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Top Chef Seattle Episode 8: Do Not Bark Up the Josie Tree

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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.


Merry holidays, dear friends. If you're anything like me, free booze and free baked goods have been far too easy to obtain for going on five weeks now, and your carb-face is starting to make you look like you're wearing a Halloween mask of your own head. If you thought Boxing Day might be a reprieve from all the too-muchness, Bravo went ahead and aired a new episode of Top Chef, and they put so much Josie in it, though to be fair even a little of Josie is a bunch of Josie. It was a lot to take, especially considering how much egg nog and rum was still working its way slowly through my system. For all my jokes about the now-eliminated Danyele, she was like Sheldon on the U.S. Acres part of Garfield & Friends. Her "shell" (crispy curls) muffled her voice and her face, and she was totally pleasant to have around. Josie keeps accidentally ripping doors off the hinges and flipping over Toyotas.

The chefs awake to an early memo from Padma. They've been instructed to head to Bow, Washington to harvest their Quickfire's main ingredient. The chefs make guesses; it could be clams, oysters, candy canes, or Gladware. Josie guesses, too. "New dolly?" she asks, and she holds up body pillow with a huge bite taken out of it. She frowns, and a few pieces of goose down fall out from between lips. What probably happened is that Josie turned the pillow into a a best friend but then got angry at her new friend for beating her at patty–cake so she attacked it and won. But now her friend won't play anymore, so Josie eats three pieces of plastic fruit before Stefan wrestles it out of her hands.


After Bing-ing directions to Bow in their Camrys, the chefs arrive at Taylor Shellfish Farms. It's a gorgeous oyster bay during low tide, and the chefs will be picking their own oysters. They throw on waders and muck out into the mud. I love oysters, and it seems like a lovely way to spend one's morning. Sheldon is so tickled by the oysters; you don't get them fresh in Hawaii. What you do get fresh in Hawaii is red winter hats. They are always in season in Hawaii. John grew up on the East end of Long Island, and shucking oysters is in his blood. "It's nature's candy, baby!" he says as he slurps one down. I am glad regular candy doesn't require a special knife and a Kevlar glove to eat. But wouldn't it be just like nature to make their candy so annoying? Nature sucks. I'm glad we're destroying it. Josie gets stuck in the mud. The other chefs share a glance and agree to let her stay there until the tide comes back in; maybe the Moon can solve their Josie problem once and for all. Then Micah and Stefan remember the cameras and pull her out. Micah says of Josie, "She definitely has her moment where you want her to shut the fuck up." Josie is very lucky to have lots of moments.


It should come as no surprise that the judge for this week's oyster Quickfire is Chef Emeril. The contestants will serve Emeril oysters on the half shell with the product they pulled out of the bay just hours ago; five chefs will grab a red apron and do a hot preparation, the other five will take a blue apron and do cold oysters. The chefs shuck and prep and cook and ask each other what they are shucking and prepping and cooking. Josh and Brooke get right to demolishing their "brittle" oysters, blanketing the bellies in shell. John banks on Emeril's love of New Orleans and works on his take on Drago's famous charbroiled oysters with cheese and butter and garlic. Stefan throws his oysters in a bag and smokes them, which actually involves just flipping the Ziploc upside down until all the "smoke" gets "in there." You can't tame smoke, Stefan. Didn't you see Backdraft? Before opening an oyster, always put your hand on it to check if it's warm.


Bart assumes oysters with champagne, butter, and cream would be a classic, but Emeril thought that the richness buried both the champagne and the oyster. Josie made wood-roasted oysters with chorizo and cilantro, but Emeril thinks the bellies looked broken. John's homage to Drago's won him no favors, and Emeril, not missing a chance to use the word of the season, says his dish had no "pop." "It needed something to wake it up." Lizzie took a chance and did a cold oyster prep with crushed currants, and Emeril loved it. He also thought Brook'e oysters with salsa verde, cilantro, and horse radish had all kinds of beautiful flavor. The winner of five grand is Micah and his crispy fried oysters with hot sauce, lemon, and an arugula salad. Somewhat surprising that the winner was the one fried oyster dish, but hey, fried oysters are great. They are very good on a sandwich, too, except one time I was so hungover and that was my first meal of the day and they were so juicy that when the first one popped in my mouth I had to throw up in the restaurant's bathroom. Congrats Micah! You didn't make me or Emeril throw up.


For this week's Elimination Challenge, the cooktestants will be serving "one of the hottest sports teams in Seattle." I can only assume that Padma is talking about the Seattle Supersonics; maybe the chefs will be cooking dinner for Shawn Kemp's seven children by six different women. Alas, we have to settle for roller derby, as the Rat City All-Stars come rollerskating into the kitchen. Man, what is there even to say about roller derby? Dear friends of mine have been involved with roller derby, and even though they've broken limbs and noses and I never bothered to come see them play once, they assured me they'd made friends for life, and when I say "life" I mean they quit talking to those people the second they stopped wrestle-rollerskating.


Lizzie says, "I didn't know that people still roller-skated, to be honest." Thank you for your honesty, Lizzie. You are saying what we are all thinking and what those girls rollers-skating should be thinking. Josie looks like a six-year-old meeting Santa Claus for the first time. She could not be more excited for roller derby, because of course she is. The camera only cuts to her for like three seconds, and in that short time a janitor runs out twice to mop up the drool on the floor underneath her mouth. Josie used to play pro football.


