Just say NO to fireworks this weekend. Were too dry!!
Just say NO to fireworks and firecrackers and sparklers and generally lighting anything on fire this weekend. Let that hellhole in the ocean be a warning to us all!! GETTY IMAGES/DARE/ANTHONY KEO

HAPPY FRIDAY, SEATTLE: It's finally the fucking weekend. It's a three-day weekend for us on Slog, so we'll be back and blogging on Tuesday. You know what else is back? Live music is back. Soft serve is slinging. And we're rounding up the latest headlines, like we do every weekday, in another Slog AM/PM round-up. Scroll through for updates on hellholes, beach closures, and an interview with Seattle's Chef Shota Nakajima from Top Chef: Portland at the bottom of this post.

First off...

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Seattle exorcised the heat: But Satan burped it back up in the Gulf of Mexico.

The so-called "eye of fire" was put out after over five hours of water-firefighting, reports Reuters. The hellhole erupted at Mexico state oil company Pemex's Ku Maloob Zaap oil development, west of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula. The head of Mexico's oil safety regulator tweeted that the hole "did not generate any spill," which is hard to believe. What was on fire, if not oil? The incident seems to have been caused by an electrical storm and heavy rains, per Reuters.

Alki Beach will close early this weekend to deter fireworks: The popular West Seattle beach will close an hour and a half earlier than normal (at 10 PM instead of 11:30 PM) to "deter crime" and "prevent people from shooting off fireworks at the park," according to KING 5 and Seattle Parks and Rec. The Seattle Police Department claimed a fight over fireworks on Alki Beach on Monday night, the hottest night in Seattle history, led to a shooting that killed one man and injured three others. A 19-year-old was charged today with second-degree murder and two counts of first-degree assault in connection to Monday's shootings. It seems like the real issue here is gun violence, but sure, fine, let's just shut down the beach an hour and a half early.

No matter when the beach closes, you shouldn't be lighting off firesticks this weekend: First off, it's abnormally dry out there, and we're trying to stave off smoke season as long as we can. A level 3 burn ban is also in effect, meaning no wood and charcoal fires at state beaches and parks. No fireworks at state parks either. And no fireworks in Seattle, where they're illegal.

That said, if you're trying to nark on someone, please don't call 9-1-1: The Seattle Fire Department requests you use the non-emergency line for the Community Safety and Coordination Center (206-625-5011). On a busy day like 4th of July, 9-1-1 should be saved for life-threatening emergencies, like actual fires.

The Portland area is taking Seattle's lead: Portland's Mayor Ted Wheeler recently banned the sale of fireworks in Portland, and Portland's Multnomah County extended a ban on the sale and use of fireworks to unincorporated parts of the county.

Speaking of Portland, here are some Oregon-related updates you might find useful from Isabella Garcia, who works at our sister paper The Portland Mercury:

During peak hours of this week's heatwave, over 100 callers in Oregon could not reach 2-1-1, which is the information hotline widely publicized as a primary source for cooling center information and transportation assistance. Local and state officials in Oregon are looking for lessons in the failure in hopes of being better prepared for wildfire season.

Several Voodoo Doughnut workers walked out during the heatwave, citing dangerously hot working conditions. The business has fired three of those workers, saying they had “unexcused absences.” The workers plan to respond with legal action.

The death toll from the heatwave has risen to 59 people in Portland's Multnomah County and over 80 in Oregon statewide: State and county officials say the number of heat-related deaths may continue to climb into next week, particularly because the isolation that factored into many of the deaths also impedes authorities’ ability to find the people who died. Multnomah County Health Officer Jennifer Vines is asking people to continue to check on their neighbors, especially if they live alone.

Tragically, the heatwave's death toll all over the Pacific Northwest will likely keep rising.

Pivoting from Portland to Spokane: Spokane's Inlander has a great feature on twenty drag performers organizing against a prominent gay club in Spokane over pay disputes.

"A Change.org petition calling for recurring stimulus checks from the federal government has reached nearly 2.5 million signatures": If only change were that easy.

Live music is back in Seattle: We've got photos from Barboza and Supernova this week.

Looking for a hot dog this weekend? Eater has a list. I think it's patriotic to put cream cheese, grilled onions, and sauerkraut in hot dogs and I don't care what the rest of the country thinks.

