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Top Chef Seattle - Ep. #5 - 12/05/12 (Spoilers)

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And we're back. They review the previouslies from Canlis and the issues some have with John Tesar. So what's happening this week? They show them back at the house with only 14 chefestants. Stefan waves bye-bye to Chrissy and Carla in a confessional. Tyler notes that being on top means nothing - both Kuniko and Carla were gone right after they were on top.

Alarm goes off at 3:45 a.m in the suite, and everyone wishes Stefan a happy 40th birthday. When Stefan was on TC-New York, several cheftestants got booted on their birthday...so he's nervous.

Off to Pike Place Market, and Padma meets them with their guest judge, Daisley Gordon, chef/owner of Marché and Café Campagne. Their Quickfire Challenge is to divide into teams of two. Funnily, who gets paired together? Josh and John - neither are none too happy about it. Padma tells them that they'll be making breakfast to go - on a stick! - for the Pike Place Market vendors. Daisley tells them that the vendors work with food all day - so they won't be able to pull the wool over their eyes. A sausage on a stick won't cut it. Daisley brought down a pantry from his restaurant and Sur la Table has provided equipment. They have 1 hour to set up their entire kitchen and cook before the market workers show up.

They rush to get the food - and Josh breaks a bottle of what looks to be cream out of Eliza's arm. Some run over to Sur la Table to get the equipment they need - they have $500 to shop at Sur la Table. Bart tries to rush past C.J. as C.J. is trying to put on an apron IN the aisle (get out of the way, C.J.!). C.J. takes a griddle from someone else.

They get back to cooking. Josh and John seem to be getting along OK with making their dish. John is deferring to Josh, as Josh does breakfast every day. Bart falls and drops his press and hopes that it will work. But it dies halfway through cooking.

John & Josh - Chilaquiles - Tortilla, Salsa, Quail Egg, Avocado-Heirloom Tomato Relish. Good flavors and seasoning.

Eliza & Josie - Ricotta, Raspberry & Sausage Pancake with Jalapeno Maple Syrup. Padma ends up dropping her on-the-stick meal, but catches it. Daisley says it is a dessert & breakfast combo.

Micah & Kristen - Bacon & Cinnamon Waffle with Cantaloupe marinated in Pecan Maple Syrup, Boysenberry & Strawberry Jam.

C.J. and Tyler - Salmon and Cream Cheese Crepe with Arugula - Padma was amazed at how hers stayed together.

Bart & Sheldon - Green Forest Breakfast Sandwich: Eggs, Cheese, Pancetta, Bacon & Spinach. Daisley said the spinach was a clever addition.

Danyele & Lizzie - Summer Berries with Crispy Pancetta. The blackberries were drizzled with blackberry honey and the strawberries had some cracked black pepper. Daisley said the berries were amazing.

Brooke & Stefan - Croque Monsieur: Pressed Ham & Cheese Sandwich with Toasted Fig. (This dish looked really good!)

Bottom group - Danyele & Lizzie's berries; Josie & Eliza's ricotta pancake.
Top group - Sheldon & Bart's breakfast sandwich; Josh & John's chilaquiles

And the winner? Sheldon & Bart. They now have immunity for the Elimination Challenge. And for that challenge? They'll stay in the same teams of two for this challenge, and they drawn knives.

Bart/Sheldon - Salmon Candy
Josh & John - Truffle Popcorn
Stefan & Brooke - Rose Petal Jelly
CJ and Tyler - Spicy Dill Pickles
Josie & Eliza - Cardamom Bitters
Danyele & Lizzie - Coconut Curry Chocolate
Kristen & Micah - Cheese Curds

They are to make a dish that highlights the product they picked. Daisley has invited the the artisans who makes the products to lunch. The winning team splits $10,000, and Padma tells them lunch is to be served in two hours.

They all go taste their product, and get their other ingredients. Off to Marché to prepare the meals. The judges and artisans arrive, and include Hugh Acheson and Gail Simmons. Interestingly, both Josh and John aren't saying anything to each other about what they're individually making for their combined dish, as they each think that if they discuss, nothing will get finished.

Josh & John (Truffle Popcorn) - Pan-seared Pork Tenderloin with Truffle Popcorn Grits - The artisan would have preferred that they add some other flavors than just the truffle; Hugh said "As someone who makes grits everyday, those grits suck." :-D Tom also thinks the meat was poorly cooked, and the sauce was a gloppy mess.

Kristen & Micah (Cheese Curds) - Cheese Curds Three Ways: Béchamel, Raw & Fried - The artisan liked each individual component, but thought there was too much of them. The fried curds were the only ones that stood out. The Romesco sauce overwhelmed the cheese curd in the sauce.

Stefan & Brooke (Rose Petal Jelly) - Rose Petal Glazzed Muscovy Duck with Braised Cabbage - Hugh had problems cutting the duck; Gail doesn't get the rose petal jelly flavor at all; Tom thinks it's too sweet. The maker of the jelly thought the jelly went well with the duck.

Bart & Sheldon (Salmon Candy) - Candied Salmon with Sweet & Sour Salad - The artisan liked the salmon mousse, but Tom C. wanted more of the candied salmon - he didn't get enough of it, and Gail and Hugh agreed that they didn't highlight their product enough. This salmon candy is made by the guys who throw the fish in Pike Place Market. Hugh asks when the fish is thrown and it's not caught and falls on the ground, what happens to it? The artisan said "We have a stunt fish!"

The next group is shown making their dishes. CJ thinks his pork burger is a great idea to go with pickles, while Tyler thinks they underthought the dish. Eliza and Josie seem to *not* be working well at all.

Josie & Eliza (Cardamom Bitters) - Curry Cardamom Broth with Manila Clams & Seared White King Salmon - Gail said the broth was nicely done, but it was too salty. And Padma got some sand (Gail got a rock, like Charlie Brown at Halloween). The artisan said the cardamom's afternote finish is floral, but it was muted out by the fishy, salty broth. The dish didn't sing for Hugh.

Danyele & Lizzie (Coconut Curry Chocolate) - Coconut Curry Chocolate Mousse Tart - the artisan liked the flavor of the spice blend, but would have preferred not seeing other chocolate incorporated into the mousse. Tom said putting the hard disc on top was poor assembly of the dish. As soon as you cut into it, it squirted out the other end. Gail thought the flavors were overpowering and it was one of her least favorite dishes.

CJ and Tyler (Spicy Dill Pickles) - Pork Crumpet Burger with Spicy Dill Pickles - the artisan thought that the pickles would have been better highlighted if they were on three small sliders, not so doughy and more crispy. The crumpet was falling apart for all of them - Hugh called it a spongy, gross, bottom bun. Tom C. goes off - "You couldn't think of a better thing to do with pickles than to put them on a burger? How friggin' original! I got a burger with pickles on it! Wow!" Rut-roh! Bottom group for sure!

Overall review from the judges? Gail said most of the ingredients were highlighted properly, but the finesse wasn't there. Hugh's expectation was much higher. Tom said he didn't have a favorite dish, as they were all done poorly. Daisley said not a good day for pork, and Tom C. replied "Not a good day for Top Chef!" Padma notes that the winning team gets $10,000, and Tom said he doesn't want to see $10,000 awarded for any of the dishes. Padma apologizes to the artisans that they didn't have a better meal, as the judges have been seeing better food from this group.

