'Top Chef' recap, A Shock at the Space Needle

Chefs from past seasons return and stir up the kitchen

  • Contestants Jeffrey, Bart and Brooke collaborate to create a winning dish.
Contestants Jeffrey, Bart and Brooke collaborate to create…
November 15, 2012|By Mary Alice Fallon Yeskey

Our 15 chef-testants enter the "Top Chef" kitchen. Micah admits to giving everyone the “waterfall look” which he demonstrates skillfully. RuPaul would be proud. Padma enters and behind her three familiar faces skulk in. What madness is this? Past contestants already?

Josie (Season 2), CJ (Season 3) and Stefan (Season 5) are introduced. My stomach turns when I see Stefan’s face. Chrissy reminds me why: “From what I remember, he has an accent, he looks like a thumb and he’s an evil villain.”

The three vets (none of whom won, by the way) will be judging the Quickfire Challenge. Padma asks the gang to grab colored aprons, dividing up into teams of three. Since no one really knows each other at this point they mostly just grab whoever is nearest, not concerned with the pairings. With the exception of John, who purposefully selects Kuniko’s team, because she’s Japanese, so she must have excellent knife skills. I’m honestly not sure if that’s a compliment, a safe assumption or kinda racist.

The challenge? Twenty minutes to make a dish that highlights one of the local shellfish swimming/scurrying about in tanks, ice and/or muddy sand pits. While Padma is explaining the way the challenge will work, John Tesar begins whispering to his teammates about who will do what. Padma spies him speaking in class and barks, “Excuse me! I’m not finished. Can you listen up?” And instantly, all across America, thousands of schoolmarm fantasies are realized. In 10 seasons, I have never heard Ms. Lakshmi raise her voice like that.

In interviews, John continually refers to himself as Most Hated Chef in Dallas, which is a quote from a magazine article that was published in August 2011. He is clearly clinging to that title. He admits in his interview that he’s “seen every single episode of 'Top Chef'.” I think he knows that the arrogant prick usually gets kept around a long time to ensure good TV. This guy is playing the producers.

The Quickfire goes to Blue Team (John, Kuniku and Sheldon) for their geoduck sashimi with ponzu, apple and cucumber. They draw knives to see who gets immunity, and it goes to John. I am utterly positive this was not random — not to get all conspiracy theory here, but the producers surely placed the chefs in the room a certain way and brought the knives in after the fact. It just seems too perfect that the smarmiest guy is immediately rewarded like that.

Here’s the shock the episode's title promised: Padma announces that the three "Top Chef" veterans will be joining the others as contestants. The three former judges all smirk delightedly. Tyler Wiard, who has established himself as a bit of a bohunk jock (“Go Broncos!”) responds right on point with a resounding, “Bulls--t. No way,” like he’d just seen a bad pass interference call. Joshua also mutters several bleeped out words under his breath. Only Micah seems to rise to the challenge, hissing, “I would love to whip their ass.”

Stefan: “Listen, I have nothing to prove. I drive a f---ing GT3 Porsche and I have eight restaurants.” Well Stefan, you certainly don’t have to prove that you are a tremendous douchebag.

For the elimination challenge, the chefs will stay in their current teams, and our new/old chefs will work as a team together. Dream Team? We shall see.

Each team will have 47 minutes to create one dish for the judges and guest judge, Seattle Chef Tom Douglas. They will be cooking in the Sky City Restaurant at the Top of the Seattle Space Needle, which rotates every 47 minutes. Get it?

Team Orange has four team members: Crissy, Elizabeth, Carla and Carla’s incredibly jarring and ear-splitting voice. Imagine an Italian Sofia Vergara barking out word salad like a drunken sorority girl teaching an aerobics class. It’s that annoying. (Side note: she is also making Facebook Fish Face in her head shot on the Top Chef website. Blargh.)

The chefs move into their posh digs. Cigarettes are lit, wine is poured and everyone’s personal life gets thrown out on the table. Jeffrey Jew explains he’s engaged, and quickly corrects someone’s pronoun (“What kind of ring does she wear?” “He.”). Great, you’re even cuter now.

Josie (Season 2) says she’s back because she wants to win. She advises her co-contestants to remember that whatever they did yesterday has no bearing on what they’ll do tomorrow. That’s a motto for life, Josie. A motto for life.

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