It’s “Top Chef Masters” time, and I’m really ready for the chefs to stop playing nice and start slinging a little mud and throwing diva-esque temper tantrums. So far it’s been altogether too polite for a reality TV show, and while the food is probably outrageously good and we can’t expect chefs of this caliber to steal recipes or toss knives at one another, it’s getting a little dull, like watching a cooking show hosted by an NPR newscaster or Chris O’Donnell.
But wait! Drama! Oh, wait, that’s just the music, it’s not actually a big deal; it just sounds like one. John Rivera Sedlar has had to drop out due to an emergency. Naomi doesn’t care, because that’s one less slab of human meat she’ll need to slice her way through to get the finish line. I have high hopes for Naomi, because she’s either going to have a meltdown or her own or drive another chef to one with her hypercompetitive streak. Anyway, Hugh Acheson comes back to take John Sedlar’s place. John Currence is glad he’s back, because they’re drinking buddies. I’m glad he’s back because he was kind of funny and not just because of the monobrow.
Quickfire Challenge! The chefs must make a meatball dish in 30 minutes. Oh, and they have to grind their own meat. And their celebrity diner/merciless judge will be Kelis, who is both a Grammy-nominee and a professionally trained chef. No wonder her milkshake brings all the boys to the yard! Kelis has a nose ring through her septum. This is not a good look, as it makes me think I should put a chain through it and lead her to a slaughterhouse.
Naomi is the meat lady, so she’s going to own this challenge. Except she has to use a little crappy meatgrinder and doesn’t get to rend the flesh with her own teeth and hands! Naomi is officially scaring me.
Suvir Saran watches the other chefs run around and stress out and he just laughs. Suvir is happy and gay! He drops onions and smiles at his shoes! Suvir, the movie of your life has already been made, and it’s “Being There” with Peter Sellars. Check it out.
So, it’s time for Kelis, she of the famed milkshake, to taste the chef’s meatballs. There is a joke here and I just don’t want to tell it, honestly.
Sue: Spicy pork meatball, spicy tomato sauce
Kelis likes the flavor and texture and the cheese surprise inside. In turn, Sue likes Kelis. She thinks Kelis is beyoootiful. It’s a good thing Kelis is doing her taste test far from the chefs, because I think Sue is ready to taste Kelis’ milkshake.
George: Chicken & short rib meatball, spicy tomato broth
Kelis thinks it’s interesting, but doesn’t love the froth. George admits the froth was sort of a cover for a failed sauce, but you can’t pull one over on Kelis, maker of milkshakes and trained chef!
Alex: Spicy lamb meatball, toasted fruit & almond couscous
Kelis proclaims it very good, but she isn’t impressed with the garnish. When SHE went to cooking school, she learned that garnish was supposed to be edible. Alex doesn’t care and he doesn’t like her music. I’m thinking Kelis wasn’t really the right celebrity judge for this challenge, as the only person who seems to know who she is or care is Sue. And Sue seems to care too much.
Floyd: Fried beef & bacon meatball sandwich with Asian slaw
Kelis thinks it too salty. Floyd thinks she’s an idiot for not eating the meatball with the bread, as it’s a sandwich. Kelis is not collecting new fans here.
Traci: Tarragon chicken meatball consommé
Kelis eats the consommé with a fork and mistakes the fennel for dill. Traci comes thisclose to calling her a dumbass.
Mary Sue: Turkey albondigas soup with toasted pumpkin seeds & manchego cheese
Mary Sue forgot to add vinegar at the end. So, of course, Kelis thinks it’s great.
John C.: Vietnamese chicken meatball
Kelis likes the look of it and thinks it’s fantastic. I have to agree with her, it does look good. And John C. is so desperate for a compliment, he doesn’t even care it’s from a woman with a ring through her nose.
Suvir: Indian spiced meatball, tamarind glaze
Kelis likes the texture and the tamarind glaze. The sweet/spicy thing appeals to her. Suvir is thrilled, as he loves to cook meet but he doesn’t eat the stuff. Oh, Suvir, you so crazy!
Hugh: Lamb merguez, shitake slaw & yogurt
She digs the meatball but not the combination of the yogurt and pepper sauce. Hugh thinks she’s stupid and gives pointless criticism, as the flavors are simply part of Mediterranean cooking. I’m kind of with Hugh on this one, honestly.
So, time for Kelis to serve up the best and the worst. Kelis disliked George’s chicken and short-rib dish as well as Floyd’s salty meatball sandwich. Floyd tells her she was supposed to eat it with the bread, but she doesn’t even blink, snapping back that she believes all the flavors should stand on their own. Zing! She also disliked Hugh’s dish, because Hugh either isn’t such a great cook or he’s having a really bad run of luck. Kelis’ favorites were Sue’s spicy meatball, John’s Vietnamese meatball and Suvir’s Indian meatball. Ultimately, Kelis gives it to John, who gets five grand for his Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry charity. John is glad and I am glad this challenge is over, as you could tell the judges wanted to say crappy things about Kelis but didn’t and that’s just so not even fun.
Elimination Challenge! The chefs must recreate disgusting “classics” from the 60s, like chicken a la king and bread pudding. Ambrosia salad? Egads. The guest judges are Christina Hendricks of “Mad Men” and her husband who Geoffrey Arend from “Body of Proof.” Christina, because she’s on a show about the 60s, apparently gets 60s style food flung at her all the time and she hates the stuff. Really? Does that mean that the cast of “Vampire Diaries” is getting pelted with rare beef and vials of blood?
