Hello, Gasmii! This was a very up and down episode for me, as I’m sure it was for all of you. First off, after Stonecoldfox gives us a rundown on last week’s goings on, the chefs enter the kitchen, but, what’s this? There are only TEN chefs present when there should be ELEVEN. Guess what!! John Sedlar has had an emergency and had to withdraw so Hughnibrow returns!!!! Huzzah!!!
(And I hope John Sedlar is okay.)
This is great for Hugh. I always feel badly for the first chef to be sent packing on any of the Top Chefs, but it’s particularly icky and embarrassing on Masters. So good for him that he gets another shot. AND I get to type unibrow jokes for at least one more week. Smiles all around! Of course Naomi takes a moment to remind us that this is a competition and that while she’s sad to see him go, she wants to be one of the three chefs in the finale. Also, for CHARITY. Yeesh.
John (who can now, thankfully, just be John), is also sad to see John S. go, but seems to have started a little bromance with Hugh, and is tickled pink that they can share whiskey (and secrets) at the end of a work day again.
All right, screw the touchy-feely bullshit, it’s time for the Quickfire!! The Chefs are challenged to make a meatball dish in under thirty minutes, which, other than the fact that thirty minutes seems like a short-ish time in which to make a tasty ball of meat, doesn’t seem that daunting. Oh, but wait. There’s a twist. They have to use handgrinders.
But even using a manual hand grinder doesn’t seem so bad to me, until I realize that my opinion is based off of no experience whatsoever, and reminds me of the time I thought it would be a good idea to mow my lawn with a manual mower. All George Mendes can do is open his mouth to let a “Shut the f*** uuuup!” out, and John gets that headed to the gallows look on his face interviewing that it’s been a looong time since he’s ground meat by hand, and it’s going to take awhile. I love that most of the things the contestants on Top Chef Masters complain about involve not the wackiness of the challenges, but the manual labor they’re forced to endure.
In my opinion, however, the best part of this challenge is the judge – Kelis!! I almost got a Milkshake LP in Notting Hill. It seemed too awesome to pass up. Fun Facts about Kelis you probably didn’t know? She’s a professionally trained chef! I don’t care if this just means she worked as a line cook or a dishwasher or something when she was trying to make it big, shit like that’s still neat to me. Remember when Seven of Nine announced that on Saturdays she’d sous chef for the thrill of it? Just like that. Fun fact you probably DID know about Kelis? She just loves (meat)balls!
Also, Liz Claiborne.
The winner will receive five grand for their charity and immunity. And they’re off! Floyd sees a baguette and immediately thinks of his son, who loves meatball subs. This transitions nicely into the explanation of his charity – the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund. His son wolunteered with them recently. Misspelling intentional. Floyd has almost perfected his American, so it sounds extra awesome when his Indian accent pops out. The charity seeks out young scientists working in cancer research and funds those who have ideas about curing it. Hmm, kind of niche, but I’ll take it.
One person not complaining about manual labor? Naomi! Why? I’ll let her tell you. Meat is what she does. She’s known as the “meat lady.” There are pictures of her holding a pig she’s just butchered over her shoulder. Let me clarify that last one a bit for you all. Naomi has done photo shoots in which she holds a lifeless pig like it’s a baby she’s about to burp. A whole pig. I’m not saying she doesn’t butcher her own meat, but in those photos all she’s doing is dancing cheek to cheek with dead swine.
Reason number 10.
Anyway, she butchers whole pigs because she’s some kind of pork badass she’s not used to using this “little hand crank thing.” Someone just tell her she can use her teeth. Maybe that’ll shut her up. All the other chefs are totally hapless when it comes to affixing their grinders to the tables and whatnot, which is hilarious. Celina straight can’t use hers, so she borrows Hugh’s. Everyone appears to be in the weeds, except Suvir, who steals a glance at his festive red shoes every time things get tense. I’m not kidding, he actually says that. He also says that he vows to remember that life is not all that bad, and if he wants to indulge himself, he shall do so as happily and as gay as he can. My love for him knows no bounds. I can’t decide if he’s actually gay, though…
Sue Zemanick comes up with what could be my second favorite thing to put in my mouth – it’s a pork and beef meatball with a tiny dollop of cheese inside. Flawless. John decides to prove that the South deserves respect by doing something off the map. Like from, Vietnam. It’s a chicken meatball, and it looks pretty good. It should go a long way toward delivering the south from its history of slavery, redneckery and junebuggery (those things are fucking HUGE).
