Top Chef recap: Stale Chefs Reheated

A twist marks the return of season 5 villain Stefan Richter and other returning chefs!
Ep. 02 | Aired Nov 14, 2012

IS THAT THE PHOTOGRAPHER'S THUMB OVER THE LENS Or is that just Stefan?

David Moir/Bravo

GRAY TEAM: Bart, Jeffrey, and Brooke
The first trio presented their Pacific Northwest crawfish with pickled red chili, fennel, and cream. Stefan though the crawfish was cooked well. Aside from a little too much dill, the plate was good.

ORANGE TEAM: Lizzie, Carla, and Chrissy
Despite the discord in the kitchen, Josie gave the all-ladies team "two thumbs up." All of that noise during preparation resulted in an elegant dish of oven-roasted crawfish and a fennel and herb salad with chili drizzle.

GREEN TEAM: Micah, Kristen, and Tyler
These guys created an interesting dish of geoduck two ways — fried and sashimi — with a bok choy salad and a Yuzu chili vinaigrette. CJ would have loved if the sashimi geoduck were cut a little thinner.

YELLOW TEAM: Eliza, Danyele, and Josh
Their razor clam and grilled corn chowder with Fresno chili and grilled lime sounded awesome, but the judges all agreed that it was the worst dish. Stefan thought the whole thing was watered down. Josh, who seems to me like a bit of a hothead, got angry at Stefan, but Eliza learned a Top Chef lesson and laid it out for us eloquently: "You can burn something and call it Cajun, you can undercook something and call it mid-rare, but you cannot underseason. That's the kiss of death."

BLUE TEAM: Sheldon, Kuniko, and John
Perhaps John's instinct to take advantage of Kuniko's Japanese-ness paid off. Their geoduck sashimi with Ponzu, apple, and cucumber beat out all the other dishes. You go, Kuniko! Traditionally, winning the first Quickfire has been a decent indicator of the winner of the competition overall, so this season it's interesting because now there are three winners. Only one can hold immunity, however, and John won it in a knife-draw. I wish they'd decided it in a more interesting way, like a blindfolded taste test or a cook-off, but there wasn't any time -- we had to reveal the twist.

The veteran chefs picked up aprons and became the sixth team of three for the Elimination Challenge. Understandably, nobody was happy about suddenly gaining three new competitors, though Stefan shrugged off all the hemming and hawing. "I have nothing to prove," he said. "I drive a f---ing GT3 Porsche, okay? And I have eight restaurants." That entire monologue could have come directly from Anchorman 2 — soon he'd be bragging about all the leather-bound books he owns.

After all the hectic, multi-step catering challenges of Top Chef: Texas, I'm so glad all the challenges this season so far have been relatively bare-bones. For the Elimination Challenge, the same teams from the Quickfire had to make a dish, using ingredients local to Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, for famous Seattle chef Tom Douglas in the Sky City Restaurant atop the Seattle Space Needle. Here's how the teams fared:

NEXT: Another Carla freakout! It's only been two episodes, but I already live for Carla freakouts.

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