'Top Chef Masters' React: A series of unfortunate events

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Image Credit: Isabella Vosmikova/Bravo

An accordion is never a good sign, my friends. Accordions mean polka. And monkeys. And the fear that Curtis might break out into Waltzing Matilda. This time, for better or for worse, the squeezebox meant the entrance of Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, wielding an extra helping of weirdness to this week’s Quickfire Challenge. If the five remaining chefs had no clue who the children’s author is, they did a decent job of not letting on, but had trouble keeping their poker faces through the opening challenge.

SPOILERS AHEAD!

FRENEMIES

It’s hard to not get behind Doug after learning more about his inspiring brain tumor recovery last week, no matter how smug he might get or how many times he gets immunity. After learning that Doug’s sous chef Paul won the Battle of the Sous Chefs, earning Doug and Paul the honor of choosing the theme of the Quickfire, the pair decided it’s time to seek revenge on their frenemy, Sang, with the brilliant choice of everyone’s favorite condiment: Ketchup.

I’m all for this. As a ketchup fiend, it’s totally sacrilege to disallow ketchup and I’ve been known to whine on occasion about said “no ketchup” rule at Sang’s L.A. joint, Father’s Office (Sang: “It drowns out other flavors” Me: “Everything is a ketchup delivery system”). That said, the boys clubby-ness of Doug’s revenge was a little on the bro side. Fortunately Jenn got her voiceover due: “I think I’m being underestimated.” How right she was.

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE

A ketchup challenge and there’s not a burger or French fry in sight? Yes, this is Masters, after all! Another week, another version of cheese snow. This time the molecular gastronomy culprit was Bryan (following Sang’s icky cheddar cheese snow last week), flurrying blue cheese snow over a buffalo chicken wing. Bryan’s version was much more successful, landing him in the top two for the Quickfire. The thought of David’s grilled cheese and scallop alongside ketchup soup monstrosity sounded vile and Handler agreed, using his signature adjectives to describe the dish as a “downward spiral of existential dread.” Cue the accordion.

WINNER: Jennifer

Girl power! Who needs a macho bro-down over Dijon miso when you could be eating a scallop in ketchup sauce over fermented black beans with avocado and blood orange? Not me.

HOT MERCADO

OK, not all of the chefs have the benefit of living in L.A. close to amazing Mexican food and local Mexican markets. It was nice to see the chefs get out of their Whole Foods comfort zone and into a huge market with Mexican delicacies. But I’m pretty sure if you’re a top chef you should know how to pick a ripe avocado. Really, Bryan. Jennifer wins this one for her sexy accent. You order those camarones, girl!

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

The chefs had to prepare two dishes each for 300 guests at a Lucha Va Voom show – a gender-bending burlesque Mexican wrestler-themed event at the Mayan Theater (just trust me, it’s pretty cool). The chefs with the losing sous chefs (Jenn and Sang) had to swap sous for the night, which could have ended in disaster and backstabbing, but like Luca so graciously giving Natasha the butter on MasterChef (stay with me), that’s not how anyone here wanted to go down.

WINNER: Jennifer. She told you at the top of the episode not to underestimate her. You didn’t, did you? Her pork and hominy pozole had the judges cleaning their plates and the tropical ceviche got raves from the guests. It was clear that she hit it off with fellow LA-native Ted, Sang’s sous chef. I think someone deserves a raise.

David struggled with his shrimp flautadilla, which looked lovely balanced over a cup of watermelon chipotle sauce, but the judges knocked it for being heavy and not quesadilla-y enough. Meanwhile, David generally spent the episode creeping us out, first with TMI about his Colombian ex-stripper ex-girlfriend (really, we believe you!) and then with his confusion over the dancers “I can’t believe that’s a dude!” Oy vey.

Doug had immunity and bent the rules with his bloody maria, but Curtis’s complaint is clearly what made it falter: “To me it lacked tequila.” THAT is a problem.

Sang missed the mark with his Thai-style shrimp and I was really missing James Oseland in this episode, because surely he’d have a gem of a line to say about the avocado foam getting a bit lost. Perhaps next week.

Bryan landed in the top two with Jen, once again missing out on a win by just a hair. The judges loved his masa dumplings and braised beef tongue. The winning comment goes to Lesley – “it tastes like it’s been brasiing in the back of a taco truck in East LA for the past 24 hours.” This is a good thing. Really.

ELIMINATED: Sang Yoon. I was SHOCKED that they asked Sang to leave. David’s whole performance the last two episodes has seemed so lackluster that watching Sang walk out was a bummer. I’m sad to see the hometown hero pack his knives but at least we’re allowed to use ketchup again. Sang took the news better than me – he seemed honored to have cooked among the other top chefs and took away $30,000 for his charity, the Worldwide Orphans Foundation.

Are the best four chefs left? Share your thoughts below.


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