Tesar Makes the Nice List on Episode Four of Top Chef

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The previews for this episode promised Dallas chef John Tesar and competitor Katsuji Tanabe would heat up the kitchen (ha!) with their anger and distaste for each other.

That didn’t exactly happen. Ugh, TV editing. Yes, they are both egotistical. Yes, you’ve uttered, "God, I hate him" about both. And yes, out of all the competitors on this show, they were partnered with each other during the elimination round because of course they were.

But let’s start off where we left off. Everyone is super bummed that Sam Talbot and his lean and lanky figure is gone. Everyone is talking about how much they miss him and then Tesar makes sure to tell everyone that he believes Tanabe is a pot stirrer. Foreshadowing.

But time for the quickfire challenge! The challenge is sort of a shitshow because the chefs must make a dish utilizing a hodgepodge of ingredients in the gift box they receive.

The gift box includes: a pressure cooker, tequila, pomegranate, chocolate pretzels, cloves, wasabi, squab and a melon baller. What you and I would do is lay out all the ingredients on a cheese board and say, "Bon appetit." What these professional chefs have to do is “cook” and “present” an “edible” dish.

Tesar does that by making a pan-seared squab breast with mole, avocado and pomegranate salad. And because this episode is forcefully holiday-themed, he lets the camera know that during Christmas, he heads to his mother-in-law’s ranch with his family to enjoy red wine and a whole lot of cow. Fascinating.

The guest judge, Food & Wine editor Nilou Motamed, composes a naughty and nice list — and Tesar made the nice list. It’s a Christmas miracle! Get out the red wine and cow, we have a nice boy on our hands!

But he still isn’t granted immunity. Casey Thompson is bestowed that honor because her dish was deemed the best, even though Tesar used avocado and she didn’t. Ugh, whatever.

For the elimination round, the chefs must make a dish using trash fish. Trash fish isn’t McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish that you threw away but now it’s right before your next paycheck and you have to dig it out of trash if you want to eat. Trash fish is actually fish that is thrown away because the consumers aren’t familiar with it. Like the unfamiliarity of Filet-O-Fish but fancier — fancier than 99 percent of the things you and I eat on a regular basis, but to these chefs, it’s “trash.”

The chefs draw knives to find out what fish they are tasked with, along with what other chef they must work with. Tesar draws the knife of trigger fish, and he is tasked to work with Tanabe. Wow! Remember earlier in the episode how Tesar was stirring the pot by calling Tanabe a pot stirrer? Now they have to work together. Neither of the chefs are thrilled, but both of them lace their conversations and interactions with hate and sarcasm.

“I get partnered with the one person I can’t stand in my life: John Tesar,” Tanabe says.

Everyone heads to Whole Foods to buy their ingredients for the trash fish elimination challenge. Tesar and Tanabe aren’t even sure what their dish will be, but they make sure to fight over whether they should use fresh tomatoes or canned tomatoes. These two just can’t compromise, so they both buy what they want.
They head to the kitchen to begin cooking. Will they learn to work together? Will they both sweat into their dishes? Which type of tomato will win?

“I got the trash chef. Nobody wanted it, so I got it,” Tanabe says of Tesar.

“I love you, too,” Tesar responds. Banter!

Almost every team has a minor disaster. Some teams don’t have matching personalities. Some teams are too agreeable. Tesar and Tanabe argue mildly. Tesar yells, “Get all this black shit out of the bowls.” It's always comforting with chefs say that.

But it works. When they present the final dish to the table of judges and fashion models, their trash fish passes all the tests.

Tesar was added to the nice list for the second time, but Tanabe won the best dish award for his sauce. Teamwork.

BJ Smith goes home and Tesar survives another week.

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