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Top Chef: John Tesar Shares the Pickles, Gets the Axe

John Tesar faces the music at judges' table.
John Tesar faces the music at judges' table.
Photo credit: Bravo

Last night on Top Chef: Seattle, knife master Bob Kramer showed up for the quickfire wielding crazy-sharp, $500-an-inch blades. The contestants had to sharpen dull knives to razor sharpness, and though many of them would probably rather have turned the blades on each other, they then had to tourne potatoes and break down rabbits.

Teammate/former model Kristen got pissy with Spoon chef John Tesar for "not being a team player", ominously saying "That's when karma comes back and bites you in the ass." As Micah says, though, "John can tourne a potato very fast. That old bastard, he knows everything." It's not enough to win the quickfire, though; FT33 pastry chef Josh Valentine's team makes it to the final round and he seems to be a pro at butchering rabbits, noting that it's just like a cat. (Is that how they do things in Oklahoma?) Micah ekes out a win over him, though, winning a $4000 knife.

Onto the elimination challenge: The chefs have to cook a dish centered around "memorable moments" from the past 10 seasons of the show. Then it's product placement out the wazoo as the chefs are informed they'll watch their clips on a Kindle Fire! And the winning dish will inspire a Healthy Choice frozen meal! Ooookay. Anyway, the winner gets $15,000.

John is assigned Howie's sea urchin and mushroom risotto from season 3; flashback to guest judge Anthony Bourdain shouting "What is your major malfunction?!" to Howie at judges' table. Yikes. John wonders if he can escape the Top Chef risotto curse; many past contestants have been knocked for risotto the judges deemed improperly cooked.

Valentine lucks out by getting a moment from season six when Michael Voltaggio made braised bacon: "I've had some issues a couple of times with pork here, you know, hopefully this is my chance to redeem myself." Time to bring it, Valentine.

The judging panel this episode includes heavy hitters Wolfgang Puck, Jonathan Waxman, Chris Cosentino, and Wylie Dufresne. The judges are unimpressed by Tesar's risotto with dark meat chicken, dashi, salmon roe, and carrots to mimic the color of uni, which, assumingly, wouldn't exactly fit into a frozen dinner (then again, have you ever had a Lean Cuisine with salmon roe?); Wolfgang says it's unevenly cooked and Padma says she's "not a fan". Alas, the curse of the risotto continues.

The panel finds Valentine's pork tenderloin tasty and well-cooked, so it looks like he's overcome the subpar pork cookery that's marred his previous showings. Whew. The judges throw a bit of a curveball by simultaneously summoning both the best and worst chefs for judging; Valentine is understandably giddy that the chefs like his dish. Kristen wins for her reinvented chicken pot pie despite the fact that she didn't sauce Cosentino's plate.

John ends up in the bottom with Lizzy, whose scallops had a foul odor, and defends himself by saying the kitchen had no proper pots in which to cook risotto. Valentine naturally disputes this and John retorts, "Equipment was an issue and whether people who don't want me here any longer want to say it isn't, there's no love lost between the two of us so I mean, to ask him whether they were good or bad, it's a little jaded."

The judges magically pull out a tenth Kindle Fire with a memorable moment from the current season, and John and Lizzy are thrown into a sudden death cook-off to save themselves. They have 30 minutes to make a healthier version of CJ's pickle-topped pork burger that got him eliminated. "Lizzy served foul raw food and she's getting a second chance," says John incredulously, then he uses all Lizzy's dill and she is pissed. He makes a harissa lamb burger on naan and allows Lizzy to take some pickles from the jar he snagged, declaring "I share the pickles. That's who I am." Truer words have never been spoken, John.

But his burger has cream cheese, an aioli and a fried egg—perhaps not the best choice for a healthy dish. Padma tells Tesar, arguably one of the most talented competitors, to pack his knives and go. "I got the shaft today. I'm not bitter but yeah, I think it's bullshit." John reiterates that if he really wanted to win, he could've just not shared the pickles. But he's a pickle sharer, guys. That's just who he is.

Of course, Tesar has a chance to get back in the game via the Last Chance Kitchen web series, but he loses to "arch nemesis" CJ when both chefs whip up a seafood and foie dish using crappy old cookware obtained at yard sales, an obvious jab at his complaints about the kitchen equipment that hindered his risotto. Goodbye, John! We hardly knew ye.

· More Top Chef coverage on Eater Dallas [-EDFW-]
· More John Tesar coverage on Eater Dallas [-EDFW-]
· More Joshua Valentine coverage on Eater Dallas [-EDFW-]