Tom shows up where the cheftestants are hanging out (Josh says "uh-oh!" when Tom walks in), and tells them that overall, they were all really disappointed and that the food wasn't up to par. It showed a lack of imagination and technique, and he told them that they apologized to the artisans. Tom said they are NOT going to award a win today, as they dishes were *that* bad. He also tells them that they're going to send an entire team home tomorrow. Crestfallen looks on everyone's faces. But THEN Tom tells them all that they *are* doing Last Chance Kitchen again, so if they lose, they have a chance to get back into the game. He tells them to get some sleep, they'll get through Judge's Table tomorrow, but they need to step it up and take some risks and push it.

Tom leaves, and Sheldon notes the gray cloud that came over the room. Stefan calls it the birthday curse. CJ says everyone has a chance of going home, and no one feels safe. "Why am I back here?" Back at the suite, Stefan says "No wonder people drink in this business, dude!" to John as he's opening some wine. John notes he's never seen Tom C. angry before. He says he doesn't want to go home because of Josh. When asked if he would regret doing this again if he is sent home, CJ said he would feel like a "total failure bitch." Josh calls Tyler out for his defeatist attitude after Tyler said "if it's CJ's and my time to go home, it's our time."

In the in-betweener, Stefan tries to explain LCK to the rest of the cheftestants. Josh said he and Stefan click, as they're both a little on the arrogant asshole side, but at the same time, they're both likable. LOL

OK, it's Judges Table time. Padma comes into the Stew Room and asks to see the Red Team (John/Josh), the Yellow Team (Stefan/Brooke), and the Gray Team (CJ/Tyler). ::::::Racing WHOOSH! close-up camera shots of every chef's face::::: (Really, was that necessary?) These three teams' dishes were the most disappointing.

Tom asks if they find the challenge to be difficult. Josh said he was stymied by the ingredient, so he didn't have a clear direction to go. CJ said they didn't want to take away from the integrity of the pickle and wanted to make something that goes best with a pickle, what they liked to eat with a pickle. Tom asked did it never occur not to think "what goes great with a pickle" but "what could you make with a pickle?" Gail thinks it wasn't what they didn't understand how to use the ingredient; the food just wasn't well made.

Brooke & Stefan's glaze on the duck was fine, but the braised cabbage completely overwhelmed the dish. Stefan thought the small amount of rose petal jelly he used was still too sweet; Hugh said if it was still too sweet, he needed to fix it.

Padma asked Josh and John what they thought of the grits they made. Josh said he was apprehensive to make grits for Hugh; Hugh said he was apprehensive to eat the grits. Hugh also asked who thought to cut the pork that way; Josh hemmed and hawed and said "I don't want to throw anyone.....John suggested it, so I went with it. Normally I roast it whole and slice it. He suggested doing medallions. I didn't want to create friction in the team." Gail notes the lack of artistry on the plate - no garnish, no presentation. Tom said it looked like someone who hates cooking but had to feed their family.

Padma asked CJ and Tyler if they liked their burger; CJ said they tried it 3 times and liked it. Hugh said it was not a good burger. Tom said why would they make a burger and a pickle, and CJ said if they had made something else, CJ said he could hear Tom's voice saying "You could have just made a great burger and the pickle would have shined!" Everyone laughs and Padma says "Fair enough!" CJ said it was a double-edged sword. Gail said it's Top Chef; they want the chefs to be creative.

They are asked to leave the judge's table, but Gail asks CJ if he had something else to say, and he asked how they liked the dessert. Tom said some liked it; some didn't. CJ said "That thing was an abhorrence, I thought. It was a debacle, it was diabolical, it was a travesty." And Hugh replies "Uh oh! Because your burger was even worse!" CJ swears, and the judges all laugh, and someone (Josh?) says "You asked! That was like throwing underhanded pitches to a pro baseball player!"

The judges were surprised at the Gray's team burger and how poorly it was put together. The Red Team completely compromised themselves to tolerate each other, and because of that, they lost sight of what they were supposed to be doing. John's grits and Stefan's cabbage were the worst dishes, per Padma. Hugh hates the burger, Padma hates the duck, Tom hated the pork. What does Gail hate? Ball's in her court.

And we're back. Tom said it wasn't a unanimous decision but a majority decision. The team going home is the Gray Team - CJ & Tyler. (Tyler's confessional proved true - he was on top in the last challenge and was sent packing the next challenge!) CJ "doesn't think he was judged fairly." Still a bit too big for his britches. BUT - they both have LCK to prove themselves. And Stefan skirts by the birthday curse.

Previews have actors Anna Faris and Chris Pratt as judges along with Rick Moonen, who John Tesar used to work for.

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  1. I don't recall CJ being such a douche before. He seems really sure of himself but based on what I've seen, it's just delusional.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Worldwide Diner

      He was cocky last time; but even more so this time as he thinks cooking at so many restaurants has upped his game. Obviously not.

      1. re: Worldwide Diner

        I don't remember CJ being as bad as he is now either.

        On the other hand, Stefan seems like he's less of a douche than he used to be. There's a bit more humor to him now, and there even seems to be a litttle warmth underneath his icy exterior. He doesn't seem to be cooking as well as he has in the past though.

        1. re: Chimayo Joe

          I wonder if when agreeing to come back, they thought they'd be later along in the process. Like they were told "you will come on as quickfire judges and then join the competition". And instead of that happening on episode 1 with that many contestants, CJ was thinking it'd be more a case of jumping in during the middle.

          While Josie left very early in her season (and for cooking a desser in a pair), both CJ and Stefan had "respectable" showings in their first seasons. And it has felt like CJ had a heavy chip on *having* to be at the top and assert himself as someone to beat. And for every challenge he is working so hard to be "the best" - that he's made mistakes. Whereas Stefan has appeared more able to go with the flow of being in the top/bottom/middle as long as he doesn't go home.

      2. After tonight, as far as I am concerned, Hugh Acheson has won this season. LOVE the way he handled CJ in JT, and CJ actually seemed to take the final lump well. But maybe that's just the editing. ;)

        Also: I know some people find Josh's mustache annoying...I could care less. But if someone could slap Micah for me, I'd genuinely appreciate it.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Wahooty

          Hugh needs to be a permanent judge. He's not afraid to say anything and will hit directly, as shown in this episode.

          Not surprised to see CJ go home; as everyone's said, he really thinks highly of himself this time around. He really needed a wake up call but I'm not sure if this was a big enough slap.

        2. Even before the EC dishes were served, I thought that nobody, with the possible exception of the Belgian and Hawaiian, were particularly likeable on this episode. They were complai i g about their partners and just generally were not doing anything to make me root for them or their dish.

          Josie this if she wears a headbabd with her name on it she will be noticed and it will boost her career. Josie, if you're going to wear a headband with your name on it, at least wear it right side up.

          I'm not really sad to see CJ go, although I would have preferred to see Snidely Whiplash and John Whatshisname (people who want to be famous gate when you can't remember their name, see Josie) be sent packing. CJ, you looked really bad badmouthing somebody else's dish when yours was so bad. If I recall correctly, the only contestant on TC who never had a bad thing to say about other food was Bryan Voltaggio of TC 6.

