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Top Chef Seattle - Ep. #6 - 12/12/12 (Spoilers)

OK, we're back with 12 cheftestants. Stew Room shows the cheftestants angsting about the previous EC and knowing that no one got a win.

The next morning, they show up in the TC Kitchen, and Padma is there with an older woman. Tesar wonders if she's Martha Stewart's mother. Nope, it's Marilyn Hagerty, the food reviewer for the Grand Forks Herald for over 30 years. Marilyn explained that she was the one who wrote a column about Olive Garden, and suddenly she was told she was "viral", which she didn't even know what that meant.

She got a chance to go to NYC and try some fine dining. Padma notes that Tony Bourdain is collaborating with her for a book deal using some of her writings. "It's just been a hoot, the whole thing." What a sweet woman!

For the Quickfire, Padma notes the holidays are here. Marilyn says she's of Danish descent, and she likes foods that are sweet and savory. One of her heritage's dishes is ebelskiver. The challenge is to make a sweet and savory dish based on the cheftestant's family heritage. Padma and Marilyn do a little pitch for Truvia Baking Blend with Sugar, which they'll use for the sweet part of the dish.

They draw knives - they all have the words "off limits" on them, except Lizzie pulls a blank knife. Padma tells them they can put their knife rolls away, because the ONLY knife available for ALL of them is the one that Lizzie is holding. Twelve cheftestants and one knife. This ought to be interesting.

They have 30 minutes to prep their dish, and the winner will be safe from elimination. They rush into the pantry to gather their ingredients, but Josh uses the knife first. Others use a grater, a food slicer, a spatula, a pizza cutter, scissors and a few other items as their working utensils.

They continue to cook - everyone is asking what each other is making; the camera continues to :::::WHOOSH! ZOOM!:::: in on various dishes, on the GE Monogram ovens, on the blender, etc. GEEZ LOUISE! Stop with the zooming camera shots!

Josh - Johnnycake with Bacon, Cheddar, Chili Compound Butter & Sous Vide Egg - Marilyn likes the bit of sweetness in the johnnycake.

Danyele - Bread Pudding with Ham, Raisins, & Pecans - Marilyn says "leftover ham never tasted this good!"

Lizzie - Bobotie with Ground Lamb, Egg Custard & Roasted Apricots - no comment about the dish, but Padma asked her about having the knife first. Lizzie said she tried to do all that she needed to do at one time so others could use the knife.

Sheldon - Banana Lumpia with Peanut Butter Mousse, Coconut & Pineapple - Padma said he created something sophisticated.

Micah - Pineapple & Pork Tamale with Charred Tomato & Tomatillo Salsa - Micah said in the confessional that when he was making the tamale, he wondered if Marilyn would even know what it was. Sure enough, she said she's not seen it before: "You've created something...rather unusual!" She liked the plantain and seemed to like the dish.

Bart - Waffles with Celery Three Ways, Apple Purée, Chicken & Prosciutto - Padma laughs and asked if chicken and waffles are traditional Belgian food. He says he knows people who do the dish with turkey.

Brooke - Apple Crostata with Cheddar Cheese, Candied Pine Nuts & Apple Salad - Padma says it's a very "homey dish", and Brooke said it never feels like a compliment when you're in a room of chefs and you've made the "homey dish." (However - that *could* be an extra point in her favor with Marilyn!)

Stefan - Smoked Salmon Tartare, Potato Latkes with Sour Cream & Chives - Stefan said he's half German, half Finnish, and married twice to the same Jewish woman. Marilyn says "Oh really? Well, that didn't show a lot of imagination!" and cracks Padma up. And me. :-D Marilyn tells him he did very well with his dish.

Josie - Tamale with Habanero Masa, Mangos & Papaya - Marilyn said it was a nice combination of flavors.

John - Bondino of Parmesan-Reggiano, Figs, & Apricots in Port Wine & Truvia Caramel - Marilyn said she's all for the port wine in the dish!

Eliza - Hush Puppies Two Ways: Shrimp & Sweet Potato / Sausage & Corn - Marilyn seemed to like the taste.

Marilyn said it was an amazing display of creativity and put her in the mood for the holidays.

