "Then just get OUT of here!" being yelled by Stefan at another cheftestant. So it'll be interesting to see how he does.

                Re: the other two. Don't remember much of Josie from TC2 (Ilan's season), but CJ I remember as being OK. Will be interesting to see how he's improved (if he has) as he wants to show Tom C. "what he has". Looks like everyone looks to Tom Colicchio as the Papa Bear and want so much to impress him. :-)

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  IIRC, Josie was a fairly early boot in TC2, which had a pretty lame group to start with. I don't know why they brought her back because I don't remember her being any good. Stefan is really stuck on himself but at least he's a good chef. The guy with the handlebar mustache needs to chill out.

                  1. re: Worldwide Diner

                    I don't get the whole Josie thing. She was incredulous that they let go somebody with "so much talent" during her Season 2 departure. I also recall she was brought on during one of those holiday specials and was booted off early as well. She was also on an episode of Top Chef Season 5 where she was considered an "all-star." To her credit, she did win her challenge against Jeff who ended up being kicked off.

                    Now they bring her on Season 10? Maybe she's super talented but just doesn't do well on these types of shows. But my feeling is that she's got a friend that works for Magical Elves.

                2. re: jjjrfoodie

                  I wonder which 8 restaurants those are. It does not jibe with those listed on his website (3 active [LA Farm is on the Lantana campus], 2 "in progress/coming", plus his catering business which appears to operate out of LA Farm)

                3. Just came on here, but bookmarking with " looks like a thumb".

                  Linda, so glad you are doing this. Thanks!

                  1. 1. It's too bad Carla didn't cut the nerve to her mouth. She's like Charo on crack in an apron.

                    2. I think it's unfair that the previous cheftestants are back. If you bring any back, bring back Mikey and that NJ lady or Betty!

                    3. Stephan is a ginormous dickhead.

                    4. I was sad to see Jeffrey BHKAG but WTF with cooking that tiny piece of fish with that much time left?

                    5. Their residence is an upgrade from previous seasons.

                    27 Replies
                      1. re: C. Hamster

                        CHARO! Yes, perfect analogy for Carla.

                        And I'm glad Betty's not back. God - can you imagine her and Stefan? LOL Wait. Actually, that might be fun (just for the drama) - a team of Stefan, Carla, and Betty. ::::evil grin::::

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          But the newbies would be utterly "lost" amidst all that yelling and screaming and would be hiding under the tables to get away from the knife-throwing so we won't get to see much of them...except John Tesar, if his reputation is to be believed... :-)

                          I had to look up what or who the heck "Charo" is. Does that person really talk and emote like Carla does?

                          1. re: huiray

                            That was Charo's act back in the 1960s-1970s. Married to Xavier Cugat, and "cuchi-cuchi" was her schtick phrase. She *is* an amazing flamenco guitarist (she studied under Segovia). I suspect her command of the English language was better than she let on.

                            And yes, the chest/breast thumping would be rampant (along with knife throwing) - Tesar would probably get in on the act, saying it looked like fun. ;-)

                        2. re: C. Hamster

                          Stefan should have been brought back for an all-stars if anything, but maybe he was brought back to balance Tesar in relative experience and arrogance.

                          CJ will hopefully get a chance to redeem himself after his infamous broccolini.

                          Josie went home fairly early in S2, but wikipedia reports this on her PYKAG episode: "During deliberation, the judges could not determine whether Marisa or Josie was more responsible for the outcome of their dish. Because both claimed equal responsibility, the judges sent both of them home." I have no concrete memory of Marisa or of how this went down.

                          1. re: momjamin

                            Does anyone think that adding these veterans will make for a better 'tv chemistry' among certain existing contestants in the show? like how momjamin pointed it out, with Stefan and Tesar. I liked the way they included the old contestants... I thought John Tesar was going to prove to be a tough personality to handle, his being older, and labelled "Hated Chef in Dallas", + in hindsight, Carla (coming from something as big as Rao's in her resume, and her loud disposition) and Micah (with his feisty attitude) as well. There seemed no way any one of the other existing contestants would be able to handle them if those three started acting up. The season's barely begun, and Tesar, Carla and Micah already have taken a lot of the screen time with their reputations and 'antics'. I thought including the three veterans in the mix would balance John, Micah and Carla's strong personalities out, both in and off screen. Stefan was actually the perfect choice - he's somewhat abrasive to match the others, Tesar and Carla in particular. Josie and CJ looked like strong, steady personalities. Not sure if the veterans would win, but I think they could stabilize the whole crew and make for an interesting Top Chef Season (assuming they don't get axed early in the show, anyway)

                            It was too bad Jeffrey had to go. I thought he had a lot of potential for interesting flavor combinations, given his background.

                            1. re: silvercord

                              "I thought including the three veterans in the mix would balance John, Micah and Carla's strong personalities out, both in and off screen. Stefan was actually the perfect choice - he's somewhat abrasive to match the others, Tesar and Carla in particular."

                              Right now, if you hadn't heard that Tesar was the most hated chef in Dallas (or if he hadn't mentioned it), you'd think he was a great seasoned chef. He seems pretty mellow so far, no need to match an "abrasive" personality yet.

                              I taped the last half hour and it went a few minutes longer so I only saw up to them all waiting to see who would be called. I too was sad to see Jeffrey go so early.

                              C. Hamster's Charo analogy was a good one. She certainly wins most annoying at this point, even over Stefan who seems to me to be more obnoxious than in his actual season.

