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Top Chef: Seattle, Episode 9 Recap (John Tesar and the Risotto Curse)

I just want to make it clear that this will be a depressing recap. Worst episode in Top Chef history, ever. This season, all the good people are getting eliminated way too early, and I don’t like it. Not one bit.

Round 1: Quickfire Challenge

Padma is standing next to Bob Kramer, a man who makes $4,000 knives. Holy cow. Sheldon has his eye on the prize (immunity and knife) since he is a daily knife sharpener. “I would die for a Bob Kramer knife,” he says. The nine remaining cheftestants split into teams of three, and they have to compete in a total of three rounds.

1. Turn dull knives sharp
2. Tourne 50 potatoes and turn them into little footballs with seven sides
3. Break down two rabbits

Unfortunately, Sheldon doesn’t do as hot as he thinks. Micah calls Sheldon’s potatoes “little poop logs,” and gets jealous of Tesar’s mad tourne skills. “That old bastard, he knows everything.”  Tesar is eliminated in the second round, though, and Micah ends up winning the knife challenge because “breaking down little bunnies is a very Zen moment for [him].” So. Messed. Up.

Round 2: Elimination Challenge

In honor of this being season 10, Top Chef producers want to take a little trip down memory lane. Each chef is assigned to a dish that represents the most memorable moment of a particular Top Chef season. Each dish must be a healthier version of the old dish, because Healthy Choice wants to use the winning plate as inspiration for a new frozen food thingamajig. Big, big prizes on the line. The chefs get cooking like mad men and women for TC super fans who’ll be tasting the dishes.

Josie: Season 1′s roast chicken with parsnip puree
Stefan: Season 2′s roasted red pepper soup with bacon and grilled cheese sandwich
Tesar: Season 3′s umami risotto
Sheldon: Season 4′s beef carpaccio
Lizzie: Season 5′s Jamie scallops with roasted fennel
Josh: Season 6′s soy-glazed pork tenderloin
Brooke: Season 7′s smoked salmo with forbidden black rice
Kristen: Season 8′s Carla chicken pot pie
Micah: Season 9′s duck breast with miso polenta

I almost felt a sense of foreboding when John talked about the Curse of the Risotto on Top Chef, but then I dismissed it. Maybe other chefs in other seasons made gooey, gunky risotto, but if anyone can pull it off, it’d be Tesar, right? Amiright?

How wrong I was.

Tesar the fighter (photo by Maxine Helfman)

At the judges’ tables (Wolfgang ‘Wolfie’ Puck is back!), the eaters weren’t too pleased with John’s umami risotto. Some of it was undercooked, and some of it was overcooked. Crap. They didn’t like Lizzie’s not-so-fresh scallops, either. Lizzie, who usually cooks on the mark, hangs her head when the judges berate her for greyish, badly seared dish. Meanwhile, John is defending himself by making excuses. “There wasn’t one level pot that would cook that much risotto,” says Tesar. Josh pipes up and tells the judges there was, in fact, a big level pot in the kitchen. Tesar just didn’t use it.

The judges praise Kristen’s pot pie and announce her as the winner, then they announce a surprising plot twist, as if they knew Tesar would end up in the bottom two. Tesar and Lizzie have to fight for their lives in a head-to-head battle, cooking season 10′s most memorable dish: the spicy dill pickle hamburger that got General CJ eliminated.

Tesar thinks he’s got this in the bag. He did open The Commissary, a burger restaurant, after all. “I think all you have to do is put some meat on a plate and toast the bun to outdo that (CJ and Tyler’s) dish,” says JT. Things get pretty ugly in the kitchen after Tesar steals all of the dill, which pisses Lizzie off. Tesar thinks it’s totally okay to use all the dill, because he shared the pickles with her. In fact, he thinks he’s doing Lizzie a ginormous favor by sharing the pickles and giving her a chance to win. I’m pretty sure in a kindergarten class somewhere in Dallas, a tiny kid is saying something similar – and to that effect – at this moment.

The judges decide to let Lizzie stay for her chicken burger with goat cheese and ricotta because it’s moist and flavorful. John’s lamb burger with a fried egg falls a little flat, in their eyes. Both were great burgers, but Tesar the Great is voted off the island. It’s time for him to pack his knives and go. I think a part of me just died. Top Chef will be no fun to watch after this.

“I’m not bitter, but I think it’s BS. I endured the childish behavior,” he says. “I could be a real, real big a**hole. I mean, if I really wanted to win, I would’ve just stood on the other side of the kitchen and cooked five hamburgers without anything on them. Put them on a plate and held the pickles in my hand when I went to the judges’ table. I would’ve held them under my arm. I have all the pickles.” (via Teresa Gubbins on CultureMap)

As Desiree Espada puts it, “now we have to vote him back” for the good of this season. It’ll be such a drag with Tesar gone. See the eye candy’s instruction’s below.

To read the rest of this season’s recaps, go here.