          4 Replies
          1. re: John E.

            ROFL! I didn't catch the fact that Josie's headband was wrong side up. :-) And I agree that CJ's badmouthing the dessert showed very poor form on his part. And his final confessional that he thinks he was judged wrongly? Wah, wah, wah. Prove it in LCK (which I haven't yet watched).

            1. re: John E.

              I believe it was Michael not Bryan - he was referring to Kevin's food.

              1. re: JonDough

                I think you must have misunderstood my post. Bryan Voltaggio mostly did not have negative things to say about other contestants' food. Nor did he seem to bad mouth anyone in his confessionals. Michael Voltaggio was just about the opposite. You're right, he once described one of Kevin Gillespie's winning dishes as "food I cook at home on my days off".

                1. re: John E.

                  You are correct. I apologize. Lack of sleep. What I would give to see Bryan, Michael and Kevin cook this season.

            2. I think there should a drinking game for every time Snidely Whiplash/Josh talks about how great he is or belittles another person. I hope it's the editing that is making him look like an ignorant inexperienced douche bag. I have a feeling that we will never see him take responsibility for any of his mistakes. The difference with him and Stefan or him and John is that both Stefan and Josh have proven that they actually very good cooking skills and they both are self-aware enough to take responsibility for their dishes. Not so much for Josh. John could admit his dish wasn't that great, where as Josh just blames John for it. Again I know it could just be editing.

              CJ did way too much over promising and under delivering. Staging at Noma doesn't mean you can cook like the executive chef of Noma. And making comments about the dessert that wasn't even in the bottom three was so unclassy.

              The chocolate is from Theo chocolates and it is great. It is a milk chocolate bar though so that makes it harder to cook with than a pure unsweetened chocolate but I've had desserts made with it and they've all been great.

              The Cardamon Bitters are super strong so I'm surprised that they got lost in the dish.

              The Rose hip jelly is so horrible. Does anyone willingly cook with that?

              7 Replies
              1. re: tjinsf

                Has Stefan been in the bottom in every single EC???

                1. re: C. Hamster

                  Oh no. Stefan was on the winning Thanksgiving team. And in the middle on the 50s EC.

                  1. re: momjamin

                    Stefan was on the top with his calf liver and hugged Kristen when she won.

                2. re: tjinsf

                  -

                  1. re: tjinsf

                    "The Rose hip jelly is so horrible. Does anyone willingly cook with that?"

                    It's rose HIP jelly? Not rose petal jelly? Cause I can see cooking with the latter but not the former.

                    1. re: ratgirlagogo

                      They said rose PETAL. Still, I can see why it would be a difficult ingredient to cook with. I suspect that he might have been better off adding something bitter, rather than sour.

                      I really hate it when the judges chastise the cheftestants for not fixing their dish -- I'd like to see them fix a dish within the time and ingredient constraints of the challenges! It's not as if they have the option of redoing the dish from scratch, or refiring it as they would in a restaurant.

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        with all the obstacles designed into the challenge by the producers, mediocre food was a just outcome. blame the cooks, of course. with possibly one or two exceptions (we've yet to see real evidence though) these are not master chefs who can immediately create something brilliant from an oddball ingredient they've never used before.
                        with some of the more straightforward ingredients, there was still the pitfall of working with a 'partner' (practically a random stranger, in truth). working solo, a clever cook would be able to make a test batch with an unfamiliar ingredient, and re-conceive or reengineer as required ; we see cooks do it on 'chopped' with a thirty minute time limit. the size of the lunch party demanded a quantity of output within those two hours, so cooks at this level would have to guess right the first time and push it through to get those meals out.

                  2. Thoughts:

                    - The elimination challenge featured a cornucopia of bad food and bizarre cooking choices, I feel like I'd need a second viewing to sort em all out.

                    - I know she wasn't in the bottom this episode, but Josie is consistently looking weak every time I see her cooking. Both under-skilled and hellbent on doing it her way. I'm not sure if John and Josh knew she was still unpaired when they decided to work with each other... but it wouldn't surprise me.

                    - I don't know why John opted to make grits when it appears they're not really in his repertoire - surely, he knew how persnickety people can get about their grits. I don't know why Josh couldn't figure out to use high heat to cook medallions of pork (though of course there would have been nothing wrong with cooking the loin whole and then slicing either). I don't really know why they chose the direction they did - pork medallions and grits to show off popcorn? But mainly, I don't know why they worked with each other. Both chefs seemed to be behaving about as well as they could manage with each other - and even that resulted in poor communication and a badly compromised dish from a team with at least some talent on it.

                    - I had been hoping that Josh is secretly likable, and I'm much relieved to hear his confession that he is. Stefan just doesn't have as much hair and simmering, barely-contained rage behind which to hide his likability and/or any trace of a sense of humor.

                    - I liked that Tom told the contestants about LCK. It's not like I'm going to miss the mostly-fake 'surprise' shots when eliminated chefs find out. And knowing they have a second chance might encourage the chefs to take a few more risks, which tends to be more interesting to watch.

                    - Hugh has been growing on me as a judge, and i liked the guy in the first place. I was so glad he was there to brutally slap CJ down when he tried to call out the dessert course. 'Chopped,' take notes - that was snarky judging done right.

                    - On what basis does CJ think he was judged unfairly? Making a mediocre burger on Top Chef is perfectly good cause for exile. Making a mediocre burger as a way to show off artisan pickles? Even worse.

                    - Does anyone else think that mushrooms and fried onions winning last week may have messed with the chefs' heads a bit? That some contestants got a little confused about what the judges were looking for this week?

                    31 Replies
                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      josh scored points with me when he admitted he can be an arrogant a**hole. self realization is highly desirable. but you're right, he and john had no business working together. it seemed a lot of teams were so busy trying not to offend the other person, they forgot to cook.
                      i'm always baffled when anyone cooks pork tenderloin on this show. i guess they do it because of time constraints, but i can't recall anyone ever having success with it over the seasons of top chef.
                      it's really a b.s. cut of meat.

                      i like hugh o.k., although he never lets a good line get in the way of making complete sense. frankly, i'm really starting to think the biggest d*ckhead on the show, chef or judge, is colicchio. i want to like him, he's so accomplished and even occasionally jolly, but man, he is really starting to be inconsistent, distracted and hard to be around.
                      all the judges on top chef, especially the guest judges, are starting to grate. they seem to want to come off more expert than they are, and predisposed to finding fault to come off as hyperarticulate about food.

                      1. re: linus

                        Pork tenderloin with the right marinade and a slow cook time can be really delicious...

                      2. re: cowboyardee

                        Agree re: Josie. Still wondering *why* they chose to bring her back, since she was never stellar in her season. Perhaps because everyone else said no?

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Tom told the contestants about LCK...but there seems to be a twist (go figure!). I haven't watched LCK, but it seemed from the bit on TV last night that we (viewers) get to vote for the chefs who don't make it through LCK. I interpret that as there could be two returning chefs -- one who wins the LCK eliminations, and one who loses but gets voted back. That makes Tom's "reveal" only part of the story.

                          1. re: momjamin

                            Correct.

