The theme of this episode appears to be Keep It Simple, Stupid. Josh overthinks it in the Quickfire, and is called out. So he follows the KISS dictum for the Elimination Challenge, and wins. Too bad he just wins a bottle of wine a day for a year and not immunity. Well, not really. I hope he’s next.

It starts out with Brooke berating herself for not telling the judges the truth about what went down with Kristen and Josie, and Josie herself crying crocodile tears and claiming she feels guilty about stabbing Kristen in the back and not taking the culpability for her dish last time. Lizzie looks like she’d be just as happy if Josie used that knife to commit hara-kari.

And that’s how I’m going to segue into the Quickfire, where the guest judge, sushi master Katsuya Uechi, first makes mention of the theme, and in so many words. Sushi is fish and rice.  The winner will get $5,000. Josh has no clue, and grabs his standby bacon.  In fact, he just starts throwing all sorts of stuff together, because he’s making breakfast. He knows how to do breakfast, not sushi, he explains. Katsuya says the bacon is too greasy.

I was hoping Josie would be shot down, since he said her dish needed punch, but if she is, we don’t see it before Padma calls for the best dishes. Then again, Lizzie was the other loser, and they only name two top dishes, so maybe that’s what they’re doing now that they’re down to six chefs. I thought Sheldon would be in the top, what with his lemon charcoal, which Katsuya evidently noticed, but no go.

Those top two are Brooke, who evidently eats sushi with her husband three times a week, and whose entry Katsuya praises as “clean”. The other, and the winner, is Stefan, which surprised me since he opted to leave one of the two required ingredients, rice, completely out. But he prepared it two ways, so I guess that helped. This is the first time he’s won anything, so he’s pretty happy.

For the details of the Elimination Challenge, Padma introduces us to David Chang, who I guess is this famous-in-the-chef-world noodle guy, and Tom Coliccio. Tom says that they’ve rented a house while they’re staying in Seattle, and that he’s invited a bunch of people over for dinner that night, and the cheftestants are making it. And he wants fried chicken.

So the cheftestants get to cook for the ubiquitous judges, David, two guys I’ve never heard of who own a couple of restaurants, one of which is called Son of a Gun and is here in L.A., and formidable judges Emeril LaGasse, Wolfgang Puck, and Michelle Bernstein, whom I’ve only heard of since I started watching Top Chef.  When Josie hears that Michelle’s one of the judges, she gets all pissy, saying that Michelle was the guest judge when she was eliminated on her previous season. Foreshadowing!

The cheftestants are all given whole chickens to butcher, and 30 minutes to do so, as well as gather other ingredients to take up to Tom’s house.  Josh says his father made the best Southern fried chicken ever, and teases Brooke for going healthy with skinless, boneless chicken breasts. How she describes it sounds pretty good to me, though, especially since she plans to bring the skin taste back in by deep frying some and crumbling it over the chicken.

Then Josie claims she’s got the best Southern fried chicken recipe, and Josh calls her out on it since she’s from South Florida and he’s from Oklahoma. I hate to tell him this, but Floridians will cut you if you try to tell them they’re not Southern. Don’t even go there, boy.

I’m not sure what Lizzie’s making, but she’s serving it with a side dish that sounds horrible to me, but which Tom raves over.

Sheldon’s bringing in his Filipino roots and making chicken two ways.

Stefan, for some reason I simply cannot fathom, is making Chicken cordon bleu. That is not fried chicken. He claims that’s how they do it in Europe.

Toyota Highlander product placement travel to Tom’s rented house.

So, service time. First up are Lizzie, Sheldon, and Josie. Sheldon has oil issues, and burns some of his chicken, which he has to toss, which means he winds up not serving enough of one of the ways for everyone to have a piece. Tom evidently hogs all of the wings anyway, since the judges are all, in Emeril’s words “fried chicken fools”.

Josie also has oil issues, and time management issues (quel surprise), and winds up plopping her chicken straight from the fryer onto a banana leaf (?), where a greasy pool forms.

Everyone’s pretty happy with Lizzie’s dish, mainly because, although she also went Brooke’s route and served chicken breasts, she kept it pretty simple, which Wolfgang also points out in so many words is the best way to do it.

