Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 6/24/09--"Offal Tasty" summary

Last time on “Top Chef: Masters”: Nothing. Um…let’s see…oh, the chefs had to make vending machine amuse bouches. Except that they used a TON of things that were in the pantry already so it was more regular food than vending machine food. So that wasn’t as cool as it could have been. And then NBC was surprisingly OK with promoting another network’s show, and the chefs made dinner for the producers and writers of “Lost”. Except they could only use boar and seafood, and random canned items. This was supposed to simulate how they were stranded on a deserted island. Of course, I am pretty sure DHARMA never had an immersion circulator. Why did they let them use all that equipment? Anyways, some cool stuff happened but they didn’t show any of it so they could have the “critics” praise everyone and then Suzanne Tracht won. Woo. The most common complaint I’m seeing from everyone is “more cooking, less judging and star nonsense.” I am with you guys on that one. (click for more)

Wilo Benet, from San Juan, Puerto Rico. He talks in Spanish for a while, which is cool. He was a guest judge when they were in Puerto Rico for the Season 4 finale. Season 3? The one in Chicago. He is playing for the San Jorge Children’s Foundation. Next is Cindy Pawlcyn, from California’s Napa Valley. I kind of find it weird that the judges are the ones praising the contestants. Like, later they are supposed to critique them, but right now they are talking about how fabulous everyone is. Maybe that’s why the judging is so boring. Her charity is Clinic Ole. Ludo Lefebvre is from L.A. via Paris. His accent is thick enough to warrant subtitles, but I can still understand him. He’s cute, too. OK Tom can talk about these people, because he’s not here. And I miss him. Hi, Tom! Anyway, Ludo’s charity is C.H.A.S.E. For Life (which teaches people how to do CPR). Rick Bayless is the last chef. I kind of remember him being a jerk when he was a guest judge. That is promising. He is playing for the Frontera Farmer Foundation.

Today’s Quickfire leftovers: everyone draws colored knives. I notice there are extras. Make a dish based on a color. Michael won that one. Was that the episode he had a tooth pulled and he was all drugged up? The judges are food stylists. Well, one stylist, one photographer, and one cookbook author. 30 minutes to cook.

OK, guys, Ludo is perfectly understandable. He doesn’t need subtitles all the time. He has red and is making steak tartar and beet gazpacho, I think. Cindy talks about how she overcame sexism, as she makes yellow grits and veggie curry. That sounds pretty good. Rick lucked out with green, so he’s got lots of vegetables. Wilo has orange, and has decided since all the diners are female they may enjoy edible flowers. Ludo says he usually doesn’t share space because he’s French. Cindy helps him plate. When Kelly shows up Ludo begins cursing because he forgot the tomato for his dish. Oops.

Once the waiters leave Ludo finds the gazpacho sitting on the counter. Did he forget to put that on the plate too? What is going on here? So right now the dishes have steak tartare with watermelon and red onion, but no beet gazpacho. And no tomatoes. He yells at the waiters when they come back in, but they do take it and pour it over the plates. Kelly asks if this makes it more appetizing but one woman compares it to blood. So that’s a no. Cindy’s dish of vegetable curry over grits and corn tortilla strips is next. It seems to get good reviews. Rick has green: roasted vegetables with mole verde, tomatillos, green chilies and pumpkin seeds. All served in a bowl lined with a banana leaf. It’s complex. Wilo is last: smoked salmon tartare with carrots, and a coconut milk and tomato paste sauce. He used a ring mold to get the tartare in a cylinder, but he’s left it on someone’s plate. Actually, I think all the plates. But they love the taste.

Rating time. The most boring time of the show. Ludo = 3 stars, Cindy = 3.5, Rick = 4 stars, and Wilo = 4.5 stars.

Elimination challenge: you must make a street food dish that will be served at Universal Studios. They draw knives again for proteins. Wilo gets beef heart, Rick gets tongue, Cindy has tripe, and Ludo gets pig’s ears. Of course, since these are well-qualified chefs this does not faze them in the slightest. Which is SO BORING. Not one whiner? Not one person complaining about how they would never eat this stuff? I guess the closest we get is Rick saying that the challenge here is to convince the average American to eat offal. They will have $300 for more ingredients, and 3 hours to prep. Tomorrow on location they’ll have another hour.