                            Unlike last year where the LCK winner came back, now they have added a "peoples choice" winner where now two of those booted off get to come back. Or so I understand.

                            i caught that and had to do the math on that.

                            Do both come back when they get down to round of 6 to make 8 or round of 8 to make 10 again? And then do they do a double elimination to get back to where they need to be?

                            I did catch that at the end of the show though with the cleaverly hidden encouragement blurb to vote online or via phone to get the second redemption chef back in.

                            Good catch.

                          2. re: cowboyardee

                            <<< - The elimination challenge featured a cornucopia of bad food and bizarre cooking choices, I feel like I'd need a second viewing to sort em all out. >>>>

                            Totally agree. Those were some of the nastiest ingredients I can imagine. I felt like the only ones that were real food were the curds and pickles.

                            1. re: Bart Hound

                              Agree with both of you. One of the least enjoyable TC episodes I've ever watched.

                              The QF: We've gotten you up at this ungodly hour before there's any thing laid out in one of the best open markets in the world so you can make breakfast. Oh and you have nothing to cook on so run over to {product placement} store and buy some equipment. Don't forget to fight with your fellow chefs. Oh Oh Oh, and put it on a STICK! WTF GFYS. Just dumb, dumb dumb.

                              The EC. Here are some of the crappiest artisenal items available in one of the best open markets in the world. Now go cook something delicious.

                              Entire episode was a huge fail with the exception of Hugh slapping down CJ. That was priceless.

                              Can't wait for next week.

                              jb

                              1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                The Sur la Tab store is well stocked, but crowded on ordinary shopping days. I'm sure the contestants had the store to themselves - plus who knows how many camera crew. Still I'm not surprised that it was a madhouse for a few minutes.

                                1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                  I'm glad to know I wasn't the only one who thought that - a pretty disappointing episode, all around. The ingredients, the dishes, the guest judge, Daisley - all just kind of...meh...

                                  (I will confess to not knowing that much about Daisley Gordon, so I don't mean that as a comment on his chef skills or personality - I just don't think I saw him crack so much as a half smile the entire episode.)

                                  Hugh delivered the two redeeming moments of the night for me - the CJ slap down at the end, and the comment to Padma, Gail, and Tom about the rose petal jelly tasting like "eating somebody's grandmother." LOL.

                                  1. re: ItalGreyHound

                                    "eating somebody's grandmother."- THAT was priceless!

                                    1. re: ItalGreyHound

                                      that was a great line, LOL.

                                  2. re: Bart Hound

                                    <real food were the curds and pickles.>

                                    Both of which they completely obliterated.

                                    1. re: latindancer

                                      I can't figure out what they could have done to a deep fried cheese curd to make it seem, as Padma said, not like a cheese curd. We have a lot of experience with fried cheese curds in Minnesota (a food icon at the state fair) and the only reason I can come up with for the tasteless result is possibly a subpar cheese curd to start with.

                                      1. re: John E.

                                        "We have alot of experience with fried cheese curds"

                                        I have no idea why they were so tasteless, according to Padma. Did they fry them too long? The cheese curds that were featured on the show are really some of the best things I've ever tasted, seriously. They have one that's marinated in a very rich olive oil & herbs which is my favorite and 'tasteless' is not how I'd describe them, anything but. I have no way of knowing how they'd compare to what you're used to but wow....fried cheese curds at a Minnesota state fair? That sounds pretty delicious. Yum.

                                        1. re: latindancer

                                          Raw cheese curds are amazing. Fried cheese curds make my mouth sing to quote a judge. My favorite kinds are served at dive-y Northwood Wisconsin bars. I'm not sure what they did to make them tasteless because how do you screw up cheese?

                                          1. re: lbs

                                            <how do you screw up cheese?>

                                            You said it. I still can't figure out what they did to the curds to make them so 'tasteless'. It just seems sorta impossible. I'm pretty sure it wasn't the curds because the curds they were using are amazing.
                                            So, what in the world did they do to them? I'm gonna watch again.

                                        2. re: John E.

                                          Those beechers cheese curds (and their cheese, actually) are completely tasteless and I cannot figure out why people like them. It sounded like they made the piece too small and they only got the fried coating with no discernable cheese curd inside.

                                          1. re: akq

                                            <and their cheese, actually) are completely tasteless >

                                            I totally disagree. Their store, including the cheeses and the curds, has some excellent food made from the cheese products Tasteless, it's not.
                                            Even Padma conceded she'd eaten her way through the store, being the cheese lover she is.

                                            1. re: latindancer

                                              Ehhh... certainly compared to real Wisconsin cheese curds, the Beecher's ones are nothing to write home about. Can definitely see how they would end up tasteless.

                                              1. re: latindancer

                                                Are you sure you're tasting the cheese and not the oily marinade you mentioned up thread? Seriously, I don't get the draw of Beechers at all.

                                                1. re: akq

                                                  I'm tasting the cheese.

                                                  1. re: latindancer

                                                    If you say so.

                                                    One thing I am curious about, though, is why the Beechers cheese curds don't have the same texture as Wisconsin (or even Tillamook) curds that have a bit of squeak, especially when you nuke them for a couple of seconds. I was so excited when I first saw the Beechers cheese curds were widely available in the Seattle area until I realized that the texture and taste were so different from what I'd had before. Oh well.

                                                    1. re: akq

                                                      It's not something I'd think about buying to fly home with. For me I get caught up in the market and purchase many things I can't find in LA....with perhaps a little nostalgia thrown in. They make a great tomato soup finished off with curds that melt on top. That and their grilled cheese tops off a nice afternoon.

                                                      1. re: latindancer

                                                        That's curious...upthread you said "The cheese curds that were featured on the show are really some of the best things I've ever tasted, seriously."

                                                        I would probably buy some of the best things I've ever tasted (seriously.) to fly home with.

                                                        1. re: akq

                                                          I get my fill and don't bother.
                                                          They're fun to eat while sitting in my hotel room a few steps up the block from Beecher's, as is the rest of the food in the market, but then I'm done.
                                                          If I really 'needed' them, or anything else, I'd have them shipped overnight express.

                                        3. re: Bart Hound

                                          Agree with you but shouldn't a half decent chef be able to produce something that's palatable no matter what the ingredient is? None of this food, regardless of the ingredients, looked even remotely exciting. As a matter of fact some of it looked disgusting.

                                          1. re: Bart Hound

                                            And only two hours to prepare. I thought that was too short especially with such weird ingredients.

                                            1. re: Leepa

                                              They give them the time limits to make it a contest. They actually want some of them to screw up their dishes. It makes for better TV. Of course, it is bad TV when they ALL screw things up.

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                Of course, they do. It wouldn't be a contest otherwise. I just thought 2 hours was a bit too little time.

                                                I keep thinking about the pickles. What kind of dish would some of those here make with that ingredient?

                                                1. re: Leepa

                                                  I think you could do away with the time limit and use a deadline instead. In bbq competitions there is a turn in time. Start whenever you want to give yourself the time you think you need, but the food has to be done at X. I would always set X to be far enough in advance to give everyone ample time to create their dish. As the deadline approached you'd still get the kitchen mayhem, that we all love to see, as people rush to finish, but I think you'd get better food. This would be for EC's only.