                              1. re: Joanie

                                i wonder if the reason tesar is the most hated chef in dallas is because he's so intent on telling people he is.
                                it's kind of sad, in a way, for a talented chef of his age to be reduced to marketing himself in this fashion.

                                1. re: linus

                                  Well that article in the Dallas paper that someone linked certainly showed a not so great side of him. Probably just a matter of time before he does something but then again, it's week 2 so lots of people have time to become dicks.

                                  1. re: Joanie

                                    That Dallas paper article was also not written with a "neutral" tone, it should be said, and as mentioned elsewhere on this thread.

                                    1. re: huiray

                                      it could be argued a "neutral" article is virtually impossible to achieve, but that's for another time and another place.

                                      i don't doubt he may become a dick in later episodes, but i find that less sad than his embracing of it to care for his career, wife and children.

                                      1. re: linus

                                        That's a reasonable point.

                                        Correction: The discussion about the article was in the previous thread, in the sub-thread descending from http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8766... which descended from http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8766... .

                                      2. re: huiray

                                        I did see people's comments about the neutrality but didn't think it seemed like a hatchet job in the least. Whatever, right now he seems like a decent guy. I thought Padma's scolding was kind of dumb too, it's not like she hadn't pretty much said what she was gonna say, maybe they had to find something to make him seem like a dick.

                                        1. re: Joanie

                                          as far as that padma thing goes, it was edited in a way that made it difficult for me to discern what exactly was going on.
                                          i suppose the gist was, the guy was talking too loudly over padma, which she didn't like.
                                          on the other hand, i wouldn't put it past either of them to work this all out beforehand because they thought it would play well onscreen.
                                          and that doesn't bother me a bit.

                                          1. re: linus

                                            I saw two things in this. One he was rude in talking over Padma, and two he was working out strategy for the challenge with Kuniko (I think it was her) before time started, which was an unfair advantage. I'm sure he wasn't meaning to cheat, but that's kind of what he was doing.

                                            1. re: ennuisans

                                              You really think having a strategy is cheating? If that were the case then the majority of the chefs each season would be disqualified. Top Chef may be a "cooking" show, but at it's core, it"s a game show. Strategy is the name of the game, it's not how you cook, it's who you can beat & get sent home so you can stay. The final goal is to win, and we all know that doesn't always go to the best chef.

                                              1. re: jcattles

                                                No no, having a strategy is fine. Talking strategy with a teammate before the time starts is not, any more than wiping a plate after time is up would be. The challenge should be executed in the time allowed, on either end, specifically because it is a game show, not a cooking show.

                                                1. re: ennuisans

                                                  I don't see it that way. We are only shown snippets from the what was recorded. You don't think other chefs have been talking to each other while they were standing there? What about in between when they are trying to form "alliances"? Is that cheating? I liken it to being in PE class and waiting to be called for a team, it's normal to look at your buddy & say we've got to get on the same team & knock out the other team's strongest player. Is that cheating as well?
                                                  I will agree that it is wrong to wipe a plate after time is up, but coming up with a plan beforehand? I just don't see it.

                                                  1. re: ennuisans

                                                    First challenge of the season. Dude was over-eager. I would be too, probably. I understand that it might be against the rules, but to call it 'cheating' or evidence of bad character is making a mountain of a molehill.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      I think that's the source of contention here. I did say "I'm sure he wasn't meaning to cheat" but apparently that wasn't a strong enough modifier for such a loaded word. I never intended the comment to be a comment on the chef's sense of fairness, or to say anything other than, as you said, he was over-eager.

                                                      1. re: ennuisans

                                                        Fair enough. I think it's one of those things that has gotten a lot of attention in this thread not because anyone thought it was a particularly big deal but just because people disagreed about it. That winds up happening a lot on TC threads.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          well, and they made a point of not editing it out, just to create a buzz about it. we're all just their little puppets!

                                                      2. re: cowboyardee

                                                        Oh so true. Regardless of the editing there has got be high adrenaline in that first challenge.

                                              2. re: Joanie

                                                While technically rude, it didn't make him look like a dick to me in this case. He appeared anxious to get started in a timed challenge.

                                          2. re: chicgail


                                            I was thinking the same thing. My glasses are almost identical to his and I was trying to figure out why he wears them on his forehead. Mine are on top of my head otherwise I'd be wasting time looking for them.

                                    2. re: C. Hamster

                                      God yes to comment 1. If she worked near me I'd have a nervous breakdown.

                                      1. re: DGresh

                                        I would have slapped her. How can anyone focus with all that racket!?!?

                                        I really want to see all the chefs cook their own food. Granted, it's easier to team up early in the competition but I'd rather see individuals.

                                        Nice recap, as always!! I can't read though until I watch, which is usually a day or two behind. :(

                                    3. Very nice recap.

                                      I am quite annoyed by the sudden inclusion of the veterans. As someone else here commented, WHY is Stefan Richter back? If he is already *that* successful? Lookee at his website... http://www.stefansrestaurants.com/

                                      John Tesar is showing his culinary chops, it seems to me. He *is* the oldest there, and *has* been around the block a few times, more than anyone of the other newbies there, I think, except for Bart Vandaele...I wonder how he and the others deal with that clash between him and the others - even apart from his supposed abrasiveness. Stefan Richter (not one of the "newbies" I referred to) and him might have interesting interpersonal interactions, I'm guessing.

