Top Chef Masters ends its second season a slightly more entertaining show, but one that still must solve some inherent flaws. The early rounds were improved this year – due to cutting the amount and allowing two winners per round. The challenges were improved, and they got a much more interesting batch of chefs this time.
However, I will make one final push for the season to lobby for the elimination of Bert. The judging needs to be vastly improved – potentially adding a chef to the high-end critics to give a non-literary perspective to the dishes. I think we once again witnessed the results of out-of-left-field judging, as while Marcus delivered the top item with the foie gras flan, the African cuisine presented seemed to be clearly the weakest dish served. I am unsure how you can crown a champ who did the best and worst of the night. Personally, Rick’s final meal looked the most appetizing and creative.
Another small complaint – the finale was almost identical to last season’s. The challenge was in fact, exactly the same. What saved this episode from running headlong into “didn’t we already see this” territory was the extreme likability of the three chefs. I truly enjoyed going on their culinary “This is Your Life” journey with them; however, I remember doing just that with (Rick) Bayless, Theoden (Hubert Keller) and Winky (Michael Chiarello) last year. The challenge was to do a three-course meal inspired by your first food memory, inspiration to be a chef and dish to define you.
Even though it was a blast going down memory lane with these guys, it led to a somewhat boring episode. The whole first half of the show had very little going on, for example. So, let’s just divide this up into four sections.
Marcus. First Course – Smoked Char, Sweet Horseradish, Shellfish Broth and Root Vegetables. He recalled the tastes of Sweden and his early years after his adoption.
Ninja Suser. First Course – Steamed Scallop, Cantonese Black Bean Sauce, Dim Sum Shrimp and Crab Croquette. He remembered going to dim sum with his father and having the best black bean sauce ever.
Rick. First Course – Glazed Kushi Oyster, American Sturgeon, Caviar, Hamachi and Live Sea Scallop Crudo. He remembered going clamming on Long Island – er…well, I guess off Long Island – with his dad.
First Course Marcus – NotPadma loves the show. Tom finds the fish to be amazing. Winky thinks this was a glimpse into Marcus’ childhood. Gail was wowed and called it Zen. Jay found the fish perfect and surprised he made it is such a short amount of time. First Course Suser – Gail agrees with Suser that this black bean sauce is the best. Tom concurs. Bayless thinks this really reminds him of dim sum. Jay asks how he drew on the shell – Suser used squid ink to decorate. Dude had time to decorate his dish. Seriously. First Course Rick – Bert finds true artistry in the dish. Bayless says it is the perfect oyster. Jay calls it the best oyster he has ever had.
Second Course Marcus – Tom begins the love fest for the foie gras by calling it genius. Bert says the flavor and the food simply explodes while eating. And Bayless wants the technique. Jay actually made him explain how he made it. Something involving a reduction and high heat – better known as crap that went over my head. This is the moment where Marcus took home the title, by the way. Second Course Suser – Theoden wants the tuna to be thinner. Winky would go back for more bream. Tom is surprised a Suser Lee dish is not that precise. Jay found it complex, but unwieldy. Gail said it was off-balance. Second Course Rick – Bert found the gnocchi underwhelming and chewy, but Rick explains that cooking it any other way would have made it too mushy. Jay thinks the execution failed, and that there was not enough bacon flavor. Theoden liked his style and felt he was a risk taker. Gail raved about the egg and how the yolk poured out like a sauce.