                                                  jb

                                                  1. re: Leepa

                                                    I wish CJ would have let Tyler do his idea. What was it a chowder and a pickle fritter of some sort? It would have been much better.

                                                    Fried Pickles seems pedestrian but if they could have elevated that it might have worked.

                                                    If they wanted something hand held or along the lines of a Cuban sandwich would have been more appropriate in showing off the pickles.

                                                    They could have come up with a way to use the pickle juice into a dish as well.

                                          2. Agree with Linda about the unnecessary zooming in of the losers' faces.

                                            I think it was unfair to say that a team was going home AFTER they'd cooked. I'd think it would affect your choices if you knew that in advance. Unlike most here, I don't hate John and was hoping he wouldn't go but that dish seemed like it didn't work more than the burger, but who knows. It was a crap shoot with how much they disliked all three dishes.

                                            Love Chris Pratt on Parks and Rec and he looks pretty amusing in next week's previews.

                                            1. Well, so much for back to basics. An Elimination Challenge with just two hours to shop, prep and cook? They didn't really even have time to think, and coming right after the Quickfire, those chefs had to be a little worn down. I always wish they would give the chefs a little more time. One more hour, and they would have had a little time to THINK about the ingredients, etc.

                                              I do think it was a little unfair to announce AFTER the challenge that a whole team would be eliminated, but then again, the chefs learned a lesson - don't ride on the fact that if it's a losing dish that's someone else's idea, that person will go home for the bad idea. Speak up! Stake your claim! Just one more reason why I (along with everyone else) hate team challenges. What a shame those artisans weren't given an opportunity to shine :(

                                              1. For some reason, I felt that this was a pretty unsatisfying episode. I guess it was because the food that was cooked in the EC was so uninspiring.

                                                IMO, a good part of CJ's downfall was second-guessing what Tom would think. Just go and cook something delicious and don't worry about what the judges are thinking. Also, when I saw the crumpet on those burgers I thought, "Why didn't you toast the damn thing? Crumpets are meant to be toasted." I thought that CJ put the final nail in his coffin when he complained about the chocolate dessert. Don't judge another cheftestant's dish in front of the judges!!!

                                                I was a little confused by Hugh telling Stefan that if his dish was still so sweet, he needed to fix it. How could they fix it if they were supposed to highlight the rose petal jam, and the jam was so sweet? As someone who hates sweet tastes with protein, I was surprised: if it was so sweet why didn't try to make a dessert with it? Rose petal panna cotta anyone?

                                                Maybe getting up before 4AM to make breakfast for the Pike's Place Market's workers just sapped everyone's creativity, but really, no one brought his or her A game.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                  I agree, CJ lost because he was thinking about what Tom would say. Problem is, what Tom would really say (and has said) is, cook me some great food! He also, in every episode so far, was "playing the game" instead of cooking good food. He came back to win, but he brought the wrong attitude. You could hear it in everything he said. He played to win instead of just cooking the best damn food he could. He deserved to go.

                                                  1. re: lisavf

                                                    Yes and no about his tude but using a crumpet (!) was IMHO suicide. Talk about soggy!

                                                    1. re: Berheenia

                                                      A crumpet.
                                                      What the h?

                                                      1. re: Berheenia

                                                        Do we know if they baked the crumpets or just bought them?

                                                        1. re: chicgail

                                                          With only two hours, I suspect they were store-bought. I'd hope the Elves would have shown either Tyler or CJ actually making the crumpets or one of the judges asking if they were handmade.

                                                          1. re: chicgail

                                                            There's a Crumpet Shop in the market. I'm sure that's where they're from and they're delicious. I just can't figure out why they used them though.

                                                            1. re: chicgail

                                                              Gail says in her blog that they are from the Crumpet Store in the Market and those are really tasty too.

                                                        2. re: roxlet

                                                          Also agree re: the crumpets. I saw the pic before I froze the DVR, and then saw that it was a crumpet. Toasted, YES. Uncooked? NO.

                                                          As for CJ, what he said in front of the judges is probably right. We've SEEN Tom C. say stuff like that, so when Padma said "Fair enough", I think she was right. But I also agree that CJ overthought what Tom C. would say vs. just making a dish. Quite frankly, hearing what Tyler wanted to make with the pickles (which I now cannot remember) sounded WAY better than a burger with pickles, and I suspect it would have kept them out of the bottom. Too bad Tyler didn't stand up to CJ and say the burger was too plain. He went with the lackluster "He's been on Top Chef before; he knows..." No, he doesn't know, because he got booted off before the finale, Tyler!

                                                        3. This was the first time that CJ really pissed me off with his attitude. And unoriginal as can be. I feel bad for Tyler, he got caught in CJ's hubris.

                                                          I think this is an interesting exercise in figuring out who the alpha dogs are and the consequences of their failures. I think there was an initial burst of energy with the reveal of what they had to do, but the interesting part to me was that everyone second guessed either themselves or their partner's choice. Of course this came after the fact if they taked the comments after getting scolded by Tom.

                                                          I saw hubris in sticking to your guns even though you had doubts and then there is the second guessing even before you made the decision, a la CJ: he made what he THOUGHT Tom wanted and was wrong, and paid for it.

                                                          In the end, I think what killed them was that they couldn't articulate the challenge in the food, and as the dishes evolved, no one was able to improvise enough to pull out their dishes. Perhaps it is the lack of sleep.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: Phaedrus

                                                            i think it's a hoot when the judges say something along the lines of, "well, why didn't you fix it?" when pointing out a flaw in the dish.
                                                            how about, because they didn't have TIME?
                                                            it never seems to occur to the judges they put time constraints on the challenges. on the one hand, the judges often seem to say, "this shouldn't have been served," on the other, they send you home if you don't send anything out.
                                                            if you're pointing out hubris (and i don't think cooking something you think the judges want is hubris), you might want to look at the judges table.

                                                          2. Stefan made me LMAO all nite long.

                                                            "Birthday curse...fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck."

                                                            Stefan trying to explain Last Chance Kitchen on the balcony to the daft contestants also had me reeling. ZOMG. Ha.

                                                            Gail on Stefan's cabbage (& duck) dish:

                                                            "...if you get too much, you feel like you're eating someone's grandmother."

                                                            Wha wha WHAT????????????????

                                                            I watched the episode 3 times last nite to catch all the great quotes and drama.

                                                            Thanks LindaWhit for the reacap.

                                                            18 Replies
                                                            1. re: jjjrfoodie

                                                              That was Hugh's quote.....

                                                              1. re: Dee S

                                                                I think I love Hugh Acheson. His irreverence made the episode bearable.

                                                                1. re: chicgail

                                                                  i'm with you.

                                                                  and i want to say again i really like Stefan. One of the girls said she's known him for a few years now and that he has a soft heart or a heart of gold or something.

                                                                  1. re: chicgail

                                                                    I really like Hugh as a judge. He takes the food seriously but not the contest and he's not afraid to point out the silly things. Tom just seems so pissed off and almost annoyed to even be there. I would be fine with him going home and taking Padma with him.

