Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

January 22, 2013

I'm gonna pick one of you, and I'm gonna pick wrong.

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Previously on Top Chef, Restaurant Wars was stretched into a pair of episodes. No, there was not a To Be Continued… designation at the end of the episode. Instead, all of the remaining cheftestants participated in an individual Elimination Challenge. The winning players demonstrated their skill by crafting a meal that will become the basis for both menus of Restaurant Wars.

The duo that finished above the competition was Kristen and Sheldon. The latter gentleman honors his grandfather as well as his ancestral heritage by creating a restaurant concept entitled Urbano. The theme is modern Filipino with an island twist. Kristen never listed a name for concept but the classical French flavors wowed the judges. Both of them earned $10,000 and the right to captain their teams at Restaurant Wars.

Somehow, all of the above feels irrelevant when faced with the larger truth here. Josie somehow remains alive in the competition. Far and away the worst of the three remaining players, the Floridian has become the cockroach in Top Chef Kitchen. In nine elimination challenges thus far, Josie has finished in the bottom group five times. Arguably more amazing is that Josie has never earned placement in the top group of any Elimination challenge. She has finished in the middle group or lower 100% of the time.

Why is Josie’s track record of failure important? As captains of Restaurant Wars, Kristen and Sheldon were rewarded with the ability to pick their teams schoolyard style. Kristen selected first in choosing her buddy Brooke while Sheldon selected the third best performer of the Restaurant Wars preliminary event, Joshua. Kristen studied the remaining options and picked Lizzie, leaving Sheldon with the obvious choice, Stefan. This is the moment where I believe Restaurant Wars became much more interesting.


Kristen had two options. She could choose Micah, the player likely to be eliminated by the judges in the episode. He had delivered an ill-considered plate of raw fish that demonstrated none of his culinary creativity. The other participants recognized that he was probably headed to Last Chance Kitchen. The other option for Kristen was to select Josie. The brash, unhurried chef would in all likelihood survive Judges Table, thereby giving Kristen’s team a player advantage.

In last week’s recap, these were my two quotes on the subject. “Would a player be better served with an additional chef if said chef is Josie? I say no.” “Personally, I would rather have fewer players and no Josie.” My opinion has not changed any over the course of the past week.

Josie is an albatross, plain and simple. Throughout the season, the other cheftestants have watched in horror as Josie’s lines have backed up during the plating process. Josie does not possess any quality resembling time management skills. During Restaurant Wars, the only larger crisis than falling behind on service preparations is presuming that they will be done, then later discovering a chef could not meet their stated goals. We have seen this time and time again during the history of Top Chef.

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