Bottom group - Bart, Micah (she called his tamale a taco!)
Top group - Josh, Stefan, and Brooke

And the Quickfire Winner's dish is one that gave her a feeling of going home for the holidays - Brooke (TOLD YA, Brooke!)

For the Elimination Challenge, Padma tells them that a local family is throwing a big welcome home party, and the cheftestants get to cook for the guests of honor. Padma introduces Anna Faris and Chris Pratt. The party will be held at Chihuly Garden and Glass. They will each be responsible for serving one dish that satisfies Chris and Anna's cravings. The winner will get a Toyota Prius C.

They have 5 minutes to talk with Anna and Chris to find out what they like to eat. Wild salmon, Dungeness crab; Stefan asks their heritage (German & Norwegian), and they say they like big game and are adventurous eaters.

They check out the Prius and head back to the suite at Olive 8. Brooke shows a little plastic lizard given to her by her son. Josh brings up a small block of wood with Stefan's face drawn on it on one side, Josh's face on the other - they share it every day. Josh said he didn't like Stefan after watching him on his season - Stefan was douchy, and kind of an asshole. But they've become good friends. Like minds and all that, I guess. :-)

It's the next day - they're beginning prep of their dishes in the TC Kitchen. Stefan yells out "TWELVE MINUTES!" when there's more than 3 hours on the clock. Goober. Josh is trying to redeem himself with another pork dish. Danyele's making boar chops, and they're *very* thin, Kristen's making a filled pasta, John's making a chowder (noting that he worked for Rick Moonen, who taught him to make the best chowder).

They're done in the TC Kitchen, packed up and head over to Chihuly Garden and Glass. This place is gorgeous with the blown glass-decorated garden! They have 30 minutes until service, so they're scrambling to finish their plating.

Judges arrive - Padma, Tom, & Gail, along iwth the guest judge, Rick Moonen. John's freaking out...as he said, there's no room for error. Moonen will have to tell the blunt, hard truth.

Bart - Roasted Loin of Elk with Cherry Beer Sauce & Mushroom Couscous - Padma said the elk was beautifully done, Rich Moonen said other than a touch of salt, it was tender, delicious and well done. Chris Pratt said if the dish wasn't a frontrunner, this would be the best night of his life. (Still not sure what he meant by that, even after watching it 5 times. I *think* that's what he said!)

Brooke - Lamb-stuffed Squid on Black Rice with Coconut Milk - Chris was amazed at the flavor; Tom said Brooke did an amazing job and that it was a ballsy dish. Rick said she could have laid back, but the textures, the flavors were great. Tom said that the time to not lay back is *when* you have immunity.

Sheldon - Braised Okinawan Pork Belly with Seared Scallop and Rice Congee - Anna likes the sweetness of the pork belly and the savoryness of the sushi rice; every bite was a surprise.

Stefan - German Gulasch with Marjoram Bread Dumplings & Sour Cream - Anna said that the Gulasch is something that a pregnant woman craves - very rich and delicious.

Kristen - Délice de Bourgogne Tortelloni - Gail was doubtful of the apricots, but then she realized that dried apricots and a rich triple creme cheese go really well together. Rick said it was a perfect bite.

Micah - Braised Pork Ribs with Celery Root Purée, Grilled Apples & Celery Leaf Salad with Lemon-Mustard Vinaigrette - Immediately, Tom said there was too much cream in the celery root purée. (Earlier, Micah was shown adding more cream to the purée trying to make it creamy enough - did he go overboard?). Rick said dishes they'd tried up until then all had many components, but they all worked. In Micah's dish, that isn't the case. Some of the components didn't work.

Lizzie - Crusted King Salmon with Horseradish Cream and a Radish & Beet Salad - Gail wanted more of a sear on the salmon with some caramelization on it so it didn't taste like a filet of fish; and Anna wished it was better seasoned.