George Mendes is having broth issues, but he solves them, and when time is up, everyone has something to show for it, even Sue and Naomi. When Kelis arrives, the chefs pile in to watch the judging and Sue’s up first. Her pork belly meatball is a hit, and Kelis describes the cheese as a nice little surprise. At this time, Gasmii, I invite you to insert your own blow job joke below.
George’s chicken doesn’t go over so well, due specifically to his broth, so I guess he didn’t solve his problems after all. Alex Stratta does a lamb and couscous ball (kuskus as Stonecoldfox would say), which Kelis pronounces tasty, but when Curtis brings up the useless, inedible garnish of seeds that adorns the plate, she does maintain that she was taught that if anything went on the plate it had to be edible. Alex adorably pouts that he doesn’t like her songs. So there.
Now we get to the part of the program in which Kelis proves she’s a way better singer than she is a diner. She doesn’t eat the bread that goes with the meatball on Floyd’s sub, and since he’s pretty much endowed the sub with the spirit of his firstborn, he’s pissed when she calls the meatball too salty. As for Traci, her claws come out when Kelis refuses to eat her consommé with a spoon, then claims that she can’t taste the dill garnishing the dish. Traci snaps that it’s actually not dill, it’s fennel, and rolls her eyes at the witless amateur she just wasted 30 minutes and a perfectly good dish on. I’d be pissed at Stonecoldfox if I were them. It seems to me all he’s done is point out the flaws in each chef’s dish as opposed to gently steering Kelis in the right direction in terms of proper dining etiquette.
You use a fork for soup? Me, too!! What the fuck’s that green stuff on top?
Mary Sue totally forgot to put vinegar in her turkey Albondigas soup, which, given the strong flavor profile of VINEGAR would leave the soup lacking, but Kelis loves it. She also loves Hugh’s lamb meatball, but doesn’t think the yogurt garnish goes very well. The closest I’ve seen Hugh come to being upset is right then when he interviews that in Mediterranean cooking, those flavors are used in conjunction all the time – they GO together, he insists, and calls her criticism pointless. I don’t necessarily disagree, but if you don’t like it, you don’t like it. The hit of the day seems to be John’s Vietnamese chicken balls, and he wins! He gets immunity, $5000 for No Kid Hungry and the useless ego boost that comes from someone who likes meatballs, but can’t tell the difference between dill and fennel.
I just told a guy yesterday that coriander and cilantro were most certainly not the same thing, so I get herbology confusion, but I’m not a “professionally trained chef.”
All righty, now for the reason we’re all here – the Elimination Challenge. It’s a total “Mad Men” promo, but I don’t care because I fucking love that show and I fucking love Christina Hendricks, who’s the guest judge. Stonecoldfox announces that this challenge will be about exploring and reinventing the food of the 1960s. Mary Sue interviews that when she thinks of the 60s she thinks of three martini lunches, cheese fondue and all sorts of things her mother used to make. I’ll bet Mary Sue learned how to make a martini for mother before she learned how to ride a bike. I’ll bet Mary Sue has some secrets…
The chefs draw fondue spears to pick which dishes they’ll be working with and it’s a lot of heavy shit with a lot of “a la”s in the title. George gets Chicken a la King, Sue gets Duck a l’Orange, Alex gets Bread Pudding, which makes him nervous because he’s not a fan and has never made it. How is bread pudding a throwback, may I ask? It’s been the “it” dessert for like, the past four years. I fucking loathe it, but I’ve managed to have the opportunity to try at least 37 different variations in the past ten months alone. What? I eat out a lot.