                                                                    1. re: tjinsf

                                                                      I think he was just extremely disappointed in the contestants. In a situation like that EC I believe he looks upon them as if they were his cooks and their dishes are a reflection on him. That's why he apologized for the quality of their food.

                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                        maybe but it seems like the last few seasons, he didn't really want to be there. I think Hugh having done it less, is naturally more enthusiastic.

                                                                        1. re: tjinsf

                                                                          I don't get that at all. I remember stuff like how pleased he was last season with the food they had on the episode with Charlize Theron. When they produce good food, Tom shows a lot of enthusiasm.

                                                                      2. re: tjinsf

                                                                        I think Colicchio is answering the critics a little too much. In the beginning, he was a great judge to behold because he was so guileless and honest. AS the seasons wear on, you do become more self conscious of what you say, and regardless of their protestations otherwise, I think they all have read the criticisms and have been responding to them consciously or not.

                                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                          I feel that this episode was a bore, and that the food didn't look particularly appetizing, but I also feel that when you get everyone up at 4AM, do a quickfire and then immediately segue into the EC featuring some pretty difficult ingredients and a 2 hour time frame, what do you expect? I actually wasn't surprised that everything was so unappealing. Yes, the chefs made terrible choices as with the rose petal jam, but sometimes I think, "OK, YOU try it, and let's see how YOU do!" I thought that Tom overplayed the stern daddy yelling at the bad children this time. I found that unappealing too.

                                                                          1. re: roxlet

                                                                            Interesting as I like it when Tom cracks the whip. It says to me that his standards are high and as the head judge they should be. While I put most of the blame for the episode on the producers for choosing crappy challenges, I also blame the chefs. Sloppy, uninspired cooking is what we saw. It annoyed me as well. The show comes on late in my area, 10pm. On a week night that means I have to short my sleep. So I go out of my way to watch and when it's bad it annoys me. I would have given the chefs a tongue lashing as well, then I would have gone and kicked some producers asses.

                                                                            jb

                                                                            1. re: JuniorBalloon

                                                                              Me too. I like when Tom cracks the whip too. I will confess, though, that I love Tom on the show, so he can do very little wrong by in my book :)

                                                                              I think the blame goes all around. Haven't yet visited Pike Place Mkt, though it's on my top 10 list of things to do in the next few years. Can't help but feel like any of us could stroll through such an amazing venue and pick out better raw ingredients on which to base a TC challenge. (Cheese curds not included - those do sound amazing.)

                                                                              But no one stepped up and overcame the obstacle, really. It was almost like they conceded to less than ideal challenge ingredients. Was I the only one sitting there wondering how the Voltaggios, Kevin Gillespie, or even Richard Blais would have handled this challenge?

                                                                              1. re: ItalGreyHound

                                                                                No, I thought the same thing, ItalGH. Would have liked to have seen several past cheftestants take a stab at some of the odd ingredients.

                                                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                  Heck, half the contestants on Chopped could have made something edible with rose jelly and, say, broccoli rabe.

                                                                                  1. re: momjamin

                                                                                    Broccoli rabe is actually a good idea -- I was just thinking that something slightly bitter would have been good. Maybe if Stefan had used raddichio instead of red cabbage it would have been good.

                                                                                    Usually they have more time to plan their dishes -- at least from the time they're given the challenge to the time they arrive at Whole Foods. The time constraints in this really set them up to fail: unfamiliar ingredients assigned on the spot and only a few minutes to plan and shop, and a couple of hours to cook.

                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                      I think the issue with Stefan's cabbage was that he added sugar (I think Tom or Hugh said in his blog that he made it in that manner) so the sugared cabbage and the rose petal jelly just became way too sweet overall, even after he added some vinegar to the cabbage.

                                                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                        Typically you would do some kind of sweet-and-sour with German-style cabbage. As I said, I think the way to fix it would have been to add some bitterness, rather than some sourness.

                                                                                2. re: ItalGreyHound

                                                                                  I tend to agree. Some of the ingredients were difficult to work with, but certainly not impossible. I think a lot of the chefs were off their games this week. I couldn't say whether that was just a matter of chance, or of the early morning wake-up, or of some general vibe where the contestants see each other playing it safe and avoiding ambitious combinations and complicated dishes and collectively clam up. Or as I mentioned earlier, maybe the chefs got thrown for a loop when mushrooms and fried onions won last week - started aiming for what they thought the judges wanted rather than just making good food the way they know how to make it.

                                                                                  But I feel pretty sure that previous contestants could've done something more interesting with those ingredients, and I also feel pretty sure that these contestants might've done better with the same challenge another day.

                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                    True. It almost seemed like an odd hazing ritual to make them do both challenges back to back after getting up at 3:45! But it is Top Chef, I guess. So who's to say that even this group might not have come up with better ideas with a little more sleep...

                                                                                    (I say all of this laughing at myself, b/c it's coming from the girl who forgot to add sugar to her lemon bars a few weeks ago. Easy to be critical from a distance, I guess :)

                                                                  2. Does anyone with Comcast know where I can find Last Chance Kitchen OnDemand? I was able to find it easily last season, but not this time.

                                                                    10 Replies
                                                                    1. re: jules127

                                                                      LCK is not broadcast. You need to go to Bravo's site to see it.

                                                                      1. re: jules127

                                                                        So far, Comcast has not made LCK available on-demand.

                                                                        1. re: jules127

                                                                          Today, Comcast made LCK available on demand.

                                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                                            Yeah!! Thanks John!!

                                                                            1. re: John E.

                                                                              Hi John, I can't find LCK on Demand under Top Chef or in the "L"s... any tips to finding?

                                                                              1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                                                Here's the strange part about this. I just went to search on demand by searching for Top Chef (via the alphabetized listings) and LCK was not there as part of Top Chef. Then I went to Top Chef by searching the network (Bravo) and went to Top Chef that way and LCK IS there. Huh? I wonder why they did it that way?

                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                  That's weird! I found it by doing what you said- thanks for the help!

                                                                                  edited to remove silly content. :)

                                                                                  1. re: caviar_and_chitlins

                                                                                    The 4 and 5 are the numbers of the TC episodes and are also the first two LCK episodes.

                                                                                    1. re: John E.

                                                                                      I figured it out when it started- and then smacked myself in the head for not considering that of course they'd need a few eliminations in order to do a competition.

                                                                              2. re: John E.

                                                                                woohoo! I know what I'm watching this evening... :-D

                                                                            2. From CJ I got more a sense of frustration than anything else.

                                                                              But I do have to agree with his assumption of Big Toms saying 'what's wrong with making just a burger?'

                                                                              I like Josh but I keep visualizing him in a top hat and cape tying an attractive woman to the railway tracks with fast playing piano music in the background.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                "But I do have to agree with his assumption of Big Toms saying 'what's wrong with making just a burger?'"
                                                                                _______
                                                                                I think the issue wasn't that he made a burger on Top Chef, but that he made a bad burger and used it as a way to show off artisan pickles, which should have been more of a star on the plate.

                                                                                1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                  And we know that if you make a bad boorgur you will have PYKAG.

                                                                                  jb

                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                    And here's the other thing I really don't get: a pork burger? What is that? Pork and pickles go together just fine -- hell, I'm eating pâté and cornichon right now-- but a burger? It seriously doesn't appeal to me.

