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Recap: Top Chef: Seattle, Episode 11

Recap: Top Chef: Seattle, Episode 11

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This week’s episode brought us Part Two of Restaurant Wars, as seven chefs remained to build two restaurants, with two fully realized concepts, from scratch: Sheldon’s team included Josh and Stefan (his third chosen assistant, Micah, got kicked off last week), and Kristen led Brooke, Josie, and Lizzie in team two.

In last week’s setup episode, Sheldon’s winning restaurant concept was Filipino, and Kristen’s was fine dining. While Kristen’s team all had background in classical French cooking, neither Josh nor Stefan had any experience cooking Filipino food. With fingers crossed that this wouldn’t set them back, they forged ahead.

As they toured the space, they realized that there was one additional game changer thrown their way: there was no kitchen! It had to be built from scratch, yet another major difference from previous years’ Restaurant Wars.

The chefs went shopping for ingredients and supplies and then got to work prepping for the next day, keeping in mind that the winner had the keys to a car coming their way. As they worked on strategy while drinking wine chain smoking, it was obvious that they knew what challenges lay ahead.

The big day started off at full throttle, as prep gave way to full-on cooking as their planned dishes were fully realized. Brooke and Stefan organized their front of house, and as the sun lowered, guests (and judges, including Danny Meyer and Emeril Lagasse) finally arrived.

Here were the final dishes:

Atelier Kwan:
Lizzie: Charcuterie: rabbit, pickled turnips & yellow beets in chicken and rabbit broth
Josie: Bouillabaisse: Halibut, Dungeness crab, bay scallops with shellfish broth
Kristen: Beef Bourguignon: Braised short rib, garlic puree, mushrooms, and carrots
Brooke: Gougeres, St. Agur blue cheese, roasted radish & stone fruit compote and sticky sweet pine nut
Kristen: Almond cake deconstructed macaron with coconut custard and caramel buttercream

“There were some amazing moments in what Kristen’s team produced today,” said Gail, “but because the concept was a reinvention on French dishes they set such high standards by what to judge each dish.” Meyer and Lagasse both agreed that Lizzie’s charcuterie soup was the highlight of the meal.

Stefan: Kilawen: Yellowtail with cilantro, spicy chily & white soy sauces
Josh: Balut: Poached egg, duck confit & foie gras mousse
Sheldon: Miki: Prawns, tapioca roll with achiote
Sheldon: Adobo: Pork belly with mung bean puree & pea shoots salad
Josh: Halo-Halo: Coconut sorbet, avocado mousse, banana, and shredded coconut
Stefan: Dark chocolate with macadamia nuts, ginger, and peppermint oil

“People will go to restaurants for food, but they’ll return for the hospitality,” said Tom after a meal that left the judges underwhelmed by the service. “So I don’t know if I’d return to this restaurant right now.” While the food was good, Meyer found that there were major flaws in the service and hospitality. Lagasse called Stefan’s service “awful.”

The Judging Table:

While Gail loved Kristen’s beef, there was much less sauce than expected on the plate. The judges also thought that her cake was dry and not macaron-like at all. Brooke truly led, and the judges loved Lizzie’s soup. Josie’s Bouillabaisse also was lacking in the sauce department, and the knives came out as her and Kristen passed blame for who ruined it, with Kristen ultimately taking responsibility as she was in charge.

Tom liked Urbano’s concept, but they were all disappointed by Stefan’s service (dishes were presented with no explanation and guests were kept waiting). Gail thought the prawn dish had a ton of flavor, and Tom thought that the miki was delicious. They ended up taking the win (even though Josh’s balut had no Filipino influence), as Sheldon’s team and concept simply worked better than Kristen’s. Padma made sure to let Stefan know that he was “very lucky.”

Tom let Lizzie and Brooke know right away that they were safe, and then got down to brass tacks with Kristen and Josie. The lack of gelatin in the Bouillabaisse was a major sticking point, and Kristen ultimately took blame for it along with all of her team’s other flaws. Gail called it “falling on your sword.”

Simmons was against blaming the failure of Josie’s dish on Kristen, but Padma argued that Kristen ultimately was the one who wasn’t able to execute the dish. Gail countered that Josie had simply skated by to this point in the season, and that while Kristen might have taken on too much responsibility Josie was simply the inferior chef.

In a major shocker, Kristen ended up getting the boot as Josie got to skate by for another week.

“She took responsibility; you sleep in the bed you make,” Gail said after all was said and done. “And that’s why she went home.”

Dan Myers is the Eat/Dine Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow him on Twitter @sirmyers.

'Top Chef Seattle' recap, episode 11, 'Restaurant Wars'

It's Restaurant Wars: The episode so big, one hour can't contain it!

In our boys vs. girls battle royale, Team Y Chromosome (Josh, Sheldon, and Stefan) will be creating Sheldon's modern Filipino "Urbano," while Team X Chromosome (Kristen, Josie, Brooke, and Lizzie) will be staging Kristen's French "Alterlier Kwan."

Stefan's main concern is simply that the boys are outnumbered. Brooke admits she's worried that Kristen's youth and lack of experience "running the whole show" will be to their detriment.

The chefs hop into Toyota Avalons (powered by Bing!) to the Georgetown Ballroom to see the spaces they will be dealing with. They are all impressed with the beautiful, wide-open dining space, and then start wandering about looking for the kitchen.

"Where’s the kitchen?" Brooke asks. The boys look at a blueprint in their dossier and see the kitchen is in "the courtyard" -- as they are standing in a completely empty courtyard. Ah, there's the rub: This year the chefs will not only be building a restaurant from the ground up, but their kitchens as well. Well played, Bravo puppetmasters. Well played.

Let's get shopping! Kristen goes with Lizzie to shop for ingredients, and pairs Josie with Brooke to pick up rental equipment because "Josie's personality and my personality are complete opposites." It's the nicest way possible of saying "I rather don't like you."

As they are shopping, Brooke admits "I have a very different disposition than Josie." There it is again . these girls are awfully tactful. Brooke wisely steers Josie away from selecting some hideous tangerine orange napkins.

On the boys' side, Stefan goes flower shopping (insisting this does not make him gay) while Sheldon and Josh take on the Asian market. Josh is nervous as neither ne nor Stefan have any experience with Filipino cuisine, and one can't "take something to the next level" if one has never done it to begin with.

Kitchens are delivered and set up on the patio and the chefs commence prep. Sheldon and Lizzie both start roasting their meats so that they can have everything ready to begin their stocks the next morning.

Josie was to have roasted her bones to do the same, and on two occasions said she was "getting to it," but at the end of the day it isn't done. Josie is all easy breezy about it (I think she is the Matthew McConaughey of "Top Chef," "Alright alright alright!") while Kristen's neck veins are already starting to bulge.

Back at the apartment, Brooke receives a letter from her 4-year-old son and wipes away tears and shows it proudly to everyone. She hates that she's left him but says that this competition is "99 percent to give him better opportunities." I was already pretty firmly camped out in Team Brooke's side but this sweet moment sealed the deal for me. Brooke for the win!

Each team confabs about tomorrow's showdown. Josie implores Kristen to think about having some dishes pre-plated but Kristen puts the kibosh on that, insisting they can handle each plate to order.

Josie storms off to the patio to smoke, where the boys are having their meeting, and blabs her worries to Stefan and Josh. After she steps aways Josh mutters, "If they cook the fish to order they are going to go down. So hard."

Game day: Prep commences and the chefs really have their work cut out for them. Brooke will be taking on front of house for the girls' team, as she and her husband "have opened four restaurants." Which makes me wonder: All these chefs are constantly touting how many restaurants they've opened, but they never actually mention of any of them are still open.

Stefan takes front of house for the boys and within moments, one of their dishwashers is assisting Sheldon prep in the kitchen. Smart move, as the boys are understaffed as it is.

