Happy Birthday, Stefan! It’s Stefan’s birthday, but he’s freaked out. He originally appeared in the “Top Chef” season where something like four or five cheftestants were eliminated on their birthday or the day after. He’s not havin’ it. No way, no how.
It’s 3:45 a.m., and you know what that means — cliche time! Off to Pike Place Market, the Hard Rock Cafe of Seattle! You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a tour group in that place. Padma and her stripey pants await the cheftestants, along Cee Lo Green and Al Roker’s love child: local chef Daisley Gordon (Marche and Cafe Campagne). Don’t worry, I’ve never heard of him, either.
For the Quickfire, the chefs pair themselves in teams of two to make the farmers market vendors a grab-and-go breakfast. On a stick. There’s a makeshift outdoor pantry with all sorts of ingredients, and they can shop at nearby Sur La Table for appliances.
The first thing I’m craving? A pancake-wrapped sausage with maple syrup or hot sauce. But guest judge Daisley tells them “sausage on a stick” will not fly. Guess I’m not cut out for actually being on “Top Chef.” Just armchair quarterbacking it. Works for me!
The chefs prep and cook, and — honestly? — nothing looks good. Nothing sounds good. Not any of it. Panini presses are breaking. Platters are being stacked with what looks like surgical waste. This is not pretty, folks. Not pretty at all. Daisley doesn’t like Danyele and Lizzie’s fruit-and-pancetta combo, nor did he like Josie and Eliza’s attempt at a layered ricotta pancake with raspberry jam. He liked Sheldon and Bart’s breakfast sandwich with spinach and Josh and John’s chilaquiles on a stick. Who won the Quickfire? Sheldonand the District’s own Bart Vandaele — both of whom now have immunity for the Elimination Challenge.
We’re staying at Planet Hollywood, I mean Pike Place Market, for the Elimination Challenge. The chefs stay in their pairs and draw knives with descriptors on them like “truffle popcorn” and “salmon candy.” Josie draws “cardamom bitters” and pronounces it as “cardamin,” and I fly into a stabby rage, just like when Bravo editors add an unnecessary “n” to “restaurateurs.” How can you be a chef and not know it’s “cardamom,” not “cardamin?” [/end rant] [/for now] [/but COME ON].
The cheftestants have to make a dish that highlights their chosen ingredient, and the judging panel (Padma, Tom, Gail and Hugh) will also include the “artisans” who made all the special ingredients. The chefs have two hours to think, plan, shop, prep and cook. No one seems to like the partner they’ve chosen — apart from Sheldon and Bart, who appear to be collaborating just fine. The kitchen is full of passive aggression, and it’s what I imagine a Clinton marriage counseling session to be like.
The chef duos come out in groups to present their dishes. They do it in such a milquetoast manner, it’s just a Crock-Pot full of awkward.
John and Josh (truffle popcorn): pan-seared pork tenderloin with truffle popcorn grits.
Micah and Kristen (cheese curds): cheese curds “three ways” [groan] — bechamel, raw, fried.
Stefan and Brooke (rose petal jelly): rose petal-glazed Muscovy duck with braised cabbage. [To me, there is nothing worse in the kitchen than rose water or rose anything, and this dish still actually sounds good to me.]
Bart and Sheldon (salmon candy): candied salmon with sweet and sour salad.
Eliza and Josie (cardamom bitters): curry cardamom broth with Manila clams and seared white king salmon.
Danyele and Lizzie (coconut-curry chocolate): coconut-curry chocolate mousse tart with orange tea syrup.
CJ and Tyler (spicy dill pickles): pork crumpet burger with fried spicy dill pickles.
The judges and guests talk about the food and try to find nice things to say, and then Tom lets loose with, “I don’t have a favorite; they were all so bad!” Padma apologizes to their guests and says she doesn’t feel like any of the chefs deserve the $10,000 cash prize. The chefs sit in their makeshift [note: I forgot to type the “f” in “makeshift” just then, which aptly describes this episode] Stew Room at the market when Tom, not Padma, walks in. He chastises the chefs and tells them the $10,000 prize is off the table. Not happening. And, not only won’t there be a win, but two chefs will be eliminated. He tells them Last Chance Kitchen is in play, so if they get eliminated they need to step up their game and act like they want to be there.
The chefs are dejected. Angry. Confused. So they head back to the chefpartment and drink. And fight. And swear at each other. And Josh and his twee cap and douchestache take offense at everything everybody says. Give this guy his own “Real Housewives” show. He’ll fit in juuuuust fine.
The next day, John, Josh, Stefan, Brooke, CJ and Tyler go before Judges’ Table. Gail channels her inner Alexis Carrington Colby and gives an icy glare to the cheftestants. Padma tells the six chefs they served the most disappointing dishes. Brooke and Stefan’s cabbage was too sweet and overwhelmed the dish. Josh and John are told their complacency and lack of willingness to fight for a better dish landed them in the bottom. Tom told them their dish looked like it came from someone who “had to feed their family and really hated cooking.” Hugh tells CJ and Tyler their burger was soggy and overcooked. As they file out, CJ spins around and throws Danyele and Lizzie’s dessert under the bus. Hugh tells him his burger was “even worse.” The chefs head back to the Stew Room while Padma, Tom, Hugh and Gail deliberate.
Who’s peace-ing out? CJ and Tyler. I’m bummed because CJ is camera-friendly (call me, Ceej!), and I was really rooting for Tyler to show me something interesting. They’ll go up against Kuniko, the reigning champ, in the online series, Last Chance Kitchen.
Up Next Week: The annoying girl from “Lost in Translation” and her husband, “Bert Macklin, FBI”; chef Rick Moonen; Gail talks about hits of acid; and Micah has a hissy fit.