Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

January 16, 2013

No one loves him as much as he loves him.

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Previously on Top Chef, John Tesar was eliminated in what is tantamount to a graceful exit by his standards. Yes, he started ranting about the injustice of the situation and yes, he punctuated every sentence with the word “pickles”. We all deal with defeat in our own mysterious ways.

What was learned last week is that Tesar was disliked by the rest of the competitors. I had wondered if the editing was presenting him as less popular than he was. The cooking community is insular and generally affable. Top Chef has featured a few villains over the years yet even Stefan and Josie have made friends on the show. Given Tesar’s respect in the industry, I believed that he could have been presented poorly to create controversy. Alas, there was much rejoicing at the news of his removal.

Particularly noteworthy is that several players he seemed to like such as Brooke experienced schadenfreude. Joshua, who sometimes acted like a friend to John, sandbagged the dude at Judges Table. And even Stefan appeared gleeful over the turn of events despite the fact that he is now the oldest remaining participant. Apparently, John Tesar is not only the most hated chef in Dallas but Seattle as well.

Today’s episode starts with more gloating. Joshua dances on the grave a bit. Then, Stefan notes that one less player is good news for his candidacy. What would be even better for his candidacy would be cooking better. Stefan of season 5 was a much more formidable foe than Stefan of season 10.

Speaking of people who feel contempt toward John Tesar, Wolfgang Puck arrives. He is the guest judge of this Quickfire challenge. I had presumed he would be too busy driving the Puckmobile over Tesar’s corpse but a chef does not become world famous without exemplary time management skills.


The challenge requires chefs to create a meal using the primary ingredient of ginger. The catch is that there is a 15 minute time limit for the meal. It takes me 15 minutes to grill a cheeseburger so I have no idea how they are going to create a gourmet meal in that time frame.

With John gone, there is no drama. Nobody steals ingredients or knocks an opponent out of the way. All they do is cook as quickly as they can. Most of the dishes look pedestrian, which is to be expected because of the time limit. Puck, the nicest man in the world when John Tesar is not around, finds a way to compliment all of the contestants. His charisma is so powerful that it could trigger a cold fusion reaction.

The bottom group is not surprising. Stefan had commented that Sheldon’s dish appeared like lowbrow Chinese restaurant fare. Puck confirms the supposition by stating almost those exact words. Joshua is also informed that his dish, a dessert, was “the opposite of overwhelming." His horrible mustache droops in shame.

The best dishes during the Quickfire are presented by Brooke, Stefan and Lizzie. There are a couple of noteworthy elements to these selections. Brooke describes an anecdote about how her parents took her to Puck’s restaurant, Spago, when she was 17. The memory is tender and Puck’s positive reinforcement thrills her. Meanwhile, Lizzie is thrilled to be back on the top after the dubious fish in the prior Elimination challenge. Also, Stefan speaks German, which pleases Puck. In the end, Brooke wins for her bold squid dish. I have no idea how someone can create a flavorful squid meal in 15 minutes so Brooke deserves the win for accomplishing this feat.

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