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January 31, 2013 at 12:35 AM

‘Top Chef Seattle’ takes a cruise

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We’re left with one big question after Wednesday night’s ‘Top Chef Seattle’: How did the losing chef make it to the Last Chance Kitchen? This week’s episode took place aboard a cruise ship en route to Alaska. The final four chefs will compete in Juneau next week

(“I hope the Seattle tourism board is enjoying watching its sponsorship money spent on Alaska scenery,” commented Florida food writer Jeff Houck.)

Here’s our weekly roundup of highlights and lowlights:

The quickfire: The chefs had to create one-bite dishes spotlighting iceberg lettuce. Sheldon won, and celebrated by getting a shipboard manicure with Lizzie.

Man-icures? “Where I come from, men don’t get manicures,” said Josh, he of the handlebar mustache. Sheldon said on camera that he hoped he wouldn’t get judged on his masculinity for his choice (too late), but that “especially for chefs, you have to take care of your hands.” The jury did not address male pedicures.

Fashion forward: Padma Lakshmi went Northwest in a cozy, puffy orange vest.

The elimination challenge: Creating an innovative “surf and turf” dish using ingredients from the ship’s impressively massive warehouse, and serving them in the crazy mod-presentation dishes at the shipboard restaurant. Sheldon, as the quickfire winner, got to choose his proteins first, and the other four chefs weren’t allowed to use his.

Why indeed? “Why do people continually think tempura is a good idea?” said judge Hugh Acheson. Sheldon, who failed on his tempura earlier in the season, was intent on redeeming himself, topping his filet mignon with tempura lobster. It was soggy.

Behind the scenes: The cruise work reminded Sheldon of when he worked at Disney World. “Out in front it’s all this happiness, and when you’re behind the scenes you see what it takes to put on this show.”

Winner: Brooke, with her combo of frog legs and mussels, though frogs are amphibians, only debatably counting as “turf.” She won a 7-night cruise for two, which she appreciated although she had started out the episode with a fear of boats. “Ironic,” she commented.

Saved: Josh, who originally planned to blend scallops with gelatin and egg whites into a faux pasta, changed his plans after his mixture didn’t set, serving it as egg-like scrambled scallops with bacon.

One-way ticket to Last Chance Kitchen: Stefan packed his knives and went home — by helicopter? Port of call? — after his crispy pork belly with eel ravioli left some judges afraid to bite down. “I thought I was going to break a tooth,” said judge Tom Colicchio. Despite some arguments about regional styles of crispy skin, the majority of judges wanted Stefan gone instead of Sheldon, who was nearly booted for his failed tempura and poor choice of proteins.

Seattle scenes: Apparently, none worth mentioning. But the views from the ship were stunning.

Does niceness count? The season’s been filled with sniping, backbiting, and unpleasantness among the contestants. Three of the final four, though — Lizzie, Sheldon, and Brooke — have been among the nicest. Coincidence?

Photo courtesy of David Moir/Bravo

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