A scene from Wednesday (May 18) night's 'Top Chef Masters'
We’re down to just six chefs, and I’m sure it’s getting harder and harder for the judges to find a weak link at this point. After all, if you’ve made it this far your food must be pretty predictably solid. So when the chefs walk in for the Quickfire Challenge and discover a pile of what appears to be bondage gear, I’m wondering if the producers have just thrown up their hands and decided to make a food-related porn movie with our valiant chefs. Okay, not really. It’s a challenge of their senses. So nothing to fear, foodies!
First up, the chefs must test their tastes, which involves the blindfold, the noseplugs and the earphones. Floyd is not happy. He’s claustrophobic and has a balance issue. Floyd is shaping up to be the whiney guy on the show. Anyway, they must taste water chestnuts, Worcestershire sauce, cashews, papaya and mustard greens. They make big messes on the table and on themselves and in some cases choke a little. This must have been what it was like to have dinner with Helen Keller. If she’d been wearing noseplugs for some reason.
Mary Sue gets one out of five right, but claustrophobic whiney Floyd gets nothing. He’s out.
Next, they’re tested on their sense of smell. The foods are Epoisses cheese, hot sauce, root beer, rice vinegar and mayonnaise. Mary Sue claims to be a sniffer, which is good as she’s not a taster if that last challenge was any indication. Naomi, who is known for loving mayo, doesn’t get it that one right and feels bad about it. I’d feel worse about being known for loving mayo, but that’s just me. Traci gets an egg, as in nothing, not an actual egg, and she is out.
At this point, I have to wonder – how many of the chefs are smokers, if any? If you watch a regular episode of “Top Chef” it seems like every chef is firing up a cigarette when they’re not in the kitchen, which always strikes me as slightly insane given how much that messes up your palate and your sense of smell. But these are executive chefs, so maybe they’re not nicotine junkies. Just a thought.
Sense of touch is next. The chefs must grope okra, Gummy Bears, Arborio rice, blackberries, chayote. Hugh is a touch all-star and gets everything right, but Celina and Naomi are tied at the bottom and are eliminated.
Sound is next, and in this final round it’s down to whoever answers correctly first, so there’s a time element. Curtis pours some milk into Rice Crispies. Hugh and Mary Sue don’t know their snap, crackle or pop because they just don’t get it. Naomi stands on the sidelines and tears her hair out. She knows her Crispies! Hugh gets celery right first, but neither one guesses potato chips correctly. Mary Sue jumps the gun on ice, so it doesn’t count. And that would have been her point! Next, Curtis shucks an oyster and Hugh guesses right. He’s up two to nothing and he just needs one last point to take the challenge. Curtis butters a piece of toast, Hugh guesses right and voila, he wins! He gets five grand but Curtis doesn’t mention immunity, so I’m guessing that’s off the table at this point in the competition.
Elimination Challenge! It’s date night, and the chefs will be cooking a special meal for a bunch of people and especially for Chris Aagaard and his girlfriend Victoria Johnson. He wants to propose to her after dating for four years. So, the chefs must create a six-course meal, each chef cooking one dish. The catch is each dish must be inspired by Chris and Victoria’s dating history. Naomi’s all swoony and admits in a tiny little voice that she doesn’t know what she would do if someone was paying as much attention to her as Chris is to his girl. Oh, oh Naomi, you are breaking my heart here. I knew there was a big squishy marshmallow under that tough girl exterior!
Chris reveals that he and Victoria were friends for years before they ever kissed. Floyd likes this because he was friends with his wife first, too. For eight or ten years. That is a looooong time not to give the kissing thing a shot, Floyd, but glad it worked out. Chris and Victoria’s special phrase is Je t’aime. Because it’s a rare and wonderful phrase often found on pretentious coffee mugs. Hugh wants to puke. I’m with Hugh. Chris and Victoria have to get a beer and a pretzel while watching sporting events. Chris is shaping up to be a total bore, so I’m hoping Victoria is equally dull. Victoria introduced Chris to sushi. She cooked him salmon and he thought it was chicken. Naomi thinks Chris might be a massive dumbass. I’m with Naomi. They’ve never had shellfish (or they never order it when they go out, Chris kind of mutters this part). Chris and Victoria sound like the most boring people ever. How did they get onto “Top Chef Masters” anyway? Was there a casting call for people who think McDonald’s is fine dining? Apparently the chefs now have to make raw French food with bracelets. Or something.
