Don’t be shocked….I will get to the yuck part in a minute. But first, last night’s episode, the third in the inaugural season of “Top Chef Masters,” began with the introduction of the four contestants….Rick Bayless from Chicago; Cindy Pawlcyn of Napa, CA; Wilo Benet from San Juan; and Ludo Lefebvre from Los Angeles by way of France. Their Quickfire challenge was another favorite “Top Chef” challenge, the color theme, where each draws a color and then has to create a dish based solely on that one color.

Rick had green and made a roasted vegetable dish with green mole sauce over a banana leaf. CIndy drew yellow, and made a vegetable curry over yellow tinted grits with corn tortillas. Wilo had orange, and made a salmon tartare with carrots and orange edible flowers. Ludo had red, and made a beet gazpacho and steak tartare. But he forgot the tomatoes, and then the wait staff forgot his beet juice, at least temporarily. The judges, former “Top Chef” contestants, liked Wilo’s salmon the best, giving him 4.5 stars. Rick scored 4, Cindy 3.5 and Ludo 3. Ludo, the Frenchman that he is, was bitter in falling behind so early.

Then, for the main challenge, the chefs were asked to create a street food dish for the tourists visiting Universal Studios, but there was a twist. They had to make street food using disgusting ingredients made palatable. If you’re sqeamish, stop reading here. Wilo had beef hearts, Rick had tongue, Cindy tripe (cow stomach), and Ludo pig’s ears. Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. I’m not sure I would touch any of that stuff, much less put it in my belly, no matter how you doctor it up. They had 45 minutes to shop and a $300 budget.

Anyway, Wilo made a pocket sandwich with thinly sliced beef hearts, as well as some chicken and ham to disguise the hearts. Rick, whose expertise is Mexican food, made tongue tacos. Yum. Cindy went with a Hispanic classic, menudo soup, which is best known to cure hangovers. And Ludo made pig ear quesadillas, the catch being that he’d never made a quesadilla in his life. Ha!

It was fascinating to see how they made these dishes palatable. Ludo, who admitted than in France they are trained to cook “anything,” and that he’d made pig ears before, cooked them for like two hours in a broth before chopping up and putting them in quesadillas. But he was having trouble with his grill and didn’t get off to a great start.

Anyway, the judges (along with the guests at Universal, the usual trio of James Oseland, Gael Greene and Jay Rayner) discussed the results. They loved Rick’s tacos, so we knew with Rick being .5 behind Wilo that he had a shot at winning. They also thought Ludo did a great job with the toughest ingredient, but that the pig ears themselves were kind of bland (um, really? They are freaking ears!) Wilo’s sandwiches and Cindy’s soup were good, but not as good as Rick’s tongue tacos.

Cindy’s score between the diners and the judges was 12, giving her a final score of 15.5. Ludo’s diner/judge score totaled 13.5, giving him 16.5, and eliminating Cindy. Then Rick knocked it out of the park, with one 5 and a few 4.5’s, for 18.5 and a final score of 22.5. That brought it down to Wilo and Rick. Wilo started with 4.5, and his combined score from the judges was 15, giving him a final score of 19.5, and Rick Bayless the victory. (Interesting side note for you sports fans….Bayless is the brother of sports writer and ESPN personality Skip Bayless.)

Anyway, Rick moves on to the final round along with Hubert Keller and Suzanne Tracht, as well as the next three round winners. Hopefully the challenges won’t be as disgusting next time around! See you next week…