Thursday, July 30, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 7/29/09--"Champions Round Begins" summary

Last time on “Top Chef: Masters”: We had the aisle challenge, and the only exciting part of that was that they named it “Aisle Trial“ which is pretty good, and then they made everyone pick out ingredients for a mystery box for someone else, but that wasn’t exciting either because everyone was respectful and no one put in like, fish and grape jelly to screw with their competitors. In the end Art Smith won and we are finally to the semi-finals where it will be the same people all the time. ALSO I was at the outlet mall today with Kmanpat, and we walked by the Marble Slab ice cream shop (I haven’t seen a Marble Slab in ages and the logo on this one looked…well, like an outlet store). Out in front was a sign that said “Celebrity Sundaes--try all three!” so I looked to see what kind of d-list celebrities were shilling for an ice cream shop in an outlet mall. And I thought, hey, that girl looks familiar. It was Carla. To her left is Fabio, and to her right is Jeff. No mention of “Top Chef”, no mention of the fact that they’re chefs, just a label of “celebrity” and first names only. I physically grabbed Kmanpat to make him look at it and it took him a minute to figure out why he should know these people. I don’t remember what all is in the sundaes (you can check out the photo here) but Fabio’s looks healthy, Carla’s looks like it has candy, and Jeff’s is chocolate. (click for more)

If you have forgotten the first round winners, they are as follows: Anita Lo, Art Smith, Hubert Keller, Suzanne Tract, Michael Chiarello, and Rick Bayless. Everyone comes in and seems to be more comfortable in the kitchen, now that they know what is going on. There will be three rounds, highest score wins some extra money. Lowest score is eliminated. I guess that’s highest score today. That means we’ll have several more episodes.

Today’s Quickfire involves two teams, labeled “Pepper” and “Salt”. It’s relay race time! Which should be good because these chefs may have pawned off prep work on underlings for a good long time. And then Tom comes in to judge! Yay! Here are the tasks: open 15 oysters, dice 5 onions, butcher 4 chickens, and separate 5 eggs and beat the whites until you can hold the bowl upside down. So someone will have to double up. Hubert, Anita, and Rick are one team, and Art, Suzanne, and Michael are the other. Hubert and Art are going to be doubling up but not on the same tasks.

Hubert vs. Suzanne with the oysters. Suzanne gets into the zone and she’s schooling Hubert pretty badly at first. He catches up though so Art and Hubert are even with the onions. Although Art somehow flings half an onion over near Hubert. Art wins by a whole onion. I’m not really sure how, although Rick says that Hubert is using a more classic technique while Art is doing some weird thing which was faster apparently. So Michael has a good lead going into the chicken, over Anita. I remember someone got schooled in this challenge and it ended up being blamed on her knives being dull. I think it was Casey. Anita catches up so of course it comes down to the last task, Art vs. Rick on eggs. Except that Art doesn’t separate his eggs right, and has whole yolks to get rid of. Rick, Anita, and Hubert win! They all start with 5 stars, while Art, Michael, and Suzanne have 4 stars.

Kelly wants everyone to make a dish that will show the other chefs what they can do, and who they are. So they must make a signature dish. What are we, “Hell’s Kitchen”? Anita says she gets more nervous cooking for chefs than for her customers.

Rick talks for a while about how awesome everyone is. And then everyone sits down to eat. Hubert makes a lobster and truffle cappuccino with a corn madeline. It looks cool. Art makes seared grouper with hearts of palm, trumpet mushrooms, and Meyer lemon zest. He says it’s the dish he made for Obama. Anita shares her seared scallops with potato puree, bacon, sea urchin, and mustard greens. Michael serves fennel balsamic quail with mosto cotto mustarda, sautéed greens, and roasted apple. I think that is mustard greens. It looks really good. Suzanne has chopped sirloin with green peppercorn sauce and a fried egg on top. Rick has rack of lamb and black pasilla chile sauce with mission figs.