Hugh says Chris and Victoria are not the most culinary people ever, but he knows they like chicken, broccoli and onion rings. Traci is stuck making dessert, which she accepts as a bullet that had to hit her sooner or later. Mary Sue is making mussels and clams for the guy who’s never eaten shellfish. Wow, that does not seem like a good idea. We learn that Hugh met his wife when he was 11, but I hope they waited a while to get married. Mary Sue married her restaurant partner Susan Feniger’s ex-husband 27 years ago. Hello!
The chefs are getting stressed. Traci has to redo her pastry because the scale is off by three ounces. Don’t worry, Traci, these clods will think it’s delicious even if it tastes like a shoe.
Then, more drama. Mary Sue cuts off part of her thumb. And all she says is “Darn it, darn it,” adding that it’s really annoying. Sort of what a mere mortal would say if they got a paper cut. With this and the recycled husband thing, I have a renewed respect for Mary Sue.
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Curtis has a real surprise for the chefs! Twelve palms get sweaty with panic. But the surprise is that Chris and Victoria’s moms are going to watch the proposal from the kitchen. Big friggin’ deal.
The judges and all the other couples enter the dining room. Gail Simmons is back. Gael Greene (“Insatiable: Tales from A Life of Delicious Excess”) sits with James Oseland. And then the food starts hitting the tables.
Kama Sutra black pepper shrimp with watermelon, lime & mint
James feels more romantic having eaten the shrimp. Curtis thinks it’s aggressively spicy. Victoria holds her fork like she was brought up in a barn. This is pearls before dorks.
Soft pretzel with pale ale cheese sauce, frisee salad with mustard vinaigrette
Salad and a pretzel are, like, Victoria’s two favorite things in the world! James thinks it’s junior high romance compared to Floyd’s dish. Celina has not been hitting them out of the park lately.
Mussels & clams Portuguese style with sausages & wine broth
Curtis thinks it’s fun. Gael thinks the crouton is too crunchy for a romantic dinner.
Porcini-braised chicken thigh with sweet potatoes two ways
James doesn’t think it’s romantic. Gael loves it and doesn’t care. Victoria and Christopher love it.
Strip steak with broccoli, onion ring, celery root puree & bordelaise sauce
Gail thinks it’s focused. Chris is too full! Victoria tells him “to suck it up, princess.” Yeah, this marriage, if it happens, won’t last. Gael had an hour with Elvis, and he asked her to order him a fried egg sandwich. Gael is all kinds of awesome.
Victoria loves that there’s Je T’Aime written on the plate! Victoria hasn’t figured it out! Victoria probably doesn’t notice the tart is dry, but the judges do.
So, Chris proposes and Victoria says yes. Hugh thinks it would have been the most awkward moment in television history if she’d said no, but sadly, it’s just yes. Naomi and James cry. Naomi admits she’s a softy. We already knew, Naomi, we already knew. The couple gets some wine and a trip to a vineyard.
Oh, I love this. The chefs have names for their cranky alter egos. Mary Sue’s is Margaret, Traci’s is Tiffany, and Hugh’s is Hank. Floyd is just Floyd. No alter ego for Floyd. He can’t cook when he’s not happy. Funny, he hasn’t seemed happy for weeks and yet he’s still sending food out.
Judges’ table! Naomi, Mary Sue and Floyd get called back. Their dishes… were the judges’ favorites. You knew after James’ reaction to Floyd’s shrimp it had to be the case. The winner is… Naomi. I see Naomi and Traci in the finals. Floyd is tired of coming in second. Shut up, Floyd.
Hugh, Traci and Celina are at the bottom. Hmm. James did chew Hugh’s meat for a long time. Gail calls Celina’s dish disjointed. Celina argues that it’s playful. Gail tells Traci her tart was too dry. Traci says she liked it. These chefs are getting feisty! James says Hugh’s meat was chewy. Hugh said he had to cook down to our happy stupid couple. Curtis does not like this. Oh, come on, Curtis. These were not people who were going to be eating veal foam and ironic chicken fingers with Chloe Sevigny.
The chefs are sent away so the judges can think. Gael suggests that Celina could have made a lobster pot pie with a pretzel top with little pretzel puffs sprinkled around it. Ooh, that does sound better than a plain old pretzel! Everyone agrees Hugh didn’t do a perfect job. Gael says there should have been apple sauce under the apple. I want Gael to open a restaurant so I can go there.
The chef going home is…Celina. I’ve been wondering how she hung in as long as she has. She is super bummed to leave the competition. That’s a direct quote, by the way. Super bummed. Celina, sorry to see you go, but it was time. Pretzels and salad? Come on. Anyway, next week is an edible science fair! Cannot wait!
Do you think it was time for Celina to go? Do you want to propose on “Top Chef Masters”? And do you think Floyd is getting to be a whiner?