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Top Chef: Masters Ep. 5 – They Smoke A Lot of Things in Sweden


Let’s get it out of the way early so we can have some fun. Again, the Quickfire winner won the whole darn thing. This is getting ridiculous. The structure of this show does not lend for ANY kind of drama so far. While it may be interesting to watch these great chefs cook, it’s something you can see on the Food Network or on PBS showings of Julia Child at any time. Reality shows must provide some sort of human drama or comedy – that is what they are good at. This show fails at both. As it stands, these chefs are too good to really blow an elimination challenge to the point where they can lose the ground they won in a Quickfire. The only mistakes we ever see are due to the time crunch/limitations of a Quickfire.

There is another problem, which my wife pointed out during the Elimination Challenge. They are being given challenges that are not very challenging. The only obstacle they faced in this one was volume and lack of help. There were no themes, there were no drawing of knives to cook in the style of a Star Trek character, and there were no ingredient restrictions. Nothing. They were given $500 to shop at whole foods and permitted to cook whatever they want. That is not Top Chef; that’s these guys’ regular day job.

So, if you want to enjoy this show, you really need to be a Foodie. Not much else – the judges are still useless (although there were a couple of good lines this week for once), NotPadma is, well, Not Padma, and there is no real personal conflict or interest. I call this a failed experiment at this point, but perhaps it will change once the final opening round matchups are completed next week.

The contestants this week:

Rick Moonen – from Vegas, but cooks in New York. Tom says he is a very commercial chef who is conservative with his meals. I didn’t catch his charity, but that really doesn’t make much of a difference. To me, he looks like Leonard Nimoy’s nephew. So, he shall be Spock. Perhaps he is one of the few survivors of the Vulcan genocide. That’s a Star Trek topic for another thread. I still might have to talk with JJ Abrams about that one.

Nils Noran – The VP of the French Culinary Institute (FCI). Jay calls him “very much the Swedish Chef.” And that’s what he shall be for the duration of this column. Bork, Bork, Bork. He’ll be playing for the Friends of FCI

Lachlin Patterson – from Boulder, CO, the home of Top Chef Champion Hosea, Mork from Ork, and Mother Abigail and the survivors of Captain Trips. Lachlin is just out of the womb but is a successful, well-trained chef. He is playing for the Denver Children’s Hospital since his little girl was born with her intestines up in her chest. She’s fine now, thanks to the hospital. Wow.

Michael Chiarello – from the Napa Valley, he was a TV chef who went back into the restaurant business. To quote Sigourney Weaver from Ghostbusters, he’s “more of a game show host.” He’s playing for Clinic Ole, who helps Latino immigrants and field workers.

Quickfire – Pick a junk food and make a gourmet dish out of it. They will be judged by the dude from Flipping Out in part of Bravo’s ever-growing, blatant and nauseating cross promotion. We will not be talking about him very much.

The challenge really just comes down to this – Spock runs out of time. He had 45 minutes to make his dish and fails to plate anything. This plays into the problem on the show – the lack of any urgency or consequence. If Carla or CJ or Spike or anyone had failed to plate a meal on Top Chef, they would have either gone nuts or been devastated. Spock just sort of shrugged.

Lachlin. Hot Dog – Prosciutto Stufado with Pork Sausage. He took the hot dog idea and essentially changed it to sausage.

Michael. Fish Sticks – Swordfish Meatballs with Fisherman’s Sauce. Best part …green meatballs. And the chance for one of the Flipping Out crew to describe it as “three perfect balls.”

Swedish Chef. Fried Shrimp – Shrimp with Creamed Corn and Pickled Cherry Tomatoes. Oh, and when he said “Fried” he really meant…not so fried. He criticizes the Flip Team’s palates. I say, just fry the damn shrimp.

Spock. Corn Dog – Um…nothing. Flipping Out dude sort of, well, flips out.

Stars – Michael 4.5, Lachlin 3, Swedish Chef 3, Spock 0. Welcome to the next round, Michael the Game Show Host.

Elimination Challenge – Make a three-course meal for 100 people by yourself. They will be judged by our usual three judges and by a cocktail party full of Top Chef fans. I assume my invitation was lost in the mail.

Appetizers

Michael. Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad, Citrus Vinaigrette and Marcona Almonds – Sweet P from Project Runway loves it. Bert says something stupid.

Lachlin. “Fritta Esotica” – Fried Pineapple Wrapped in Speck. Bert only tastes grease. Bert was a bit bitchy tonight.

Spock. Opakapaka & Barramundi Ceviche with Yuzu, Avocado and Grapefruit. Jerell from Runway likes it and it is also described as “heaven in my mouth.”

Swedish Chef. Scallop with Smoked Potato Cream, Apple and Curry Oil. Bert likes this one.


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