As time ticks down, Kristen realizes that because Josie has taken so long preparing her bouillabaisse stock that there is no time to add gelatin as she wanted. She makes a quick decision to thicken it instead with cream and soy milk, but is highly perturbed Josie's slow pace has forced her to adjust her recipe.

The swelling bongo music tells us that it's almost time for service. Brooke and Stefan change into their fancy host outfits. Stefan asks his wait staff if they have "the candles ready for sexytimes" and suddenly realizes he has no idea how to properly pronounce any of the of Filipino words on the menu. Times up! Doors are open.

The judges walk in, and Brooke's face says what all of America is thinking: Holy COW that is a short skirt, Padma! She and her mile-long legs are joined by Tom, Emeril, Gail Simmons, and Danny Meyer. They are immediately impressed with Alterlier Kwan's atmosphere and menu.

Lizzie's first course is a twist on charcuterie -- rabbit, pickled turnips & yellow beets in chicken & rabbit broth. The judges are delighted that it's not what they expected and are all smiles as they slurp her broth. In the kitchen, Kristen is exasperated that Josie hasn't tested the syphon on the bouillabaisse broth, which is unacceptably flat, and Kristen declares she would "prefer a dishwasher over Josie" at this point. Ouch.

After a much too long wait, the judges receive Josie's dish: halibut, dungeoness crab, bay scallops with the aforementioned, foamless shellfish broth. The dish is not well received -- though Tom's crab is delicious, Emeril's scallop is undercooked and Gail leans over to note that Tom "has some sort of foamy substance on your dish that I didn't get." The other restaurant guests are equally confused.

Kristen's lack of experience with a large restaurant is starting to show, as her tickets stack up and the servers get confused as to what goes where.

Kristen's dish is up next, a beef bourguignon with braised short rib, garlic puree, mushrooms & carrots. The judges love it but think it's missing more sauce and the deep wine flavor that makes that dish so special.

Brooke introduces up her own dish: baked gougeres, St. Agur blue cheese, roasted radish & stone fruit compote. They think it's fine but have trouble with the chewiness of the pine nuts. Danny is worried someone is going to lose a crown chewing on it.

Kristen's dessert rounds off the girls' presentation: Almond cake macaron with coconut custard & caramel buttercream. Gail is perturbed that there wasn't an actual macaron involved, as it's her most favorite food item. And once again, other guests are similarly puzzled.

The judges agree that Lizzie's was the best dish at Alterlier Kwan, and move on to take in Sheldon's Urbano.

On the boys' side, Stefan is facing the enviable problem that none of their restaurant guests are leaving and he has hoards of guests waiting for their second seating. He flits from table to table asking, "Done?" in an awkward attempt to get his satiated diners moving. Of course, the judges walk in while he's still with no open tables. Stefan gets them seated while ignoring many other diners.

Urbano's first dish is Stefan's kilawen -- a raw yellowtail with cilantro, spicy chili & white soy sauces. This is one of the best-sounding dishes I have heard all season and I am refraining from licking my television screen as I watch this.

Up next is Josh's balut -- this dish is traditionally a boiled duck embryo served in the eggshell. Thankfully, Josh has adapted the recipe a bit and serves a poached egg, duck confit & foie gras mousse in the shell. Stefan doesn't take the time to explain what balut is to the judges, and while they all know the traditional preparation, they are left cold by his curt table manners.

To make matters worse, their third course is served while Stefan is distracted up front, and he fails to come over to introduce the dish to the judges. They have no idea what they are eating. They all look at each other, dumbfounded, and commence to eat.

Stefan even walked by as they were working on the dish and didn't notice. My jaw is agape, especially because Stefan has already done Restaurant Wars before.

After the dishes are cleared he finally comes by and asks if everything is okay, and Padma asks about the dish. Stefan is nonplussed that they weren't properly schooled. "Miki is a tapioca noodle with a Filipino paprika" Stefan spits out, then turns and walks away. The judges are seriously shocked by his rudeness. "The way he just made us feel is way worse than [Josie's] bouillabaisse." Emeril pronounces. Yeee-ouch.

The next dish is also by Sheldon -- Adobo, a pork belly with mung bean puree & pea shoot salad. The judges are all thrilled with it. Tom declares it the best dish he's had all day.

Finally, Josh's halo-halo, a coconut sorbet, avocado mousse banana & shredded coconut. This is paired with Stefan's ginger tea and dark chocolate, macadamia, ginger & peppermint oil dessert.

Tom says the tea "helps wash the taste of bad service out of your mouth." He notes that he learned from Danny that "people go to restaurants for the food, but return for the hospitality. And I don't know if would come back to this restaurant right now."

As they head to judges' table it's clear that Josie's "awful -- just awful" bouillabaisse and Stefan's offensive service are the two biggest sins of the evening -- and that they are most likely up for elimination.

At judges' table, Kristen' team is praised for their dishes and Brooke especially for her exceptional handling of the house. Josie's bouillabaisse is panned by the judges and she puts the blame solely on Kristen, saying that she would have put more broth in the bowl and added gelatin but that she was just following orders. Josie is clear -- it was Kristen who plated the dish and sent it out.

The judges turn to Sheldon's team and Tom lets him know his food was very successful and that Sheldon's dishes in particular were modern but still carried the Filipino flavor. They then ask Stefan about the poor service, which he admits to, but says was because "I'm a chef, not a server." There is a lot of eye rolling up front.

Apparently Stefan's lackluster manners were not enough to send him home, as Urbano is declared the winning restaurant. The boys seem greatly relieved and Sheldon's pride is palpable. Sheldon is declared the winner, and Tom says he has done his Grandfather proud. He will be taking home a Toyota Avalon for his efforts.

The judges ask Kristen and Josie to explain more clearly how the bouillabaisse fail went down. Kristen admits she made the call to not add the gelatin but doesn't really explain that it was because Josie was taking way too long. "Bite my tongue, bite my tongue . " she whispers as she rocks back and forth.

Gail eggs her on, telling her that she's falling on her sword, but she still takes the high road. During the judges' private hash out session, Padma and Gail are in opposite corners of the ring, Padma squarely blaming Kristen and Gail fed up with Josie's "skating by." Tom and Emeril are torn.

The nice chef finishes last: Padma asks Kristen to pack her knives and go. You can hear it in her voice that even she is shocked by this decision. Brooke covers her mouth in disbelief.

As the chefs bid Kristen goodbye, Stefan whispers that he loves her (which makes her laugh, thankfully). She says that at least she's leaving with her integrity intact, having not backstabbed anyone along the way. I am gobsmacked not only by her dismissal but at the absolute grace and class with which she conducted her exit interview. You're an inspiration, Chef Kish.

Coming up next week: Sushi and fried chicken! And hopefully, some antacids.

‘Top Chef’ recap: All-Stars pepped up classic recipes at ‘Michael’s Santa Monica’

Last week the “Top Chef” All-Stars got their Olympic Games on by cooking a six-course Kaiseki meal and Karen Akunowicz was eliminated for the second time. She faced off with Kevin Gillespie in &ldquoLast Chance Kitchen&rdquo and lost. Kevin then had to beat two out of three still-remaining chefs to stage a comeback, and he managed to do that, too. Brian Malarkey&rsquos reaction to the fierce competitor coming back? &ldquoGood god!&rdquo Read on for our minute-by-minute takes on the 11th episode of Season 17.