Kelly shows up as they’re finishing up to give them the Elimination challenge: take someone else’s dish and put your own spin on it. Interesting. Winners from the Quickfire get to pick whose dish they want, but it means that they’ll swap. Hubert picks Anita, so he will remake her dish and vice versa. Actually he’s the only one who picks; everyone else has to draw knives. Michael says he doesn’t want to get paired with Rick, so of course that’s what happens. That leaves Art and Suzanne swapping dishes. They will have 45 minutes and $300 to shop, and 2 hours tomorrow to cook.

So I guess when Kelly said 3 challenges she counted “cook your signature dish for everyone” as a challenge. Michael asks Rick what kind of chilies to get. Interesting. Suzanne doesn’t like fish a ton. Rick doesn’t want to put a Mexican spin on Michael’s dish, because he thinks everyone will be expecting that.

Art says he only got into restaurants about a year ago, since he was a personal chef. So he’s kind of feeling behind. Hubert talks about potato and sea urchin, and we know my feelings on sea urchin. One of Anita’s lobsters almost escapes. She’s not hesitated to make this dish Asian. Art was glad to get Suzanne because they both do comfort-food type dishes. We’re not seeing as much cooking as I would like, but we are seeing a lot of interviews about how awesome all the other contestants are. Suzanne is done before anyone else. Everyone finishes though.

There’s a giant round table with the critics and also 6 eliminated contestants. Probably one from each round. Also Jay Ray, Gael, and James. Art is up first. He took Suzanne’s chopped sirloin and fried egg, and made ground lamb Scottish egg, with sweet potato fries and tomato tart. A Scottish egg is where you take a whole hard boiled egg and put it inside the burger. The egg is a little overcooked. They do like the dessert on the plate. Second is Rick, who redid Michael’s quail with greens. He serves quail with parsnip and prosciutto stuffing over wild greens. They like the dish and that he didn’t make it Mexican. Suzanne remade Art’s grouper, by making roast grouper with gnocchi, peas, bacon, and parsnips. It might be too close. Elizabeth Falkner says that her fish might be a little overcooked and her gnocchi are cold. They establish that Suzanne probably finished early and ruined the dish. Hubert comes to charm everyone. He had Anita’s scallop, and made his own seared scallop with cream of sea urchin over fingerling mashed potatoes. No one tastes any sea urchin. Michael brings out his interpretation of Rick’s lamb with chile sauce: rack of lamb stuffed with fig mostarda, chickpeas, and fried rosemary. It’s not going over that well. I think it’s not seasoned. Anita is last, with Hubert’s lobster and truffles. She’s made corn chawanmushi, champagne gelee, and a lobster biscuit sandwich. Chawanmushi is a Japanese savory egg custard. It looks very pretty and very good.

Commercial interlude: Um…Art talks a lot and everyone loves him. The end.

The critics actually criticize and ask Hubert if he thinks he had enough sea urchin flavor. Well, then he says he does and they leave him alone. Jay Ray calls Anita clever and they all talk about how they loved her biscuit and they loved her reinterpretation. Art’s egg was overcooked and he’s like, yeah, I have egg issues. Then they ding Suzanne for serving cold food and overcooking the grouper. Rick gets praised for not making Mexican food, and they talk for a while about how good his Italian food is, until James uses the phrase “fresh innocence” which Rick says hasn’t been used in his presence for a really long time. Hee. Michael made his dish his own too much? James says he didn’t see Rick anymore. I don’t know why that matters. Michael says something about wanting to respect Rick and Jay Ray says, so, you cared more about what Rick would think than about what we would think. OK then.

Hubert had a perfectly cooked scallop but no one tasted the sea urchin which I guess is a big thing. Everyone wants to worship Anita and her lobster biscuit. I think they are offended by Art’s dish, calling it “grotesque” and whatnot. Suzanne didn’t time anything properly so it was cold. Michael wasn’t comfortable, but all of a sudden the chickpeas were perfect. Rick’s ingredients all matched up and he had a “quiet respect for Michael’s dish” according to James.

Rick = 23 stars, and Anita = 24 stars, so she is the winner this week. Now for the loser. Michael = 18.5 stars, Hubert = 21.5 stars, Art = 15 stars, and Suzanne = 14.5 stars. Suzanne says she would take her time next time, and be more careful.

Next week: catering for picky celebrities. Woo.

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