                                      1. I'm not quite as annoyed with the retreads as others are. Stephan is a bit of a dick but that will make it so much more enjoyable when he is sent home which came close to happening last night.
                                        The thing that bothered me the most was the high tech camera stuff they did at judge's table with the camera zipping back and forth at different angles. Like Too Chef meets The Matrix.
                                        Other than that the food looked good and they got to actually cook.

                                        12 Replies
                                        1. re: bobbert

                                          I do not mind the retreads, (though I probably would have held them to a higher level and kicked Stephan off the show for rubber quail... ). The disturbing trend that I am seeing is we are learning less about what the flaws in the cooking are. Judges table this time had no discussion beforehand of the winning dishes, and the two losing teams appeared but we never saw any deliberation without the teams present. Why is overcooked fish worse than overcooked quail? The first show there was little discussion as to why the folks were kicked off. It in my opinion makes the show less credible.

                                          1. re: cwdonald

                                            Right now, I think it's the amount of time they have. They're showing more cooking, less deliberation because they've got so many chefs' food to taste. Once they winnow it down to 8-10 chefs, hopefully the editing will change a bit to reveal more of the deliberation.

                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                              This is why I'm annoyed about adding three more contestants - the number of contestants relates fairly directly to the number of shows where there's no time to actually showcase the cooking and differentiate the contestants based on their skill and point of view. I guess we can count on three extra team and/or catering challenges before the show (hopefully) gets interesting.

                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                I know it's not a popular viewpoint but I wish TPTB would put out one-and-a half hour episodes in these cases. Why not?
                                                [Project Runway does :-) ]

                                                1. re: huiray

                                                  You're trying to kill me, aren't you? :-P

                                                  And for the next two episodes, looks to be only an hour. They *have* done 1-1/2 hours in the past - Restaurant Wars? Can't recall. So there's no saying that they won't do the same again this season.

                                                  1. re: huiray

                                                    I actually agree. I'd rather watch an overlong show with more of a narrative and contestants who distinguish themselves from each other than sit through half a season where it doesn't much matter whether you're watching a cooking contest or thumb-wrestling for all the insight shown to the food itself, and the cooking is merely a series of jump cuts that convey frenzy but not skill. I like some of the other decisions the producers seem to have made this season, but there is only so much time you can give to each contestant's cooking when there are 18 of em and the show is only 60 minutes long.

                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                      perhaps the problem is the producers of the program, and the executives at the network which broadcast the program, think you're in the minority.

                                              2. re: cwdonald

                                                There was some response when they were eating each dish -- it seemed clear to me that the two dishes in the second "course" were in trouble. On a good week, the blogs at bravotv.com fill in the judges table gaps. For example, this week, Tom's says that the overcooked-ness was a matter of degree. The quail was somewhat overcooked, the fish was "hammered". Stefan would have probably gone home if Jeffrey's hadn't been worse.

                                                1. re: momjamin

                                                  Yup. Padma poked at her halibut and called it a hockey puck, and it sure looked totally fried-and-dried.

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    It almost looked like deep fried pork belly

                                              3. re: bobbert

                                                Wow I thought the same thing about the camera...then again you know there is some geek (I am one too) that was just like "I love my new toy"

                                              4. In the past they've announced the winner's prize have they not? Or do they skip that in the first rounds? Glad Kuniko won but doesn't look like she won anyting but bragging rights.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: Leadmine

                                                  Can't recall if they gave out prizes this early in the season. Again, perhaps they're waiting until they get down to about 10 cheftestants?

                                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                                    According to the Wikipedia articles they started giving out winner's prizes in:
                                                    • Episode 2 of season 2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...)
                                                    • Episode 1 of season 3 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...)
                                                    • Episode 5 in season 4 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...)
                                                    • Episode 3 of season 5 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...)
                                                    • In season 6 (Las Vegas) they started giving out $$$ and/or immunity in the quickfires from episode 1, but no winners' prizes are noted until episode 7 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...)
                                                    • In season 7 there were prizes scattered throughout both QFs and Elims, with winners' prizes (elims) regular from episode 8 on. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...)
                                                    • In season 8 they had winners' prizes (elims) for 8 out of the 10 episodes before the "finale" episodes on The Bahamas. There were $$$ and stuff scattered through the QFs, including a Toyota Prius for Mike Isabella in the QF of episode 5. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...)
                                                    • In season 9 they had winners' prizes (including a few cars) in 8 of the 11 episodes before the finale, with $$$ and stuff scattered through some QFs.

                                                    Please post corrections if you find errors in the count. :-)

                                                    1. re: huiray

                                                      So they're all over the map in past seasons, and are following suit in TC10.

                                                2. Put me down for not being in favor of former contestants being brought in, in this manner.

                                                  I had thought after the previous episode that Jeffrey Jew would be redeeming Personal Chefs but, alas...

                                                  ps: Hi Linda and thanks as always.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: JAB

                                                    I kind of like the twist. The new chefs are threatened. The returning chefs appear to be overconfident. And - at least for now - it's not turning out predictably.

                                                    I wonder why these particular chefs returned and not a host of other also-rans. I remember liking CJ, being indifferent about Josie, and mostly being annoyed with Stefan. Looks like that hasn't changed.

                                                    Didn't someone referred to Stefan as a thumb? That's not the body part I would have named. Off-camera, of course.

                                                    1. re: chicgail

                                                      yeah I don't mind the returnees either. I mean, it's an entertainment show, and they have to shake it up. It's not "real life" even though we might wish it to be.