10:02 p.m. A culinary legend is seated next to host Padma Lakshmi in the kitchen. It&rsquos Jonathan Waxman. As Padma tells us, &ldquoHe is considered a pioneer of California cuisine and a James Beard Award winner. He&rsquos also my friend, which I think is his greatest accomplishment.&rdquo They clink wine glasses and drink champagne. Stephanie Cmar says, &ldquoChampagne Padma is my favorite of all the Padmas.&rdquo Speaking of which, the host asks, &ldquoDo we have any ice? It&rsquos really warm.&rdquo


10:03 p.m. Padma says, &ldquoThe finale is nearly upon us. Before we take flight, there&rsquos one last quickfire here in Los Angeles.&rdquo She explains, &ldquoAirline food used to have a stigma of being lesser quality. But not anymore. Airlines have done a fantastic job recruiting chef consultants to propel the dining experience to new heights.” Jonathan adds, &ldquoI started in 1988 with American Airlines chef conclave with Alice Waters and Wolfgang Puck.&rdquo If you are going to drop names, those are two good ones food-wise.

10:06 p.m. The chefs are told that they must make Padma and Jonathan a memorable meal. They will be served their food while they sit in airline-style seats. &ldquoThe meal must include an appetizer or a salad as well as a main course,&rdquo so says she who must be obeyed. A catch: They will need to plate on airline trays. Jonathan tells them, &ldquoThe height restriction is important because it can only go to the top of the plate.&rdquo Otherwise, it wouldn&rsquot fit into the oven. One more caveat: They can only use ingredients that are available year-round. I expect some turbulence once the chefs take off and gather their food.

10:09 p.m. Padma adds, &ldquoThe chef that soars to the occasion will win a big advantage in the elimination challenge.” Bryan Voltaggio is thinking &ldquosomething simple, something fresh and bright green.&rdquo He feels he has to finally win a quickfire challenge before leaving L.A. &ldquoIt&rsquos one thing I can&rsquot achieve. I don&rsquot understand why.” Kevin reveals that he spent most of his life flying in first class since his dad was an airline executive. &ldquoI am a total airplane diva,&rdquo he admits. He’s making lamb meatballs and carrot salad.

10:10 p.m. Brian is bashing his pork and — in his words — making a mess. He is concocting a warm mushroom salad and salsa verde on his meat. Melissa King asks Steph if she flies a lot and she does, given that her mom is a retired flight attendant. She is doing a rockfish en papillote, a method using a paper wrapper to retain moisture in the sky. Melissa chooses to do some curry and cold tofu salad. The hungry passengers get up to see what is cooking.

10:12 p.m. Bryan says he is making a chicken thigh dish with green lentils and dates. For his first course, he is doing a salad with a green goddess dressing. Champagne Padma says, &ldquoNice&rdquo and “very &lsquo70s.&rdquo Gregory Gourdet is preparing chicken with a mushroom gravy and some broccolini. He notes that &ldquobroccolini is grown year-round. It&rsquos crunchy, it&rsquos bright.&rdquo The difficulty for him in the challenge &ldquois really creating something that is simple and executable considering that probably 100,000 people are going to eat this.&rdquo

10:14 p.m. Fifteen minutes left. Kevin decides to deep-fry his meatballs by putting them directly in the fryer. &ldquoYou get a very even deep, dark caramelization on the outside.” They might be a little too tall, but he isn&rsquot worried about the height restrictions: &ldquoIt&rsquos a meatball. You can smoosh a meatball.&rdquo

10:15 p.m. Padma decides it&rsquos time for another flight pun and tells the chefs, &ldquoIt&rsquos five minutes before touchdown.&rdquo Melissa is rushing to make her tofu appetizer. Stephanie notices, &ldquoEveryone is in full panic mode. It&rsquos total chaos right now.&rdquo Meanwhile, Champagne Padma asks Jonathan, &ldquoWhat&rsquos your favorite nut?&rdquo

10:16 p.m. Brian needs to cut his pork down to make the height requirement, which will unfortunately affect the meat&rsquos moisture and flavor, but you gotta do what you gotta do. As she calls out, &ldquoOne minute left,&rdquo Champagne Padma downs her bubbly in one final gulp. That’s when Bryan realizes his lentils aren&rsquot cooked enough. Too late to fix it. And time is up!

10:19 p.m. First served to the judges is Gregory with his chicken and broccolini. Next is Kevin&rsquos Moroccan spiced lamb meatballs, causing Champagne Padma to say, &ldquoSmells good!&rdquo She notes they are taller than his plate but Jonathan helpfully presses his down. Bryan is next with his braised chicken thighs and green goddess salad. Jonathan nails him on his not fully cooked lentils as a gotcha &ldquoding&rdquo goes off. Stephanie serves up her rockfish with warm potato salad. Alas, the parchment paper doesn&rsquot spark joy in Champagne Padma, especially since you’d have to wrestle with it on a cramped plane.

10:22 p.m. Malarkey serves his rosemary pork chop with kale and pancetta with sherry mushrooms. Champagne Padma is having a heck of a time trying to cut her meat. Brian then says, &ldquoI need to talk to the stewardess team right away. This was supposed to be served with a steak knife.&rdquo Ha, ha! Last but not least is Melissa&rsquos beef curry and tofu salad.

10:23 p.m. Jonathan tells the chefs, &ldquoI think it&rsquos very difficult for an airplane at 35,000 feet and you’ve got to get the food out very quickly.&rdquo He adds, &ldquoI think you all did a very good job.&rdquo Who is on the bottom? Stephanie and her parchment paper: &ldquoThe fish was difficult to maneuver and eat on a plane,&rdquo Jonathan explained. He then calls out, &ldquoMr. Malarkey! You tell a great story. However, your dish didn&rsquot do the same.&rdquo Padma adds, &ldquoI even struggled to slice up that pork.&rdquo

10:25 p.m. Now the good news. Thanks to Jonathan, Kevin has a new nickname: &ldquoMr. Meatball.&rdquo He admits, &ldquoThey could have been a little smaller. They did violate the height rule. But we smashed them down for you. But the carrots made that dish sing.” Also in the good column is Melissa&rsquos curry. Jonathan&rsquos critique? &ldquoIt was simple, the flavor married with the rice, and that tofu was something I want to eat on an airplane.&rdquo

10:28 p.m. As Padma puts it, &ldquoWho is ready to wear their wings today?&rdquo And the winner is &hellip Melissa! This is her second quickfire win in a row. She will get an advantage in the next round. Padma reminds the chefs that only five of them will go on to the finale. Our host reveals that &ldquoTop Chef&rdquo will head to Europe for the first time ever. &ldquoTuscany, to be exact.&rdquo


10:30 p.m. There is just one more elimination challenge to be conquered before the they can say, &ldquoCiao!&rdquo It involves dishes inspired by Michael&rsquos Santa Monica, a restaurant owned by chef Michael McCarty, the legendary pioneer of California cuisine. Each contestant must reimagine one of the eatery&rsquos iconic dishes from across the decades and serve it to a table of alums who worked in Michael&rsquos kitchen, including Jonathan, Roy Yamaguchie, Sang Yoon, Mark Peel and past “Top Chef” champ Brooke Williamson.

10:33 p.m. Jonathan says, &ldquoIn 1979 I ended up at this dirt field in Santa Monica with this amazing Michael McCarty. McCarty was opening up a restaurant called Michael&rsquos. When we opened up Michael&rsquos, we were trying to find ingredients in California specifically that might match up with French ingredients.&rdquo They were able to mesh the Golden State&rsquos cornucopia of homegrown food with that of continental and French cuisines.

10:36 p.m. Padma notes, &ldquoThe restaurant is celebrating its 40 th anniversary, and ever since Jonathan, a very impressive list of chefs have made their mark there. The chefs will meet with McCarty to taste some of his signature dishes throughout the years.&rdquo Those dishes will act as their inspiration. They’ll be joined by Hunter Lewis from Food and Wine Magazine.