The Bettie Page and Divine murals off I-5 in Seattle got defaced again: The owner of the house displaying the murals, Jessica Baxter, told the Seattle Times that the vandals hurled Christmas ornaments filled with paint at the murals and stole a Black Lives Matter sign. A successful GoFundMe campaign is raising money to repair the murals.

American sprinting star Sha’Carri Richardson is likely out of the Olympics after testing positive for cannabis use: And people are rightly pissed. Richardson is 21 and could be America's fastest woman, but she was disqualified from her signature event after testing positive for pot during trials in Oregon. This detail fucks me up:

"She said she had used the drug to deal with the pressure of competing on the biggest stage of her career and to cope with the news that her biological mother had died, which she said she had learned from a reporter during an interview just days before her event on June 20."

Pot is obviously legal in Oregon, where the Olympic trials were held, but the World Anti-Doping Agency has the drug on its list of prohibited substances. The idea that pot could be a performance-enhancing drug for a sprinter is nonsensical, but since there are so few studies on marijuana, I guess we're just making shit up.

Some background on pot and athletes, from the New York Times:

The Canadian snowboarder Ross Rebagliati tested positive for marijuana after winning a gold medal at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He was initially stripped of his medal, but the ruling was quickly overturned because marijuana wasn’t actually on the list of banned substances; it was added soon afterward.

Rebagliati was found to have 17.8 nanograms per milliliter in his system; he blamed secondhand smoke. In 2013, WADA raised the threshold for a positive test to 150 ng/ml from 15.

The swimmer Michael Phelps was suspended for three months in 2009 after a picture of him smoking from a bong emerged. That ban did not coincide with any major competitions.

Put on your seatbelts: This news round-up is pivoting into Top Chef: Portland talk.

SPOILERS AHEAD: If you're a fan of Top Chef: Portland, you've probably heard by now that Seattle's Top Chef king Chef Shota Nakajima (of Taku and formerly Adana) did not win the Top Chef crown last night. He came in as a close runner-up, maybe due to some funkily cooked rice on his third course. Still, he was the clear frontrunner this season, almost exclusively getting perfect praise.

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Texas's Gabe Erales beat out Shota and fellow competitor Dawn Burrell for the title: And then he immediately inspired controversy. It starts with this report that came out last December, which announced that Erales was fired from his job at the Comedor in Austin after returning from filming Top Chef. The details were initially vague, but new information has come out this afternoon, including confirmation that the restaurant fired him for violating the company's policy against harassment for his actions toward a female employee. More from Bethany Jean Clement at the Seattle Times:

After season 18 of Top Chef finished filming in Portland last fall, Erales, it has emerged, was terminated as executive chef of Austin’s Comedor for “repeated violations of the company’s ethics policy as it relates to harassment of women,” according to the Austin American-Statesman. Erales has admitted to cutting an employee’s hours after the end of a “consensual sexual relationship” with her when he returned from the Portland taping, also telling the American-Statesman that he continued communicating with her in an unprofessional manner.

That's not the only shadow over the season: Seattle's Chef Edouardo Jordan, accused by 15 women of sexual misconduct or unwanted touching, was a part of the finale episode, but the show edited him out after the allegations came out, reports the Seattle Times.

So, will the outcome of the show change? It seems up in the air. Here's one of the show's hosts, Padma Lakshmi.

Earlier this morning, before updated reports on Erales came out, I called the show's fan-favorite, Seattle's Chef Shota Nakajima. We talked about the show's bubble, his future plans for his Capitol Hill restaurant Taku, restaurant workplace cultures, and Dragon Ball Z—but we didn't talk about Erales, since I became aware of the new details a few hours after we talked, so our interview is regrettably dated. Shota hasn't given comment on those updates. While we wait for more info to drop, here's our conversation from this morning. It's edited for length and clarity.

CHASE: It's the morning after. What's going through your head?
SHOTA: So much. I don't even know where to start. Rollercoaster of emotions, you know. Just a bunch of people hitting me up and calling me. Overwhelmed and humbled would, I guess, be the words I would use.

You told us you were watching the finale at your parents' house last night. How was that?
It was so much fun, but then when the rice was a little crunchy, my mom was like, "What? You messed up on rice?" We got a good kick out of it.

I assume you've known the outcome of Top Chef since filming it last year. What's it like to have to process this again after already having dealt with it?
Honestly, it's a little crazy. I think the amount of personal growth I'm seeing, because I have to reflect on myself, has been insane. I think I needed it. I feel like I'm a happier person and more confident.

