The episode opens in the “Top Chef” kitchen in Seattle. Britney, I mean, Padma, strolls in with three “Top Chef” veterans who will judge the Quickfire Challenge: dreamy Chris “CJ” Jacobsen (call me!), Josie Smith-Malave and Stefan Richter. The cheftestants divide themselves into five groups of three and color-code their teams with the aprons provided. John instantly teams up with Kuniko because she’s Japanese and, surely, “will have good knife skills.” I’m not sure if that’s as offensive as last week’s booted cheftestant, Daniel O’Brien, disparagingly calling Kuniko “origami,” but it makes my shoulder blades twitch just the same.
For the Quickfire, the chefs must create a dish that features “local shellfish.” As they’re cooking, the only thing we’re really getting to see is how loud and annoying Carla is, and it’s making me miss The Original Carla (hootie!).
The least-liked dish was an under-seasoned razor clam chowder (Danyele, Eliza and Josh), and the team that won the Quickfire was John, Sheldon and Kuniko with a geoduck-apple sashimi. They draw knives to see which one of them gets immunity in the Elimination Challenge, and it’s John.
Then, Padma levels a BOOM: Quickfire judges and “Top Chef” veterans CJ, Josie and Stefan? Are suiting up and joining the cast as competitors. What-WHAT? Thank you, Bravo. Thank you for a twist that wasn’t brined in suckitude. There is much bleeping of the cheftestants’ comments and asides. There is much happiness in my brain. Stefan boasts of his success as a restaurateur since he lost to Hosea Rosenberg in his season (which was probably the worst defeat in “Top Chef” history). CJ tells us he’s staged at Noma (props, dude).
This week’s Elimination Challenge showcases the chefs — still in their Quickfire Teams — using regional ingredients to cook dinner for “legendary, local chef” Tom Douglas at a dinner to be held at the top of the Space Needle. They’ll have 47 minutes to prep and cook, because that’s how long it takes the Needle to make a full rotation.
Seattle Tourism Bureau, party of one, your table is ready.
They cobble together ingredients from the “Top Chef” pantry and head up to the Top Chefpartment for the night, where the getting-to-know-you routine begins. Lizzie talks about her family back home. Jeffrey talks about his fiance (with just one “e,” correcting the cheftestant who thought he was straight). And Josie claims that because she’s traveled to a few countries since she last appeared on the show she’s been dubbed “the global soul chef.” Um, okay. Whatever.
The next day, they head over to the Space Needle kitchen, where two teams can cook at a time. Those teams not cooking at the get-go have the advantage of learning the ins and outs of that kitchen while the others prep, and they also have more time to plan and think through their dishes. The veterans team changes their strategy — opting not to do the fish they had originally planned to do, and, instead, doing the quail they snagged as backup. That can’t be good, right?
Kuniko overheats her chili oil, forcing her to start all over again. Carla bobs and weaves around the kitchen with her crazy eyes like she’s RHONJ Teresa Giudice getting ready to flip a table.
Tonight’s judges are Padma, Tom Colicchio, Emeril Lagasse, Gail Simmons and Tom Douglas. Here’s what they ate:
* John, Kuniko, Sheldon: cod poached in chili oil with dashi and spot prawn shabu shabu
* Carla, Chrissy, Lizzie: poached salmon with seasonal vegetables and beurre blanc
* CJ, Stefan, Josie: quail breast with confit of spot prawn, cherries and porcini mushrooms (This plate does not look appetizing in the least.)
* Brooke, Bart, Jeffrey: pan-roasted halibut with mushrooms, English peas, beer and herb sabayon
* Kristen, Micah, Tyler: crispy seared salmon, vegetables, spot prawn butter sauce, morels, favas, sea beans (Drooling, here.)
* Danyele, Eliza, Josh: pan-roasted cod, mushrooms, favas, pickled green apple, sea bean and garlic scape pistou (More drooling.)
Padma calls John, Kuniko and Sheldon to Judges’ Table first, and upon their arrival declares them the winner of this challenge. Tom and Emeril praise Kuniko’s chili oil-poaching technique (and I have to admit, I am smitten with this idea and plan to try it this weekend). Gail lauds John’s spot prawns and Tom gushes over Sheldon’s dashi. But there can be only one individual winner, and that’s Kuniko.
CJ, Stefan and Josie and Brooke, Bart and Jeffrey appear before Judges’ Table next, as the two bottom teams. The judges rip into Stefan for his overcooked quail, Jeffrey for his overcooked fish and Bart for his “flat” sabayon. Who’s packing knives and going home? Buh-bye, Jeffrey.
Up Next Week: Thanksgiving, cornbread, Tom and Emeril cooking, Stefan and John fighting, and Carla still in need of some sort of medication.
Blymire will recap new “Top Chef” episodes on Thursdays.