With 14 chefs remaining, Top Chef: Seattle hasn’t quite started to heat up yet. However, it’s already becoming clear that some chefs stand out from the pack. Stefan will most likely be in the finale (he was brought back from a previous season just to make things more interesting), and John seems to be poised for success as well. Surprisingly, they both ended up on the bottom in this topsy-turvy episode.
We began in the Pike Place Market, where the chefs were challenged to make "breakfast on a stick" for 50 market employees. Each team of two got one hour and $500, and they not only needed to cook the food but also purchase all the equipment they’ll need at a nearby Sur La Table. They ended up with toasters and panini presses, and were met with varying degrees of success. Danyele and Lizzy’s berries and pancetta were nothing special, and Josie and Eliza’s ricotta pancakes were difficult to eat. On the other end of the spectrum, Sheldon and Bart’s breakfast sandwich came together nicely, and Josh and John put aside their differences from last week to make a quality sausage breakfast taco. Sheldon and Bart won the Quickfire challenge, and immunity.
The teams (and setting) stayed the same for the main challenge, as knives were drawn bearing the names of local artisanal products that must be incorporated into the dishes: spicy dill pickles, rose petal jelly, salmon candy, truffle popcorn, cardamom bitters, coconut curry chocolate, and cheese curds. To add to the stress, the artisans behind each of these products would be doubling as judges, and the winners would be taking home $10,000. Here are the final dishes:
John and Josh: Pan-seared pork tenderloin with truffle popcorn grits
Micah and Kristen: Cheese curds three ways: béchamel, raw, and fried
Stefan and Brooke: Rose-petal-glazed Muscovy duck with braised cabbage
Sheldon and Bart: Candied salmon with sweet and sour salad
Josie and Eliza: Curry cardamom broth with Manila clams and seared white king salmon
Lizzie and Danyele: Coconut curry chocolate mousse tart
CJ and Tyler: Pork crumpet burger with spicy dill pickles
On the whole, the judges were not pleased with the quality of the food served (to say the least). Tom had to actually apologize to the other judges, as all of the dishes served were "pretty bad." So bad, in fact, that the $10K award wasn't given to anyone (a Top Chef first), and an entire team was sent home (for those keeping score, that’s two double-eliminations in a row). In another Top Chef first, the judges didn't even bother to name who’s on top. Tom was not a happy camper.
On the bottom:
Brooke and Stefan: The cabbage overwhelmed the duck, and overall it was way too sweet. Padma called it "a dessert with duck in it."
Josh and John: The grits were unacceptable, and making medallions out of the pork was a bad choice. Gail added that there was no artistry, and Tom thought that it looked like it came from someone who hated cooking. The duo sparred so much last week that they decided to not argue at all this time around, and it ended up coming back to haunt them.
CJ and Tyler: "Not a good burger," according to judge Hugh Acheson. The bun was soggy, the meat was overcooked, and Tom thought that choosing a burger showed a major lack of creativity. When CJ asked why Lizzie and Danyele’s dessert wasn’t on the bottom as well, Hugh responded with one of the all-time great Top Chef lines: “Yours was worse.”
In the end, CJ and Tyler ended up packing their knives and going home for their mess of a burger, but all these chefs better step up their game, or else they’ll go down as the least inspired in Top Chef history.