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Top Chef Ep. 4: Who Is That Beef Behind the Curtain?

To thoroughly enjoy the glory that is Top Chef Seattle, we welcome comedian Max Silvestri, who will be here every week to take us through the season.


We skipped a week, folks. Cataclysmic, I know. Bravo aired a Thanksgiving-themed episode on Thanksgiving Eve, and I apologize for ruining your respective family gatherings by not writing a recap. What a miserable holiday it must have been for you all, to not have a summary of a TV show to read. "Why does everything taste bitter, like disappointment? Nana Meepmop, how much bile did you use in the mashed potatoes, because I think you used too much." Those were your recap-less conversations. If you are an international reader, and you do not celebrate Thanksgiving and are therefore doubly angry about this blog's holiday absence, why are you watching Top Chef? Presumably your country has museums and an extremely cheap street food delicacy and open air bazaars and things. Go to Zara and buy yourself something fun. Stop watching Top Chef.

In case you rely on my recaps to keep up with this reality show, here's a quick summary:

For the Quickfire, they made dumplings, from all over the world. I wanted to eat a lot of them but not Carla's. Carla's dumplings looked like berets, like a khaki one, one that she would wear. A few years ago a friend and I threw a BMs and Dumps party: I made Bloody Marys and he taught us all his grandmother's dumpling recipe. I got very drunk and realized that hand-making dumplings is annoying and tastes no better than the frozen kind you can buy in Chinatown. Anyway, Josie won immunity with Korean mandoo dumplings.

Tom and Emeril instructed two teams of chefs to cook their own Thanksgivings and provided guidance. Tom's was Italian and Emeril's was New Orleans by way of New England by way of Portugal. Emeril wore the tightest purple turtle neck and it made me uncomfortable, but not as uncomfortable as he looked.

Carla won with a carrot soup with turkey meatballs. Kuniko lost on undercooked potatoes.

John lectured everyone in the stew room about why Kuniko went home. CJ told him to be quiet, and John said he was full of shit. Josh yelled at Jenn. Then they scratched at each other and pulled each other's hair.


How will we recover from the loss of Kuniko, the charming and embarrassingly objectified Japanese chef? John says he was "one of her biggest fans," but he also seemed to think she was magic. "I bet she has great knife skills!" Okay, John. "She is a good teammate because from what I understand she can disappear into shadows and move silently. She clearly knows French cooking, though she is also a mercenary without honor." Also, how will we recover from John accusing Josh of "making up shit like a blogger"? That is a heavy accusation, Tesar. The way in which I make up shit is an art, and I don't think Josh has what he takes. He has a t-shirt that says "Praise the Lard." In case we forgot for one second, John reminds us he is the most hated chef in Dallas. Did any magazines say that, John? I wish I knew.

Kristen and Stefan are vibing on each other. She likes his eye brows, as they are professionally sculpted. He likes how she is a great cook and also other parts about her. She invites him to rub her feet, and Stefan is officially in love with her and everything about her. He gives her a textbook neg — "they sort of smell" — and she is now in love with him, because ladies love negs. They are an item and they tie a piece of spaghetti around each other's fingers and Sir Bart taps them on the shoulders with his sword and dubs them Prince Married.


Padma and Top Chef Masters alum Naomi Pomeroy judge this week's Quickfire, and they get all mysterious about a curtain in the kitchen. What's behind the curtain? More chefs? Katie Lee? Their children in pots of boiling water? No, it's beef. There's a lot of beef behind that beef curtain and the contestants are shocked. "Can you believe that on a show about cooking they have revealed to us an ingredient to cook with during this cooking challenge?" They are giant primal cuts, and nobody really has any idea how to butcher. Everybody's all, "Uh, my dish is a chopped up knob steak."


The chefs hack away at the meat and try not to kill each other. I expected somebody to lose a whole hand during this competition, probably Carla, though I get the feeling she could grow one back. Terry is trying to step his game up, in a way that bums me out. "My dish will have corn in it! I hope they notice me." Lizzie is struggling with the pressure cooker, as every chef who's ever used the pressure cooker in the history of Top Chef also struggled. I get that the show constantly throws timed challenges at the cooks in a way that renders this tool useful, but get better at it, people. CJ is literally cutting random pieces of this dead animal and putting it in his mouth, like someone who wants to get a disease for the insurance money. He probably thinks he's too talented to get diseases now. He is incredibly cocky this season. Apparently his two months as an intern making tea out of mushroom ashes at Noma has convinced him that he floats above the ground. And man does he hate everything that comes out of John Tesar's mouth.


