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Top Chef: Masters 2, Champions Round, Wk 3 – Judges Screw Up Another One


Susan – Cumin-Cilantro Chicken with Pickled Tomatoes on Quinoa and Raisin Pilaf. Jay says she is “hiding her legs under a bush.” Make the sex jokes difficult for me, guys. It’s like the game we played in college where you took any noun and had to make a sex joke out of it. Like for example, Oldsmobile. Let me take your Oldsmobile back to my shop and rev its engines. Anyway, they find the dish tasty, but not great to look at. I’ll leave it right there.

Obi-Wan – Capellini with King Crab Leg, Jalapenos and Mint. His reasoning, swimmers love carbs. I like that take on it. Sadly, Jay didn’t agree. Obi-Wan points out that Jay is extra grumpy for this challenge and looks like he needs a nap. I feel the same way. Jay thinks there was too much pasta, but that was Obi-Wan’s plan.

Marcus – Confit of Frog Legs with Curry Broth and Crab Rice. Someone call Doc Hopper. Jason found it to be too rich and Jay used one of my least favorite cooking phrases, it had “big, bold flavors.” To me, that is always code for “way too much seasoning for regular people to eat.”

Rick – Egg in a Hole with Roasted Octopus Leg and Béarnaise Sauce. No, not Chewie. Jay called it a “workout” to chew, Rick preferred “toothsome.” Heh. Mr. Moonen is growing on me. Ninja Suser suggested putting the octopus in the washing machine to tenderize it. I would add that it would be even funnier to do it in a Laundromat.

So, Susan wins the Quickfire with 4 ½ stars, followed by Ninja with four, Tony and Obi with 3 ½, and Rick and Marcus with three. She gets $5,000 for her charity and the “advantage” of wearing USC clothes for the tailgate elimination challenge before the USC/Stanford game. Which was played in November 2009, and led to the huge upset thumping by Stanford over USC 55-21. Which probably made Obi-Wan’s wife, the Stanford graduate, pretty pleased.

The interesting thing about the results is that Marcus and Ninja wound up in the Top Three despite having never tailgated, or even understood the concept. Mr. Ninja even wondered if there were other cooks competing when he saw all of the grills in the parking lot. However, this goes back to my earlier rant. They won because they cooked tasty dishes – which is great – but they really didn’t make good tailgating food. As Rick aptly said about how he and his dad tailgated, it was about “beer, a Mets game, and charring the heck out of something.” That’s tailgating. It is not soup and Austrian dumplings. That’s elitist conceit, and explains why Bert and Gael seemed to like them more.

Obi-Wan – New York Steak Tacos with Grilled Vegetables and Bordelaise Sauce. Bert jokes that this is “classic tailgating Bordelaise” thus kicking off his episode-long disparaging of food enjoyed by people outside of Greenwich Village. He called the tortilla stale and got into an amazing back and forth with Obi-Wan at judges table. Bert wanted thinner slices of steak and Obi-Wan rightfully reminded him that is not how you grill and serve steak to the people at football games. Bert continued to not get it and I absolutely believe he dropped his grade for Obi-Wan because of that back and forth. I’ve got your back here, Obi.

Rick – Chermoula Grilled Chicken with Baba Ghanoush and Spicy Slaw on Pita Bread. Yum. Bert found it ugly. Whatever. This is what I think of when you give me the concept of high-class chefs grilling for a college football game. Recognizable food, cooked in a recognizable, but exotic fashion.

Marcus – Grilled Chicken and Shrimp Soup with Grilled Vegetable Couscous and a burger. I love the ridiculous add-on burger. Why is it there? Isn’t this the kind of randomly constructed dish that Obi-Wan got dinged for last week? Why was Marcus praised? This looked like a strange plate put together at a wedding cocktail hour. Bert liked the burger, thus further cementing my disdain for Bert.

Ninja – Korean-Style Skirt Steak with Roasted Cauliflower and Austrian Dumplings. What? Sure, Jay says the beef is well made. But Korean steak, cauliflower and AUSTRIAN DUMPLINGS?!?! I get that he didn’t understand the concept, but does that mean grading on a curve? He says he was trying to bring culture, which to me is much more insulting than when he made a Sopranos joke to Tony (which Tony found insulting). And I’m Italian! Gael wonders if it was the right time to bring “high culture” to football fans. She’s correct, but even that is somewhat insulting too. Just friggin cook food that people like! You can make it fancy shmancy, but stop talking down to people.

Tony – Grilled Pizza with Mozzarella, Tomatoes, Romano, Arugula and Prosciutto. The diners seem to love it, even though we later see they graded him just as badly as the judges did. Bert speaks for the judges in saying that it tastes good, but the crust was overcooked. I see it as Tony made it crispy and light, and easy to carry and eat.

Susan – Skirt Steak Tacos, Black bean and Corn Salsa and Roasted Pepper Salsa. Susan used to make tacos on a truck, so she was a real ringer here. Her “prize” of wearing USC colors was an interesting idea, which seemed to add little. Susan sort of overplayed her hand there. However, her tacos looked amazing. Gael felt the “afterkick in (her) mouth, which lasted til they got back to the car.” Bert tried to be funny by saying he now was “feeling more like a manly American by the minute.”

So the Top Three is Marcus (Four stars from Gael and Diners, 3 ½ from Jay and 3 from Bert = 14 ½), Ninja (Four stars from Jay and Diners, 3 ½ from Bert and Gael = 15) and Susan (Four stars from everyone = 16). Susan wins the Quickfire and the Elimination. She is woman, hear her roar. The last woman standing makes it another round.

The Bottom Three consists of Rick (Four stars from Gael, 3 ½ from the Diners, and three from Bert and Jay = 13 ½), Obi-Wan (Three stars from the Diners and Jay, 2 ½ from Gael and two from Bert = 10 ½) and Tony who got 2 ½ from everyone for 10 stars. Strangely, NotPadma has a looped-in voice over before Tony’s vote is revealed indicating that the diners had a different take on the food than the judges, before revealing the exact same score. That was just, strange.

So, we are down to five and next week Rick says he is here to bug the judges. This is fine, since they are here to bug me.


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