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Top Chef: Masters Ep. 8 Commentary – #1 Killer of Top Chefs …Dessert


On the Amazing Race, it is India and the Hometown Curse. On Survivor, it is the Curse of the Car. On American Idol, it’s the Ironic Song Title Curse. On Top Chef, it is making dessert. The sweet killer claimed another victim this week.

Art (“Chaos” in this column – read last week for the origin of these nicknames) is the latest victim of dessert. So many have fallen over the years on this show because of their problems making dessert. Chaos made the secondary bad choice of not making his ingredients. Jay made a big deal of this, but Tom said it best years ago – it’s a cooking competition, and he didn’t cook anything. His dish was an ice cream dish that I could have made at home. And that’s not good.

I will say that this episode had two great challenges – which seems to be how this show is able to overcome its inherent problems that I have harped on for weeks. Having great challenges helps raise the bar. Finally, these master chefs were given a very restrictive challenge and they showed their struggles. The restrictions really hurt Chaos as his relative inexperience in the kitchen came into play.

Judges were useless again, but were helped by a surprisingly involved and insightful dinner party of actress Zooey Deschanel and her family and friends. What a coincidence that she would appear on the show as her movie comes out!

In addition, the Quickfire had guest judges who were knowledgeable on burgers, and in such a wide range of reasons. Morgan Spurlock ate a gazillion burgers in Super Size Me, Sang Yoon won a Today Show challenge for America’s best burger, and Spike Mendelson, former Top Chef contestant, hat champion of reality programming and the creation of my delicious lunch on Tuesday (Obama Burger – bleu cheese, onions, and bacon, and $1 for the POTUS’ birthday, and a toasted marshmallow milkshake).

By the way, I had a great conversation with Spike while ordering that burger. I may not have liked him much on the show, but he can make my burgers any day of the week.

I liked this episode. The food these masters make looks absolutely incredible and I get massively hungry while watching. Chaos may have been eliminated because of a subpar dessert, but I would have loved to taste it. Michael (“Winky,” if you recall) may be waaaay too much to take as a personality, but he totally earned his win this week thanks to a creative and utterly scrumptious looking meal.

So without further ado…

QUICKFIRE – make a gourmet burger and side dish. This is from Season 3, a challenge won by CJ with a seafood burger.

Rick (“Doobie”) – Queso Fundido Burger with a Trio of Guacamole. Sang channels Renee Zellweger with “you had me” at guacamole. Doobie is stunned that the judges cannot conceive of the subtle flavors of the three different guacs.

Chaos – Cornmeal hoecake burger with fried green tomatillos and coleslaw. Spike thinks it bursts with flavor. Spurlock reminds those of us who saw him spend 30 days in a coalmine that he is from West Virginia and so he is familiar with fried green tomatoes.

Winky – “Hamburgese Enorme” with Truffle Mancheso Potato Chips. This burger is the size of a small island. The three judges cut it up to split it and Sang finds it to be perfect, like a steak. I notice how incredibly rare it is cooked.

Anita (“The Lo”) – Cheddar Soup with Grilled Burger, ketchup crouton and bacon fried onion rings. The Lo got too creative here and moved too far away from a burger by making, well, soup. It is described as a shake, as a wish burger (as in, I wish I had a burger), and as boiled burger.

Hubert (“Theoden”) – Beef and Roquefort cheeseburger with caramelized onions and rustic potatoes. It gets props for being Theoden’s usual visual masterpiece, but he gets critiqued for the cheese being overpowered and for the lack of “wow.” Theoden bristles a bit.

Stars – Doobie and Winky get 4, Chaos gets 3.5, Theoden gets 3, and The Lo is left at 1.5 and is in great danger.


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