My favorite part of "Top Chef" returned Wednesday night with part one of the infamous restaurant wars.
Wolfgang Puck started the night with the Quickfire Challenge: Create a dish highlighting ginger in 15 minutes. Elizabeth Binder redeemed herself with a watermelon and ginger soup, but it was L.A. girl Brooke Williamson's ginger caramel squid with fresh lime and chile powder that won the immunity. Who thinks of caramel squid when they see ginger? She totally killed it.
For the Elimination Challenge, each chef prepared 200 portions of one dish that represents a restaurant concept for the Bite of Seattle food festival. Heavy-weight restaurateur Danny Meyer acted as guest judge. Kuniko Yagi, Chrissy Camba, Carla Pellegrino and Eliza Gavin returned to help out as sous chefs. It was sad to see Yagi back as one of the you-got-voted-off-but-let-us-give-you-a-taste-of-what-you're-missing chefs the show brings back every season for one challenge.
Highlights included Williamson's "un-kosher" concept with a matzoh ball soup with duck confit, even though it sounded a bit like Ilan Hall's bacon-wrapped matzoh balls at the Gorbals; and Josh "The Stache" Valentine did a neighborhood bistro with a rib-eye with cauliflower puree. Micah Fields and his raw concept, Binder and her Northern Italian farmhouse kitchen fare and Josie Smith-Malave's home-in-Miami concept landed in the bottom three. Binder made a dense dumpling and Smith-Malave made dry pork, but Field's sad sashimi platter sent him packing. Pre-sliced sashimi, Fields? When I saw you doing that I felt sorry for you. How Smith-Malave has survived another judges table is beyond me. She's extremely lucky she's sucking just a tad less than the other chefs right now.