Eliza - Elk Ribeye with Elk Sausage Polenta, Spiced Carrots and Huckleberry Port Sauce - Tom said the meat isn't bad but the rest of the dish he just doesn't get. It was very bland. "What happened here?" Gail said that the huckleberry sauce added a hit of acid that the dish needed. Chris said "You guys took a hit of acid too? This Chihuly glass is freakin' me out now, man!" :-)

Danyele - Pan-Roasted Wild Boar, Hoppin' John & Tomato-Bacon Marmalade - Tom noticed how thinly it was sliced and that you can't chew it; it loses all the texture. Gail said it was bland and cooked unevenly. Chris did seem to like the tomato-bacon jam.

Josh - Roasted Pork Shoulder & Grilled Corn Purée with Succotash & Fennel Apple Salad - Gail said it was insane what Josh put on the plate (the amount of pork shoulder). Both Anna and Tom said it needed seasoning. Chris's brother comes up to their table, and Chris asks how it compared to squirrel. His brother replies "infinitely better than rodent." The two of them once ate raw squirrel heart as a blood brother thing. Chris said "To get the soul, you've got to eat the heart. I saw it in a movie once." Tom tosses out "Dances With Squirrel?" and cracks everyone up.

Josie - Malbec Braised Short Ribs, Crispy Pork Belly, Polenta with Cippolini Onions & Figs - Rick said her dish *sounded* great, but there wasn't enough contrast.

John - Seafood Chowder with Cockles, Manila Clams, Crab, Mussels & Sockeye Salmon - Anna said his chowder was everything she craves when she's not in Seattle. Rick said it's a "hug from the ocean, and it's money." Padma said everything in the dish was cooked perfectly and the salmon skin was divine.

Tom notes that the cheftestants did a great job - clearly head and shoulders above the previous challenge. They note that the least successful dishes are Micah's pork ribs, Eliza's elk, Josie's short ribs, Josh's pork shoulder, and Danyele's boar dish.

The cheftestants are back in the Stew Room, saying they had a lot of motivation not to humiliate themselves after Marché. Padma walks in and asks to see John, Kristen, Brooke and Sheldon. And yup - they ARE the top dishes.

Tom told them they should be proud of themselves after the last challenge, that they cooked something to show who they really are with great technique. Padma asks Brooke if she felt she was taking a risk because she had immunity, and Brooke said she did, because she'd been afraid in the past of being yelled at. Tom said if Brooke continues to cook that way, no one would yell at her. Rick told John that the respect and integrity of each ingredient shone in his chowder. Rick called it celebratory soul food. John was pleased to hear that from someone he worked for.

Gail asked Kristen about dried apricots, and asked if she had made it before. Kristen said she knew cheese and dried fruit go together. Tom told her it showed she put thought into her dish and it made perfect sense when you hear it. Padma said Sheldon's dish told her so much about him. Rick said Sheldon's dish was a melting pot of ingredients.

Rick Moonen announces the winner - this chef showed more creativity, a balance of flavors - and they all unanimously agreed the winner is Brooke - and she gets the Toyota Prius! Padma asks them to send in Eliza, Danyele, Josh and Micah. They are the bottom group.

More ::::Whooshing ZOOM!:::: camera pans on the cheftestants and judges. Bleah on those camera moves! Micah's celery root purée was grainy. Padma says to Josh "You keep saying you're known for pork, man!" and he replies "Yeah, I think I'm going to stop cooking it!" Padma throws back at him "No, just stop saying it!" The ratio of pork to everything else on the dish was out whack. Rick tells him it also could have used more seasoning. Eliza's elk was unevenly cooked and too thinly sliced and the carrots were not cooked enough and dried out with little flavor. Danyele's relish was great, the hoppin' john was ok, but the boar was unevenly cooked. Gail noted that her fear is holding her back, and Danyele said the competition is holding her back when she knows she can do what she's making in her own kitchen. Tom tells her to make her own food and stop psyching herself out by what everyone else is making.

A repeat of the :::Whooshing:::: camera pans before Padma tells Eliza to PYKAG.

Previews have Stephanie Izard as a guest judge! Yay! And they'll be cooking in head-to-head battles. And John seems to throw Stefan under the bus? Looks like conflict time next week.

And we're done. And I'm off to go to sleep. :-)

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  1. Worst QF judge ever. She doesn't have a clue about food so she picks the one that she's familiar with as the winner. They might as well ask an Eskimo to judge the next QF.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Worldwide Diner

      I liked her. She also chose Josh's johnnycake and Stefan's salmon tartare as the top dishes.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        In Marylin's defense, a tamale makes a pretty poor taco.

