A few things come to mind as we fill out the sixth and final contestant in the Masters’ Final Six Showdown next week.
Number One. this was one of only two Masters episodes to be remotely dramatic because the Quickfire challenge was so close. That meant the ones who did not win the Quickfire actually had a shot at making a comeback. The star system sucks, guys. It’s the reality cooking show equivalent of the Homeland Security color coding. Stupid, useless, and simply a bad idea.
Number Two. One of the nicer things about this show is one of the things that makes it boring television. These chefs like each other and have great professional respect for one another. Wonderful. Lovely. But why do we need to see that? Not that they have to be nasty, but competition shows need the element of, well, competition. This challenge tonight was set up to give your opponents a tough time cooking a meal. They got to buy the friggin ingredients for another chef and only one of them did something moderately competitive. Again, nice. Respectful. But nice and respectful is not what reality TV is all about.
Number Three. Gail Simmons’ stock continues to rise. The times she appeared on the Masters show has raised the game of everyone. The other ones are still useless, but I have greater respect for the lovely Gail Simmons as a result.
Number Four. This episode really, really made me hungry. I mean, I had to raid the fridge levels of hunger. I’d eat at any of these guys’ restaurants.
This week’s Competitors:
Jonathan Waxman. In my line of work, the only Waxman is a California man with lots of power over energy and health care. But this Waxman is what Tom describes as the Godfather. He worked with names like Puck, Child and Beard. Wow. He also inflicted Bobby Flay on us too. But we’ll give the owner of Barbuto in NYC a pass. He is playing for Meals on Wheels.
Roy Yamaguchi. He owns a gazillion Roy’s Restaurants and hails from Hawaii. I hope we don’t have people demanding his Hawaiian birth certificate too. He has built a career fusing ethnic and French dishes. Bert calls him the King of Fusion. I can already hear Sting singing that one. Roy was the judge in Season Two’s Finale who knocked out Sam, thus crushing women and gay men nationwide. He is playing for Imua Family Services for special needs kids.
Art Smith. The owner of Table 52 in Chicago also has a place in DC. I will have to find it. He drops many names, queens, Obama, and Julia Child. He was a judge in the Chicago season when they had the kid challenge. His charity is that same group as was shown in that episode, Common Threads, which teaches kids cooking.
Michael Cimarusti. Owner of Providence in LA, Gail calls him an extraordinary seafood chef. He is much younger than the others and actually worked for Jonathan as a line chef a year ago. He is playing for the Grameen Foundation, which aims to get women out of poverty.
Quickfire. It is the return of the Malarky-won challenge from Season 3 where chefs are assigned an aisle in Whole Foods and can only use ingredients from there and the Top Chef Pantry. The budget is $20. Again we see that master chefs are clueless in the supermarket, although it was fun listening to Jon saying “olives” over and over again as he searched. Mike appears to get screwed by choosing the baking aisle, as we all know, desserts are the number one killer of Top Chef contestants. Roy gets the Italian aisle and appears stymied by the lack of soy sauce.
The judges are Whole Foods employees – we’re scraping the bottom of the judging barrel now, aren’t we – Peter, Becky and Dave. So important are they, we don’t even get their last names. They are the Whole Foods’ Cher, Madonna and Pele.
Roy. Pasta with a Fried Egg and Asian Flavors. He gets a wide range of reaction from weird and strange to “digging it.”
Jon. From the International Foods aisle, Mint, Lentil and Roasted Pepper Salad. They like it, especially the spices, although one doesn’t care for the onion flavor. Jon explains that the Eastern European flavors come from his Hungarian heritage.
Art. From canned goods he was able to make Multi-Grained Risotto with a Crispy Rice Salad. Everyone loved it.
Michael. Chocolate Parfait with Ginger Sauterne Syrup and Sesame Crackers. He actually produced an OMG reaction. They LOVED it.
Stars. Michael – 5, Art – 4.5, Roy – 4, Jon – 3.5