Floyd gets Ambrosia, and hasn’t the foggiest clue what the hell that is. Neither do the other chefs, it seems, and they just describe it as a really crappy salad. I beg to differ. It’s whipped cream masquerading as a salad, and all you coastal bumpkins have Middle America to thank for that.
It’s whipped cream as a starter!! You’re welcome, is all I’ll say. You’re welcome.
Beef Stroganoff, Oysters Rockefeller and Deviled Eggs go to Traci, John and Mary Sue respectively, and all three look confident they’ll knock the dishes out of the park. Well, John and Traci look confident. Mary Sue just looks like Curtis handed her a bouquet of daisies and asked her to come afrolicking with him this May Day. She sort of always looks like that, and with her three-martini momma stories coming out, I’m starting to figure out why.
Celina gets Coq au Vin, Naomi gets Grasshopper Pie, Hugh gets Beef Wellington and Suvir brings up the rear with Veal Oscar. He tweets that he is a vegetarian who loves cooking meat, and he’s created certain recipes without ever tasting them. I don’t know about y’all, but that sounds a lot like the profile of someone who’s in the business of quietly poisoning a lot of meateaters…
Come into my web, bloodthirsty flies. Come… stay… eat…
Christina gets to the nitty-gritty of the challenge with her husband, Geoffrey Arrend. She and her husband hate being surrounded by the food of the 60s. They’re foodies and they love throwing dinner parties, so the chefs will be tasked with creating a replica of the dish they’ve been given and an updated version. Each dish will be appetizer sized and served at the couple’s next cocktail party. With that, everyone’s off to Whole Foods!
John’s feeling like a rockstar considering he grew up in Louisiana, which basically means he could have eaten Oysters Rockefeller every day for breakfast if he’d wanted to. Also, oysters? Notoriously difficult to fuck up. Not unlike fucking up a dish involving truffles. Sue’s excited to get Duck a l’Orange because… her dad helped her make it once as a kid. She’s also playing for the SPCA because she’s an animal lover.
Everything about this woman bores me to tears other than her penchant for surrounding cheese with meat.
Mary Sue’s decided to step out on a limb considering her lack of risk-taking last challenge almost got her sent home. She’s doing a Japanese take on a Deviled Egg which could be delicious or could be the worst thing you’ve ever eaten considering the Japanese tendency to pickle shit that shouldn’t be pickled…
Floyd’s still wandering around fretting about how shitty everyone (who’ve obviously never eaten it) thinks Ambrosia is, and then the chefs finish up and head back to the kitchen for two and a half hours of prep. Suvir’s happily toiling away, promising to make what is normally a rich, fatty and tasteless dish (Veal Oscar), into something involving a symphony of flavors. It’ll still be rich and fatty, though, right? Suvir?
Celina’s also happily toiling – she’s one of the only chefs who actually loves 60s era food and she even has a classics night in her restaurant during which she features some Classic American dishes. Julia Child is rolling in her grave at the thought of Coq au Vin being considered American, but it is nice to see someone who isn’t insulting an entire decade’s worth of food. Floyd also seems to have found his feet in the creation of something that not even he can describe very well, but that I totally want to eat. Apparently his wife makes this mousse (I think it involves coconut because he’s cracking them open as he voice overs about the mousse) and he’s going to skewer fresh fruit and have the guests dip the fruit in the “mousse-y thing.” Maybe I just like dipping fruit in white stuff, but that sounds damn tasty.
FYI, there’s kind of a dearth of Naomi in this episode and I’m thoroughly enjoying it. Aw, shit, there she is. And guess what she’s doing?
She doesn’t know what grasshopper pie is – she knows the drink (11. Owns a restaurant called Beast, drinks grasshoppers), but not the dessert. And she’s also a little (pout) frustrated. She cooks MEAT, she keeps insisting, and she hates that she appears to have been bitten by the dessert bug (pout). Gee, Naomi, I sure am sorry that all two of the challenges you’ve had to endure on this show weren’t tailored precisely to your single area of expertise. Also? That Quickfire you just did? There was meat in that.
