Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

December 12, 2012

Tyler was just CJ's plus one in this challenge.

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Previously on Top Chef, the loudest and the quietest contestants were eliminated. While you will probably need to Google to remind yourself who Chrissy is, I am confident that Carla left an indelible impression. If that woman ever has an unspoken thought, the world will end.

In terms of the competition itself, there are a couple of trends developing. The judges seem largely pleased with the dishes presented thus far, a rarity for the early episodes of most seasons. Oddly, the people who are struggled the most are the returning players from past seasons.

Josie, whoever she is, has finished on the bottom in two of the previous three challenges. Stefan was almost eliminated in the first episode. And our beloved CJ, who bragged about how much he had improved as a chef since season three, narrowly avoided elimination last week.

I had anticipated that returning players would have an advantage since they are familiar with the peculiarities of Top Chef challenges. Instead, their problems are two-fold. They all possess an older man’s fear rather than a young man’s unaware invulnerability. The constant second guessing about dishes has proven almost fatal to Stefan and CJ thus far. Even worse, these three competitors are being held to a different standard by the judges because there is an existing expectation regarding the quality of their cuisine.


Stefan and CJ clearly came back to win – while Josie returned so that people will know who Josie is. The two gentlemen are now struggling to avoid the same fate as Jennifer Carroll, the accomplished culinary artist whose appearance on Top Chef All Stars was an unmitigated disaster. After only three episodes of competition, I have moved away from the belief that Stefan and CJ are the favorites for the competition. At this point, I wonder if either of them will even survive until the midpoint of the season. I hope that this is paranoia, at least with regards to CJ. Stefan can get voted out tonight for all I care.

Speaking of Stefan, he demonstrates his trademarked brand of class and grace as we begin the episode. “Chrissy who? Carla who? Bye. See you later.” For a guy who was also almost eliminated for incorrectly preparing squab, Stefan is oddly unsympathetic to Carla’s plight. He is an angry thumb-man.

Reality competition fans know all too well that a few key clips aired at the beginning of an episode oftentimes foreshadow later events. I mention this because recovering alcoholic Tyler states, “I better continue to do the best I can because tomorrow, I could be gone.” He notes that Kuniko and Carla each finished at the top of a challenge in one competition then were eliminated the following day. Until further notice, I’m calling Tyler Dead Meat.

Hmm, further notice may be right now. Stefan is being congratulated for celebrating his 40th birthday. While his entrance into middle age could be cause for concern, Stefan is obsessed with something else altogether. During the fifth season of Top Chef, an odd twist of fate occurred. Everyone who celebrated a birthday was eliminated within 24 hours. Stefan is fearful that history could repeat itself. I hope I do not sound remorseless when I say, “Stefan who? Bye. See you later.”

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