Top Chef: Seattle Recap

By David Mumpower

January 29, 2013

Kristen looks happy about this outcome. (We weren't going to post a pic of Josie after last week.)

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Previously on Top Chef, a miscarriage of justice led to the elimination of the season’s best player, Kristen. There can be no logical argument made that the judges determined the correct competitor to remove from the competition. Tom Colicchio’s blog post regarding the subject crystallized this belief. He acknowledged that had the judges been made aware of Josie’s behavior at Restaurant Wars, she would have been the loser.

Kristen accepted the blame in Josie’s stead, as the best leaders do. Nobility notwithstanding, her decision leaves the title of Top Chef up for grabs; a vacuum has been created. My expectation is that Brooke and Sheldon will step up and duel for the title. Lizzie, Joshua and Stefan are all still in the mix as well. As for Josie, if she survives the next competition, I will be surprised. Her fate should be a humiliating elimination followed by a sobering defeat at the hands of Kristen in Last Chance Kitchen. Any result other than this one will disappoint me.

This week’s episode begins with a brief celebration of Sheldon’s win. The mood quickly turns somber as Stefan and Brooke lament the previous evening’s events. Brooke informs The Thumb that she would have spoken up in favor of Kristen had she believed the Restaurant Wars captain to be in danger of elimination. Yes, the contestants are just as confused by the judges’ decision as we the viewers are.

Top Chef is the best reality show on television but when it goes wrong, the pain cuts deeper. Each week, we expect that the best players will be rewarded while the worst will be eliminated. The participants share these expectations. Josie’s horrific performance at Restaurant Wars specifically caused her team to lose the challenge yet she was not held accountable. Instead, the buck stopped with Kristen, who became the latest victim of The Josie Show.


There is a pervasive sense of shock over the entire series of events that led to this mistake. Everyone expects better of Top Chef, which is a credit to the show’s overall consistency. All of our mouths are agape when a situation like the Restaurant Wars elimination occurs because it is so far removed from the overall excellence of the program.

Lizzie is stuck with the worst assignment of the morning. She is sitting in her bedroom while Josie tries to defend her actions. Josie’s crying jag is not the strongest emotion in the room. Lizzie furtively casts her eyes from side to side, desperately trying to unearth an escape route that will get her out of the conversation. Lizzie’s discomfort notwithstanding, she is clearly horrified by the previous night’s vote as well as Josie’s self-delusion about the proceedings. Josie vocalizes a justification for her behavior that is so counter-intuitive that it fails the laugh test. Her continued presence on Top Chef: Seattle is an abomination.

The sour taste in my mouth does not dissipate at the Quickfire challenge. Master sushi chef Katsuya Uechi arrives; his presence indicates that the next competition will involve sushi. This is problematic because multiple cheftestants have little to no experience “cooking” this food. Joshua and Lizzie are effectively eliminated at the announcement. Poor Lizzie was already stuck listening to Josie whine in the morning. Wasn’t that punishment enough?

Uechi provides some interesting tips about how to make the best sushi. Since I never stick raw fish in my mouth, there is little utility for me. I will pass the information along for you, though. Never touch the ingredients excessively. The warmth of your flesh heats the meat too much. I find this notion fascinating. Also, do not use too many ingredients. At its core, sushi is (obviously) fish and rice. Including extra ingredients can confuse the flavor profile. These Top Chef tips have been brought to you by your neighborhood Benihana.

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