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

ORANGE TEAM: Lizzie, Carla, and Chrissy
Seriously, was Carla drunk? The way she was shouting, you'd think she forgot her mantra about staying pretty in the kitchen. But again, despite the chaos in the kitchen, the ladies' wild salmon poached with beurre blanc over fava beans, baby carrots, and fennel — very simple — succeeded. Tom Douglas liked the translucency at the center of the salmon, and Padma liked the flavor of the beurre blanc. Of course, the drama wasn't over yet. Afterwards Carla cut her hand in her knife bag and made a huge deal about it. She's insane but I love her (for now).

BLUE TEAM: Kuniko, Sheldon, and John
Kuniko came up with the odd idea of poaching cod in chili oil, which John thought was crazy but brilliant. I'm loving this unlikely John-Kuniko duo — it warms my heart. The plan immediately hit a snag when Kuniko lost control of the chili oil and let it burn, worrying John and Sheldon. But the final result — the cod with a dashi and shabu shabu of dot prawns — was nearly perfect. Everyone loved the fish and the subtle chili, and Gail Simmons said about the spot prawns, "For the first thing to put in my mouth in Seattle, not bad. That came out wrong." Welcome back, Gail!

RED TEAM: Stefan, CJ, and Josie
For all the bluster and swagger the returning chefs brought, none of it translated into an amazing dish. The over-confident CJ had the last-minute idea to change their dish to incorporate quail to set themselves apart from all the fish dishes. Stefan kept bringing up the fact that the quail breasts were tiny and that he was "used to bigger breasts, normally." Har har har. CJ noted that the cherry emulsion he made wasn't "super-rad," and proceeded to say the word "super" 400 more times. The resulting quail over porcini and smashed potatoes with spot prawns failed to impress the judges — except for Tom Douglas, who was surprised by how tough the judges were.

GRAY TEAM: Jeffrey, Brooke, and Bart
Jeffrey was one of my favorites coming into this episode, but he played a role in ruining the team's pan-roasted halibut by searing the fish on both sides. Padma compared her fish to a "hockey puck."

YELLOW TEAM: Danyele, Josh, and Eliza
Things looked bad for the Yellow Team when they couldn't identify what kind of fish they were using at first, but apparently they did some Wikipedia-ing at their Cheftestant loft and figured it out. The judges quibbled over some parts of their pan-roasted cod over a sautee of mushrooms, sea beans, green apple, and parsley pea stew, but what saved them was the perfectly cooked fish.

GREEN TEAM: Micah, Kristen, and Tyler
This team worked together well from the beginning. Their crispy seared salmon similar to the orange team's, but other aspects of their dish were superior, like their spot prawn butter sauce.

Now for the Judges' Table. When the Blue Team got called in first, it was clear that they were the winners. Kuniko took the win for her perfectly cooked fish and the chili oil idea. She's my early favorite -- such an odd but likeable character. She said that as the first winner, the other chefs would now take notice of her ... and the thought of that seemed to absolutely terrify her. The veteran team and the Gray Team were at the bottom. Clearly it pained the judges to eliminate Jeffrey Jew — another one of my favorites — but his overcooked fish really gave them no choice. But you know what? He's a winner in another way. The man is 34 years old and looks 24.

What did you think of the return of Stefan, CJ, and Josie? Any past contestant you would have liked to see instead? Is Carla the craziest cheftestant in history? Were you sad to see Jeffrey go?

Talk to me on Twitter about Top Chef! @EWStephanLee


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