                                                  2. I don't mind the old guys coming back. I don't think their advantage is that big. As for Stefan, well, I always viewed him as a lovable narcissist. He's a dick, sure, but he has a sense of humor and he is good. I think he came back because the fact that Hosea beat him just GNAWS at him. He's right, everyone does tell him (correctly) that he should have won, but only in the sense that he was the best chef that season. He didn't cook the best meal in the finale. He wants redemption (but I doubt he wins this season, it's a deeper talent pool plus it's just hard to win).

                                                    I liked that this was mostly about food, no silly challenges. And Carla as Charo, yeah, she's a hoot who is going to get strangled by someone if she doesn't get booted off soon.

                                                    4 Replies
                                                    1. re: LurkerDan

                                                      without a doubt the worst thing about having stefan back is the inevitable rehashing of this i hate hosea without ever having eaten his food b.s.

                                                      1. re: LurkerDan

                                                        +1 as a long-time TC fan who was glad this was mostly about food!

                                                        However...does anyone else out there wish we could get a bobby pin for Carla to pull those bangs off of her face??? OMG - I found myself tugging my own behind my ear all hour just out of instinct.

                                                        Linda, I always enjoy your recaps and as a fan of the show, and of these threads every season, I am going to do my best to contribute a little more to the conversation this go round :)

                                                          1. re: ItalGreyHound

                                                            YESSSSS! I was thinking the same thing about the bangs. Whoever called her Charo nailed it.
                                                            If I had to spend even a day with her in the kitchen, I think I would strangle her. She never shuts up. And that obnoxious trilling thing that she does. Ugh!

                                                        1. modest thoughts from a casual viewer:

                                                          • housing for the chefs has been gradually upgraded from earlier seasons. I think that shows respect.

                                                          • there has been a significant shift away from what I can only describe as soap opera values to a calmer, more professional point of view that places an emphasis on cooking.

                                                          • a lesser reliance on professional critics and personalities at judges' table is a welcome change.

                                                          • I didn't notice any sophomoric "pledge week" challenges. I hope this trend continues.

                                                          • resuscitating Stefan, CJ and Josie was brilliant. it contrasts the old casting values with the new. watching the retreads being called out for one of the worst dishes speaks volumes about the direction TC has taken. this thread will be interesting to follow as the season progresses.

                                                          • do Tom Colicchio and Stefan remind anyone else of Dr. Evil and Mini-Me?

                                                          7 Replies
                                                            1. re: steve h.

                                                              Great points, steve! As to the pledge week challenges, it's still early in this season. ;-)

                                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                howdy Linda,
                                                                yeah, it's early and editing/direction will probably revert to the mean. still, I'm always happy to see incremental improvement.
                                                                on a different tack, nice work on the recaps. well done.

                                                                1. re: steve h.

                                                                  Thanks. Much appreciated. But as I said - it's still early. We'll see how tired I am by season end. :-)

                                                              2. re: steve h.

                                                                i'm in agreement with those that aren't that bothered by the re-entry of the ex-cheftestants. for me, it shows that there is no advantage to having been through it before - you cook poorly one night, and that can determine your fate. they even said as much, that having been through it before may even put them at a disadvantage, as they're constantly anticipating what will be thrown at them, instead of just cooking. although 10 seasons in, i can't imagine any chef coming on the show and not anticipating the curve balls.

                                                              3. My usual random thoughts:

                                                                - Why, oh why, does Top Chef feel the need to cram 18 chefs into the lineup? It kills the narrative, makes it impossible to focus on the food or get an idea of what each chef brings to the table for the first half of the season. Could they change their tune, rearrange the challenges to better highlight the cooking and the skills of their contestants? Maybe. But chances are they won't. Fucking.... just, fuck. (apologies to all the delicate flowers out there in chowhoundia).

                                                                - OK, now that it's out of my system... I actually don't mind the concept of bringing back previous contestants otherwise. For one, it's three people we already know, and it might help to contextualize the challenges this season and show how the chefs compare in spite of wildly varying levels of contrived silliness from season to season. It also arguably helps build the narrative of the season, giving us viewers a point of reference that we recognize for the first half of the season where everyone normally blends into everyone else and the only people we recognize are the ones who cry all the time or make funny quips or threaten to beat up the other nameless contestants.

                                                                Finally, I don't buy that the returning chefs have a serious advantage. They have, at best, a minor advantage. Which, on Top Chef, means next to nothing. When every season people get sent home for not much more than drawing the short straw - when it's fair game to eliminate Nyesha last season entirely for her partner's contributions - starting with a slightly better sense of Tom's palate or the producers' maniacal whims just doesn't amount to much. To win, you've got to be both lucky and good, and that goes for new and returning competitors alike.

                                                                - How do the returning chefs stack up? Stefan, regardless of how easy he might be to dislike, was an exceptionally strong cook on his season. But he showed on the season finale that he can phone in his cooking when his heart's not there. Will his heart be in it this season? Not a good start. Perhaps a bigger factor - has he spent any time actually in front of a stove since season 5? I'd call him a bit of a wild card right now.

                                                                Josie was an also-ran on by far the weakest season of TC. But that was something like 6 years ago. She may well have improved since then, if her apparent ego (not necessarily a bad thing in a chef, IMO) hasn't gotten in the way. Hope she has, because if you couldn't make a strong impression on season 2 and you haven't improved since then, you're pretty much dead in the water here.

