What does a world without John Tesar look like? Who holds all the pickles? What chef do people in Dallas hate the most? It is probably a much clearer world, what with it wearing its glasses over its eyes instead of its forehead. Chef Tesar is now gone, and the remaining eight chefs must come to grips with this brave new reality show. Josh already feels relieved. His mustache is now self-lubricating again, saving him hundreds of dollars in face wax. Kristen confidently stands as the front runner in both this competition and also two other competitions I am tracking in a private Google Doc spreadsheet. Stefan sits on the patio smoking a morning cigarette, contemplating the loss of his sparring partner.
Regarding the makeup of the contestants still in the house, Josie screams, "Asians represent!" and goes to high-five one of her fellow Asian contestants but it is her own reflection in the oven and she puts her palm through the reinforced glass, causing several deep lacerations. Stefan's face betrays what we all feel when she talks.
Chef Wolfgang Puck returns to the Top Chef Quickfire Kitchen with his pearly whites and Padma in tow, literally, as Padma is dressed like a pocket book, and I think she's meant to be picked up by that belt. Padma announces that for this week's Quickfire, the chefs will be working with ginger, which, according to scripted copy Stefan reads flatly to the camera, is so tasty and good and delicious and also fights cancers and toxins and makes you tanner and thinner. At first I wonder if this promotion was paid for by the American Ginger Council, and if so that council's money would be better spent getting Lindsay Lohan somewhere safe. Instead, we have Canada Dry to thank. Padma says, "For more than a century, Canada Dry has been delighting our taste butts. Create a dish to delight our taste butts." There's not really a point to making fun of the product integration on the show anymore; it's ridiculous but also just a part of the film and television landscape these days, and we best get used to it if we want to keep consuming media. That being said, it's embarrassing the chefs have to pretend like they would ever cook with Canada Dry ginger ale. It's one thing to use Coke or Dr. Pepper, sodas with very particular and difficult-to-reproduce flavor profiles, but that can of Canada Dry is right next to the real ginger you are grating.
In case soda cookery was not demeaning enough, the chefs have only fifteen minutes to battle it out for immunity that delights Padma's taste butt. Chef Wolfgang jokingly asks Padma why the chefs have so much time. "It's a big kitchen," she says. Wolfgang thinks he is quite the jokester. I bet after he saw The Hangover he got 800 t-shirts made that said "The Wolfpuck" and he told every one of the employees in his seventy restaurants that they have to wear the shirt to all company parties and also they have to pay for it and that'll be $25 payable to directly to him. "Dey are da coolest shirts! Everyvun eez bin loffing at how funny dey are!" People spit in his staff meals. Despite Puck's comedy, fifteen minutes is not much time, and the chefs sprint around the kitchen to get their dishes ready in time. Josie slams into Josh and probably collapses his lungs. Did you know she played football?
Padma and Wolfgang try all the 15-minute food. "I detect notes of soda. Is there soda in this?" Stefan and Wolfgang speak German to one another and I get nervous. I don't trust the subtitles. I hit the panic button under my coffee table a few times. Wolfgang does not like Sheldon's Chinese takeout-seeming ginger beef stir fry, and he thinks Josh's ginger soup lacked flavor. "Vat is the opposite of over Wilhelm?" Josh answers, "Underwhelming." Stefan played to his European compatriot and cooked an ahi tuna that could have been straight off one of Wolfgang's menu, and Chef Puck falls for it. He also likes Lizzie's watermelon and ginger soup, which as shown above contains soda. The winner, though, is Brooke's inventive, creative ginger caramel squid. Brooke of the heavier period spent her seventeenth birthday at Spago, so to impress Chef Puck with something she came up with in fifteen minutes and included soda is a big win for her.
The rough outline for this week's Elimination Challenge is not a surprising one. There are eight chefs left, and traditionally, that means it's time for Restaurant Wars. But much like with Iraq, this year's Wars come in two parts. This week each chef will come up with a complete restaurant concept and then serve a single dish at "Bite of Seattle" that best represents their concept. Josie is already sketching out ideas for a restaurant where the food is served by bottomless roller derby girls. The two winners of the challenge get to staff and run their restaurants for next week's Part Two. Adding to the pressure is the guest judge for the challenge, world's greatest restaurateur and the man behind Shake Shack, Danny Meyer. Presumably, Danny Meyer is opening a restaurant on the moon next, because he looks like he's wearing a space suit under his jeans.
The chefs scramble around markets as they brainstorm and shop for their restaurants. Sheldon is going to cook modern Filipino food inspired by his grandfather. I imagine somewhere Sheldon's grandfather is watching this episode and smiling, right up until Sheldon says, "I had to change my underwear a few times." The grandfather is no longer smiling. Sheldon is talking about being nervous, and I get that he's kidding, but "a few times"? That is so specific. That means you filled your underwear up with waste, cleaned up, changed, and then repeated that like two more times. After the second time I would have gone to the hospital because I don't think it's your nerves, buddy.