Chef Pomeroy's least favorite dishes are Lizzie's pressure uncooked shank, Eliza's weird-ass asparagus and cherry flank stew, and Tyler's under-seasoned bottom-round crudo. He's so bummed. "I can't do anything right."


Pomeroy loved CJ's tartare and Josh's meatballs and polenta, but John's oxtail gnocchi are this week's Quickfire winner. He gets immunity, and I imagine this is the fourth and a half best moment of his entire adult life.


The birthplace of Northwestern cuisine was a place called Canlis, and it's still open after 62 years, now run by the founder's grandchildren, Brian and Mark Canlis. They are two nice young men and I misunderstood what Padma was saying when they walked in and I thought to myself, "They've been running this place for 62 years? Are they weird vampire twins? What price will their soul pay for immortality?" But then it turns out I'm an idiot. Not a big surprise.


In honor of the restaurant's historically arbitrary 62-year anniversary, the chefs will be cooking from its original 1950 menu. The only dish that survives on today's menu is the special Canlis salad, and perhaps unwisely, Chrissy volunteers for that. Everything else is divvied up violently, with Stefan pushing many people into their selections. Carla takes on squab and Kristen will cook fried onions and a side of mushrooms; neither seem psyched about that. Stefan and his women, am I right! Last week he talked about women like Carla being why he moved from Europe, because he can't handle European women. I think him making Kristen cook mushrooms is another neg, and it's probably working. He is excited about the old-fashioned menu, when restaurants just served steaks and dirty martinis. "I like it super dirty." Alright, enough Stefan.


Everybody cooks in Canlis' luxuriously large kitchen. It seems comfy, but also there is a copper-walled grill room. Maybe that is a common thing, as I am not a chef, but it seems like a literal nightmare: a crazy hot metal room with a small locked doorway. I have only seen about 10 of the 15 Saw movies, but I imagine there must have been at least one or two traps in a grill room. It is some real Final Destination shit.


Come service time, the kitchen is a madhouse. John is a bit of a manic expeditor. "Fire 2, 1 with croutons, 1 portioned for 2, 3 should be 2 legit 2 quit using butter, 69 all day." It's intense for everyone to keep track of what's going on, and Carla yells and yells and yells. When a waiter comes up to ask about an order, Stefan loses control and gives the most insane cry face I've ever seen.


They cook and serve the food. I was not alive in the 50's, but it doesn't seem like bad living: crab legs, French onion soup, marinated herring, steamed clams, seafood salad, mahi mahi, liver, squab, steak, kebabs, baked potatoes, iced cream sundaes, parfaits. It genuinely looks like a very fun meal to eat. During the meal, some stranger couple tries a dessert and woodenly says, "Definitely my favorite part of the meal. How about you? Yup. My favorite." Bravo, maybe edit out the dinner robots?


But the real winner this week:


Mushrooms! A side of mushrooms win. There you go, Kristen. It looks like Stefan's neg worked out in your favor. Also, she roasted the mushrooms for a few minutes to dry them out before sauteing, which is real smart. She wins ten grand, and Stefan is extremely happy for her. He goes in for a hug mega quick.


On the bottom this week are Carla, Chrissy, CJ, and Josh.


Chrissy's special salad was an overdressed, under-flavored mess; CJ had mealy, inauthentic lamb; Josh's soup was too salty and not cheesy enough; and Carla's squab was nearly inedible, overcooked, and full of bones. She admits she didn't check on any of the squabs coming out of the grill room. Tom is floored. They're all asked to defend why they shouldn't go home, and Carla doesn't bother. "It doesn't matter what I'm going to say." She's right! She and Chrissy are going home. Chrissy hadn't caught my attention yet, but I'm surprised Carla's headed home so soon, as she seemed so crazy and fun for the show. Stefan can relax now.


Josh blamed his soup's coldness on John's poor expediting. "He was a monkey!" Today, John tweeted this in response:


Cool tweet! Is he the most hated Tweeter in Twittertown?

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