Sunday, August 23, 2009

Top Chef: Masters 8/19/09--"Top Chef Master" summary

Last time on “Top Chef: Masters”: we had the most drama-filled episode of the season, and even though I was pissed and wanted Richard and Dale to shut up, I wasn’t bored, so that was good. Everyone had to pick sous chefs from past seasons of the regular “Top Chef”, so of course they brought back asshats like Spike, and Ilan, because I guess he still doesn’t have anything to do. Anyways, cater for a party, be told last minute you have to transport your food, and serve it outside in direct sunlight, use your sous chefs to give you ideas or do it all yourself since it’s your ass on the line. There was a new storyline of “Michael is a pompous jerk on a power trip” which was kind of true but also out of nowhere so that was odd. Plus, don’t you want to see someone stick it to Spike? That was really satisfying. In the end, no one was impressed with Anita, or not impressed enough, so she was out. Last episode! (click for more)

I think it’s cool that the final 3 have different cuisine specialties. For the final challenge Hubert, Rick, and Michael are put into a car and driven off to the Getty Villa which is a super swank mansion on the coast. Kelly meets them in the garden by the reflecting pool. She gives them their final challenge. She calls it “the meal of your lifetime”, so at first, it sounds like every other final challenge in the regular seasons. But it’s so much better than that. The first course should be inspired by their first food memories, the second by the experience that made them decide to become a chef, the third by the opening of their first restaurant, and the last dish should be where they’re headed in the future. That is an awesome final challenge. The diners for the final challenge will include the critics, plus Tom, Padma, and Gail. And the 5 winners of “Top Chef”. Nice. She leaves them in the garden to get inspired. And also there’s a nice spread. It reminds me of when you win something on “Survivor” and there’s always food. Although this food is nicer.

Hubert already knows what he wants for his first course: baeckeoffe, which is an Alsatian lamb, beef, pork, and potato stew. There is also a picture of baby Hubert which is totally cute. The women in the village would make it and marinate it overnight, and then bring it to his father’s bakery and he’d put pastry over the top. Then the women would go do laundry, and when they got back, lunch would be ready. That sounds cool. Rick says he thought he had barbeque sauce in his veins until he was 15, because he grew up in a restaurant. He kept all his nice clothes in another closet so they wouldn’t smell like barbeque smoke. Hee. His first course will be barbecued smoked quail with watermelon salad. Michael’s mom helped him to make gnocchi, standing on a box because he was too short. He wants to make a duo of gnocchi, one way his mom would make and one the way he’d do it now.

Shopping time. They’ve got an hour and $1300. Wow. Michael thinks this will be the closest episode, but there have been episodes won by half a star, haven’t there? Nothing really exciting happens at shopping.

5 hours to prep today. There is a lot of quick working and jogging. Rick says when he was 14 he went to Mexico and had Oaxacan black mole. And it was so fantastic he knew he had to learn how to make it even though it uses 27 ingredients and completely unique cooking techniques. His second course is ahi tuna with Oaxacan black mole, a plantain tamale and grilled nopales (prickly pear cactus). Michael’s second course is polenta with rabbit, asparagus and wild mushroom, with a duck and rabbit liver spiedini (grilled skewers). There doesn’t seem to be a story, other than these dishes are something rustic that a hunter might make. But I didn’t hear a personal story. Hubert is making salmon soufflé and a choucroute flan, because the soufflé is from a restaurant he interned at. Choucroute is the French word for sauerkraut. Everybody stirs things and tries to get stuff done before they have to go home for the day.

Day of the meal, they only have 2.5 hours to work. There is mild trash talk, until Rick notices a note and a remote control to a TV. Kelly’s note says there is one more surprise, and they all freak out. On the TV is one of Hubert’s sous chefs, wishing him luck and stuff. Awesome! Michael and Rick both get videos too, and say what you want about Michael, but that sous chef of his is smoking hot. Rick’s sous chef seems to be in front of a set of shelves, and when they are talking about how great that is, you can see behind them some very similar shelves. And then the three sous chefs walk in. Nice. The three finalists are pleasantly surprised and they put everyone to work.

Everyone gives details for their third dishes. Michael’s first restaurant was “progressive New American” with some fusion stuff happening. His dish is a whole fried rouget fish, marinated in ginger, with a mango salad. It’s an actual dish from the restaurant. Rick’s first restaurant was the Frontera Grill that he still has, and he’s making cohinita pibil, which is a suckling pig. Also for sides he has sunchoke puree, crispy pig’s feet, and pickled red onion. I think he’s taking the meat from the pig and packing it into a pan so it will set up in a block and he can cut squares to pan fry. Interesting. Hubert gets some truffles and shows them off to everyone to gloat. Rick says dishes with truffles aren’t special, just expensive. Hubert’s first restaurant opened 23 years ago, so he has to try to remember what was popular then. He’s making Colorado lamb chops wrapped in vegetable mousseline, with a vanilla-merlot sauce. Mousseline is any sauce with beaten egg whites or beaten cream added, to make it fluffy, so this sounds like vegetable mousse that will set up around the lamb. Also in the center of the chop is a garlic clove that he’s blanched to take away the sharpness. Garlic and lamb is fantastic, but vanilla merlot? Not appetizing.

