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Top Chef: Masters Ep. 10 Finale – Viva Mexico!


Well, leave it to Masters to save their best for last. This was by far my favorite episode of this spin-off show, at least for the first 40-45 minutes or so. The weakness of the judges remains the Achilles Heel of the show, but it is the contestants who usually make for a good reality episode. Masters was hurt early on by the complacency of the chefs, but once the final round began, the Final Six got their mojo working. And this week? The three of them put on a show.

Just to give an idea of how good the food looked this week – I watched this episode rather late at night due to having to work late. After getting a gander at the four-course meals presented by Doobie, Theoden and Winky – wait, no, they deserve their names back after that display – by Rick, Hubert and Michael, I raided the fridge. There are fewer things more pathetic than an almost-40-year-old man eating cold pizza and turkey in the dark at 1 am because a reality TV program made him hungrier than a runway model in a bakery.

Another thing going for this episode – a killer supporting cast giving out diner grades. We had the return of the “A” Team – Tom, the good Gail, and (swoon) Padma. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I’m still not sure that Padma is real because human beings are not that beautiful. I am not sure I would have the use of the English language if I ever had the pleasure of meeting her and would instead speak in an amalgam of grunts, whimpers and dribbles.

Also adding to the surprising quality of this Finale, the return of the champions. Joining the regular judges in consuming this feast – Harold, Ilan, Hung, Stephanie and Hosea. That’s what’s known as bringing out the big guns. Top Chef has the ability to do this the way American Idol can, and how Survivor and Amazing Race cannot, and that’s to bring back its own stars in ways other than All-Star editions. And the show is better for it.

There was no Quickfire this week as the entire hour was basically dedicated to the very creative and detailed challenge presented to the Final Three. The Masters then had to, as Rick aptly summed up, tell the “story of our lives on a plate.” The four-course meal had the following themes – a) their first food memory, b) the food experience that made them become chefs, c) a dish representing their first restaurant, and d) a dish that shows where they will go in the future. Oh, and it was really, really good!

The Meals:
First Course

Rick – BBQ quail with Hickory House Sauce, “sour” slaw and watermelon salad. It represents his parents BBQ restaurant.

Hubert – “Baeckeoffe” – Alsatian lamb beef, pork and potato stew. It represents some strange story about how women would come to his parents’ restaurant and drop off their meat when they went to do laundry and they would cover it with dough and it would be a French potpie kind of thing for their lunch. Hubert’s accent really hurt that story.

Michael – Crispy potato gnocchi with forduta and Ricotta gnocchi with tomato sauce. He gave a story about his mom teaching him to roll gnocchi with his thumb, a scene I recall being recreated by Andy Garcia and Sofia Coppola in Godfather III with hopefully very, very different outcomes.

Hosea and Hung love Michael’s. Tom prefers his own mom’s gnocchi. Ilan can taste the history in Hubert’s meal. Steph and Hosea also give great marks to Rick. Oh, and NotPadma is shown eating!!!! No name for her still. NotPadma.

Second Course

Rick – Ahi tuna with Oaxacan Black Mole, Plantain tamale and grilled nopales, with a three-nut crunch. Rick says he ate this mole when he was 14 and “every synapse in him went off.” It took him 20 years to master the 27 ingredients in the sauce.

Hubert – Salmon soufflé, Royal Oestra Caviar, and Riesling Sauce, Choucroute Flan. Again, Hubert’s accent was tough to decipher, but this came from an apprenticeship he had at the best restaurant in his small region.

Michael – Polenta with rabbit, asparagus, wild mushrooms, grilled duck and rabbit liver. I sort of zoned out during Michael’s story, sorry, he just has that effect on me. And as I said, it was late and I was really getting hungry.

Hosea loved the polenta, and Gail wants to bathe in it. Really, she does. Steph wants to lick up Hubert’s dish and Harold is inspired to learn more French cooking. Gail and Bert love Rick’s, and Gail wants to hang out with him. Not sure if they’d be bathing in polenta or not.


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