        1. re: ennuisans

          Yeah, I noted her faux pas in my OP. I still liked her and thought the challenge was fun. Not *everything* has to be high end hauté cuisine. Look at the Muppets last season. And of course she picked the one that tasted best to her - doesn't every judge do that? She also complimented many of the dishes as she and Padma were tasting them.

      2. re: Worldwide Diner

        I didn't think she was great and wonder if comments ragging on her were kept off air. I can't imagine they were happy to have someone so "unworldly" doing the judging. I'd be pissed if I were Micah getting my taco/tamale criticized by her. On the other hand, I can see it being dry which is a hazard of tamales.

        Missed the Stefan-Josh bro love (switching back and forth between this and the concert for Sandy), I like Stefan way better than Josh. John still seems pretty mellow but the preview didn't make him look good. I really like Sheldon so far.

        1. re: Joanie

          Didn't the same contestant win both the quick fire and the elimination?

          1. re: Joanie

            Someone will correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Marilyn said Micah's tamale was dry.

            1. re: JonDough

              Yeah that's what I said (when I said dryness was a hazard of tamales, which she called taco). Pointing out that I would have a hard time taking a critic who calls it a taco seriously.

              Yes the same person won the QF and EC.

            2. re: Joanie

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/837787

              is the thread from earlier this year about her Olive Garden review.

              Timing may be a factor. Top Chef was probably in the planning process in March, the time when this review went viral. So in casting around for judges for a QF, Marilyn could have come to mind. Product placement for the Bourdain book probably came later.

            3. re: Worldwide Diner

              Which seemed to be the entire point of selecting her as QF judge. Isn't she famous only because she wrote a review of Olive Garden as if it were a fine dining place?

              1. re: taos

                Have you read the review? She didn't write about it as if it were a fine dining place, nor did she "rave" about it. It was a pretty middle of the road review... she didn't rave, but she didn't really rant about it either.

                1. re: juliejulez

                  As I recall she also spent a fair bit of time commenting on the decor, rather than the food, which some have taken as "if you can't say anything nice..."

            4. - It's nice to see the chefs cooking individually in an elimination challenges reasonably early in the season. So kudos to TC there.

              - When Brooke was saying she just wanted to 'play it safe' during the quickfire, I was groaning. You're not going to get eliminated, so why not try extra hard to impress? But I think she stumbled across perhaps the best strategy in Top Chef - make foods you really like and that you know how to make really well. I've seen contestants win with simple food and complex dishes, traditional American classics/cliches and wild creations out of left field. But all the best competitors seem to find a way to play to their strengths whenever possible, and whatever those strengths may be.

              - After shrugging off Danyele's apparent distress, Josh says something along the lines of: "Yeah, we're friends, but I'm not going to worry about how she's doing. This is a competition, and she has to go if I'm going to advance." Close: this is a TELEVISED competition. One that many in his chosen profession watch. You help yourself not only by winning but by seeming like someone people would want to work with in the future. I'm willing to accept the possibility that Josh isn't really as bad as he sometimes comes across, but the dude sure doesn't seem too savvy. Does anyone remember Richard Blais' chicken and egg analogy from the Top Chef blogs, years ago?

              - Whether he wants to or not, Josh must cook pork again. Personal reputation outweighs even one's chances of winning. Cook pork and make it awesome. It's pork - shouldn't be that hard.

              - My top 4 right now: Tesar, Kristen, Stefan, and Sheldon. But this season still seems to have a pretty level playing field compared to some seasons.

              - Linda - when Chris Pratt said if Bart's dish wasn't a frontrunner, this would be one of the best nights of his life, he was saying that if the remaining contestants could come up with four or five even better dishes, then he would be eating exceptionally well that night. Bart wasn't in the top 4, so i gather Chris was probably quite happy with the meal.

              And thanks as always for another kickass recap.

              7 Replies
              1. re: cowboyardee

                Ahhhh - THANK YOU for the explanation about Chris Pratt's comment, cowboyardee! Now that makes sense. It just wasn't clicking for me last night.

