Thursday, July 9, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 7/8/09--"Magic Chefs" summary

Last time on “Top Chef: Masters”: Wow, it was so long ago. First everyone had to make a dish that was inspired by a color. It still is an odd Quickfire. Not their best idea. For an Elimination challenge the chefs made street food out of offal for tourists at Universal Studios. Everyone was surprised and proud that they made offal accessible to the average person, but since the tourists had to line up ahead of time and could clearly see the sandwich boards with “STOMACH” and “TONGUE” written on them, I’m thinking they had some inkling and could avoid the line. The best part of that challenge is some random guy asked Rick Bayless to slip him some tongue, and Rick said something to the effect of “my tongue is the best” or something. Rick ended up winning. Every week I think I realize another reason I like this show less than regular “Top Chef”. This week’s reason? By now we’d have had several episodes with the same people, I’d have an irrational hatred of someone, we’d get a feel for who everyone is. We have new chefs each week, and I’m not invested in anyone. (click for more)

First up this week is Douglas Rodriguez from Philadelphia. Actually he has multiple restaurants in multiple cities. He makes “Nuevo Latino cuisine”, according to Tom. His charity is Ayuda for the Arts. “Ayuda” means “help” in Spanish but it also stands for “Alliance for Young Urban Design and the Arts”. No offense, but that charity name is “Alliance for Young Urban Design and the Arts for the Arts”. Next is Anita Lo, from New York. She works a lot on the line, so she knows how to cook still. She is playing for SHARE, which is a breast cancer survivor support group. Third is John Besh, from New Orleans. You may remember him from “Next Iron Chef“. He’s honored to represent Cajun cooking. His charity is Make It Right, which is rehabilitating New Orleans. Last is Mark Peel, from L.A. He’s cooked for Wolfgang Puck. He’s playing for Doctors Without Borders.


Kelly tells them what they’re doing first: cooking eggs. With one hand behind their backs. Judges will be Gail Simmons! OH! Girl is PICKY about her eggs. This should be good. Terry Reish, who is a poultry farmer, is another judge, and then also Monica May, chef of a diner. Monica has dark hair with blond on top, which reminds me of Rogue from X-Men. The new movies, not the cartoons. They’ll have 25 minutes. And they have to wear an oven mitt but it’s not actually tied behind their backs. Douglas is making crepes. Mark’s dad was born with one arm so this is not a strange thing for him. Oo. Advantage. He’s making pasta, I think. John has casseroles and toppings. You know, one of my roommates introduced me to eating eggs that way. She would make frozen tater tots in the oven, then put them in a bowl and crack an egg over the top. Then you put it back in the oven to cook the egg, and then you eat it with sriracha (which she called Chinese ketchup for some reason). John says Anita was trying to slice egg tops off and John is helping her. John begins freaking out because the eggs aren’t cooking. Anita is making Asian flavors. Mark doesn’t even have time to wipe his plates. John, however, completely failed and didn’t even finish cooking his eggs. All he has are casseroles with mostly raw eggs.

First up is Douglas with an open faced corn cake, with ham and scrambled eggs. Everyone loves the eggs. Second is Mark: fresh duck egg pasta, with an egg and olive oil sauce. They are impressed that he made pasta one-handed. A couple of judges say it’s bland, and then he realizes he forgot the olive oil. For the pasta with egg and olive oil sauce. Anita: soft scrambled eggs and shiitake mushrooms with truffle oil and oyster sauce. They’re served in the egg shells. John has failed so badly only one is even partially done, the one he put on the stove. They are bored, except for Gail, who tastes burnt grease. Poor John.

Mark=2.5; John=.5; Douglas=3; Anita=5.

Elimination challenge: they must make dinner for Neil Patrick Harris. Oh, I love him. Oh, and some of his friends. At The Magic Castle. Kelly references how NPH loves magic, and she has someone to introduce their challenge. In walks some guy in black, with a very severe widow’s peak. He looks very much like a magician. He then proceeds to talk about how magic is like a recipe, etc., and then they have to pick cards which are blank, but of course then when they all look at them they have words. Mystery, Surprise, Spectacle, Illusion. These are supposedly the “ingredients” for magic. So now everyone has inspiration. That’s it? I thought they’d have to make food that looked like other food. Like when NPH was on “Dinner: Impossible” and they made ice cream hot dogs and meatloaf cake. Mmmm, meatloaf cake with mashed potato frosting and tomato syrup. I guess “illusion” counts for that. But I kind of wanted everyone to have to do it. They’ll have $250 and 2 hours here, and another hour at the location.