                                                                CJ is the one I probably have the highest expectations for (which isn't saying I actually expect him to win or even make the finale). He was a solid though not exceptional competitor on season 3, but to me the bigger factor is that he claims to have worked on his craft a lot since then. On the other hand, saying you staged at Noma is only a bit more relevant than saying you staged on the moon. I'm sure it's a great restaurant, but AFAIK it uses techniques that he is unlikely to have a chance to bust out before a finale and specializes in foraged ingredients found only in Denmark. Still, dude seems to be trying, and he wasn't bad to start off.

                                                                - On to the other contestants. Kuniko seems to be an interesting case. She does seem talented, though it's very early to tell how she compares to the others. Here's what I'm thinking though - she is (i think) the first contestant with a real language barrier. Not just an accent, but possibly difficulty speaking or understanding English. And I'm thinking this might prove a major disadvantage during the middle of the season. Sets her up for a critical communication failure at an important moment during some of the team challenges. restaurant wars, etc. I'm not sure that just being a skilled cook is enough to offset such a disadvantage. Hope she proves me wrong. Or perhaps I'm overestimating her particular language barrier in the first place. We'll see.

                                                                - Tesar is looking strong early as well.

                                                                - Kudos to Top Chef for not making em serve 500 people in the elimination challenge... yet.

                                                                - About next week. Has every thanksgiving episode in TC history so far sucked? Best I can remember, they all have. What are the odds of a thanksgiving episode featuring 17 contestants being the exception? Fuck.

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                  To offset my bitching, here's something I'm quite happy about:

                                                                  Michael Voltaggio is back to demo the winning recipes this season.
                                                                  For anyone who hasn't seen em, Voltaggio's 'winning recipe' series was one of the best things about season 7. He can be a little stiff on camera, but he has a lot of insight into the cooking, Highly recommended.

                                                                  Also since I have not seen anyone mention it... Last Chance Kitchen is back this season.
                                                                  No competitions up yet - it will probably start next week. Sounds like LCK winner will get directly into the finale this time. I'm cool with it, though I suspect it will probably bring a mixed reaction from other fans.

                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                    Thanks for the info re: LCK! Hadn't thought to look for that.

                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                      Yes, earlier today I watched M. Voltaggio demonstrate that Ling Cod, Spot Prawn & dashi shabu-shabu dish. Elegant and fairly simple, but it is, as before, a little different (ingredient-wise and technique-wise) from the Bravo-published recipe. Even though the Bravo recipe contains the usual f*ck-up - "Add ALL the ingredients to chili oil in a pot" (my capitalization): http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe...

                                                                      I thought it amusing that the photo used to illustrate the "Last Chance Kitchen" was a shot of the returning three vets. HEH.

                                                                      1. re: huiray

                                                                        I suspect M. voltaggio is typically demonstrating how he might cook the winning recipe, and not how it was actually cooked on the show. Probably because there is no especially great record of what the chefs did in the actual competition for him to go off of. And I don't mind that. For one Voltaggio is a pretty good cook himself. For another, he has sometimes explained why he makes one change or another, and it makes for pretty informative videos.

                                                                        I do wonder whether the cod was actually cooked at 110 f as the recipe claims and not 140 as Voltaggio does it. I'm familiar with cooking salmon just a little over 100 deg (sous vide or in oil), but I've never seen cod (or any white fish) cooked that way. Might try it sometime just as an experiment.

                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                          Yes, Voltaggio has always demonstrated HIS take on the recipes previously. I like that, as you do.

                                                                      2. re: cowboyardee

                                                                        very pleased about LCK! that was a fun aspect.

                                                                      3. re: cowboyardee

                                                                        Re: next week's Thanksgiving episode - looks to be Emeril vs. Tom Colicchio as the leaders of 2 teams and the cheftestants work for each of them. So in my mind, the Thanksgiving episode just got better when them cooking in the TC kitchen. But we'll see.

                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                          I agree with you, Linda, and with you, mariacarmen.
                                                                          Watching Emeril and Tom cook should be good. Hopefully we won't hear a bunch of "bam!" from EL...

                                                                          1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                            According to an interview on The Splendid Table, Emeril is going for a simpler way of cooking now. Less "bam!", to paraphrase what he said.

                                                                      4. A few snippets...

                                                                        • "really big penis" [Acheson: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...]
                                                                        • "Stefan, who looks like a shiny geoduck held upright in a Cialis trance..." [Acheson: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...]
                                                                        • “Carrots? I show you a big carrot!” [Acheson: http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...]
                                                                        • Opening a can without a can opener and pouring the juice from it... http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso... Watch to the end.

                                                                        Looks like there'll be no shortage of a certain type of innuendo or imagery this season.

                                                                        1. It usually takes me a while to get really interested in TC each season. I suppose I have to get to know the contestants first. From the first two episodes the only thing I know is that If Carla lasts long enough she could become the villain/shunned chef. Also, I was looking forward to seeing what kind of food would be cooked by a half Chinese, half Norwegian chef with the last name of Jew. Too bad he cooked the fish too early. I suppose if the vegerans have any advantage it is a mental one. (I don't really care that they broght back former contestants, except for Josie, they should have brought back someone who was not tied for fourth earliest elimination in their season).

                                                                          I am dissapointed that they brought back LCK. i don't want to have to go on-line to watch TC.

                                                                          1. It was a good episode to watch, especially after last years bitchfest.

                                                                            1. I really enjoyed this episode, and don't mind the previous season contestants' inclusion. I did find it telling, as others have stated, that they were in the bottom in their first challenge! It will be so interesting to see how far they can go in season 10.

                                                                              I was sorry to see Jeffery pack his knives, I thought his background was interesting, but jeez that fish looked pretty awful.