10:38 p.m. The chefs take off in their car and visions of Italy are definitely dancing in their heads. They arrive at Michael&rsquos where the owner himself greets them. They will taste various dishes and then choose one to make their own. &ldquoWe were called California cuisine for a reason,&rdquo Michael tells the chefs. &ldquoLocal ingredients, that&rsquos where it all starts.&rdquo

10:40 p.m. Executive chef Brian Bornemann delivers the dishes. Gregory says, &ldquoIt was iconic &rsquo70s food for the times. Working with local ingredients. I am so excited for this meal.&ldquo The first dish is the &lsquo80s-style angel hair pasta with chardonnay cream sauce, grilled diver scallops, and caviar and chives. Michael says, &ldquoSauce is very important to me.&rdquo Next is the more recent grilled quail with roasted jalapeno and lime salsa. Michael explains, &ldquoWe always do quail. It&rsquos a crowd pleaser. You never see quail anywhere.&rdquo Then arrives a plate of heirloom red beet risotto topped with monkfish wrapped in crispy prosciutto from the &lsquo90s, courtesy of Brooke Williamson.

10:42 p.m. From the &lsquo80s is a plate of sweetbreads, veal loin, chanterelle mushrooms and white truffle. Also from the &lsquo80s is grilled lamb saddle with potato galette and red currant cab cassis. It&rsquos a creation made by Roy Yamaguchie. Then there is duck two ways, a grilled breast and a confit thigh with wild rice and blood orange sauce attributed to Mark Peel. Suddenly, the dreaded knife holder is placed on the table. Looks like the chefs will have to cast their fates to the wind and draw knives. Melissa&rsquos advantage is that she can pick her dish first. Her choice? The quail. Kevin is number two and claims the duck. Stephanie is next and picks the scallops. Bryan takes the lamb. Gregory gets the monkfish. And Brian is left with the veal, though he seems perfectly happy with it.

10:44 p.m. The chefs head to Whole Foods one last time. They have 30 minutes and $400 to spend. Gregory says, &ldquoThe hard part of the challenge is to re-create a dish and then modernize it, put yourself into it and truly pay homage to what it represented for its time.&rdquo His approach is to keep things as simple as possible.

10:46 p.m. Bryan picked lamb because he thinks it is something he can definitely update and execute on a high level. He was also attracted to the sauce work. He tells us, &ldquoWhen I was a young cook in New York, I was a saucier. And I had like 16 sauces on my menu. Executing it perfectly is what is going to matter to me.&rdquo Meanwhile, Brian is once again overloading with random ingredients, including fruit, even though he knows that won’t jibe with the truffles.

10:47 p.m. The chefs rush into Michael&rsquos rather confined kitchen. Kevin says it looks just like a kitchen from the 1980s. Stephanie says, &ldquoWhat a great challenge to go out on. And, by go out, I mean to Italy.&rdquo She is adamant that &ldquoI&rsquom not going to let self-doubt get in the way of me and Italy.&rdquo Brian ominously says, &ldquoA duo has always been a suicide run on &lsquoTop Chef.&rsquo So I see no reason why I shouldn&rsquot try it.&rdquo He adds, &ldquoI&rsquove been thinking how can I use all the amazing stuff I just got at the market and truffles. It strikes me I might have to make the dreaded duo.&rdquo

10:49 p.m. Bryan is building flavors for his lamb. Meanwhile, Kevin has to butcher a bunch of ducks. He is going to braise the duck and blend it with the wild rice made into a duck rice croquette. He says,&rdquoThat feels very Kevin Gillespie.&rdquo Meanwhile, the judges and guests are arriving in the dining area. It&rsquos quite a crew of culinary talent. The plating area is tight and — oh no! — Gregory accidentally leaves off his prosciutto crisp in the cramped chaos of all the chefs trying to get their dishes plated.


10:50 p.m. Gregory and Stephanie are up first. Padma asks Jonathan what he thinks of Stephanie&rsquos reinvention of his pasta scallops. He says, &ldquoIt really is delicious. It&rsquos my dish come forward 40 years. Which I think is really spectacular.&rdquo Mark Peel adds, &ldquoI remember being in that kitchen and this is what it tasted like.&rdquo Michael praises her for putting fresh greens on the plate. As for Gregory, Roy Yamaguchi thinks his version of his recipe is great, but calls it &ldquopretty much one-dimensional.&rdquo

10:52 p.m. Bryan and Kevin are next, and Kevin gives a shout-out to Chef Peel: &ldquoHe said he loved to cut up duck and other animals.&rdquo Mark jokes, &ldquoIf ducks had a post office, my picture would be on the wall.&rdquo Chef Roy says that Bryan&rsquos dish follows the guidelines of Michael&rsquos cooking: &ldquoIt&rsquos simple, it&rsquos refined and it showcases the ingredient.&rdquo Padma approved of the different sauces on his plate. But Chef Roy thinks Bryan&rsquos dish lacks that wow factor. Mark says his duck breast was cooked perfectly. Jonathan really liked the wild rice confit inside the little ball and then the orange note on the top. But for Brian&rsquos meal, one of his dishes has gone AWOL.

10:54 p.m. Brian spies his missing dish at another table, but it seems once again he has too much going on. Melissa&rsquos quail dish looks beautiful with her ninja radishes and plum glaze. Chef Brian Bornemann says of Melissa&rsquos take on his recipe, &ldquoIt really just highlighted the bird itself. I honestly love this.&rdquo Chef Roy&rsquos thoughts? &ldquoIt was outrageous.&rdquo Guest Hunter Lewis really liked her dish as well &ndash &ldquonot too sticky, not too sweet.&rdquo As for Malarkey&rsquos dual creations, Michael laments that his dish &ldquois so far past what we prepare. It went from four or five ingredients to 45 ingredients.&rdquo


10:55 p.m. Tom praises the chefs overall: &ldquoThere&rsquos so much history in that kitchen. I thought you guys did a great job. Taking the dishes and finding inspiration and still make it your own. It was great to see the reaction of the chefs at the table seeing their dish re-imagined.” Padma says, &ldquoWell there was one winner today.&rdquo She allows Jonathan to deliver the news. &ldquoIt was really a beautiful meal and I don&rsquot say that often. But it comes down to one person &hellip and that person is Melissa!

10:56 p.m. Jonathan also brings a smile to Stephanie&rsquos face when he tells her, &ldquoYou were right there. The race was very close. You really channeled me in a spectacular fashion.&rdquo Padma also assures Bryan and Kevin that they are going to Italy as well. Jonathan loved Bryan’s presentation and he loved the size of the potato and the size of the medallion of lamb: “They really worked well together.&rdquo Tom says he really enjoyed Kevin’s duck dish and thought it was well-rounded.

10:57 p.m. Brian and Gregory are the bottom two, so one of them will be going home. Padma tells Gregory, &ldquoWhen you were thinking about how to interpret that dish, what part of yourself did you want to put in it?&rdquo He answers, &ldquoI love fresh vegetables. Adding the beet juice.&rdquo But Tom says that his fish got lost on the plate. His main flaw was leaving off the prosciutto for salty flavor and texture.

10:58 p.m. Padma asks, &ldquoHow was it for you, Malarkey?&rdquo He says with the utmost sarcasm, &ldquoOh, I just had the best time ever.&rdquo He then adds, &ldquoThis is exhausting. I forgot how exhausting this is. And I had a few little issues today that corked me in the wrong direction.&rdquo Sensing the writing on the wall, Brian surprises the judges by telling them, &ldquoI am cooked. I had a great ride my friends.&rdquo Padma asks if he is quitting. A frustrated Gregory suggests Brian let the judges judge because he doesn’t want to go to Italy by default. Tom thought his veal and sweetbreads were actually perfectly cooked. But his so-called duo just didn&rsquot talk to each other.