Prep time comes to a close, and everyone’s still running around. John can’t really do much of that, though, because he can’t even open his oysters. If he does, they’ll spoil, but if he opens them at the challenge the next day and they’re off for some reason, the situation could get seriously “cocked up.” Did I recap that little tidbit solely for the purpose of typing “cocked up”?
After commercial, it’s cocktail party time! The chefs head to Jar (which you may remember from Season One), and the kitchen, she is also appetizer-sized. There isn’t actually enough burner space for everyone, so Sue just starts helping everyone she can in the hopes that they’ll finish faster and she can grab a spot. I have a feeling that isn’t going to work out exactly as she hopes.
Everyone – everyone is feeling the pressure, including Survir, actually. He and Sue can’t find space in the kitchen, and he realizes that if he wants to cook his veal at all, he’s going to have to use the deep fryer. Oh, God, no. No, Suvir – there has to be another way! NEVER EVER DEEP FRY A BABY.
And then the festivities begin! Christina, Geoff and the judges arrive. That Danielle lady from last week is there, and there are martinis served all around. I wish they’d send some back to the kitchen because everyone is still freaking out. Mary Sue has actually crawled under a table (like you did after lunch when you were growing up…?). Oh, it’s because she has to plate there – because there is no space in the kitchen whatsoever. I know this is a totally staged obstacle, but I fucking love it.
Naomi, could you please, PLEASE get your dick out of my ass?
John’s having different issues, though. As he’s opening his oysters, he’s discovering that most of them are uncookable (does that mean they’re too small? Anyone? I don’t know much about oysters aside from the fact that I love them in my belly). So he decides to go with a raw oyster dish for the modern take, but he’s worried that it’ll look too similar to the originals and displease the judges. Considering his innovation involved shucking, plating and not much else, I’m sort of with him on this one.
He and Mary Sue are up first and they head out to present to the head table. John wound up doing a raw oyster with horseradish crème fraiche, bacon and a mignonette of some kind. It sounds frigging delectable. Mary Sue’s Japanese-style egg involves umeboshi and mustard mayonnaise. Don’t have a clue what umeboshi is, but it must be tasty, because Christina practically cries as she eats it. The other judges like it, but do mention that it has about as much in common with a deviled egg as Egg Beaters do. And John’s oyster is a massive, massive hit. And now for an old friend…
I’d like to be on television again please.
Next up George with his Chicken a la King, and Traci’s Beef Stroganoff. Obviously neither of them is going home because we’ve seen exactly five minutes of each of them this entire episode, and their dishes are kind of boring. George replaced the cream in his dish with yogurt and instead of presenting the chicken in dumpling form, just put some bread in with the whole mix. It’s soggy, and Ruth comments on that, but James Oseland disagrees and backhands her into shutting up. The bread is SUPPOSED to be soggy. Traci’s dish is basically a Stroganoff cracker. It’s steak tartar on a bed of crispy noodles. It’s not a huge hit, but I’m pretty sure Traci has intimidated the shit out of the judges, so they don’t actively insult it. They just say stuff like, “I’m not sure that noodle is what you want to walk away from after a beef stroganoff.”
And then it’s back to the kitchen to watch poor Sue unravel. She spent so much time helping everyone else, she completely lost track of her own time and now she has 40 seconds left to plate a whole bunch of crap. Despite Naomi and Celina pitching in to help, she doesn’t finish, and insists that she’s going home. Half the plates are unfinished, and she looks like she’s about to cry as she heads to the critic’s table.
Please enjoy your Duck a
Suvir introduces an Indian version of Veal Oscar, which, near as I can tell, is deep fried veal with chutney and whatnot. Also an asparagus salad. Okaaaayyy… Sue regrettably informs the critics that her dish was SUPPOSED to be a crispy duck breast with a blood orange gastrique and a pineapple mango salad. Aw, that sounded tasty…
Suvir awesomely, AWESOMELY steps up and explains to the critics that the reason Sue did not finish was that she spent ridiculous amounts of time helping everyone else succeed. She walks out in tears, but the judges do seem pretty sympathetic and Suvir’s dish totally blows, so she might be safe.
