“Top Chef Seattle” is back with another surprise double elimination — and this time, no winner.
As the episode opens, we find out it’s Stefan Richter‘s birthday, and he’s worried this is the day he’ll be kicked off. “When I was competing in New York,” he says, “everybody got kicked off on their birthday, and I was like ‘birthday curse’ — f**k, no. I don’t want to go home on my fortieth birthday.”
Forewarning? Hmm … turns out, not so much.
The cheftestants meet Padma Lakshmi and guest judge, Seattle chef Daisley Gordon at Pike’s Place Market. The chefs are told to divide into teams of two, and as usual, some are less than pleased with the chef they’ve been stuck with. They’re told their challenge is to make break fast to go … on a stick, for 50 of the market’s workers. They’re given one hour to set up a makeshift kitchen and cook their meals.
At the bottom of the challenge are Danyele McPherson and Lizzie Binder, who Daisley felt didn’t turn up much of a meal for the time they were given. Josie Smith-Malave and Eliza Gavin‘s ricotta pancake was “difficult to eat” and the raspberry jam was overly sweet.
Excelling in the group were Sheldon Simeon and Bart Vandaele with their green forest breakfast sandwich, Josh Valentine and John Tesar — who shocked even themselves by getting along — with a mini sausage taco. Sheldon and Bart were named the winners and both received immunity for the next challenge.
The chefs are told they’ll be staying in their teams from the quick-fire challenge, which worries members of some of the less successful partnerships. The chefs draw knives to be assigned artisan ingredients from Pike’s Place Market — such as salmon candy, rose petal jelly, and truffle popcorn.
Each team must make a dish that highlights their chosen ingredients and impresses the artisan who created the ingredient, along with the judges. The winning team will get $10,000, but the teams have only two hours until service.
Josh and John are walking on eggshells with each other throughout the lunch preparation because they’re both so afraid of having a name calling match like they did after Kuniko Yagi was eliminated. It seems their dish will pay the price for their fear, as Josh lets John cook the popcorn grits too thick, and John lets Josh overcook the pork medallions. The niceties become nothing short of irksome, as they’re juxtaposed with the chefs speaking the truth to the camera as to what they’re really thinking.
Head judge Tom Colicchio, chef Hugh Acheson, and Gail Simmons join Chef Gordon in dining with Padma and the artisans.
Of the first round, the only dish that seems to somewhat go over is the one belonging to the chefs with immunity, Sheldon and Bart. But they failed to showcase the artisan product, leaving Tom wanting more of the candied salmon that was overpowered by the sweet and sour salad. Josh and John’s pan-seared pork tenderloin with truffled popcorn grits and balsamic truffle vinaigrette leaves a lot to be desired by all. Not least of which is Hugh, who doesn’t mind sharing, “As a guy who makes grits pretty much every day of my life, those grits suck.”
Round two sees C.J. Jacobson and Tyler Wiard bomb with their pork burger and spicy dill pickles. “You couldn’t think of a better thing to do with pickles than put them on a burger,” asks Colicchio. “How frickin’ original.” Danyele and Lizzie made the “Top Chef” kiss of death — dessert — and disappointed their artisan and the judges with the execution.
There’s not much for the judges to discuss after service, with Tom saying he can’t choose a favorite because “they’re all so bad … Not a good day for ‘Top Chef.'” He even wants to take the $10,000 off the table, saying he’d hate to reward anyone for that food. Padma goes so far as to apologize to the artisans for being served a bad meal.
Tom visits the chefs to tell them of the apology and criticize all the dishes for being sub par, saying they showed “a lack of imagination” and “lack of technique.” He tells the chefs the $10,000 is not going to be awarded, and no one will be named a winner.
Colicchio tells the group of stunned faces an entire team will be sent home, but lets them know “Last Chance Kitchen” is back in the mix this season, so “if you lose, you’ve got a chance to get back in.”
Please Pack Your Knives
Back at the house, nerves are frayed, tensions are high, and John is already plotting to blame Josh for “the worst plate of food I’ve put out in 30 years.”
Padma calls three teams of two to the judges’ table and tells the teams their dishes were the worst of the day. The chefs start to flail in attempt to defend their dishes to Tom, Gail, and Hugh, who aren’t impressed.
Josh admits he let John fail at the meat to avoid friction. Tom tells them their dish seemed like it came from someone who “hates cooking.” Ouch.
C.J. makes an attempt to throw Danyele and Lizzie’s dessert under the bus, as he’s shocked the pair wan’t brought in with the low-scoring teams. “It was a debacle, it was diabolical, it was a travesty,” C.J. says of the dish, only to be smacked down by Hugh. “Uh oh,” he says, “because your burger was even worse.”
Ultimately the team sent home is C.J. and Tyler. “I’m mortified that I got kicked off this early,” says C.J. “On a team challenge, which is particularly frustrating. I don’t think I was judged fairly. I will be pretty pissed off for a while about that.”
Tyler has a slightly better attitude. “I feel like I have grown a lot as a chef in a short period of time,” he says. “I’m able to reflect on that and say, ‘You know what, you did alright Tyler.'”
The remaining chefs are left to muse about whether C.J. will end up the victor of “Last Chance Kitchen.” C.J. was kicked off “Top Chef” once before, and says he’s got a lot more confidence this time around. “It feels like I’m almost starting my career now,” he says.
As for Tyler, he reveals he accomplished his two main goals: to be himself and to stay sober. His third goal, of winning “Top Chef?” Not so much. “I don’t know if I’m OK with it,” Tyler says, “but I certainly have acceptance to it right now.”