10:59 p.m. Jonathan gets right down to the nitty gritty of Brian&rsquos confused dish and says it didn&rsquot invoke what Chef Michael&rsquos approach to food is all about. They also note that Gregory did not meet the standard either. But the chef packing his knives and going &hellip is Brian .

Next week: The five finalists arrive in Italy and are greeted by Padma saying, &ldquoYou&rsquore going hunting &hellip for white truffles.&rdquo They also will cook pasta dishes for passionate Italians. Meanwhile, we hear some rather harsh take-downs at judges&rsquo table, but we don’t know yet whose dishes they’re talking about.

Be sure to make your predictions so that the contestants can see how they&rsquore faring in our racetrack odds. You can keep changing your predictions until just before the next episode airs every Thursday on Bravo. You&rsquoll compete to win a spot on our leaderboard and eternal bragging rights. See our contest rules and sound off with other fans in our reality TV forum. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

Recap: Top Chef Season 11 – Episode 13

Welcome back, Food Spectators! We’ve got six chefs and a lot of cooking to do before the hour is out. Zjswurd zprpin, or, if I move my hands over just a squinch, Jaques Pépin. He’s like the Jacques Cousteau of French cuisine.

The Quickfire Challenge is all about technique. The chefs have thirty-five minutes (so specific!) to prepare Jacques Pépin’s favorite dish—Dover sole, artichokes, and asparagus. But first, a demonstration. Zip bang boom, he prepares the delicious meal in no time flat. And now, it’s their turn. Ready, go!

So who screwed up? Well Nina forgot to turn her burners on, but she salvaged it pretty well, Carlos is missing the tomatoes and the sauce is…questionable, Shirley done good, as usual, Brian never finished a sauce, Stephanie put everything on the plate and Nicholas gets a “very good.” The winner of the coveted pride and immunity is Nicholas.

For the Elimination Challenge, it’s all about French and Spanish cuisine. Padma introduces Julian Serrano for Spain, and Dominique Crenn for France, who will act as mentors. The chefs will work in two teams to prepare a five-course meal in one of the two styles, using ingredients that feature in both. The team with the best overall meal will win, and someone from the losing team will be going home.

The French Team is Shirley, Nicholas, and Stephanie. The Spanish Team Nina, Brian, and Carlos. For the French Team, Dominique suggests an extraordinarily modern chocolate, duck, and a nest. So…good luck with that? Julian is talking about potato salad, which doesn’t sound very exciting at all.

Nicholas and Shirley are all over the French cuisine, but Stephanie is all sorts of confused. Over in Spain, Chef Serrano is micromanaging the three chefs in the menu and their prep. When the mentor chefs leave, the scurrying and scrambling kicks into high gear. Shirley busts out the liquid nitrogen for some ice cream, tarragon is flying on the Spanish side, and Nina fusses over her simple potato salad. As Brian says, “it’s old school versus new school.”

The first dish from France is Shirley’s snapper with dehydrated olives and ice cream, which seems odd for a first coarse. For Spain, it’s Nina’s ensaladilla rusa with green olives, shrimp, and potatoes. Tom doesn’t like the ice cream with the fish, but everyone enjoys Nina’s potatoes.

The second French dish is Stephanie’s pickled and poached mussels with gelée, and for Spain it’s Nina’s ajo blanco with almonds and cherries. Again, Nina receives high praise. Stephanie’s mussels had good flavor, but there was also some grit which is not a good thing.

The third dishes are Carlos’s mejillones a la romesco with crispy leeks, and Shirley and Stephanie’s chicken liver mouse with roasted chicken bouillon. The mousse gets mixed reviews but apparently the consummé is to die for, and Carlos’s dish is called one-note.

The fourth course is getting very hearty on the Spanish side, and very…weird…on the French side. There’s Carlos’s polo con arroz, and Nicholas and Stephanie’s Cornish game hen with spiced chocolate and corn silk nest. Carlos’s chicken is beautifully cooked and sounds delicious. And then, the French dish. Nobody other than Dominique want to eat the French dish, and Tom says it looks like what he used to pull out of the drain before he went completely bald.

Finally, dessert. There’s Brian’s flan de chocolate and strawberries that is overall too sweet, and Nicholas’s almond flan with plum and coconut crumble which is too…flanny?

The Spanish team gets called to Judge’s Table first, which means they are the chefs with the favorite dishes. And the winning chef is Nina with her perfectly executed potato salad. Huh.

And now, the French team. Since they cooked avant garde cuisine, they should all show up in avant garde headgear. But they don’t. Instead, they take their punishment with dignity. Except for Nicholas. He has immunity, so it’s between Shirley and Stephanie. Yet it is clear that Nicholas had the least favorite dishes with his chocolate chicken and his miserable dessert. Julian even suggests that Nicholas resign. But he doesn’t, so the judges are now comparing dishes they very much enjoyed. Tom hopes that Nicholas rethinks his decision and falls on his sword, but no dice. Stephanie, pack your knives and go home. The look Shirley gave Nicholas, wow. That says it all.

Follow Top Chef season 11 on Twitter: @BravoTopChef / #TopChef

Top Chef Seattle Episode 11: Restaurant Wars

Previously, on Top Chef: Painful Canada Dry promotion! Brian Canlis’s one-man wet T-shirt contest! Sheldon talks dirty about Uwajimaya!

No quickfire today, folks. Back at the Olive 8 Penthouse of Healthy Choice Steamers, the chefs drink Redhook and discuss the art of restaurant war. Brooke notes that all the girls have some sort of classical French training, but laments that Kristen has never actually run her own kitchen.

The guys' team only has three people, two of whom have never, ever cooked Filipino food before. “What kind of herbs?” Josh asks Sheldon, conferring about his prawn dish. Sheldon gently admonishes, “Not even herbs, bro. We don’t do herbs.” But it’s totally legal here now, guys.

“We hop in the Toyota Avalon and head to the Georgetown Ballroom” is totally a normal sentence people say in conversation. The chefs marvel at the event space. They are especially psyched about the patio…until they figure out that the patio is actually the empty space where they must build a kitchen. Twisty!

Pedersen’s Event Rentals makes a delivery while Brooke and Josie pick out linens. Brooke gives the side eye to Josie’s suggestions and tells the camera “that the type of restaurant that we’re opening takes maybe a little more…class?” Sheldon’s back to his favorite underpants-soiling grocery store, Uwajimaya, to shop for mung bean paste.

The skyline. Pike Street. Westlake. These things are very close to Georgetown Ballroom. Right? Sheldon is smart he browns his meat for broth the night before. And look, here’s Lizzie, roasting her bones in advance so she can get a jump on stock the next morning. Josie also plans to roast her bones, then just stands around adjusting her “Chef Josie” headband instead.

Later that night at the Olive 8 Penthouse of Josie Is Lame, the women strategize. Kristen insists they cook each dish a la minute, despite Josie’s plea to just halfass it, already. Then for some reason Josie saunters over to the boys’ team to spill a few state secrets about Atelier Kwan’s plans. Woman, you couldn’t be more wrath-inducing if a team of professionals edited you to look that way.

Nighttime. Sunrise. Buses. The day of restaurant warfare has arrived. Kristen’s dessert is “a cross between an American macaroon and a French macaron.” Ha! That’s hilarious. Wait…seriously?

Josh is making balut, a Filipino dish that consists of “an unhatched chicken egg it’s got feathers and beaks and everything like that.” Let’s hope Josh isn’t writing the menu descriptions.

Brooke and Stefan assume the oft-cursed front-of-house roles. Since the boys’ team is a chef short, Stefan immediately sends a dishwasher named Pedro back to help prep. Go, Pedro. Top Chef should make him a contestant right now, just for twists and grins. Stefan gives servers the most skeletal of explanations of the food and instructs them to “have candles here for sexytime” at the bar. He glances at the blackboard up front to remind himself of the restaurant’s name, Urbano, as he greets incoming guests.