Now it’s time for Hugh and Celina, who are also not going home. Celina speeds through her description of CoqauVinturnedchickenfriseesalad and Hugh practically throws his bit of seared filet in a mushroom espuma served with some puff pastry. It’s also served in a rocks glass, and the presentation is pretty lame. In both cases, they like it, don’t love it, couldn’t really care about more of it.
Danielle just passed out.
Time for desserts! Alex confidently presents his bread pudding, bragging that he’s never even made it before. It involves a Chai tea infusion or something, but I’m not really concerned with that so much as I’m concerned with the fact that he’s been might confident about a dish he knows nothing about for the entire episode, and I’m wondering if it’s going to blow up in his face.
Floyd’s Ambrosia Coconut Mousse-y thing didn’t set, so he turned the whole thing into a custard fondue. The judges sort of ignore that and just start eating with spoons, but if that’s not a positive review, I don’t know what is. Geoffrey is stupid excited about a pecan in the bottom of his fondue pot, and I think someone told him that meant he got a prize.
Finally, Naomi needs to prove that she’s better than everything, including Grasshopper Pie, and presents a mint chocolate soufflé topped with a roasted Kirsch marshmallow. Does it seem to everyone else that Naomi always has something to prove? There’s no fun in her cooking…
While the Ambrosia and the soufflé are solid performers, Alex’s oh so confident bread pudding is all sauce. Also, when James Oseland tries to defend him based on the fact that Stratta’s never made a bread pudding before, Ruth jumps in to snap that bread pudding is “like, Cooking 101.” Actually, Ruth, Cooking 101 involves an overview of health codes and standards. My friend just started culinary school.
Back from commercial and onto the judging. Floyd, Mary Sue and John are called in first and they’re the favorites!!! Huzzah to eggs, oysters and fruit dip! All three chefs look like they’re going to faint from relief and it’s adorable. Danielle describes each dish as “sexy fingerfood,” and now I’m uncomfortable. All of the judges vomit compliments to each chef in turn, but in the end, IT’S MARY SUE WHO TAKES THE CAKE!!! AND THE MONEY!! All the problems of her childhood disappear and are replaced by a few less kids going hungry. It also makes me think about going to Border Grill for dinner tonight. Because I can walk there. It’s kind of like I’m on the show!
And now for the downside. Alex, Sue and Suvir (eek! No, not Suvir. They can’t take Suvir!) get called in for humiliation and humiliation they receive. Oseland calls Suvir’s veal shoe leather, Ruth hates on poor Sue’s Duck a, and no one really knows what to do with Alex’s bread pudding/soup. In an effort to explain his veal and Sue’s lack of dish, Suvir explains that there were divas in the kitchen who wouldn’t let them cook, and so he was forced to use a deep fryer. When pressed for names, he won’t give them up, neither will Sue and neither will Alex. Probably because no one was actually being a diva, the space was just too damn small.
After the three chefs return to the holding area, the critics really start to pick things apart. I thought they liked what little of Sue’s dish actually did make it to the plate, but apparently they didn’t. James maintains that while Sue didn’t meet her challenge entirely, he still thought the duck tasted fine, as opposed to Suvir’s veal, which was an affront to humanity. Ruth liked the reinterpretation, but knows that the execution didn’t pan out. As for the bread pudding, all agree that it was lame, but not as lame as the veal.
So I’m all set for dull as toast Sue to go home, and then something happens that BLOWS MY EVER-LOVING MIND. Sue is sent home and James Oseland, editor of Saveur uses the word undelicious! What the what? What the WHAT?
You edit a magazine for pity’s sake!
Suvir sweetly hugs her goodbye and Sue wishes the women well hoping they take the competition. I include Suvir in that category. Next week – bugs!!