How long were you filming in that bubble in Portland?
For two months. Late August until late October.

So were you living and working in the Capitol Hill neighborhood over the summer, with CHOP and everything?
I closed Adana right away at the end of March. Then I did Taku to-go until May-ish. Then I got into a car accident. Then I got shingles. Then I had health issues for like a month and a half, and I just couldn't afford to keep it open. So I closed Taku as I was getting better, and that's when I got a call from Bravo.

Those seem like two really isolating experiences—healing from the car accident and then filming in a bubble in Portland. And now it's the reverse, with all this press.
You know what it's like? I don't know if you've ever watched Dragon Ball Z...

...I've definitely watched Dragon Ball Z.
So, you know, it's like when you get destroyed and demolished in Dragon Ball Z—but then, when you get better, that's when you all of a sudden become stronger? That's how I feel 2020 was from everything: COVID, closing, car accident, Top Chef just ripped me apart. And I was like, you know what? I feel a lot better as a person right now.

You know, that makes a lot of sense.
[Laughs]

Are you considering opening up other places beyond Taku?
I have a few offers right now, so I'm just trying to see what feels right.

You initially planned to open Taku as a kushikatsu restaurant but changed it to karaage as the pandemic started, yeah? Are you planning on evolving it further?
It's going to be karaage-based. We're planning on evolving the menu slowly, adding on one or two things as we go. A bunch more side dishes, but still a karaage-based restaurant.

The neon sign outside of Taku is so great. Who designed it?
The designer was Shogo Ota with Western Neon.

In Bethany Jean Clement's fantastic profile of you in March, I saw that you're also a painter. Did you use those skills when designing the interior of Taku?
I drew everything.

Really!
I drew everything, and I asked my contractor and architect to make sure it's legal. [Laughs] And I was like, put plywood on everything, and then I'm going to put stuff on top of it. I was there from like 12 to 4 AM pretty much for two weeks straight, just putting stickers, putting stuff on the wall, inviting friends to come over.

In your most recent interview with Bethany, you said you're doing a profit-share structure for Taku. What does that mean exactly?
Making sure that there's an incentive for people and they see it on their paychecks. It means for every project that I have, giving a percentage off if you're working on it with me, even including the little events that I do. I think the biggest thing about us industry people: no one teaches us about business and how it works and how to negotiate; how to be like, "Hey, I deserve 15% because I do this, this, this, this, this," you know?

I wanted to check-in, too, about the differences between working in kitchens in Japan and kitchens in the States. In that interview with Bethany, she brought up the allegations against Edouardo Jordan and misconduct in the restaurant industry. You mentioned that Japanese kitchens don't often have that kind of culture. Could you talk more about what that means?
I'm not gonna say all Japanese kitchens because I don't know. Obviously there are a lot of things I don't know in this world. But at least in the restaurant we worked at, everyone just worked. There wasn't a lot of side talk or going out after work or whatnot. If there was, it would be more, like, just a conversation about how to work. Everyone had a more professional mentality, at least in the place I worked.

It was shocking to see that that was going on as much as it was. You know, I have seen in the industry over here, after opening Naka, that there are people who drink and get out of hand. I don't see to the extent that some people are talking about, in my eyes, because I'm an Irish dipper. I have always been an Irish dipper. I get overwhelmed in crowded places, and I just want to hang out with my dog.

It's a lot. I'm still processing everything.

Now that the show's wrapped up, what are you up to this weekend—just hanging out with your dog?
Well, I got 4th of July [at Taku] and we're sold out. So I've got to go prep that today.

I'm still doing a lot of videos. I want to keep pushing videos, show different Japanese little snippets here and there, things I like to cook. I'm trying to keep that fun energy and vibe going. For me, I think that's the way I try to live life for myself. It's just trying to think about, all right, how do I make someone smile? Is it a little cooking video that looks good? Is it going in and saying hi to my staff and doing some fun project with them? Every day I try to do everything that I can to be a good person and have fun and work hard.

I think that comes through, especially on TV.
I hear a lot about the really strict culture of a chef talking down to you. I'm hoping that maybe some people thought the way I approached it [on Top Chef] was cool, and being like, 'I want to be more like that guy,' as opposed to the guy that's yelling. Slowly but surely, you know, through inspiration, it could turn into a kinder industry.