Red alert: gelatin crisis at Atelier Kwan. Josie is way behind schedule, so Kristen tells her to omit the gelatin from her bouillabaisse broth. It was supposed to impart a light, foamy texture, but Josie’s chaos is ruining Kristen’s precise vision. Kristen generally freaks out all over the place and says she would prefer a dishwasher instead of Josie.

Lots of the Seattle chefs we’ve seen so far reappear at restaurant wars, including T-Doug, Thierry Rautureau, Jason Franey, and Ethan Stowell. Methinks I spy Renee Erickson and Mark Canlis in the background, too. The judges arrive, and oh no! Padma forgot her dress. Oh wait, if I peer closely, I guess she is wearing some sort of backless scrap of cloth. The perfect ensemble for a day in Georgetown.

While the name is sort of stomach-curdling, the judges dig Lizzie’s charcuterie soup of pulled rabbit in a chicken and rabbit broth. The drama-inducing bouillabaisse, not so much. Some stuff is overcooked, some is under, and all the chefs lament the postage stamp of broth in the bowl.

Meanwhile, back at Urbano, Tom Douglas is thirsty and tired of waiting around for his table. Stefan encourages one lady to hurry up and leave her table already, but she tells him she hasn’t even had dessert yet. “Really, bitch?” he fumes to the camera. I want to track this woman down and put her in our Perfect Party section.

Stefan does everything short of hauling out an old-timey vaudeville cane to get people to leave. What he does not do is stop by the judges’ table to explain the Filipino dishes being served. They call him over to explain Josh’s miki dish, he responds, “Miki is afmaldkfn with asmafnkdnf.” Say what now? It takes the judges a minute to realize he just totally blew them off. “He made us feel worse than the bouillabaisse,” laments Emeril.

Clearly meaningful discourse on Filipino food is not Stefan’s strong suit. He ducks back into the kitchen to help serve Sheldon’s “adobe pork.” “It’s adobo pork,” Sheldon yells after him, looking as put upon as little Sheldon could possibly look. Good thing Tom and Danny Meyer interrupt their festival of mutual admiration to proclaim this dish the best thing they’ve eaten all day.

Sheldon says he “couldn’t feel more prouder” about their showing today, and he’s so sweet that we instantly forgive any and all grammatical errors. Meanwhile Kristen continues to fume over Josie’s comically bad time management skills. The judges fume over how rude Stefan was in his front-of-house role. They debate what was suckier, Urbano’s service or the sauceless bouillabaisse at Atelier Kwan.

All the chefs are summoned to the Table of Judgment, lining up with military-level precision. The judges immediately start nitpicking Kristen’s dishes: the lack of wine in her beef bourgignon the heaviness of her macaroon macaron. Kristen is unaccustomed to being on the bottom she usually wins gracefully, but her face is all shades of pissy here.

Brooke’s curse-breaking front-of-house skillz and Lizzie’s horrifyingly named, yet very tasty charcuterie soup earn praise. Then Tom, Padma, Emeril, and Gail turn their attention to the bouillabaisse. Josie blah blahs about how she thought it was dumb to use so little sauce, but she was just doing what Kristen wanted. What Kristen wants at this moment, I imagine, is to murder Josie, or perhaps waterboard her with her own broth.

Now it’s time to shower praise on Urbano. Tom tells Sheldon, “You don’t see too much Filipino cuisine out there, probably because we’re waiting for a chef like you to do that.” Josh had hardly even eaten Filipino food before this, so Tom’s praise—“It didn’t read Filipino, but it did read good”—must have been a huge relief.

Urbano wins! Unanimously! Sheldon wins! Stefan is very, very lucky that he’s on the winning team and won’t be bounced for his awful service.

Time to scrutinize the ladies once again. Tom declares Lizzie and Brooke safe, setting up a tension worthy of a Breaking Bad season finale. They have to send Josie home, right? They would never boot superstar/superchef/supermodel Kristen…right?

Tom says that tonight’s decision hinges on the sauce on the bouillabaisse. And to his credit, he delivers this statement in a way that doesn’t make it sound ridiculous. Kristin makes veiled references to Josie’s time management, but otherwise takes responsibility as the leader. She mutters “bite my tongue bite my tongue” (which the show helpfully subtitles) while Josie finds the nearest bus and promptly throws Kristen under it: “You didn’t get enough sauce, and she sauced your plate.”

Finally, it’s time for Padma to send Josie packing. Cheers must be erupting across America at this moment. The camera closes in on her face. “Josie…” she purrs. “You’re safe.” OH, COME ON. This episode had so many overt signs pointing to Josie’s dismissal that I did fear Kristen’s departure, but that’s laying on the bait-and-switch a little thick. Kristen is headed for that big Last Chance Kitchen in the sky.

“I think Josie is more surprised than Kristen,” says Tom. Viewers, there’s a valuable lesson to be learned here: Tis better to take no responsibility at all than too much.

Stefan responds to the news by hugging, kissing, caressing, and rubbing Kristen vigorously. She’s proud to leave “with integrity intact” and laments, “I’m really irritated everything couldn’t have been perfect.”

The remaining contestants turn their baleful gaze to Josie, who’s all, “Last time I checked, we were all here to win.” We fade out with Seattle’s nighttime skyline, and the knowledge that this season’s most annoying contestant will live to irritate us another week.

Next week: Josh and his mustache struggle to make sushi and OMFG DAVID CHANG. And fried chicken! And hopefully the answers to pressing questions like: Will Josie get shanked in her sleep? What really happens when you cross a macaroon with a macaron? And how will Stefan occupy his hands now that Kristen is gone?

Coolest Seattle moment: Going to Georgetown was an unexpected, and cool, move on the show’s part.

Lamest Seattle moment: Too bad all the great local chefs in this ep didn’t get to do much beyond stand awkwardly in line. And nobody got sprayed with lobster bisque.

Line of the night: Stefan’s “Really, bitch!” might be the new “Bitch, please!”

Top Chef Season 10: Seattle, Episode 2 Recap

BRAVO really needs to consider renaming this episode. Top Chef: Seattle is starting to become The John Tesar Show. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Tesar makes for excellent television. Hopefully, Tesar will keep calling himself “the most hated chef in Dallas” in the rest of the episodes, just to keep the trend going. (“Let’s make him a shirt or something,” said Desiree, my gchat partner last night.) If we do, Des, he’s going to wear that shirt every single day. And it’ll smell like fish.


The 15 contestants are finally in Seattle, and Tesar’s glasses are back on his forehead, right where they belong. All is right in Tesar Land. But, wait, why is Padma with three old Top Chef alums (Josie from Season 2, CJ from Season 3, and Stefan from Season 5)? These oldies are going to judge the newbies, who’ve split up into five groups of three. Tesar, the smartypants, pairs up with the AZNs: Quiet Asian (Kuniko) and Maui Asian (Simeon). He assumes Quiet Asian, because she is Japanese, has good knife skills. Lucky for John, stereotyping works in his favor. The three of them make sweet music together and create a geoduck sashimi with ponzu, apple, and cucumber. Meanwhile, the all ladies group (Lizzie, Carla, and Chrissy) are yackin’ each other’s ears off. Crazy Italian Carla, who shall henceforth be known as “Big MAMA,” needs go back to the Real Housewives of Italy. Desiree is not a fan.

The blue team wows the judges’ pants off, and JTesar wins immunity. A goofy smile is plastered all over his face. Two seconds later, I swear his lips quiver when Padma tells the contestants that the three alums are going to join the fray and compete alongside them. Josh Valentine unleashes his anger. “None of them were able to seal the deal. I hate them all.” Ouch, watch that fire, Josh.