Anyway, the challenge is make the original and an updated version of their chosen dish in appetizer form for 40 guests at Hendricks’ fake cocktail party at Jar the next evening.
Floyd picks ambrosia salad and he is freaking out. He’s never had it before, but everyone assures him it’s disgusting. Okay, that’s a little harsh if you ask me. I mean, it’s not a turkey Jell-O mold or something. And that does exist, people. The 60s were not a good time for food, just saying.
The kitchen at Jar is TINY. And Suvir and Sue are the outcasts who can’t get a place to work. Suvir has no choice but to deep fry his veal. I don’t think you’re ever supposed to deep fry veal, but what does he know? He’s never tasted the stuff! So, Sue and Suvir try to help everyone else so they’ll get the hell out of their way.
Finally, it’s time for the fake cocktail party to begin! Ruth Riechl, James Oseland and Danyelle Freeman are back to pass judgment.
John C. – Oysters Rockefeller
Mignonette pickled oyster, horseradish crème fraiche, collards & spicy bacon
Mary Sue – Deviled eggs
Japanese style poached egg with umeboshi & mustard miso mayonnaise
Christina thinks John’s oyster is comforting and warm. John thinks Mary Sue’s is barely a deviled egg, but thinks it’s delicious. Good save for John C., who only discovered at the last minute his oysters were crap and could only pass muster in pickled form.
George – Chicken a la king
Roasted chicken breast, lemon yogurt & vegetables
Traci – Beef stroganoff
Steak tartare & fried noodles
Ruth thinks George’s bread might be a little soggy, but John disagrees. Christina and her husband aren’t loving the reimagined beef stroganoff, as it’s too noodley and not sufficiently mushroomy. I thought beef stroganoff was all about the noodles?
Sue and Suvir are crashing and burning. Sue doesn’t plate everything.
Sue – Duck a l’orange
Crispy duck breast, spicy blood orange gastrique & pineapple mango salad
Suvir – Veal Oscar
Fried veal with mint, cilantro & tomato chutney & asparagus salad
Everyone thinks Suvir’s food is mystery meat, tough and flavorless. Sue wants to cry, because she didn’t plate all her food and she knows she’s going home. James feels awful for Sue’s palpably bad experience in the kitchen. Danyelle tries to put a happy face on things by saying how much she enjoys the little bits of pineapple in Sue’s meal, but let’s face it, it’s between these two for the packing of knives.
Celina – coq au vin
Chicken frisee salad, pickled shallots & carrots, bacon vinaigrette
Hugh – beef Wellington
Filet mignon, mushroom espuma & crisp puff pastry
James thinks Celina’s salad is abrasive with vinegar, but Ruth and Christina dig it. Ruth thinks Hugh divorced the elements of his beef Wellington, which actually puts a proper late 60s twist on the whole thing, if you think about it.
Floyd – ambrosia salad
Grilled peppered pineapple with mango, coconut & orange custard
Alex – bread pudding
Chai-spiced custard, panettone & roasted apple salad
Naomi – grasshopper pie
Chocolate mint soufflé café with toasted kirsch marshmallow
Christina thinks Floyd’s dish is whimsical and her husband gets all excited about the pecan that sank to the bottom of the custard that Floyd admits was kind of a mistake, as he had to call it fondue because it didn’t set. No one likes Alex’s bread pudding. James would eat Naomi’s grasshopper pie update at any cocktail party.
Mary Sue, Floyd and John are called back for the best three dishes. James tells John he created a benchmark oyster Rockefeller for him. I love that Floyd isn’t fessing up to his mousse not setting. Mary Sue’s egg is declared unctuous by James, which is just a great word in any context. The winning chef is… Mary Sue. Huh. I guess that unctuous egg was pretty darn unctuous. She gets ten grand for her charity, Share Our Strength No Kid Hungry.
Sue, Alex and Suvir are called back. James’ heart goes out to Sue, but he thought the duck a l’orange was sucky regardless of how many plates she plated. Ruth didn’t think she created a modern take on duck l’orange, which shouldn’t have been brain surgery anyway. James tells Suvir his veal was shoe leather. Suvir says he was run over by divas in the kitchen, but he won’t name names. Name names! Come on, Suvir, stop the goody-goody crap and tattle! Ruth tells Alex she expected something wow from a master chef. Alex says he’s an olive oil and garlic guy, so what the hell did she expect?
Backstage, the judges judge. James thinks Sue’s dishes tasted fine, dammit, but Suvir’s veal was blech. Still, Ruth gives him points for actually serving it and having a good idea. Danyelle declares that Alex’s bread pudding wasn’t as bad as the veal. Can we just cut to the chase and send Sue home? Her food wasn’t good, she didn’t serve it all and that’s pretty much all we need to know.
And the loser is… Sue. She thinks it was a fair decision, and money will go to her charity, the Louisiana SPCA. And she knows the women are going to take it, so the boys better watch their backs. Meanwhile, I’m hoping Kelis is watching her back. Just saying.
Next week is the bug challenge! And it looks like some of the divas of the show are being outed and Naomi and Hugh butt heads. Is it too much to hope for some screaming and yelling? I mean, we can’t eat the food or anything. They’ve got to give us something, right?
Do you think Sue deserved to go home? Do you think Suvir should have named names? And do you think Kelis was a good judge?