Top Chef Masters: would you like fries with those vegetables?


Yesterday’s “Top Chef Masters” on Bravo brought us from five contestants down to the final four, and the challenges, especially the elimination challenge, were particularly interesting. First, after unveiling mounds of fast food burgers and fries with the chefs wondering if they would have to create something using those pre-made items, host Kelly Choi told them that instead they were going to make their own gourmet burgers with side dishes, and serve to judges that included “Top Chef” Season 4 contestant Spike Mendelsohn and filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who created the film “Supersize Me.” But I’m wondering..what did they do with all of that fast food?

Rick Bayless made a ribeye burger with three kinds of guacamole. The judges loved the burger but wondered why Bayless made three types of guacamole instead of just one. Still, Rick managed 4 stars.

Art Smith made a burger wrapped in a hoecake with fried green tomatoes, and all of it went over pretty well. They liked his as well but not as much as Rick’s….3.5 stars.

Hubert Keller made a beef and roquefort burger with Yukon gold chips. The judges liked it but thought the cheese took over the burger’s flavor a bit too much….3 stars.

Anita Lo, who won last week’s challenge, decided to make a cheese soup with mini-burgers and a ketchup crouton. Unfortunately for her, the judges didn’t appreciate her take and would have preferred a burger they could hold in their hand. They had problems with the flavor too….1.5 stars.

Michael Chiarello, who was poking fun at Hubert, mostly because he’s terrified of him, made a giant burger with truffles and manchego cheese potato chips. His went over as well as Rick’s…4 stars.

Then, they were assigned their elimination challenge, in which they would be working as a team to create a five-course meal for actress/singer Zooey Deschanel, her friends and family, as well as judges Jay Rayner, Gael Greene and James Oseland. But there was a catch, or several catches…Zooey is a vegan…and gluten intolerant…..and doesn’t eat soy. So as Michael pointed out, it’s like cooking with one hand tied behind your back. They would have $300 to shop and 45 minutes to cook. They each made what amounted to appetizers except for Art, who volunteered to make dessert.

Rick, who is known for being one of the best Mexican food chefs in the country, made corn tamales with chili black beans and braised greens. Everything he made was mostly a hit, except that Oseland wasn’t crazy about the salad greens on his tamale.

Hubert made a white gazpacho, a timbale of avacado and asparagus, and a red beet salad. Everyone was raving about the beet salad, and Zooey was going apeshit over the gazpacho.
The waiters dropped two of the shot glasses holding the soup, but Hubert, ever the pro, had made extras.

Anita made a spicy grilled eggplant with lentil salad and cashew sauce. Most of the diners and judges were not impressed, saying the eggplant was too heavy and oily, but a few said they liked the cashew sauce.

Michael made quinoa pasta with green sauce and a pine nut gremolata. Everyone loved it, especially Zooey, and one of the judges mentioned that Michael seemed particularly confident and it showed in the food.

Art made a strawberry champagne soup with a strawberry rice ice-cream (not homemade) and an almond brittle. Almost everyone was disappointed with Art using store bought ice cream instead of making his own sorbet or something similar.

At the critic’s table, Choi pulled no punches….she announced that the top scorer would win $10K for their charity, and that the top three were Hubert, Michael and Rick. Hubert earned 16 stars with the judges, giving him 19 stars total. Rick earned 15 stars, giving him 19 as well. Michael earned at least one perfect score and other very high marks, giving him 18 stars (22 total) and the victory.

So it was down to Art and Anita, and you could almost sense it would be Anita. But they went to her first, and gave her 11.5 stars, bringing her total to 13 stars. Art, however, was slapped hard on the wrist for the store-bought ice-cream and had some really low marks….9 stars in all from the judges, giving him 12.5 total and a ticket home. Anita breathed a huge sigh of relief….she had mentioned at the start of the show that she didn’t sleep well the night before and wasn’t on her game, so she dodged a bullet after winning last week’s challenge.

So we’re down to the final four…Hubert, Anita, Rick and Michael. My feeling is that this will come down to a final showdown between Hubert and Rick, but anything is certainly possible.

Who do you like?

  

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