Kristen mentions that she has a lot to prove; her last year has been full of change, as she's gotten out of a relationship, had to move out of a house and start over. I predict even more change for you in the next year, Kristen. Josie never made it to Restaurant Wars on her season, so she's happy for a second chance. As Josie shops, she refers to her notebook, which has lots of ideas on things for her to pay attention to on a day to day basis.
The chefs refine their restaurants. Micah lost weight on a raw diet, so he takes a leap from that starting point and calls his concept "Raw". Where does he come up with this stuff? Josh's father passed away three years ago, and to honor his father's memory and the sort of straightforward steak-and-potatoes flavors he liked, Josh calls his restaurant Bistro George, named after his father. That is a very touching sentiment, even if it's weird his dad's name was Bistro George. The cheftestants only have to serve tasting portions of one dish, but they get sous chefs to help them in the kitchen, and they are old friends, old friends like Chrissy, who is definitely just my oldest friend. Carla, Chrissy, Kuniko, and Eliza show up to help. Eliza sneezes and mushroom caps come out of her nose.
Josie is from Miami, and her restaurant is called Home 305. If you are not smart, 305 is a reference to an area code in Miami. It's also the police code for Disturbing the Peace with a Violent Laugh. Brooke is intent on impressing Mr. Meyer and wedging her name in his rolodex with a concept called Unkosher; she is very impressed with her idea for this non-kosher take on Jewish food. Brooke, this restaurant already exists in Brooklyn, it is called Traif, which is the Hebrew word for non-kosher food, and it's only okay. Kristen is going to serve French Contemporary food and like everything she does it sounds perfect and elegant. Meanwhile, Sheldon celebrates his 30th birthday with a cake. I am turning 30 in a month and I am happy I do not have to do it in a condo in Seattle surrounded by strangers, far away from my loved ones.
Everybody serves their food. That's what happens on this show! Have you seen this show? People cook food and strangers eat it. Lizzie's concept is a Northern Italian farmhouse kitchen, and it blends a lot of European influences; her dumpling isn't cooked properly, though, and the cheese sauce on top is too thick and rich, which would also be a good name for a Rick Ross album. At Sheldon's Urbano, he serves a sour tamarind with a bunch of different proteins, and everybody loves it. Stefan's restaurant is called Bangkok via Munich, and in case you can't unpack that, it's German and Thai. He does a bisque and serves a Bavarian Cream Mango Lollipop as a palate cleanser, which may or may not be repeated from his season's finale. Danny Meyer is bummed that the mediocrity of the lollipop made him forget that he liked the bisque. One of the Canlis brothers gets straight coated in crap out of Stefan's blender. They get into it on Twitter. Stefan is very nice to offer to pay for the dry cleaning. He understands service, that one.
Micah's raw concept is basically big pieces of six different types of sashimi on top of vegetables. He says that like all restaurants he wants to "leave you feeling clean and healthy." Is that the point of restaurants? It sounds more like an enema bar. The judges enjoy Bistro George's rib eye and mushroom sauce. At Kristen's Atelier Kwan, she serves an onsen egg with a Camembert-mustard sauce and buttered radishes. Again, the judges dig it; they also like that she wants her restaurant to be more formal, like our wedding. Brooke's Unkosher serves a matzoh ball soup with duck confit and toasted black bread. Gail finds the matzoh ball offensive to her people, and I assume she's talking about Food & Wine staff members. Josie is Berry Farming it up all over again, putting on a show instead of serving food; the diners and the judges wait impatiently for her to finish her pork thing. When they do finally get it, they don't like it.
The Judges ask to see Kristen, Sheldon, and Josh, the three favorites from Bite of Seattle. In any group of three there is always one man out, and Josh has to stand by and watch Kristen and Sheldon take this week's prize. They each get ten grand — is Kristen now rich? — and they've got 48 hours to open their restaurant. They will now staff their restaurants as well, but the catch is they don't know who's getting eliminated. All the info they need is in the dossiers Padma hands them. Cool folder. Folders are such a cool way to give info on television.
Sheldon and Kristen pick their staffs one at a time. Because she is so pretty, Kristen goes first. She takes Brooke, and after Sheldon takes Josh, she nervously picks Lizzie. Stefan is clearly heart-broken. Sheldon takes Stefan, and Kristen curses her luck, but it seems like a put-on to make Stefan feel better. Why did she think Sheldon wouldn't take Stefan with one of his first two picks? Oh boy, it's gonna get awkward in the house. Kristen ends up with Josie and Sheldon takes Micah. Kristen walks out to have a cigarette to avoid weird vibes with Stefan. The judges call in Micah, Josie, and Lizzie.
Tom didn't like that Micah served a pupu platter of fish, and he did nothing to elevate it higher than sushi. Lizzie's was too heavy, and the concept was not clear. Josie mutters, "I got good feedback!" but her pork was bland and tasted like grease; the black bean cake was soggy from the sauce. Padma sends Micah packing. He leaves with grace. "Do I think there are better chefs than me in the competition at this point? No." What a raw dog. He is not in the competition at this point.