Thursday, June 18, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 6/17/09--"The Lost Supper" summary

Last time on “Top Chef: Masters”: Four famous chefs had to make desserts to please Girl Scouts, and then cook real food in real dorm rooms. Pretty much everyone did very well, and the “critics” (they’re not judges this time) were very nice and respectful. Actually, everyone respected each other a lot. No drama, no fighting. The most excitement was when Tim Love put all his food into the freezer instead of the fridge. It’s like if PBS made a cooking reality show. Actually, it’s exactly like that. “Cooking Under Fire”, anyone? (click for more)

Our first contestant is Graham Elliot Bowles, from Chicago. Tom and James say nice things about him. He’s playing for the American Heart Association. Suzanne Tract, from LA, has a restaurant called Jar, which I think is cool. She is described as a “West Coast chef”. Her charity is a local food pantry. And then Wylie Dufresne walks in and Graham curses. Hee. They’re friends and he knows the winner will lord it over the other one for months. He doesn’t like the “molecular gastronomist” title because it’s not sexy. He’s playing for Autism Speaks. He’s been a guest judge more than once. Elizabeth Falkner walks in with a large stick. I love watching her on “Food Network Challenge”. She immediately starts talking about her restaurant, which answers a main question I had, which is that mostly pastry chefs don’t cook. But she does cook. Her charity is The Edible Schoolyard, which teaches school kids to grow food. Cool. She’s been a guest judge, for the infamous S&M store episode.

Kelly explains the format of the show, again, and then gives them the Quickfire. And a roll of quarters. Hee! Graham claims to have been hoping for the vending machine amuse bouche challenge. Their judges will be people who have some experience in this area. As they show the dining room to the contestants, they give us some reaction before they show us who it is. And the reactions are pretty much “Jesus Christ, we’re screwed.” Ilan, Betty, and Michael from season 2 are waiting for them. The best part, is that Wylie judged part of season 2 and had mean things to say about Ilan. Good for him. I don’t like Ilan or Betty.

Mostly the chefs don’t know what they are doing. Graham uses junk food sometimes so he wants to do something good. Suzanne has teenagers at home so she’s not entirely clueless. Back in the kitchen Kelly gives them 30 minutes. Graham is worried about Wylie. People seem to be using soda which I like. And the best part is that they’ve gone to immense trouble to put tape over all the brand names, and the chefs are using them right and left. Elizabeth busts out the liquid nitrogen for ice cream. Running around. Wylie curses a lot.

Wylie: red onion and grilled cheese with a Dr. Pepper reduction. Betty complains that her sauce is solid. Michael loves it. Ilan complains that it’s too big, and shut up Ilan. Suzanne: fried shallot rings with micro green salad and Dr. Pepper aioli. What is from the vending machine aside from the soda? Everyone likes it. Wait, I think the shallots are breaded with Fritos. Elizabeth: braised beef jerky with orange juice, lemon, and horseradish ice cream. Braised in Dr. Pepper. Michael and Ilan think it’s great, but Betty doesn’t like the flavors. Graham: tuna salad with pickled shallots, ginger orange bubbles, and beef jerky miso powder. Very well received.

Elizabeth gets 3.5 stars, Graham gets 4.5 stars, Wylie gets 3 stars, and Suzanne gets all 5 stars. So those are the standings going into the Elimination Challenge. Kelly kicks them out of the kitchen while they “set up the ingredients”. When they get back, they discover a large spread of some proteins…a boar’s head with tusks and hair…”tropical grasses”. Kelly says they will be cooking dinner for the producers and writers of “Lost”. So…none of the actors? “Ace of Cakes” had the actors. I don’t care about the producers. Why are you doing a tie-in with an ABC show, Bravo? Apparently the writers are big fans of “Top Chef” and want to see what chefs would do if they had been stranded on the island. Wylie has never seen “Lost” and is confused, but I really don’t think you need to have seen the show to do well. Don’t worry Wylie, those of us who’ve watched “Lost” from the beginning don’t know what’s going on either. The twist is that they will not be able to use the pantry. They’ve got what’s on the table, and what’s on a list that Kelly is holding. The list has the DHARMA logo from the Swan station on it. Nice touch. Mostly Kelly’s list is canned stuff.

In the car on the way to the store Graham and Wylie think of things and then cross them off when they’re not on the list. No one complains about not knowing how to shop in stores. Wylie attacks a dispenser thing. Suzanne refers to Wylie and Graham as “Mutt and Jeff”, I think. “Matt and Jeff”? whatever.