The 18 contestants are now inside the Seattle Space Needle, which Desiree observes is “just like our Reunion Tower.” The teams have to make a dish using regional ingredients for the judges and legendary chef Tom Douglas in the time it takes for the Space Needle to go around once.

The blue team kicks sass again, even though Kuniko burns the first batch of chili oil. Her chili oil-poached cod makes her the winner of episode 2, despite Simeon’s fine dashi and Tesar nailing those vegetables. Red team (or “Team Failure,” as Desiree likes to call them) tried to make a roasted quail with confit spot prawn, but Stefan the Scary One failed. “It’s the only breast I’m going to be touching in six weeks,” he said. If that’s the case, Stefan, why’d you overcook them? Gray team also ends up in the bottom two with the red team, but cute Jeffrey gets the boot. Now he has to go and tell his fiancé why he’s back so early.

Des and I are sad. I was just about about to become a Jeffrey Jew fan until they kicked him off.

Best line(s): “When I’m cooking, I like to look good.” “I want to be a James Beard, and I want to have a nice ass.” -Carla

Best red hat: Maui Asian (Simeon)’s. Desiree says it looks like the ones from The Life Aquatic.

Top Chef All-Stars Goes South

Last night's Top Chef All-Stars took things down South, and the butter and the drama were a-flying! The queen of butter herself, Paula Deen, guest judged and presented the cheftestants with the quickfire challenge: deep fry something, y'all! And Paula being Paula, she meant business: "I've deep fried mac and cheese, lasagna, chunks of butter," she told them. "No calamari sprinkled on top of a salad!"

Some of the chefs totally got the concept of Southern cooking, and some clearly didn't (how many times did Dale tell us he cooks Chinese food, not Southern?). Antonia made me nervous with her decision to do a fried shrimp salad (didn't you listen to Paula, Antonia?), but the end result was a decidedly un-salad-like combination of crispy fried shrimp and deep-fried avocado. Unfortunately, she totally spaced and only plated one dish, which prompted my favorite line of the night from Paula: "I could come over there, put you over my knee, and whip your cute little ass!"

Meanwhile, Mike and Richard were working on some chef drama of their own. Mike's fun and creative idea to fry up chicken oysters and serve them in oyster shells was apparently "inspired" by an idea in Richard's notebook. Richard was peeved, Mike was unapologetic, and it only got worse when Mike won the quickfire challenge for his dish! The house was totally abuzz with Mike's disregard for chef law, and Mike reacted by playing the jerk card for the rest of the episode.

More about this episode and the elimination challenge after the break!

John Besh joined the judges for the elimination challenge as much as I love Paula Deen, Besh's calm, cool, and collected style was kind of a breath of fresh air in this drama-filled episode! The cheftestants were challenged to prepare a meal for 300 people to be served at a benefit for the Greater New Orleans Foundation. And the menu? Gulf seafood, of course! The catch: each chef had to choose a type of seafood — which came along with a recently eliminated contestant as a sous chef.

Carla chooses Tre because she thinks he'll understand Southern food, but is dismayed (and threatens to take his "NAACP card") when she finds out he's a city boy and usually buys his collards in a can. Dale goes with Angelo, which comes in somewhat handy when Dale loses it while they're serving and Angelo calms him down. Richard chooses Fabio, which Fabio loves because he says Richard reminds him of his ex-wife. It must've worked out for them, because their risky combo of fried fish, citrus polenta, and pulled pork ends up winning Richard the challenge! Poor Dale, on the other hand, wraps up a generally unsuccessful episode by packing up his knives and going home.

Do you agree with the decision to send Dale home? Weigh in with your thoughts and anything I missed in the comments!

‘Top Chef: Seattle’ Episode 10 Recap—A Post-Show Chat with Kristen Kish

This year, Bravo has split their most popular part of any season, Restaurant Wars, into two episodes—with the winners responsible for choosing their own teammates. In episode 10, the first part of this, Kristen Kish won yet again, pocketing another ten grand in the process.

How do you stay on everyone’s good side when you keep winning all the challenges? I feel like everyone would start to resent the fact that you’re slowly getting rich.
KK: I guess because I’m not gloating about it. There are definitely some comments here and there, but nothing malicious. I think everyone has their mind in other places, so I don’t think it’s really on their radar.

Episode 10’s Quickfire Challenge was to create an original dish utilizing ginger all within fifteen minutes.

I think last night’s Quickfire Challenge was the fastest in the history of Top Chef.
It was for sure. It felt like ten seconds.

Fifteen minutes is such a short amount of time to conceive a dish, execute, and then plate it. Did you immediately have something in mind?
My first reaction was to use the iSi canister. You can make a quick marinade or you can infuse something really fast by putting it in there and charging it a couple of times. It’ll really speed up the process. So, that was my idea and that’s really all I had. Then I just went into the pantry and just grabbed stuff. Honestly, it was a pretty thrown together dish and I wasn’t exactly happy with it.

Infusing fennel in a CO2 cartridge seemed like an extremely inventive idea. Wolfgang Puck was so impressed I thought you might win on the concept alone. Have you used that technique before?
I’ve never used it for that particular purpose before. Quite frankly, it’s probably the least proud of something I’ve been, only because I got caught up in the method over the flavor of the dish.

Hey, at least you didn’t do a stir-fry, right? During the episode you admitted it had been a rough couple of years for you before you landed on Top Chef.
A year and a half ago I was in a five-year relationship, which ended right around the same time I started at Stir. I had to move out and find my own apartment. That being said, my ex-boyfriend, whose name is Scott, was wonderful. We broke up and I lived in his house for a little bit, but it was obviously time to move out. But we’re very good friends, so no hard feelings. There were just a lot of things changing in my life at that point. In between my last job and Stir I was thinking about moving to either London or Dubai, of all places. I don’t know what I was thinking. I was just trying to run away I think.

You almost moved to Dubai?
God, I don’t know! I was just looking for something far away. I have to give credit to Stephanie (Cmar). She told me to come to Stir since it was just about to open. She said if I didn’t like it, then I could move. She saved me in that way.

Were you already familiar Barbara Lynch?
Oh, absolutely! I knew I wanted to work with her at some point, I just didn’t know when and in what capacity. It all worked out the way it was supposed to.

Top Chef changed up Restaurant Wars this year. All the contestants were forced to give a preliminary idea and one signature dish. Based on that, two final restaurants were chosen. How did you come up with your restaurant name and concept?
The name I gave my restaurant is Atelier Kwan. Atelier is like a craftsmanship workshop for artists and chefs and Kwan is my given last name my Korean last name. The dish that I prepared was a take on a classic French bistro salad with egg and cheese and mustard vinaigrette. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel or do anything completely out of the box. I like to use the nice familiar flavors of my favorite things to eat. I just like to take traditional items and tip them upside down a little bit.

The egg in your dish really seemed to wow the judges. It was prepared in an “Onsen” style. Can you describe that technique?
It’s essentially a sous vide egg. You can do a number of different temperatures or times, depending on what you’re looking for. I was looking for a barely set white with a really creamy yolk. From the last chef that I worked for before Barbara Lynch (Guy Martin), he taught me this method. After a lot of experimentation he settled on 149 degrees for an hour and a half.

At Judges Table, Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons were saying that it was a huge gamble to prepare eggs that way since there could be a lack of consistency. Were you worried about that at all?
Yeah, but I set myself up to make sure that didn’t happen. I was moving the eggs around quite a bit and I also cooked sixty or seventy more eggs than I needed, so if one didn’t turn out the way I wanted, I just grabbed another one.

One of the perks or consequences (depending on how you look at it) of winning was that you got to choose the other chefs who would work with you at Atelier Kwan. All season they’ve built up storylines around your friendships with Stefan and Micah and yet you didn’t choose them. How difficult was that and how did you approach the decision-making process?
I knew that I wanted to pick Brooke (Williamson) because I really enjoy her and she’s been doing very, very well. I know people were expecting me to choose Stefan. We were actually joking the other day, and he texted me saying, “We just don’t like to mix business with pleasure.” So, I’ll stick with that.