Ludo is kind of lost because French people don’t do street food, so he decides on quesadillas. Rick is like, what does he know about quesadillas? But he’s helping him out. Wilo gets pita bread. Cindy has a club surrounding offal. She goes out with her friends all the time. She plans to make menudo, which is probably good but I think street food shouldn’t need utensils. That’s just my opinion. Ludo chides Rick for doing tacos and “copying” him even though Rick cooks Mexican food and would probably do that no matter what.

Back to the kitchen to prep. Rick brings up a good point that most of the time, offal takes a really long time to cook. Cindy is using a pressure cooker but it looks like she never has before. Rick helps her out too. Such a nice guy! Ludo has a big pot with vegetables and his pig’s ears. Wilo has never had heart before, so he’s kind of guessing as he goes. So they call out 2 hours left, and then 20 minutes. Everyone talks once, and then everyone offers to help Ludo but he tells them to get lost. That was all of the cooking? Lame.

Rick talks about making this offal palatable for “Mid-America”. L.A. is not Middle America but we’ll go with that. Close enough. I wondered if they could get away with not advertising what they were selling, but everyone has a sandwich board with their offal in giant letters. Like, Ludo’s says “EARS” across the top. He’s found that all his ears have solidified into one huge block and he wastes time chopping them again. Wilo is making a sandwich, and there are “normal” proteins in there too. There is a giant line of people trying to get on TV and willing to eat offal to do it. Ludo curses a lot because the quesadillas don’t heat well. He doesn’t even get anything done before the diners show up.

Some random guys says “Come on, Rick Bayless, slip me some tongue” and everyone laughs. Rick plays along and says once you’ve had his tongue you never forget it. Hee. The judges show up at his cart first. He says Gael is picky and unpredictable. He serves them chorizo, bacon, and tongue tacos with guacamole and pickled onions. They look really good. Jay Ray thinks this will give you some powerful bad breath, but Gael wants another one. Wilo describes his sandwich, which he’s making with pita bread so it’s more portable. The sandwiches are called “tripletas” and this one has heart, ham, and chicken, with cheese sauce, caramelized onions, and hot sauce if you want. There’s a lot of toppings, but the heart is cooked well. Ludo flails. Like, really badly. When the judges come by he doesn’t have anything ready. His dish is pig’s ear quesadillas (the chyron says “pork” like we wouldn’t know), with chorizo, pinto bean puree, lime aioli, and smoked paprika. They rib him, and he says “Don’t stress me, I’m the chef” to which Jay Ray replies “We’re the customers!” He tries to charm them. The judges enjoy it but the cheese plus ear is kind of weird. Cindy advertises her hot and spicy menudo as a hangover cure. Jay Ray thinks it’s a little under seasoned. Ludo trash talks Rick a little bit.

Commercial interlude: Wilo is surprised that everyone was excited about offal. Well, they did have giant signs with things like “EARS” written on them. I’m pretty sure no one was going to come wandering up if they weren’t game for offal.

Ludo tried not to scare anyone with pig’s ear. James says that he cooked the ears for two hours with some vegetables but he didn’t taste any of the flavors. Cindy had a short time to cook the tripe, but it came out tender. Jay Ray asks if she went conservative, because it was under seasoned. Huh? I guess, because menudo is somewhat common, he thinks she picked that so as to have an easier time convincing people to like tripe. Eh. She says maybe. Rick wanted to use the tomatillos as an acidic punch. James likes it but Jay Ray has nothing nice to say (although he’s the one who asked about the acid). Wilo talks about tweaking his sandwich recipe, and James wishes he had toasted or warmed his pita first. Gael loved the spicy mayonnaise.

Cindy had the most up front offal, undisguised. James thinks it was “weak in the knees”. Wilo cut the heart very thin, and I guess they wanted bigger pieces? Rick used chorizo to transform his dish, and Jay Ray says he only needed a napkin which is how street food should be. Ludo pulled the short straw, but did a decent job.

More stars. No one minds if I just give you totals, right? No one? Excellent. Ludo ends up with a total of 16.5 stars. Cindy only ends up with 15.5. Rick earns 22.5 (the critics give him 5 except for Jay Ray, that jerk). Wilo only earns 19.5, so Rick Bayless is the winner. Ludo promises to come back for “Top Chef Masters 2”. Unlikely. Not that he’ll come back, that it will exist.

Next week: NEIL PATRICK HARRIS!!!!!!! Oh, show, I will forgive so much if NPH is going to be on. Can he cook some? I think he is doing some cooking or something. I love me some Neil Patrick Harris.

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