2.5 hours of prep time in the kitchen. For some reason there are a TON of product placement shots. Stupid. Suzanne talks about cooking back when most chefs were men. Elizabeth’s menu: ancho-beer braised boar loin, coffee scented poached boar loin, and yam papaya pudding. The poached one is sous vide. Writing “boar loin” looks funny. Wylie runs around. Graham talks to his olive oil. He is making a tuna trio, sort of: maki roll with tuna and dehydrated pineapple, tuna nicoise, and tuna a la plancha. Suzanne claims to not be a plantain kind of gal. This restaurant near me makes the best plantain chips, with a vinegar slaw. So good. Anyway, Suzanne’s menu: risotto with uni, clams, & prawns, wild boar strip with oyster beer sauce, and mango corn salad. Uni…I know it’s supposed to be a delicacy or whatever, but it’s kind of gross. Wylie’s menu: roasted chicken with poached egg, beets with dried corn, and plantain puree. He schools Elizabeth on using the immersion circulator. But he’s also cooking something in Ziploc bags, I think.

Damon and Carlton are here, and the writers, who do not get introduced. You know, I’ve been watching “The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.” which Carlton Cuse was a producer of, and it was awesome. Except for the parts where they started talking about time travel and alien artifacts. So just like “Lost”! J.J. Abrams is apparently too busy with Star Trek. Fine.
Frantic plating occurs. I think that while everyone has three dishes, they’re all going on the same plate. Elizabeth turns around to get more sauce but the waiters (dressed in DHARMA jumpsuits) have already removed her plates. That sucks. Sadly the jumpsuits do not say “Waiter”.

Elizabeth’s dish is up first. It looks pretty good, and it seems like most people like it, except for some suspicion about the yam and papaya pudding. Of course Jay Ray wants more sauce. Graham explains his tuna trio: the maki roll is tuna wrapped around dried pineapple, and the “tuna a la plancha” is actually coffee crusted seared tuna on top of shitake mushroom and yam risotto and hearts of palm. Everyone loves it. It sounds really good too. Wylie comes out to introduce his food, which includes banana mustard and beets. Jay Ray says he doesn’t mean to be mean but he has no chicken. Ouch. When Wylie was plating, it looks like he put two portions of chicken on one plate and none on the other. That sucks. Damon doesn’t understand the egg; it’s like an art piece. He’s kept true to himself. Suzanne is last. There’s a lot of different things going on but they all seem to work. She described it as a holiday meal and I think that sold everyone. You know when you get your plate at Thanksgiving and there’s a million different things going on, but it works.

Wylie explains how he cooked the egg sous vide, and how he cooked the chicken perfectly. No one says anything bad except Jay Ray rubs it in that he didn’t get any chicken. Graham talks about his coffee rubbed tuna, and James praises his green beans in his tuna nicoise. There is a very long explanation about salsa and…something…I didn’t understand it. Elizabeth gets praise for the boar but not for the pudding. She explains how she didn’t put enough sauce on the plate. Everyone loves Suzanne’s food. I need a macro for that. I mean, it’s nice to see everyone be respectful, but sometimes Tom would say something funny while insulting someone’s food. Backstage Elizabeth rolls her eyes that they were meaner when they were judges.

Elizabeth had too little sauce and too much pudding. Graham’s maki roll was just ok. See, they don’t say these things to the chefs! They’re just all, “Oh your food is delicious”. Sigh. There is a small argument about falling under Wylie’s spell of thinking about everything. At first Jay Ray thought there were too many things going on with Suzanne but it all went together. See, this is all I’m getting out of the judging table.

Commercial interlude: Elizabeth claims to be able to make chocolate chip cookie dough in under 5 minutes. They start mixing. Wylie starts offering alternate cooking methods: pan sear, microwave, deep fry. Yum. That was cute.

Score time. Graham: diner score 4 stars, James 4 stars, Gael 4 stars, Jay Ray 3.5 stars, for a total of 20.5 stars. Wylie: diners 3.5, James 5, Gael 4, Jay Ray 4.5, total 20 stars. Aww, bye Wylie. Elizabeth: diners 3.5, Jay Ray 3, James 3, Gael 3.5, total 16.5. Ouch. I notice that even though Kelly told both her and Wylie to pack their knives they’re sitting around the table. Suzanne: diners 4.5, Gael 4.5, James 4, Jay Ray 4.5, total 22.5. So she wins! Woo. Everyone bonded and no one is a sore loser.

Next week: I don’t know, but then they have to cook outside. Something about cooking things that are inedible?

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