Last course descriptions. Michael is making brined short ribs with 5 onion cavalo nero. Cavalo nero is black kale. He’s in the Napa Valley so to show where he’s going he’s burning come cabernet vines. I guess to use the smell. Rick is making arroz a la tumbada with lobster, crab, squid, mussels, and shrimp, with chorizo “air” which is just the dreaded foam. It’s a homey dish, he says, which is kind of deconstructed but mostly sounds like paella. But his sous chef has overcooked some of the seafood. Hubert is making pan-seared sweetbreads and braised Wagyu beef cheeks. He says he’s using “affordable” cuts because of the recession, but Wagyu beef? Really? Last minute frantic plating!

Commercial interlude: Michael has a grudge against James so he took some pages from Saveur magazine and burnt them into circles to put under one of his dishes. Heh.

As the waiters serve the dishes, some people are already oohing and aahing over everything. As the finalists come out, Hubert has a pot for some reason and Tom is all, oh you brought seconds! Hee. Kelly introduces everyone, including the 5 winners. Hi Hosea! Long have I waited for your coming home to me! Alright, on with the show. Tom sneaks bites. Hubert really did bring seconds in the pot. His stew looks fantastic. Actually everyone’s food looks delicious. Michael’s duo of gnocchi is potato gnocchi with fonduta and ricotta gnocchi with tomato sauce. Everyone eats and loves the gnocchi, although Hung thinks it’s slightly under seasoned. James notices that the carrots in Hubert’s stew are cut in little star shapes. Damn, they really are. Ilan thinks you can feel that he’s been making that dish since he was little. It’s very homey. Rick’s quail is authentic, it sounds like.

Rick explains his mole sauce. Man, I want some. Hubert has osetra caviar and Riesling sauce with the salmon. Michael’s dish is served in a jar with a lid, on top of the magazine page. When he explains the magazine everyone cracks up and so does James. They eat the polenta first and Gail wants to bathe in it, she says. Jay Ray looks interested. That was…interesting. It looks so delicious. But I don’t want to bathe in it. Everyone loves Hubert’s salmon and Harold says it makes him want to learn more about French cuisine. But they rave about the mole too.

Third course. Rick’s pork looks kind of weird, but pork goodness. Hubert’s lamb chop is sliced, so you can see the garlic clove in the center, and it’s wrapped in a spinach leaf, and there’s a hollowed out potato with the vanilla-merlot sauce. It looks dramatic but weird. Michael gives each person a whole fish. Nice. The fish is not going over well. Ilan says something about it but I’m inclined not to listen to him, sadly. Hubert’s lamb is great but the raw garlic is odd and there’s too much vanilla for some people. No one has anything bad to say about suckling pig.

Rick’s arroz a la tumbada has black rice and stupid foam. Foam. Eye roll. Michael’s short ribs look tasty. Hubert’s sweetbreads have some scrambled egg, and the beef cheeks have sauce and garnishes too. Jay Ray does not like the foam. He calls it “elderly granny putting on spandex hot pants to dance at a wedding”. Wow, that was like a Kors level of sound bite. The short ribs are fantastic. Hubert put a ton of truffles in but he gave Tom raw sweetbreads.

Critics table. Michael is up first. Short ribs were fantastic. The fish was too literal? I guess because it was an actually dish that he really served. That’s all we talk to him about. Hubert’s stew was wonderful and rich, but the garlic with the lamb was too raw and the vanilla was weird. Hubert knows the vanilla was a risk. Then they nail Rick for the foam and overcooked seafood but they like that he was creative. Then they fall over themselves to praise the mole.

So for the final judging they just talk about the dishes again and seriously there is nothing new at all. Nothing. Oh, except when they get to Rick’s mole Jay Ray asks if they can just sit and moan incoherently in pleasure for a while. And then they do.

Michael is up first, and he wins 17 stars. Hubert only gets 16.5 stars, so he will not win. I know that surprises a lot of people. Rick, after a ton of dramatic pauses, gets 18 stars so he wins! Awesome! I hope he’s on “Top Chef” again, and someone challenges him, and he’s all, “Don’t argue with me bitches! I’m the master!”

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