Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

December 26, 2012

Funny unfortunately doesn't win Top Chef.

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Previously on Top Chef, the stars of Moneyball and The House Bunny kicked Eliza off the show. Hollywood celebrities are such jerks. Okay, that wasn’t exactly what happened. Anna Faris and Chris Pratt were actually quite pleasant. I blame guest judge Rick Moonen for Eliza’s absence. That guy is always obnoxious.

Perhaps the more compelling aspect of the most recent episode was the ascension of Brooke. After struggling over the course of the first four episodes, finishing in the bottom group twice, Brooke suddenly won two different challenges on the same day. Ordinarily, this would indicate a competitor on the rise. Thus far on Top Chef: Seattle, however, it has been indicative of a player who will suffer a brutal reversal of fortune in the following elimination challenge. Brooke is already a favorite of mine so I hope she avoids this particular peril.

Tonight’s episode, Foiled Again, picks up with a topic I mentioned last week as well as in the most recent power rankings. I placed Danyele at the bottom of the list, not because of how I perceive her skill as a chef but instead because of her deep set insecurities. I had mentioned the same concern about Joshua previously; however, he appears to be gaining confidence in spite of his results thus far. He has worked with John and Stefan enough to appreciate that their skill is not significantly higher than his own. If Joshua would serve a better pork dish, he would be in good shape in this competition.

The same cannot be said of Danyele. Last week, she demonstrated the tell-tale signs of a cheftestant who is ready to quit. Also, like Jeffrey before her, Danyele lacks resolve about her presence on Top Chef. She acts like someone who had to be talked into appearing on the show. Historically, players such as Edward and Beverly last season are stronger competitors because they have that x-factor of hunger. Their drive to excel and thereby prove themselves led both of them to the final four (first one then the other…not that I’m still bitter).


Danyele is not a quitter, yet her behavior last week was indicative of the fact that she is mentally checked out of the competition. This is a characteristic that judges recognize. Over the course of Top Chef, they have administered more severe criticism towards the players whose desire is questionable. It is a part of the weeding out process…and also a good demonstration that blind tasting would lead to fairer results.

“She’s coming back into the competition.” This particularly clever joke coincides with the return of Top Chef Chicago champion Stephanie Izard. The only woman to win the competition thus far, Izard is best known for attaining victory during arguably the strongest season in the history of Top Chef. In heads up competition, she defeated Richard Blais, the eventual champion of Top Chef All-Stars. Stephanie is spectacular and would instantly become the heavy favorite if she did re-enter the competition the same way that Josie, CJ and Stefan did.

Alas, this is not why Stephanie is on the show. She will only be judging the Quickfire challenge. And what a stupid challenge it is. A blatant example of product placement, this Quickfire requires chefs to open ingredients wrapped in…a commercial brand of aluminum foil. I will stubbornly refuse to mention the particular one. With everything in the kitchen – and I do mean everything – wrapped in tin foil, the chefs have their hands tied. Any ingredient they unwrap must be used in the dish. Also, they must cook their dishes in the tin foil rather than frying pans et al. This is not going to be pretty.

The dishes wind up looking gorgeous, which speaks to the overall quality of this season’s chefs. There are a couple of missteps but even those are due to the constraints of the challenge. Finishing on the bottom are Micah and Brooke, both of whom fail to cook their dishes properly; this is presumably why mankind invented pans. Tin foil needs augmentation. Joshua also finishes in the bottom trio, which I find odd since he did not unwrap pork as one of his ingredients.

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