There are five rollergirls, and the ten chefs pair off into teams. Each team picks one rollergirl on whose name they'll base their dish. Micah and Lizzie choose Jalapeno Business, Sheldon and Josh pick Tempura Tantrum, John and Brooke will cook for Kutta Rump, Stefan and Kristen have Eddie Shredder, and Josie and Bart end up with Teriyaki Terror. Bart seems a bit bummed to get stuck with Josie, but he's trying to be a professional about it. Also, aren't those cool names for rollergirls? They are funny and fun and about food. They even called this episode "Jalapeno Business" which is a pun that sort of demands you pronounce "jalapeno" wrong but that it not a problem on this show because everyone pronounces it differently. I wonder if it was tough finding five rollergirls in Seattle with food-based names. Or maybe there were plenty to go around. It must be tough to watch this episode at home for Headlox N'Bagels, Mad Thai, and Artie Choke-Out.

To truly get in the spirit of roller derby, the chefs go and watch a match. Is it a match, or a game? I don't know, and it's crazy to feel so sure I'll never care to find out. Nine of the remaining contestants are content to drink beer and be chill, but Josie is compelled to be an animal. She screams and shouts and sweats through four different custom headbands. Everyone else is gritting their teeth and trying to stay calm. Finally Josie stomps out in disgust, complaining that it felt like she went to the game with her parents. Josh mutters, "Have another drink." Back at the house, the tension blossoms into a full-on argument. Unsurprisingly, Josie is as fun to listen to yell as she is to do everything else. Micah assures her there has been no name-calling, and Josie yells, "Boring is not a name. Asshole is a name. Douchebag is a name. This tree right here, you don't want to bark up it, Micah. This right here knows who she is. You are hiding in a closet." Good one, Josie. You should get a special headband that says, "This Tree Right Here, You Don't Want To Bark Up It" and then get it made really small and put it around your mouth and then leave it there. The rest of the house is left speechless as Josie mutters, "Namaste, bitches."


At the roller rink, the chefs get cooking. Hugh, Emeril, Padma, and Tom show up to eat and to judge. They reminisce about their roller-skating days. Hugh tells Padma her roller derby name should be "Padma Smacks Me." Everyone pretends to laugh, and then they get speechless while Padma skates around. Stefan reiterates how hot she is. "I purchased Season 9 just to cut Padma out of it all together in little snippets." Imagining Stefan on his laptop struggling with iMovie to make a super-cut of Padma being Padma is both very funny and extremely unsettling. What did he do with that footage? Stefan, please put it online. Send it to me directly and I'll figure out what to do with it.


For Kutta Rump, John and Brooke serve Thai beef with lobster, jasmine rice, and a Thai slaw. Kutta Rump likes it. Josie and Bart "honor" Teriyaki Terror with steak teriyaki with forbidden rice, beet blood, and a green papaya salad. Terror tries to be polite, but Hugh untangles her opinions for her: it's "earthy, messy, and under-seasoned." Micah and Lizzie overcome the terribly-named Jalapeno Business to serve a crab-stuffed jalapeno with avocado cream, onion, and a pepper relish. The rollergirls didn't want concessions, but everyone agrees that this is better than they thought it would be.

I watch Top Chef carefully, and I never quite figured out the reasoning behind Stefan and Kristen's dish for Eddie Shredder. There was a chicken liver, corn puree, and a sunny-side up egg. I think it had something to do with being like a chicken turned inside out. I am not sure. But I am glad Stefan and Kristen are happy together. In a major twist, Josh and Sheldon serve tempura to Tempura Tantrum, frying yuzu curd and providing an assortment of dip stains on the plate for the judges to drag their food through. The dips are good, but the tempura curd is under-fried.

After service, the judges call in John, Brooke, Micah, and Lizzie. They made the best food for the rollergirls. The winner this week is John and Brooke and their Thai beef. Brooke is very excited. She says, "Winning doesn't suck." John says, "It would have been sweeter if I won it alone." They are both poets.


Out in the stew room, Josh complains about Micah and Lizzie's jalapeno. "At the end of the day it's still a jalapeno popper." Yes, and at the end of the day you are still wearing that hat, Josh. Life is complicated. John and Brooke send back in Josie, Bart, Sheldon, and Josh. Sheldon's face is so sad.


The judges seem to give the bottom four an especially rough time this week. Sheldon was responsible for the tempura, and the portions that were served to the judges were nearly inedible. Bart, though, served mushy, under-seasoned rice and tasteless beets. Josie thought the beets' seasoning was correct and that it would permeate the rice; Tom snaps at that. One of Tom's pet peeves is when contestants think combining a bland thing and a properly seasoned thing makes a tasty food; it makes bland food. That is such a specific pet peeve. It seems like Bart actually has a philosophical disagreement with how salted the judges demand their food; he tries to compensate, but he does not like food to be that salty, and he does not want to change. It costs him his spot on the show, as Padma sends him packing. As he says his goodbyes, Padma jokes that she will send him a container of salt, and he politely snaps back that it's not good for you. Neither is working with Josie.


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