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Top Chef Goodness: The [SPOILER] Show is Over 

Photo Credit: David Moir/Bravo
Photo Credit: David Moir/Bravo

[WARNING: Spoilers for “Wolfgang Clucks” and “Chefs at Sea”]

Confession: I just couldn’t bring myself to watch Kristen pack up her knives and go at the end of last week’s Restaurant Wars challenge. I’m such a wuss when it comes to my favorite player coming up short, especially when someone else (I’m talking about you, Josie), should have gone home instead.

But I knew that Kristen — as the captain of one of the teams — was vulnerable. It was her concept that Josie and Brooke were trying to execute. I knew that there was a good chance she’d be the one going home. Having said that, I was in complete denial after someone broke the news to me. To this day, the most I’ve seen of this year’s Restaurant Wars is what was in the recap at the beginning of “Wolfgang Clucks.”

This latest Top Chef was entertaining and, might I add, a bit brutal. We’ll get to the brutal portion of the episode a little later. Let’s start with the Quickfire Challenge. I commend all the chefs for having to make sushi on demand in such a quick amount of time. It wasn’t everyone’s forte. I can’t imagine having to create it for a sushi master like Katsuya Uechi, when you’ve hardly ever made it before. By the way, I’ve been to Uechi’s Katsuya in Hollywood a couple of times. The sushi there is simply amazing.

Anyway, Stefan wins his first challenge. In his confessional, he’d been talking about how he hasn’t won a thing yet. Which is odd for him, considering he was such a force during his original season. But good for him for finally earning himself a win. I felt bad for Josh, he went with what he knows. Turning a bacon and egg sandwich into sushi has to be an incredibly difficult feat — I’m giving him an A for effort. It doesn’t really matter since he goes from knowing next to nothing about making sushi to knowing everything about making fried chicken, which is the crux of the Elimination Challenge.

The cheftestants have to make fried chicken for some masterful experts in the industry. I didn’t envy them at all. The pressure to make food for such an esteemed group of diners has to be high. Unfortunately, a few of the chefs achieve epic failure. Some of the issues: over thinking the dish; not cooking real fried chicken; or coming up with inferior (read: nasty, greasy) chicken.

At the top of the heap:

  • Josh’s Smoked Fried Chicken with Hot Sauce and Blue Cheese.
  • Sheldon’s chicken done two ways –Umami Drumsticks and Thighs; Wings with Usukuchi and Grape Seed Oil

Winner: Josh — it was sort of a given. He is the kind of guy that knows fried chicken inside and out. In fact, I believe he said his grandfather made the best he ever tasted. Josh gets a year’s supply of wine for being the fried chicken champ. Seems like a year’s supply of beer would have been a better pairing for fried chicken, don’t you think?

The Bottom 3:

  • Josie’s Chicken with Black Garlic, Cayenne, Thyme, and Hot Sauce with Daikon Salad
  • Brooke’s Dukkah-Crusted Chicken Breast with Wilted Escarole, and Tomato
  • Stefan’s Chicken Cordon Bleu with Garlic Aioli, and Lemon

Yeah, I’m not sure what Stefan was thinking. And it felt Brooke was trying to make a healthy fried chicken. But, come on, when you’re on Top Chef you go all out and just make a good dish that you know people will like. Tom pretty much asked them not to get too fancy schmancy with their dishes. Yet they did. Brooke knew she over thought her dish.

I’m wondering what the chefs are thinking when they finally get to see these episodes. Padma, Tom, Wolfgang, Emeril, David Chang and the guys from Son of a Gun and Animal were brutal when discussing the dishes that weren’t up to par. Wolfgang’s Top Chef/The Apprentice comment — wow. I can’t even…I know you have to grow thick skin when you’re on a reality TV show where your food is being judged. But I don’t think I could have handled hearing the stuff that was said. Some of that hurt me and I wasn’t even the chef.

Sent Packing: Josie was so sure her dish was good. Once again, those eating her food weren’t able to finish it. She had the same excuses. It all boils down to the fact she wasted time. The Josie Show couldn’t save her from elimination. It’s still a couple eliminations too late for my taste, but at least she won’t be in the finals.

Last Chance Kitchen: Kristen vs. Josie

Photo Credit: David Moir/Bravo
Photo Credit: David Moir/Bravo

Tom’s challenge to Josie and Kristen is to break down a salmon and cook 10 identical-sized pieces of fish in any style of their choosing. Kristen’s ready to go. She says she had a feeling she’d be going up against Josie. Both chefs plate everything even though it looks like it could go either way. Josie manages to get her tenth piece of salmon (she dropped one on the floor and had to go back and cook a replacement portion) on the plate for Tom to judge and the peanut gallery of former finalists to eat.

Winner: Kristen gets her second win in a row. I’m hoping for a Kristen/CJ rematch in the Last Chance Kitchen finals.

Save a Chef Voting: It’ll be CJ versus Josie. We know who will be winning that round, right? I want to take a chance to say goodbye to Chef Kuniko. Her chances for redemption in the LCK finals were dashed the moment Kristen beat CJ. I really wanted to see her compete again, but it won’t be happening.

Top Chef: Seattle airs Wednesdays on Bravo at 10/9c. On Jan. 30, look for another super-sized episode. Top Chef will run 75 minutes long.

Clip from the next episode “Chefs at Sea”
: Chefs, ahoy! The cheftestants are setting sail for Alaska. While aboard, they’ll tackle a Quickfire of cruise ship proportions, elevating iceberg lettuce into a flavorful amuse bouche. For the Elimination Challenge, they must create a new spin on the cruise ship classic, Surf and Turf. The pressure is on to make the final four, and one cheftestant disembarks in a heartbreaking elimination. Guest judge Curtis Stone joins Hugh Acheson, head judge Tom Colicchio and host Padma Lakshmi.

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