                                                                              1. Gahh! Looks like I'm going to be late to the party for a few weeks. There are only 4 shows that I watch each week, and two of them are on at the exact same time! (American Horror Story, anyone?) So I'm glad that TC replays on Thursday nights.

                                                                                I thought the twist of bringing back prior contestants was interesting, but I also found it annoying, and I think I would have found it REALLY annoying if I was a new contestant - not so much because of the additional contestants, but because they kept telling the newbies, "this is how grueling the challenges will be," "time will go by so quickly," "this is what the stew room is going to be like," "wait until you see how awful judging is when you're on the bottom," etc. Let the new folks find out for themselves! That's part of the experience.

                                                                                The food all looked pretty good, but as I think Gail said, very similar in style. Also, I guess we'll all have to just put up with team challenges for a while. (That's one more problem with additional contestants - probably more team challenges. Boo.)

                                                                                Anyone notice the gender tabulations? The initial tally of 15 was 8 women, 7 men. Then with the addition of the returnees, it went to 9 and 9. Coincidence? I wonder, if the original breakdown was different, would there have been a different set of returnees in order to balance the mix? IIRC, the show always starts with an equal number of M/F.

                                                                                I already don't like Josh (he's the one with the beard, right?). Pissy attitude. Way to rock, Kuniko, though I fear she will go out at some point due to either a communication issue or a failure on her part to be more assertive in a team challenge. I hope I'm wrong.

                                                                                Looking forward to LCK, but I'm disappointed - no extended judges' table?

                                                                                It's going to take a few weeks for everything to settle in, but I'm enjoying it all so far!

                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                1. re: lisavf

                                                                                  I wish I only watched 4 shows, I too have a conflict on Wed. and watched Top Chef instead of Nashville this week. Sons of Anarchy vs Parenthood (there's a contrast) on Tues., Proj Runway vs Parks and Rec on Thurs., Next Iron Chef vs Sun Nite Football, it's tough.

                                                                                  1. re: lisavf

                                                                                    My daughter and I anticipated conflict with American Horror, and Top Chef would win. American Horror story is available "on demand", but it takes awhile. Just as well though, since it's starting to get pretty twisted, at least to me.

                                                                                  2. Another thing I noticed this season, and not sure if anyone mentioned it in the previous thread, but there are so many different, really strong accents this time around! Top Chef Babel! I'm kind of loving it. Except for Charo. She was hard enough to take the first time around.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                      Agree! I speak "Network News American English" and love hearing all the variants.

                                                                                    2. PLEASE REPLY WITH A + IF YOU APPRECIATE, LIKE i DO, LINDA'S STELLAR RECAPS

                                                                                      Thanks Lwhit!!!!

                                                                                      8 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                        I think the sheer volume of posts to her recaps are testament enough to our deep appreciation of Linda's recaps.

                                                                                            1. re: C. Hamster


                                                                                              The two best things about Top Chef are Linda's and Hugh's recaps.


                                                                                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                                                                                  A +. One of the best parts of the season.

                                                                                                  1. Am I the only one who thinks Wolfgang Puck is an odd choice and not up to the usual caliber of TC judges?

                                                                                                    48 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                      Other than him being a sexist pig I think he's fine.


                                                                                                      1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                                                        Where do you get the "pig" part? But seriously, I didn't like the way he handled the risotto thing season or so back, and the "stove like a woman comment" reinforced my tendency to not give him the benefit of the doubt.

                                                                                                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                                                                                                          Remind me what the risotto comment was, pretty please?

                                                                                                          1. re: dmjordan

                                                                                                            "Jill's risotto".


                                                                                                            Looking at it again, I guess the TALK about how bad it was, was worse than how bad it really was.

                                                                                                            A poll


                                                                                                      2. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                        He's a bit of an odd choice, and I'll just have to see how he pans out over the season. So far, he hasn't quite fit the normal tone of the show's judges - but it's very early.

                                                                                                        As far as his 'caliber,' that depends on what you mean. His appeal as a personality and authority figure remain to be seen, at least with respect to how he interacts with the show. But his resume is above question. Don't let his cheery face on crappy boxed broth and airport food fool you - dude has made major contributions to the American culinary scene.

                                                                                                        1. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                          Puck's curriculum vitae is impressive: chef, caterer, restaurateur, businessman, marketeer, media personality. If anything, he's over qualified.

                                                                                                          1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                            My impression of him is that he was once good, but what's he done lately?

                                                                                                            And Balloon, I agree - sexist pig! Did you catch his comment about stoves (I think it was stove) being like women in that they never do what they're supposed to do? Frigging Fred Flinstone.

                                                                                                            1. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                              Puck has 101 restaurants from London to Singapore. He just recently re-invented Spago, his enterprises range from restaurants to prepared foods to knives to pots and pans. In short, his accomplishments greatly exceed those of Tom C., Padma and Gail Simmons.

                                                                                                              Please don't confuse accomplishments with likeablity. You may not like him, but he is unquestionably well qualified to be a judge on Top Chef.

                                                                                                              1. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                But is he still any good ... or is he resting on his laurels?

                                                                                                                I live in Seattle and the Wolfgang Puck restaurant here closed and had gotten terrible reviews. I guess that's how my vague impression of him, admittedly not knowing much, has formed.

                                                                                                                1. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                                  He's still rolling. Cut, at the Beverly Wilshire, seems to be pretty lively (I just spent ten days at the hotel), Spago recently had its opening party. In short, the Austrian gentleman is doing quite well in Los Angeles. What more do you want?