Mark has “mystery”, and he’s thinking about en papillote, which is where you cook things inside a parchment paper envelope so you can’t see it. John needs to get some crazy stuff for “surprise”, and he has been tempted by the liquid nitrogen in the Top Chef kitchen. Douglas has “spectacle”, and refuses to even elaborate on that in confessional. So that leaves Anita with “illusion”, and she’s thinking of using some seafood to make scallops. That’s it? No fake shapes? Man. Mark says Anita is the one to beat. Well, yes, since she got double the number of stars than you.

Holy crap, John in the Marines. That picture is crazy. He put that experience into good use after Katrina, cooking vats of food for people. Douglas still won’t say what he’s doing, except that it involves duck. Tom! Oh, you guys, Tom is here! He promises not to be a judge, but he’s just seeing what’s up. Oh, Tom, I missed you. Tom knows these guys, or at least John, so when he goes to talk to John he busts his balls for a while about his tableside horseradish sorbet. John claims to have done it before and Tom outright laughs at him. But I must say, horseradish sorbet is a total Iron Chef dish. They’re always making ice cream out of everything. Anita is using rice krispies. Mark admits to having watched the show and thought it was easy. Tom interviews that these four chefs have figured out something that regular “Top Chef” contestants sometimes never do: they don’t get bogged down in the challenge. They just cook and trust in the fact that their food will explain things. He’s sad that he can’t try anything tomorrow. Mark relates the clock to a Bond movie and talks about lasers and crotches. Finally Douglas lets us in on part of what he’s doing: flaming coconuts. No I am not kidding. He wants to smear sterno around the sides of the coconuts and light it on fire during service.

On the day of the challenge they get inside the Magic Castle, which looks like a Haunted Mansion rip off. I’m sorry but it does. It’s like, that level of “creepy”. John promises not to be boring. Anita likes her flavors but not her plating. Mark wants to serve early, because he’s done early, but he has to wait for another several minutes.

Gail is back for dinner! Yay! Mark serves first: tai snapper in parchment with garlic mashed potatoes and leeks. The “mystery” is that you don’t know what’s inside until you open it. Except that he just told you. Also there is scallion oil and dassai sake. It takes a minute to get inside but it’s very tasty. NPH loves sake. Second is John. He makes his crème fraiche and horseradish sorbet tableside, and he makes NPH help him by holding the bowl. Really it consists of pouring liquid nitrogen into the bowl so it’s not terribly exciting. The rest of the dishes are as follows: salmon tartare with a cauliflower blini, cucumber and salmon roe salad with the sorbet, and tempura fried lobster wrapped in smoked salmon. There are some surprises, with random flavors popping up. NPH is under impressed with the demo. Anita is third: braised daikon with kombu (seaweed) caviar and steak tartare inside the daikon. It really does look like a scallop. Underneath it looks like sand and shells but is cereal. Plus there is some shellfish broth. In terms of “illusion” it’s perfect, but some people are not impressed by daikon. NPH says it’s his favorite. Last is Douglas. Back in the kitchen he’s trying to light the coconuts and the other contestants kind of are afraid. He does warn everyone about the flaming coconuts. There are four dishes: oyster ceviche with duck broth, empanada with foie gras and figs, sliced duck breast with butternut squash, and inside the coconut is duck soup with duck confit and young coconut. Oo, duck confit. The presentation is impressive even without the fire, which didn’t work so well.

Commercial interlude: the dinner guests got a private magic show from some guy that for some reason was “Japanese” but just involved some Japanese sounding word. And a rabbit.

Oh, please let the presence of Gail improve the nonsense that is Critics’ Table. John is up first. Gael didn’t like the blini, because he made it ice cold and she said it was too cold. The sorbet wasn’t set enough but he liked the flavors. They rave about Anita’s fake scallop and we find out apparently only James poured her broth over the dish, which made it better. Douglas liked his dishes except for the coconut. James for some reason points out to Mark that he considers Mark’s food to be Mediterranean but this wasn’t, but in a good way? Man, that wasn’t any better than usual.

Gail thinks John did the best with the theme but maybe not the best with flavors. Anita’s dish was wonderful. Douglas’s dish didn’t come together. Backstage Douglas and Mark say that they’d do it again. Mark’s dish seemed simple but was really complex. James claims that Mark actually fit his theme word better than anyone. See, here’s the problem. After the chefs leave, that’s where the critics actually critique. Why can’t they do that to the chefs’ faces?

John ends up with 12 stars (ouch), Mark with 18.5, Douglas with 13 (damn), and Anita gets 22.5 so she’s the winner. Everyone had a good time. You know what? I hope that the first semi-final round, with all 6 of them, they bring in the other chefs from that episode to be like, sous chefs.

Next week: cook a 3 course meal for 100. By yourself.

1 comment:

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