This week, the chefs are facing a low-cal dining challenge, which doesn’t seem that challenging to me. I mean, if Applebee’s can pump out low-cal meals that may or may not taste like crap and/or be miniature food (anyone who can weigh in, feel free), I would hope that very skilled master chefs would be able to do the same. The contestants from “The Biggest Loser” will be on hand to sample the meals, which should be a treat for them as no one will be screaming at them to do push ups until they vomit. Hopefully.
[Full recap of Wednesday's (April 27) "Top Chef
Masters" after the break...]
Quickfire Challenge! Curtis comes in and waves his hand at a table of gorgeous, high-end cheeses. The challenge is that the chefs must each create a cheese dish. Easy enough. Oh, they have to do it in 12 minutes. As Hugh opines, it takes him longer to shave in the morning. And he doesn’t even do anything about the unibrow.
After running crazily through the kitchen and slapping together cheesy things, the chefs learn that their judge will be Norbert Wabnig, owner of The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. I have to say, he has the perfect name for a cheese snob, even if it inadvertently reminds me of Eddie Murphy in a fat suit even though it’s spelled differently.
Suvir: cheese pakora two ways: mozzarella di bufala & gourda, tamarind chutney
Norbert doesn’t love the presentation. Sniff, sniff! Plus, he notes that mozzarella goes with everything, which I suspect isn’t really a compliment. It did strike me that such a mild cheese would be pretty easy to cook with – not exactly master chef material. Gouda, on the other hand, isn’t so easy, but let’s just note that Suvir isn’t winning this one.
Celina: Manchego, crispy carrot, fig, golden raisin & sherry
Norbert likes the sherry and manchego and feels the dish was very good. Curtis seems to really really like it, but I don’t think he has much of a say.
Hugh: crisp camellia goat cheese, fried quail egg, pepper salad & hazelnut vinaigrette
Norbert declares it stunning… except he doesn’t love the egg. D’oh!
Naomi: chaumes cheese toast, skirt steak, apples, onions & balsamic vinaigrette
Norbert feels it tastes quite good, but Curtis thinks it’s awesome. Curtis is loving everything today! Maybe Curtis was hungry.
Mary Sue: cotija & gouda cheese empanada with tomatillo salsa
Curtis notices it’s a homemade tortilla. Norbert likes it and feels the choices of cheese are correct. Wow, Norbert, ringing endorsement there.
George: onion & grana padano gratin, quail egg, grilled bread & asparagus
Too much onion. Norbert feels it lacks balance. Is there really such a thing as too much onion? I would go with too much asparagus, honestly, but tomato, tomahto.
Alex: rocchetta & prosciutto quesadilla, pickled asparagus & fried quail egg
The flavor is intense, but Norbert wants more cheese. And Alex will not have immunity tonight.
Floyd: cotija elote: corn on the cob, crème fraiche, cotija cheese & cayenne pepper.
I’m sure this tastes good, but it looks awful, like something you find in the trash after a barbeque. Norbert thinks there’s too much pepper. Backstage, Floyd thinks Norbert is stupid about Mexican food. Floyd gets testy when people don’t like his food, which makes me think I might be afraid to send something back at his restaurant even if it looked pre-chewed like this thing.
Traci: Colombier & prosciutto carpaccio, arugula & croutons
Norbert really likes this one and felt the cheese really comes through. It does look tasty, though awfully simple.
His least favorite was Floyd’s (which Floyd defends as authentically Mexican, to which Norbert placidly says, basically, don’t care, too much pepper) and George’s, for the onions. His favorites were Naomi’s and Traci’s. The winner is Traci. Whoot! That did look good, have to say, even if it was basically a big slab of cheese. Floyd is SO pissed, because he feels Traci just put cheese on a plate. And yet, Floyd put corn on a plate, so there. Really, buddy, let it go.
Elimination Challenge! The challenge is to make tasty, low calorie versions of the favorite meals of contestants from “The Biggest Loser.” The chefs will be divided into three teams and will make breakfast, lunch and dinner. And they can’t go over 1,500 for the day. They don’t even get to pick which meals they have to revamp! And they all have to make brownies and include that in their calories for the day. Okay, this is definitely harder than making bad food for Applebee’s.
The chefs meet with the losers. Lots of “yay, you!” and “wow, you lost how much?” Naomi is a mom, so she wants to make good French toast for her loser, whose mom used to cut his French toast into widdle pieces. No wonder he has food issues. Floyd’s son was fat, so he knows how to make skinny food. And then we get to Alex. Alex had cancer, granted, but he lost 90 friggin’ pounds and is totally unrecognizable (part of that is the little goatee, but still). Suvir is forcing his loser to eat a veggie burger when she really, really loves red meat. Yes, Suvir is your go-to guy for all things vegetarian, but I suspect this is going to get him in trouble eventually. Like today.
Our losers sit down with our judges (James Oseland, Danyelle Freeman and Alan Sytsma) to judge the cornucopia of diet food.
First up, breakfast
Naomi (French toast for Rulon):
French toast, berries, scrambled eggs & turkey bacon
Mary Sue (corned beef hash for Ken):
Turkey-vegetable hash & poached egg
Celina: (a bacon, egg & cheese bagel sandwich for her chick)
Turkey bacon & egg whites on Ezekiel bagel with vegetables
Celina’s meal looks like stuff I’ve found in my garbage disposal. Despite Naomi’s fears that using stevia to make syrup and French toast added a weird flavor to everything, no one else seems to think so. Both Alison (the host of “The Biggest Loser” and Alan seemed to like it. Ken thinks Mary Sue’s egg is not so hot, but he loves the hash. Curtis loves the egg. Curtis is in such a good mood today! James complains it doesn’t look like hash. Maybe Curtis isn’t in that great of a mood, because he was not a fan of Celina’s cat food. Can’t blame him there. James said it made him want fat and salt.