                Interesting - I have Kristen in my Top group, but I'm still not sure if Stefan is there yet. He's close - but just a smidge out of it. Although he's doing better than Josh is, that's for sure. And Tesar does seem to be doing very well.

                There were several dishes in both the QF and EC that I'd like to try - Lizzie's bobotie with ground lamb being one. I'll have to keep an eye out for recipes to be posted on Bravo's site.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  Kristen probably impressed me even more than Brooke did this episode, despite not getting the win. Whereas Brooke pulled off a complicated, culture mashup, tightrope walk of a dish, Kristen combined a really solid and uncluttered thought-process and simple good technique to make a dish that is able to surprise and innovate and at the same time was never all that risky. That kind of thing should carry her to the top again and again.

                  Tesar is an obvious call. He reminds me a bit of Angelo (s7) though, in that he seems to be a very skilled head case, and it's possible that he may self-destruct before the finals.

                  The judges are already remarking that Sheldon is very good at flavoring and balancing his food. And when all is said and done, contestants whose food reliably tastes good tend to make it far, even if they have other deficiencies.

                  Stefan... at least in part, I'm influenced by his dominance during season 5. OTOH, that season seemed to have a weaker field than this season. Still, even his mistakes have seemed to be the kind which could be fixed by minor adjustments and a sharper focus. I think he has good odds to sharpen that focus as the season continues. Getting beaten up a bit in the early rounds might be good for him as long as he doesn't get the ax.

                  As for the bottom: several contestants are foundering and are good candidates to go home any given week. But IMO the least likely to make it to the finals are Josie and Micah. Not because they're foundering but almost the opposite - those two seem to already be cooking 'their food,' and it just isn't good enough. With some of the other contestants beating themselves, it might still be weeks before they go home, but I would be shocked if either made the finals.

                  A note on Josh - right now, he seems almost as bad as Josie and Micah, failing at his own supposed strengths. I have a hunch that he has a little more to offer than those two though. I think he's a guy who knows some good techniques and can make some great components, but his thought process just isn't there in terms of making a whole dish and balancing it out. That's a problem. But it's also the kind of thing that some previous contestants have seemed to learn during the competition itself. He's a long shot, but he's not yet dead in the water, IMO.

                  1. re: cowboyardee

                    Great "review" of each cheftestant. Good analogy on Tesar = Angelo. I would agree with that. As for Sheldon, I had forgotten he had an early "High" in the first ep. He's doing a good bit better than Josh with his three "Low"s these past 3 episodes.

                    John Tesar and Lizzie have both had two "High"s as well, with John winning 1 QF, but there's no one that is a huge standout as there was almost immediately in TC6, which will always be the standout season.

                    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef...

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      TC6, however, was really top-heavy. It certainly was the standout in terms of which season had the best 4 chefs, but top to bottom I don't think it was the best. I think last season probably had the greatest depth (obviously not counting season 8 as it was "all stars").

                    2. re: cowboyardee

                      Forgot about Josie and Sheldon.
                      Agree. Josie is on the next to go short list. Very unimpressive so far and the headband? What's with the headband? At least it makes me forget about John's glasses and Josh's mustache.
                      I think you touched on something with Sheldon and his flavors. They're unique to the show. They obviously work and he knows they work as he's been cooking with them for years. What might be fairly pedestrian flavors in Hawaii might seem a bit more exotic and different to the judges giving him an edge. Four or five dishes with very good but familiar flavors and one very good but, to their palates, "out of the box" flavors has to get more notice.

                      1. re: cowboyardee

                        I think you're spot on with the Angelo similarities. There's a level of suspense in waiting for Tesar to crack. I'm pulling for him and hope the tattletale toddler behavior isn't as bad as it looked in previews. Josh needs to take a shower.

                    3. re: cowboyardee

                      Totally agree on the top 4.

                      Wasn't sure Stefan was going to make it into my top 4 based on his inconsistent performance so far but he seems to be getting into his groove. And I've always liked Stefan.

