Dreamy Aussie chef Curtis Stone is back hosting the new season of Top Chef Masters, which premiered Wednesday night on Bravo, as the bravest among the new recruits went skydiving. Who knew Top Chef was also a daredevil adventure competition?
Heavy on the Los Angeles chefs this time around, including Sang Yoon of favorite Santa Monica burger joint Father’s Office and Neal Fraser of BLD, the crew also includes Top Chef season 6 runner-up Bryan Voltaggio (he’s the slightly less tattooed of the look-alike brothers) and 11 others from around the country, all competing for charity. In a new twist a la Bravo’s successful online show Last Chance Kitchen, chef and regular Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson is hosting an online series called Battle of the Sous Chefs, where each master chef’s sous chef is competing at the same time as their, uh, master, on BravoTV.com and can win immunity for the master chef or be kicked off the show.
Read on for more about the episode – SPOILERS ABOUND!
We all know chefs are pretty badass, what with the tattoos and the piercings and the general gruffness (oh wait, maybe that’s just Anthony Bourdain), but ask them all to go skydiving and the bravado gets even bigger. Poor Canadian chef Lynn Crawford (expect a slew of Canada jokes this season) just looked miserable trying to muster up the courage to jump out of the plane. But once everyone had taken the plunge (well, all but immunity-blessed Douglas Keane, who drove to the site since his sous chef Drew Glassell had won the first Battle of the Sous Chefs), the chefs got to work, cooking in an open field for the critics with only the ingredients their sous chefs had selected. Since you can’t jump out of a plane with a knife roll, a spattering of butter knife-thick cuts of meat and messy dices ensued.
Once the critics sat down for a bite in the gorgeous field at the magic hour, Saveur critic James Oseland was back with his typically insightful comments (on one dish: “the shrimp are too shrimpy!”) and Gail Simmons brought her A-game, as she’s now head critic at the table, alongside Stone, Oseland, and Los Angeles magazine critic Lesley Suter. Simmons joked about Odette Fada’s lamb dish: “I personally like a meat dress.” Yes, as Lesley quipped: Gail and Lady Gaga, together at last!
The highlights at Critics Table: Odette’s cold lamb and cauliflower salad dish, Bryan’s caramelized carrots – these looked so good I was trying to figure out how to make them for dinner tonight — and Neal’s pork meatball.
While there were several mediocre entries, including an odd looking mishmash of steak and salmon from restauranteur Richard Sandoval, it was Herb Wilson of Las Vegas restaurant Sushi Samba who committed, as he admitted, the “cardinal sin” of Top Chef: Not getting the main part of the dish on the plate. His oyster shell looked so lonely with just a sauce and no seafood inside it. That said, by owning up to it, Wilson didn’t succumb to the second cardinal sin of Top Chef – not standing behind your dish. But being humble wasn’t enough to save him in the end. A dish with no oyster? No pearls here.