The next half to present are Josh, who smoked his chicken before frying it, and dredged it in the traditional brown paper bag before smoking it. He also injected it with brine when prepping it earlier, since there wouldn’t be time to brine it the usual way. I’d never heard of brining chicken before. I’ve heard of brining turkey, and I have a friend who used to inject her turkey with Chambord, but putting the two together? I don’t know. Of course, this all works for him, because as I already mentioned, he wins.

Brooke has oil issues too, having run out and therefore not being able to deep fry her chicken skin, so she has to leave that off entirely. For some reason, she chooses to fry everything a second time, which winds up overcooking it, of course, since she didn’t leave the bones in. And when Wolfgang pulls apart the breast, he makes a snide comment about the name of the show not being The Apprentice. Ouch. I’m afraid she’s made a worse dish than Josie, and might be going home instead. Padma brings up that she didn’t even hire the two owners of Son of a Gun and Animal as line cooks several years ago. But they hate her chicken so much, one of the guys says he’s glad he didn’t take the job.

The judges are having none of Stefan’s chicken cordon bleu, and Padma asks if anyone’s even eaten any of that dish recently. The same guy who’s glad he didn’t used to work for Brooke says he did a couple days ago, on a plane.  David, Wolfgang, and Emeril all join Padma and Tom at the judges’ table.

The top three are Josh, Lizzie, and Sheldon, which really isn’t a surprise. During the bottom three review, Brooke is aware she didn’t really get her idea on the plate. She’s been up and down all season. Too bad she’s usually up during the Quickfires and down during the Eliminations. Stefan is an ass, per usual, and when he snottily informs them that chicken cordon bleu is how they do fried chicken in Europe, Wolfgang points out that he grew up in Austria and one of their most famous dishes is fried chicken. After they leave, Padma is all indignant over his out and out lying to them, which I’m not sure he did. I’m beginning to agree with my new friend Jessica’s hatred of her.

Josie is her usual defensive, not taking responsibility for anything, bitchy self. When they call her out on the greasy chicken, she claims she “ran out of” time. Tom nearly comes unglued. He points out that she has a serious issue with time management, which is something that a chef should have down as a basic skill. When Emeril continues to harp on the greasy chicken (and while he’s no more a Southern cook than Justin Wilson was, the boy does know the cuisine), she claims that all the other cheftestants liked it, which prompts Tom to say, “I guess David, Wolf, Emeril, Johnny, Vinny, Michelle, Padma, me, we have no idea what we’re talking about.” Well, maybe Padma.

At any rate, as disappointed as they are in Brooke’s dish, Josie is no longer going to skate by, and so she’ll be facing Kristen in Last Chance Kitchen.

Kristen’s not too super surprised to see her there, nor is Josie all that surprised to see that Kristen’s the current champion. During their trip to Pike Place Market/Toyota Hybrid product placement, they agree to be civil for the moment.  Tom sent them to Pike Place to get salmon, so we get the obligatory show of them catching the fish as it’s thrown to them. Josie almost drops hers. Foreshadowing!

Once they get back, Tom explains that they have the standard LCK 30 minutes to prepare ten consistently alike dishes, one for him and one for each of the eliminated peanut gallery, who this episode appear to have taken over Tom’s job of asking the chefs what they’re making. When Josie snarks, “Salmon.” it’s obvious none of the fallen chefs like her, either.

Kristen attempts to pickle pineapple and raisins to serve with her dish, but the raisins don’t plump, and in her interview she says it’s a “bad, bad mistake”, which makes me die a little on the inside.

Josie has, as usual, let time almost run out, so with less than a minute to go, discovers that she’s dropped one of her ten pieces on the floor. She quickly cuts another piece, and throws it into the pan on the stove. With the peanut gallery loudly counting down the final seconds, she manages to flip it, and get it on the plate about the time they yell, “One!” Tom calls her dishes consistent, but all consistently over-cooked. How do you overcook a three by one inch piece of salmon in twenty seconds? Not that I really care, since that means she’s going home. Or at least not returning to the Top Chef kitchen. This season.

At one point during LCK, she interviews that time management is her “Achilles heel”, which makes me furrow my brow, because I’m pretty sure she called it her “Achilles tendon” during the Top Chef segment, but I’m not going to try to find that moment to recheck, because I’m tired and I haven’t even gotten to watch TVD yet.


Nina Lisa