Obviously, one of the pratfalls of choosing your team was that you didn’t know who was going to get sent home. It wasn’t your intention to choose an all female team, was it?
No, not at all. Once I got Brooke, I took Lizzy because, quite frankly, I didn’t think she’d get sent home. Then it came down to Micah or Josie. I hadn’t tasted Josie’s dish, nor did I hear any feedback, but I did taste Micah’s. It was good, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the concept (raw food). It was a hard decision, for sure.

After your initial excitement of being announced as the co-winner with Sheldon, were you nervous at the thought of then having to lead a team and execute your restaurant vision?
Absolutely! I was completely nervous. It’s a big challenge to take on. If you ask a lot of the chefs in the season, everyone wants to make it to this point. It’s one of the milestones and it’s super fun regardless of the outcome.

With Boston being a focal point in the national media’s coverage of the flu outbreak, I’d like to know what you eat when you’re sick.
A shot of whiskey (laughing)!

Stay tuned for more post-chow chat with Kristen Kish. For more online food coverage, find us on Twitter at @ChowderBoston.

Seattle’s Shota Nakajima Nabs His First (Co)Win on ‘Top Chef: Portland’

Seattle’s lone representative on “Top Chef: Portland” is off to a hot start. A week after a top four showing in the new season’s first elimination challenge, Shota Nakajima cooked the judges’ favorite dish alongside fellow contestant Avishar Barua in the second episode. The two teamed up on a lobster sunomono with double cream coffee and stout reduction, carbonated grapes, and furikake.

Nakajima really impressed buzzer to buzzer throughout the show. In the diner-themed quickfire challenge, the chef — who owns Capitol Hill’s Taku — had to show off his short-order skills, and chose to make dim sum. He served up a shrimp dumpling mochi with sweet soy green onion sauce, which won a face-off with Barua, an executive chef based out of Columbus, Ohio.

Later, the elimination challenge required the contestants to come up with dishes based on either coffee or beer, two Portland specialties. Nakajima drew the latter ingredient to highlight, then went about planning a dish to cook on his own, only to find out along with everyone else that this would be a team-based contest instead. All the chefs had to scrap their initial recipes, and work with another contestant on a collaborative plate with the ingredients they already collected.

Nakajima paired up with his quickfire foe, and the two seemed to bond a bit, with Barua giving the more diminutive chef a ribbing on camera. “No one wants Avishar I look left and right, no one wants to look at me, then I look down and I see Shota,” said Barua. The chemistry clearly paid off in the twist on sunomono they prepared (Nakajima was responsible for the double cream and apple pickles components), which earned heaps of praise for its innovation. Judge Tom Colicchio gushed, “This was totally original this was out of left field, but it worked together because of the balance of the dish.”

So far, Nakajima is one of the contestants to watch among stiff competition, and is gradually starting to reveal more of his background on the show. In the second episode, he opened up a bit more about the devastation he felt when closing his acclaimed restaurant Adana in May 2020, and placing his new venture Taku on indefinite hold due to the pandemic. “I put so much love and effort into it. And then I kind of went a little downhill and I started drinking a lot,” he said. “I do need to focus. I need to kind of put myself back together, and I think that’s another reason why I got onto this competition.”

Now, Nakajima is starting to hit his stride, and is embracing the “Top Chef” life in full. Fans can find a recipe for the lobster dish he co-created on YouTube. And on April 24, he is doing a one-night-only pop-up dinner at Taku with fellow contestants Sara Hauman and Byron Gomez. The event has six seats up for auction, with 100 percent of proceeds going to fund a meal program to help low-income residents in the International District. The menu for the pop-up includes salmon tartare, fried plantain ice cream, and sea urchin doughnuts, with bids opening Friday, April 9, at noon the link will be in Nakajima’s Instagram bio.

Recap: Top Chef Season 11 Episode 2

The second episode of Top Chef started out something like this:

Padma : I know you’re all tired from the elimination challenge that ended about four minutes ago and still reeling from seeing me, the Great Goddess Padma, in person, but we’re in New Orleans and I’ve got the munchies, so go make me some gumbo. Now!

Chef #4 : I think it’s like Asian fusion, but with crawfish.

Chef #6 : It’s easy, you just chop up a bunch of meat and toss it in a slow cooker. [Yawns] I’ll see you guys tomorrow.

Chef #11 : Well I’m, like, from New Orleans, so whatever I cook is automatically a gumbo.

Chef #4 : Exactly. Asian fusion, man! Asian fusion!

The exhausted chefs went back to their house to cook Padma her gumbo. Magically, their kitchen was equipped with all of the ingredients their little hearts desired and about a dozen or so slow cookers. Chopping, stirring, simmering, and the chefs were ready to serve their gumbo or, more accurately, “gumbo” to their famished queen and her guest, local chef and legend Leah Chase.

Here’s a list of things that are not gumbo that chefs tried to pass off as gumbo:

  • Drunken chicken
  • Braised pork belly
  • Australian curry
  • Hot and sour prawns
  • Pork rib with okra
  • Puerto Rican mofongo with sofrita
  • New England and Miami fried clam chowder
  • Iownan Trinidadian corn crumble
  • Chipole something
  • Polish stewed cabbage and dried beets
  • Plantain and yuca
  • Moroccan lamb shank
  • Crab and silken tofu

For some strange reason, Leah really enjoyed Carrie’s corn crumble, so that is the winning gumbo.

Unfortunately for the chefs, Padma is still hungry and commands them to cook in food trucks for herself and the volunteers from Habitat For Humanity who are still working hard to rebuild New Orleans. There are lots of fish ideas being tossed around which, I don’t know. They call it “street meat” for a reason. The Yellow Team is making a taco truck, the Green Team is slicing up watermelon, the Red Team has a south Florida/Southern United States thing going, and the Blue Team has a beach theme with grilled fish.

Tom, Gail, Padma, and some woman in a striped shirt show up for some lunch. They start with the Yellow Team’s beef and pork empanadas and ceviche and them move on to tilapia tacos. The empanadas are a huge hit, and the cold ceviche was refreshing. It’s time for the Blue Team who serves up a salmon roll, grilled shrimp with melon, coconut ceviche and a tun a slider. The cold ceviche was ruined by hot plantains, the slider was under-seasoned, and the salmon roll was premade and soggy.

The Red Team has a green gazpacho with pickled shrimp, lobster and crab fritters, jerk chicken sandwiches, and ricotta with burnt honey and stone fruit. The judges are saying words like “love” and “delicious.” Lastly, the Green Team with their ahi tuna burger, crispy chickpea salad, tuna burger, spicy grilled lamb salad, and an amuse bouche of chilled watermelon. Padma licked her fingers after eating the lamb dish, which I think means whomever made it is her new pet.

The judges give the win to the Yellow Team, with the big prize going to Carrie’s efforts in making the empanada. And the losing team is the Blue Team with their surfside lunch truck. The coconut ceviche wasn’t cold enough and Jason’s salmon hand roll was rolled ahead of time so that he could be a handsome host. Then there’s something about the tomato on Patti’s tuna slider, and Nicholas’s garnish was all wrong.

Since you can’t send someone home for garnish or tomatoes, it’s between Brett and Jason. Because not making a dish to order is unforgivable on Top Chef, Jason packs his knives and leaves with an eyeroll. “I’m not the worst, I know that for a fact.” Keep reaching for the stars, Jason.

Next week, an elimination Quickfire and some chefs get underminey.

Follow Top Chef season 11 on Twitter: @BravoTopChef / #TopChef

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