Floyd (a meatball sub for Jay):
Buffalo meatball, farro, spinach, cheese, tomato sauce & asparagus
Alex (fried chicken for Hannah):
Oven-fried chicken, sweet potato puree, cream corn & corn bread
Traci: (Chinese buffet for Moses):
Beef & broccoli, cabbage salad, rice & wonton soup
James is loving Floyd’s meatball. Really? It must taste amazing, because I would not be excited about white and green asparagus standing in for a hoagie roll. Danyelle thinks the meat is perfectly cooked. Hannah is amazed by the fried chicken, but James thought the corn muffin blew and Alan thought the chicken wasn’t a great substitute. Alex is in trouble, I can see it now. Moses loved his Chinese buffet. Alan thought it was okay. It served a purpose. Hey, it was Chinese buffet, I’m amazed she made much of anything under 500 calories.
George (pizza for Courtney):
Whole wheat pizza with tomato coulis, smoked mozzarella & vegetables
Suvir (burger for Irene):
Veggie burger & Asian slaw
Hugh (steak and potatoes for Austin):
Flank steak, fingerling potatoes & asparagus salad
Oh ma God. Suvir gives a lecture on the dangers of red meat – right before Hugh serves his, yes, steak and potatoes. Hugh makes a joke before he serves his meal, but you can tell he wants to beat Suvir around his veggie-loving head. Suvir sniffs that Hugh is a bad, bad man for serving red meat in a smaller portion. Suvir, okay, we know you think meat is murder and you and Morrissey can start your own commune on your farm in upstate New York, but the fact remains that Hugh tried to give his customer what he wanted and you didn’t. Suvir reminds me of online bullies and college professors who think they’re molding minds when really they’re just putting kids asleep in the back row of the auditorium. Mind you, I have a lot of respect for Suvir’s perspective. But the preaching was just not cool at all.
Ali loves the pizza. Curtis likes the use of smoked mozzarella. But Irene is not a huge fan of the veggie burger. Shocker! Hugh loves his steak. Alan loves the steak. Everyone is impressed with Hugh’s steak, because HE GAVE HIS LOSER WHAT HE WANTED. I hope Suvir loves the high and mighty road he’s on, because it looks like it’s headed for the exit.
Curtis runs down the calorie totals. Everyone came in under 1,500.
Blue Team (Floyd, George and Naomi): 1,221 calories
Red Team (Traci, Celina and Hugh) 1,263
Green (Alex, Mary Sue and Suvir) 1,368
The Blue Team is called back. They won! Alan loved George’s pizza. Danyelle thought Floyd’s meatball was sexy. I’m not making that up, she really did say sexy. Curtis thought Naomi’s berries were a nice addition to the dish and James thought she did a terrific job. The winner on the winning team is… Floyd. Huh! He gets ten grand for his cancer charity. That’s one sexy meatball.
Suvir, Mary Sue and Alex are called back. Suvir tells Curtis he needed to make a statement. Suvir huffs that he wanted to have a new dialogue. Alan doesn’t care and tells him that he clearly cooked for himself, not his loser. Suvir starts lecturing about the obesity epidemic being created by burgers. Curtis cuts him off and tells him, uh, the obesity epidemic isn’t solely laying at the feet of McDonald’s (honestly, fries are probably the bigger problem). Eventually, we move past Suvir. Alan tells Mary Sue the yolk of her egg wasn’t runny enough. Danyelle wanted a finer dice on the hash. Danyelle hated Alex’s corn bread. But James didn’t like the chicken itself and thought it was dry and bland. Oh no, I think Alex is going home. How can he go home on this challenge, of all things? The guy lost 90 pounds! And his loser loved the chicken.
The judges powwow. James prattles on and on about how gross Alex’s creamed corn was, but Alan points out that he was trying to cater to his loser, and his loser could not get enough of the dish. James is perplexed by that. James, shut up. Danyelle says Suvir was serving a lecture on a plate. For once I think Danyelle said something on point and infinitely quotable. Alan points out that Mary Sue is only ever good, but not great. Danyelle says she always plays it safe. I agree. Mary Sue’s food, if you go by Border Grill, hasn’t changed appreciably in at least 15 years, and it shows on “Top Chef Masters
The chef going home is… Suvir! From a personality perspective, I hate to see him go. He was an awful lot of fun and added a level of playfulness to the proceedings. But I did feel he blew it on this challenge. Yes, I understand, he has a cause. It’s a great, noble cause. But I think he could have made a veggie burger that more closely resembled the real thing (he didn’t use tofu or seitan?). If not that, he could have give the girl a slice of great cheese and an amazing bun to cover up a less than wonderful burger. It has to be low calorie, not no calorie, and given that all the teams came in a couple hundred calories under, he had the wiggle room. Instead, he made what appeared to be a big, untasty falafel wrap. Good-bye, Suvir. Don’t throw lentils at Hugh’s head on the way out or anything.
Do you think Suvir should have gone? Did you like the looks of the chef’s low cal dishes? And do you think next week’s fast food challenge will be as much of a debacle as it seems to be?