                                                                                                                  He really is qualified to be a judge on Top Chef and then some.

                                                                                                                  1. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                                    But is he [Puck] still any good ... or is he resting on his laurels?


                                                                                                                    Well, at least according to his *own* standards, he can still make a perfect omelet.

                                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                      his omelet was brown too.

                                                                                                                      i lived in So. Cal when Puck was becoming a really big deal. I liked Spago, Chinoise, another one i'm forgetting the name of in Malibu.... his cooking was something new and fresh, to me, and in large part sparked my interest in food and cooking. (i did not like Postrio, when i moved up here, however.) I used to even frequent his much more casual places - there was one on Sunset Blvd., in the same complex as a movie theater - where Puck actually spent a lot of time cooking, and would come out and greet us at our table. he was always perfectly affable. His food was fresh, delicious, and again, at the time, and for Los Angeles especially, surprising and new. As for his sexist talk - yeah, he's like your embarrassing uncle, kinda corny. i don't find him particularly offensive.

                                                                                                                      Brown omelet aside, i definitely think he's earned his spot among chefs qualified to judge Top Chef.

                                                                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                        I don't know why folks are going on and on about brown omelets being such a hanging offense. The idea that an omelet HAS to be pale, pale, pale in color is not universally held. I for one certainly like my omelets to be slightly browned. Not burnt. For that matter this "folded over" / rolled blob thing is something that is NOT the only way an omelet can be made and is NOT universal in the world - it's only so with Frenchified old-school haughty places.

                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                          I suspect that an omelet that is a certain brownness indicates that it was cooked at a certain (too high?) heat. There is, as I understand, a particular dance between the cooking of the outside and the inside, and (like grill marks on a barbeque) the outside is a testament of how the inside is cooked. So it's also kind of the same as a well done steak, in maybe perhaps some estimations.

                                                                                                                          1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                            Have you ever cooked Chinese-type or SE Asian-type omelettes? (Yes, I'm using the British spelling here). One way I cook a non-Frenchie omelette is to have a pan at a spankingly-hot temperature, pour in some peanut or veggie oil, then pour in an already-beaten egg mixture (usually diluted w/ a bit of oil or water during the whipping) and...**sizzle**...I have a lovely bubbly slightly browned omelette with nice "wok hei" after a minute or two which I might flip over or slide as-is onto my plate. :-) One adds in ingredients as one wishes.
                                                                                                                            A few random links:
                                                                                                                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omelette Note the number of variations.
                                                                                                                            etc etc etc
                                                                                                                            p.s. a frittata is a form of omelet/omelette.

                                                                                                                            1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                              Yes but I wasn't talking about those, and neither was Mr Puck. He was looking to see if they had mastered certain basic skills, and for better or worse the standard omelet is the French version. I don't know beans about omelets (or omelets about beans for that matter) but I am pretty sure the outside of a dish is a reasonable indicator of how a dish was cooked, and that was my point.

                                                                                                                              1. re: ennuisans

                                                                                                                                The "standard" omelet as the French version is only in Frenchified restaurants and in Western kitchens that slavishly follow the Frenchified standard. Wolfgang Puck should have asked for a French omelet, if that was what he was asking for, rather than *just* "an omelet".

                                                                                                                                1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                  it's not slavishly, it's only what a lot of westerners are used to, and expect. i'm sure if i had what you describe, i'd really like it as something new and delicious, but i don't think it's what any of these contestants were going for - even Wolfgang Puck - and therefore their omelets didn't look very good.

                                                                                                                          2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                            It would have been interesting if Kuniko had been in that group and made "omuraisu" for her omelet.

                                                                                                                            1. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                              Omuraisu? Heh, that would have been interesting - although that is still a Japanese adaptation of a Western omelet.

                                                                                                                              It would have been even more interesting if she made tamagoyaki. :-) One form of it is used in nigirizushi.

                                                                                                                              1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                which - only having had it in western kitchens, is usually very pale yellow, not browned, yes?

                                                                                                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                                  Yes, that is so, if you are referring to the version used for nigirizushi.

                                                                                                                                2. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                  I love tamagoyaki! It's so good, on its own, in a bento! That really would have been a neat twist!

                                                                                                                                3. re: KailuaGirl

                                                                                                                                  Kuniko was actually in that group and made a chamomile-infused omelet. From the two episodes I watched I find her food very interesting.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                                                                    Yes, I have very high hopes for Kuniko. Her poached fish this episode looked and sounded, from the comments made, absolutely delicious and it was beautiful.

                                                                                                                        2. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                                          "My impression of him is that he was once good, but what's he done lately?"
                                                                                                                          No offense, but I find this to be such a bizarre standard that I don't know how to answer it.

                                                                                                                          Put aside everything he's accomplished recently (which is still a lot) and consider: Puck is high in the running for the most important and influential American chef of the last 50 years. Like top 3, if not number one. Slowing down recently doesn't diminish his accomplishments. If you don't like the guy or something he's said, that's cool, but attacking his professional pedigree is ridiculous.

                                                                                                                          1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                            I wonder if his person would say the same thing about Julia Childs ... Assuming she was still alive.

                                                                                                                            1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                              Well stated, cowboyardee, and extremely accurate.

                                                                                                                              1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                I think it's a legitimate question given that the standards for what constitutes "good" cookind have changed dramatically since Puck's heyday. That doesn't automatically mean he's outclassed but it makes it reasonable to wonder.