                                                                                    1. re: roxlet

                                                                                      I grew up in rural Minnesota where hog farms were ubiquitous. We had pork burgers quite often. The community college had a 'Pork Bowl' with pig races on the field at halftime. Free pork burgers were always served prior to the game. I wonder if they are still doing that?

                                                                                2. No John, if you got sent home it would have just as much for your bad grits as it would have been for Snidely Whiplash's bad pork. The sauce was bad too.

                                                                                  Snidely, if you are likeable as you say on this episode, you better start to show that likeability because so far, I haven't seen it.

                                                                                  CJ, just how were you judged unfairly?

                                                                                  1. Josh throws me for a loop because he looks so much like my beloved Kevin Gillespie from Season 6. So I'm (unfairly) expecting him to be a nice guy.

                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                      He does kinda look like Kevin's cartoon character. I def. think he has John beat for douchiness at the moment.

                                                                                      1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                                        hahaha - me too! I just realized that is how I have been thinking of him! I sub-conciously want him to be as likeable as Kevin (despite that absolutely ridiculous moustache) so I probably am not as harsh on him personality-wise.

                                                                                      2. Hugh's blog is priceless this week:

                                                                                        http://www.bravotv.com/top-chef/seaso...

                                                                                        My fave lines:

                                                                                        "Stefan wakes up and he’s feeling older. Not wiser and sharper, just older. There’s a crick in his neck and he’s all mad about those pesky kids in his yard again."

                                                                                        "The Bart Knight runs funny. Wheee. The Belgian strength is in things like judo and tennis, and definitely not regal running."

                                                                                        "Bart is falling down, but will thank you when he falls... every episode Bart becomes more like Monty Python’s Black Knight. “Alright, we’ll call it a draw.”

                                                                                        "Verdict: The Bart Knight and Sir Spam-A-Lot win and get immunity. CJ thinks this sucks and shrinks to 6’10”."

                                                                                        "Judges' Table was utter hilarity with CJ trying to convince us that a dish we hadn’t picked should have lost. He shrunk even more. 6’9” now. "

                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                        1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                          Who is the "Jimmy Sears" that Hugh keeps calling Tesar?

                                                                                          1. re: Bart Hound

                                                                                            Jimmy Sears is the faux name that Anthony Bourdain gave Tesar in his "Kitchen Confidential".

                                                                                            http://americareads.blogspot.com/2008...

                                                                                            1. re: Bart Hound

                                                                                              Jimmy Sears is the alias Anthony Bourdain used for John Tesar when he wrote about him in Kitchen Confidential. I have no idea why he used an alias, but, meh.

                                                                                              jb

                                                                                          2. My random thoughts, many of which have been stated above:
                                                                                            OK, I know you guys have spent some big bucks on new technology but please stop it with the Matrix camera work.

                                                                                            I hated the EC. I guess SOMEONE buys that food and actually cooks with it but come on, that stuff was really ridiculous although cheese curds should have been a fairly easy ten grand.
                                                                                            CJ staged at Noma. That could mean they let him dice carrots or peel potatoes. Hey, I like going to air shows but I still can’t fly a plane. Actually, if he was able to hang out in that kitchen for 2 months, he should have picked up quite a bit. Maybe even enough to have come up with something just a bit more inventive than a hamburger. The dissing of the dessert may have been just the little push needed to get him sent packing.

                                                                                            I did feel bad for Tyler for simply going alone with CJ.

                                                                                            I agree with Tom – all the food looked pretty bad. Hugh is still my favorite judge of all time and he really is a great blog writer.

                                                                                            I’m starting to not hate on John as much. I’m not too keen on Josh. He hasn’t shown me anything.

                                                                                            Like others, how did Josie get here? How did Spike get on the Next Iron Chef?

                                                                                            Even though they blew it with the cheese curds, I like Kristen & Micah. Thank you editors for no feet rubbing this episode.

                                                                                            So the viewers get to pick a chef to return? Interesting in that this was filmed during the summer in Seattle which would make me conclude that whoever we vote for will by default be in the only episodes that have not yet been recorded – the finale. So all we need is one crazy stalker type (like the one who voted thousands of times for surfer dude from last season) and you can make it to the finale?

                                                                                            Oh yeah, thank you Linda. I look forward to your recaps all year.

                                                                                            1. at the very beginning, did anyone think that the back view of padma's pants looked like she had holes in the back of her pants? Again, I'm a bad person. I thought the right team got sent home.

                                                                                              2 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: DGresh

                                                                                                I didn't notice it before, but I'm certainly going to check out Padma's backside the next time this episode is on! (How did I miss it)?

                                                                                                1. re: John E.

                                                                                                  Slacker. :-P

                                                                                              2. OK, hounds and Top Chef watchers -- help me out. In a family Top Chef contest. I have to pick a new winner (just lost CJ) and a new candidate next to "pick up your knives and go."

                                                                                                Winners already selected: Sheldon, Kristen, Micah, John Tesar, Brooke, Eliz (Lizzie), Stefan, and Eliza. Need to select from who else remains.

                                                                                                Loser -- can choose anyone. I already have Stefan.

                                                                                                Who would you choose as a winner and as a loser?

                                                                                                5 Replies
                                                                                                1. re: nosh

                                                                                                  Loser: It's only a matter of time before Josie gets the ax.

                                                                                                  Winner: That's tougher. Of the few you've left to choose from, I'd probably pick Danyele. No particularly good reason why though. She hasn't made a huge impression yet, but that's better than making a poor impression. Next pick would probably be Bart. But again, no good reason.

                                                                                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                                                                                    It's a reality show rule of thumb that someone who hasn't made an impression after three or four episodes is usually someone who is going to make it relatively far, but not the finals. When someone is about to be chopped the editors make sure they've developed their story, and they usually like to foreshadow the finalists and start their story arc as well.

                                                                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                      I agree in general. Though I can think of a few prior finalists who didn't make much of an impression in the first few episodes: Kevin (s7), Casey (s3). Top Chef has done a better job than most at not being overly predictable.

                                                                                                  2. re: nosh

                                                                                                    Kristin is the winner....

                                                                                                    Stefan's the loser...

                                                                                                    1. re: nosh

                                                                                                      I would have put Eliza in the losing group. I don't think she's going to last long.

                                                                                                      Winner - Josh or Kristen.

                                                                                                    2. Did Tom C and the producers have some sort of weird expectation that good chefs should be familiar with the weird artisanal crap that hippies sell in farmers' markets and ended up overestimating how familiar the chefs would be with ingredients similar to these?

                                                                                                      9 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                        if collicchio took part in putting together that challenge, and the food was as bad as they said, then he deserved every bite. he should have made the producers eat, as well. even if some of the 'special' ingredients were reasonable for a cook who wasn't familiar with them, that makes the luck of the knife draw too much a determinant. the partnership element introduced another significant luck factor. at a certain point in designing an obstacle course, poorly conceived obstacles end up compounding each other and the runners crash.