                      I'm trying to like Josh as the poor man's Kevin Gillespie but he is really destroying the reputation of the pork-focused chef. They're both pork guys but that's where the comparison ends. He hasn't managed to make a decent pork dish yet on this show.

                      Really liking Kristen and Sheldon too. I was impressed with Brooke's dish but not sure she keep it up, so she's not making it into my top 4 yet.

                    4. "And this salmon skin is divine"

                      Padma, holding up the grey piece of salmon skin, sounded so pretentious it stood out as one of the most ridiculous remarks of the season.

                      1. Thanks Linda!

                         "everyone is asking what each other is making"

                        So I and the daughter think someone is making them ask, since when one cheftestant asks, he walks away, mid answer.

                        Regarding ebelskiver....you have all seen this? My (multiethnic, meaning African-American and Carribean American) son is SO into the William Sonoma ebelskiver. After YEARS of hounding me, I sent "The Haters"guide, and he says he's giving up on the ebelskiver maker, but still wants to place an order......

                        http://deadspin.com/5959212/the-hater...

                        6 Replies
                        1. re: Shrinkrap

                          Actually, the correct spelling is "æbleskiver" (or aebleskiver on an English keyboard). I think very few Danish people nowadays are committed enough to æbleskiver to actually own a pan. My grandmother (who has now passed away) did, and her æbleskiver were fantastic. My mother never owned a pan for æbleskiver and never learned how to make them. I buy mine frozen and eat them while complaining out loud how crappy they are compared to my grandmother's. Interestingly Marilyn's correction on how to pronounce "æbleskiver" was completely wrong - this is how it's really pronounced: http://www.forvo.com/word/%C3%A6blesk...

                          1. re: eggzakly

                            I quickly Googled the spelling, and there are several spellings that are acceptable, so I went with the "easiest to read/pronounce in your head". As well as type. :-)

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              There's only one correct way of spelling it in Danish (I'm Danish :)

                            2. re: eggzakly

                              We have a cast iron æbleskiver pan although I confess, I have yet to make any æbleskivers.

                            3. re: Shrinkrap

                              "Because, honestly, what can you do with a pumpkin soup bowl besides put pumpkin soup in it? If you put tomato soup in it, God will murder you."

                              LOL! This is great! My poor mailbox has been inundated with catalogs since the middle of November. My recycle bin is quite heavy every two weeks. :-)

                              1. re: Shrinkrap

                                Would a takoyaki pan from your local Asian megamart be cheaper (and just as functional)?

                              2. Marylin was awesome!!!!

                                I thought the challenge itself was lame and the food didn't impress but she was great.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                  I really liked that they used her. When they mentioned her review of Olive Garden, I was reminded of a thread on CH where people were talking about OG and what happens when it is the best italian food in the area. Not everyone lives in a hip urban area with tons of ethnic groups.

                                  And I loved the fact they were asked to do something about the holidays. Frankly I thought very few of them did true holiday food, but it was nice that they had the creativity. I was intrigued with the bread pudding with ham. The winning dish is reminiscent of my family's apple pie recipe which has cheddar in the crust, an homage to the English and Canadian traditions of serving cheddar with apple pie. And I can forgive someone for saying taco rather than tamale...

                                  1. re: cwdonald

                                    I think one of the guys was a bit snarky about her "raving about Olive Garden". As I recall, there was a lot of discussion of whether she was mostly being "midwestern nice" in her comments.

                                    1. re: DGresh

                                      Being a Midwesterner by birth and by visit I think she was perky and witty. She made me laugh, particularly at Stefan's marriage comment.

                                      But she was Midwesternerly in the niceness of her demeanor.

                                      Both my Grammies are gone.., I seriously wanna adopt her!

                                      1. re: C. Hamster

                                        On the latest The Splendid Table, guest 'cook' Lizz Winstead, told a story about her mother being the master of Minnesota nice.

                                        http://www.splendidtable.org/story/li...
                                        (audio link at the bottom)

                                        http://www.bookbrowse.com/blogs/edito...

                                        At a big-name event in Minnesota, Lizz was part of a panel whose other guests were Desmond Tutu, Hillary Clinton and Jonathan Alter. Mom called Lizz and complained, "Lizz, you're the only guest I have never heard of!"