Here’s the first spoiler for ‘Top Chef Seattle’ Episode 2: We saw as many geoducks as expected (and as many juvenile jokes), one “iconic” Seattle chef, and a net gain of contestants. The crew that came to Seattle learned that the show veterans who had been judging their first quickfire challenge — Josie (season 2), Stefan (season 3), and CJ (season 5) — were actually joining the competition too. Some contestants were “shocked” by that news, cheftestant Jeffrey Jew said in an interview Thursday. “Some were upset, because they felt this was our turn to shine.”
The group’s quickfire challenge was to develop a dish highlighting local shellfish in 20 minutes. (A geoduck dish with apple and ponzu won out.) The main event was to prepare and serve a dish to judges at Sky City at the Space Needle, in 47 minutes — the time, as you trivia lovers already know, it takes for the restaurant to make one full rotation. Here were some highlights and lowlights:
Missed opportunity: On a Seattle show, if old contestants are coming back, why not showcase hometown favorite Robin Leventhal from season 6, or Ashley Merriman from the same year, or maybe Ty-lor Boring?
Local sightings: Tom Douglas was the biggie, sitting in with the judges. He buddied up with Emeril Lagasse, complimented the translucency of the contestants’ salmon dishes, and generously rated their efforts as a good start, albeit with “a few clunkers.” Both Douglas and the Needle itself were repeatedly referred to as “icons”, with contestant Lizzie Binder saying that “I would be embarassed to serve (Douglas) something that was not delicious.” The Olive 8 apartments also got in the spotlight as the contestants’ home base, and we got a glimpse of Thierry Rautureau in next week’s preview. Morels, spot prawns, razor clams, and garlic scapes got some Seattle love.
Obscenities: Flew around the kitchen, (along with the occasional eyebrow-raising sexual or racial remark), whether contestants were bemoaning the lack of white pepper or expressing their disappointment at a twist in the game. Most memorable was this line from Carla Pellegrino: “I am a chef, but I am also a woman. I want to be a James Beard, but I also want a nice a@#.”
Other memorable Carla lines: “Ai, yi yi!… I’m just happy now that I have my fingers.” (This was after a bad knife cut.)
Memorable lines from other contestants about Carla: “With Carla, I almost want to say, ‘be quiet!'” — Lizzie Binder.
Foreshadowing: Brooke Williamson, seeing her team’s halibut at Sky City, winced that “I see it’s seared on both sides. That’s not the way I would cook my halibut.”
Packing the knives: The crime of the halibut (deemed the consistency of a ‘hockey puck’) sent Jeffrey Jew home. In a call with reporters Thursday, Jew said he’s since moved to Florida with his partner, working as a personal chef while he puts together plans for a restaurant of his own. (His D.C. job disappeared after the show, to his surprise.) I asked him if they’re planning a wedding, and he said that Florida has been a change after living in Washington D.C., where gay marriage was already legal, but that ideally they’ll tie the knot sooner rather than later. He has no hard feelings about leaving the show early, and it was even OK that he didn’t get a chance to dine out much at all the Seattle restaurants he wanted to try — his mom is from Spokane, so he’s been here before and he’ll be back.