                                                                                                        of course we can't know how bad the food really was, but what if it was only mediocre mish-mash ? that would put the judges' comments in a somewhat different light -- sadistic hyperbole for dramatic effect, to make the lab rats squirm. the 'artisans' who made the key ingredients seemed reserved and polite -- too bad we can't know what they truly thought about it all. in Tx, at least with the bad steaks served to the cattle barons and the progressive meal for the discreetly charming bourgeoisie, there was an element of poetic justice, but this meal didn't quite offer that kind of satisfaction for the viewers.

                                                                                                        1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                          I did not like the EC at all but I kinda get the premise. A "top chef" should be able to take an unfamiliar item and incorporate it into a dish and make it taste really good but come on, what's next, a trip to an organic farm where each chef is given a pile of manure from the different animals and are told to create a dish where their shit sings?

                                                                                                          1. re: bobbert

                                                                                                            "A "top chef" should be able to take an unfamiliar item and incorporate it into a dish and make it taste really good.."

                                                                                                            But that's not Top Chef; that's Chopped!

                                                                                                            1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                              Like. Like. Like.

                                                                                                          2. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                                            The only one of these artisanal ingredients that I have used myself are the Scrappy's bitters, which are quite good but in my opinion overpriced ($30 a bottle). They are available all over the country as far as I know. While they are something that generally would be used for cocktails rather than anything else I wouldn't call them weird.

                                                                                                            As far as the other stuff, rose jelly, cheese curds, "salmon candy" (i.e., fish bacon), chile-garlic pickles, truffle popcorn, and coconut-curry chocolate bars don't really strike me as weird either. Perhaps not something I'd want to build a whole dish around, but they seem like things professional food types would have encountered before. I've had all of them myself except the salmon candy and I'm not a chef.

                                                                                                            1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                              Yeah, none of this seems excessively out there to me. I've had most of it, or something close enough, and I'm not exactly on top of food trends. That said, some are definitely easier to cook with.

                                                                                                              1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                Right. I think the point is that except for the rose petal jelly and the cheese curds, none of those ingredients are something you would incorporate into a "dish." They're snack/condiments.

                                                                                                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                                                                                  True, but it's also not the craziest stuff they've been asked to work with. I'd think popcorn would be infinitely easier than, say, the weird canned foods or vending machine items that have been featured in other challenges.

                                                                                                                  That said, I wouldn't want to have to make a dish out of cardamom bitters. :)

                                                                                                                  1. re: piccola

                                                                                                                    But the vending machine/weird canned foods challenges in the past have been quickfire challenges, not elimination challenges.

                                                                                                          3. As I watched I kept wondering if, for what ever, reason the judges were in an odd place and were just being overly knit-picky.

                                                                                                            10 Replies
                                                                                                            1. re: Withnail42

                                                                                                              In general, I think the judges are pretty honest when they're being nit-picky as a result of the dishes being of an overall high quality. Last season, the Snow White and the Huntsman challenge - I think it was made pretty clear to the viewers and contestants that the complaints they had were because overall the quality of dishes was really high.

                                                                                                              I wonder though if the presence of the vendors/makers of the product contributed to the judges' anger. I could imagine during pre-production when these vendors were approached, that part of the pitch is about how "our chefs will do great things with your products". And so there may have been an embarrassment of having these vendors give the show their products and give their time for the filming/tasting and then have it not be at a high level.

                                                                                                              I think it's that roll of having to play the middle man and then feeling like one partner didn't hold up their end.

                                                                                                              1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                I had thought of that too -- that the presence of the vendors exacerbated the negative reactions of the judges. Certainly, exposure on this episode isn't making viewers run out to get these products so that they can replicate the dishes that were made. And maybe that was the promise: let us feature your products on this episode of TC, and people will be clamoring to buy your foodstuffs.

                                                                                                                1. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                  Given how it turned out this may seem like an odd gripe - but except for the cheese curd makers they really glossed over the specific brands so quickly that the viewer would have a hard time remembering what they were even called, if they wanted to find any of these products in a store anyway.

                                                                                                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                                                                                                    I don't know as soon as I heard coconut curry chocolate I knew it was a Theo Chocolates candy bar and I knew about them before I lived in Seattle for a while. I do think that they wanted to stress that if the food was bad it wasn't because the ingredients that were supplied by the vendors. I've eaten all the things featured and other than the rose jelly which is pure evil (as is all rose jelly) they are all tasty. I don't think pickles is that hard why not do a slaw with it or a kimchi, use the liquid in a dish.

                                                                                                                    1. re: tjinsf

                                                                                                                      "the rose jelly which is pure evil (as is all rose jelly)"

                                                                                                                      Hey! I love rose preserves and I always have some in the pantry. The rose jam I have now is Greek and it is exquisite. Wonderful in poultry dishes, esp. chicken, btw.

                                                                                                                  2. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                    Yup - also, the chance that some of the dishes were going to be bad was expected. You could have had the world's most amazing truffle popcorn blah blah and spicy pickle xyz, and the same bad rose jelly dish. However, had it been a normal episode of where there are a couple awesome dishes, a couple poor dishes, and some in the middle - then the bad dish, production can at least cut in a line or two about how the initial product was tasty. So instead of a line from Padma about eating a lot of cheese curds, it could have been Tom talking about eating rose jelly with a spoon or something.

                                                                                                                    Such a challenge was always going to be a risk for the vendor - because most vendors only prodived one item, their product could end up being attached to the line "the worst dish in Top Chef history". Even if everything else was amazing. Also - it's not like they made poor products in front of a spokesperson for a giant corperation, but rather in front of small(er) business owners. Had this been a Coca Cola challenge, where everyone was assigned a different Coke product and the dishes all turned out poor - I don't think the anger would have been the same.

                                                                                                                    1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                      sometimes teachers --in this case the producers and judges -- learn the hard way from test results what the actual level of the class is, or the test was set a bit too high. so far, different competitors have badly overcooked fish, proved incapable of roasting a turkey properly, had never learned to dress and cook small game birds, ruined a batch of gumbo for which he'd received an intensive tutorial from chef lagasse. if this test was a fair one (room for doubt there, i.m.o.), and the judges weren't exaggerating that the cooks all failed, then the producers and judges also failed in recruiting competent contestants.

                                                                                                                      1. re: moto

                                                                                                                        I also wonder if the act of bringing in the old chefs and how long this show has been around is that it appears people are overthinking challenges a bit more than they are focusing on good food.

                                                                                                                        CJ in particular, in the first challenge he brought up quails as a way of being different from the others, he took the role of leading the Thanksgiving challenge to show himself as a leader, and then the idea of the burgers also seemed to be overthinking what Tom would/wouldn't say. Or with John and Josh - they figured, fighting will doom this team - so we won't argue at all and things will be fine. And as a result bad decisions weren't questioned.

                                                                                                                        Not all of those choices failed (John and Josh's Quickfire and CJ's leading Thanksgiving), but overall it seems like the chef's aren't first thinking about making great food - but rather just succeeding in the competition.

                                                                                                                        1. re: cresyd

                                                                                                                          Good points.

                                                                                                                    2. re: roxlet

                                                                                                                      Ha.

                                                                                                                      Possibly, but after that episode it really did make me think about my love of the cheese curds. It gave them a ton of exposure and now, after reading a few Wisconsin curd lovers, I'm wondering if they're really 'all that'. Sometimes episodes like this can actually backfire on what initially intended to be a good thing.