                                                                                                                                1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                  "I think it's a legitimate question given that the standards for what constitutes "good" cookind have changed dramatically since Puck's heyday."
                                                                                                                                  Yes... but in this particular case, Puck is one of the main people you can point to to explain why and how those American standards have changed. I think it's a semi-fair question to ask about a once well-reputed chef working in an isolated style that has since fallen by the wayside, but not about someone who kickstarted one of today's main American culinary movements.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                    But since then, he's become mostly known for prepackaged and frozen food. So it's not so much about questioning his past accomplishments than wondering if he's since gone to seed.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                      Thomas Keller has announced that he's retiring from the kitchen, and he's already done a credit card commercial. So in a few years, you think it would be reasonable for people to claim he's not up to the caliber of such culinary luminaries as Padma Lakshmi and Ted Allen? That he should have to prove himself all over again before judging a TV cooking contest?

                                                                                                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                        Wouldn't either of them like to have even just their names used in a sentence that also included Thomas Keller?!

                                                                                                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                          A credit card commercial has nothing to do with cooking. Peddling largely mediocre frozen foods does actually reflect on your culinary abilities, or at least your reputation.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                              I disagree. Being a spokesperson for frozen food absolutely does not reflect on a person's culinery abilities. It may reflect a chef's desire for easy money.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                " It may reflect a chef's desire for easy money."

                                                                                                                                                Meaning a chef isn't that different from the average person. I'd probably peddle Twinkies if they paid me what they're probably paying those chefs.

                                                                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                                                                  To clarify: shilling for frozen food doesn't make someone a bad chef. But if that's the main thing a chef has been known for lately, then I think it's reasonable for people to wonder whether said chef is still at the top of their game. That's all I'm saying.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                                    "Top of their game"? Do you mean at cookng? Puck hasn't actually cooked at any of his restaurants in years. Of course neither has any of the big name chefs who own many restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                                      What does it mean to you for a chef to be "at the top of their game?" And is it really an important criteria for judging Top Chef anyway?

                                                                                                                                                      I doubt Emeril has spent any more time in a restaurant kitchen recently than Puck has. Does hawking canned stock throw you off your game more than life as a TV personality?

                                                                                                                                                      Could be wrong, but I doubt Eric Ripert has done all that much actual cooking recently either. Colicchio reportedly spends a little time in the kitcheb, but he's a bit of an exception among famous chefs. And of course, it might be hard to tell whether Padma, Ted Allen, and Gail Simmons are on top of their game, culinarily speaking.

                                                                                                                                                  2. re: piccola

                                                                                                                                                    "Peddling largely mediocre frozen foods does actually reflect on your culinary abilities,"
                                                                                                                                                    No it doesn't. Not in the least. We're talking about paid endorsements. Dude isn't personally cooking mediocre frozen pizzas just because his face is on the box.

                                                                                                                                                    "...or at least your reputation."
                                                                                                                                                    Maybe, but it shouldn't. If Keller sold TV dinners for a few years, would he be a hack all of a sudden? Would his prior accomplishments be less worthy of respect?

                                                                                                                                                    We're not talking about a former great who turned to a life of thieving, defrauding little old ladies, agitating for disastrous social policies, dogfighting, or trading subprime mortgages. We're talking about a cook who got paid to endorse mediocre food. That in itself isn't praise-worthy, but it certainly doesn't strike me as an offense worthy of making me rethink his other accomplishments, which are deserving of respect, IMO.

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                                                                      I'm not suggesting it cancels out his previous achievement - he did what he did and deserves praise for it. But if his career now revolves around product development and marketing more than cooking, then I think it's fair to wonder if he's still at the same level he was back in the day. And whether he's still as relevant in today's cooking world as he was in his trailblazing days. Maybe he is, I don't know. But I think it's fair to ask.

                                                                                                                                      2. re: steve h.

                                                                                                                                        He's very successful. I just think his food is mediocre.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: chicgail

                                                                                                                                          <I just think his food is mediocre.>

                                                                                                                                          I've never heard anyone describe his food as "mediocre". I find his food anything but....
                                                                                                                                          His use of seasonings and pairings of food has always been innovative.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: latindancer

                                                                                                                                            I have eaten at his restaurants several times and and been pretty disappointed that it was IMO nothing special. Maybe I missed something.

                                                                                                                                      3. re: SnackCakes

                                                                                                                                        <<Am I the only one who thinks Wolfgang Puck is an odd choice and not up to the usual caliber of TC judges?>>

                                                                                                                                        I think it's important to remember SnackCakes' original post. My take is that Puck is highly qualified to be a Top Chef judge. Likeability, where he stands in the panoply of chefs was never the issue. Is he "up to the usual caliber of TC judges" was the question and I believe the question has been clearly answered.

                                                                                                                                      4. No one seems to have posted about Max Silvestri's take on this episode?

                                                                                                                                        He related some interesting stuff in the very first paragraph about that community food program person and her reaction to his recap of Episode 1. Wow.

                                                                                                                                        I like that gif of Tom Colicchio nervously swirling his wine!

                                                                                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                                                                                        1. re: huiray

                                                                                                                                          I was wondering about that paragraph myself. I guess he is talking about Gina Keatley (who is a "community food program founder" apparently).

                                                                                                                                          "But maybe none more so than the community food program founder whose name rhymes with Purina, like the dog food. I'm not writing her name out because she clearly has aggressive Google alerts set up; within 25 minutes of my recap going up last week she sent me a Facebook message that attempted to both insult and shame me while also asking me to please read her linked press packet. "