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Top Chef Masters 3 – Finale –Steph Continues To Stand Alone


Mary Sue – At age 16, she went to a dinner party with her sister and met Greg Duda, a man who would become her mentor. She watched him prepare a shrimp cocktail in “literally nanoseconds.” She also made her mom proud when she ate the traditional Christmas steak tartare. Those were her inspirations. She also had to cook Ruth’s inspirational lemon soufflé, which she ate in Paris at age 10, which she considered to be magic food.

Course 1
Asian Steak Tartare – Susan admits to being biased. Tom likes the idea, but it lacks soy and sesame. Bert wanted her to julienne the Asian pear.

Course 2
Shrimp and Chervil Mousse Stuffed Rigatoni, Crab and Shrimp Salpicon – Bert compliments the authenticity of the 60s dish, and Dany finds it heavy, the sauce should have been drizzled.

Course 3
Lemon Soufflé with Rhubarb Compote, Lemon Hazelnut Meringue and Ice Cream – Tom thinks it was the best dish of the night, light and tons of flavor and the rhubarb and lemon worked well. Ruth thinks it is heaven. Ninja thinks she captured the flavor of lemon, and Ruth raves that she would still have the “love affair” with lemon today if served Mary Sue’s version way back when.

Traci – At age 16, she ate at Zola’s in San Francisco and had a very memorable salad, and her first introduction to California-style cuisine. Her grandfather was also a very avid cook and made a mean shrimp Creole. That’s about it – as usual, not really a lot of flair provided by Traci. She has to make Gael’s food memory from her honeymoon – a fried duck with Béarnaise sauce.

Course 1
Shrimp Creole – Bert calls it ambitious, and Obi says it was a ballsy reconstruction, but Tom laments the lack of spice

Course 2
Roasted Quail Salad with Sweetbreads, Mushrooms and Pancetta – Gael is a sweetbread expert, and AGAIN gets into it with Obi. She said the sweetbread is almost right. Susan compliments Traci’s ability to take a complex dish and bring it down to earth.

Course 3
Duo of Duck – Crisp Duck Béarnaise and Braised Duck Leg Salad – Stone is talking too much of Gael’s sex life. Gael likes the béarnaise, but the other one is dry. Gael doesn’t think it would have turned her on to food.

Floyd – His dad would take him out to restaurants and would have a flavorful white fish. It was here that Floyd received his introduction to fine dining and the multitude of utensils provided. He also remembered a simple dish that used to be served at 4 pm tea when he was a kid. Those were his inspirations. Of course, Bert remembered an Indonesian specialty that he had as a teenager that “was so full of spice and had layers of flavors.”

Course 1
Wild Mushroom Upma Polenta with Kokum & Coconut Milk – Ruth is taken with it, and realizes the more you eat the more flavors ricochet off your head or something. Gael and Obi debate whether a simple dish like this is a good or bad thing – Obi wonders why you need to be blown away with every dish, what’s wrong with simple. Here here. Tom agrees with Gael that you should go for broke on every dish. I think the point is missed – why can’t simple and brilliant be considered being blown away?

Course 2
Rice Flavored Snapper and Tomato Fennel Broth with Carrots – Ruth loves it, and Stone liked the hint of spice. Gael thinks the fish is overcooked, and gets into it again with Obi. Moonen is struggling chewing the rice.

Course 3
Rendang two ways: Oxtail and Short Ribs, Tapioca Pilaf with Diced Potato and Peanuts – Tom likes the oxtail heat and flavors. Bert thinks he elevated salt of the earth food. Bert appreciates the dish and feels the love (tm Carla).

Critics’ Table
Ruth is amazed by Mary Sue’s tartare texture, and Bert questioned the salad and rigatoni pairing. The lemon amazes Gael, and Ruth raved again. Ruth said Floyd was brave to make the simple upma. Bert had a problem with the fish rice crust, but really loved the soul put into the rendang. Gael said Traci’s rice cake was fab, but missed the long cooked Creole flavor. Traci defends the choice. Stone thinks the quail was perfect, and Bert had a problem with the duck although the sauce was perfect.

Stone was amazed to see Mary Sue make Asian tartare, and Ruth thought it was a dream with the pear crunch and spice. Gael wanted more, but found the second dish weird. Stone said the dessert made the hairs on his neck stand up. Bert loved the upma, Floyd took a plain dish and made it elegant. Stone agreed, especially with the shrooms and coconut. Bert said the broth was astonishing in the fish dish, focusing on the fennel. Gael loved the broth, but not the fish and rice. She thought the rendang was his best, and Bert was sincerely moved by it. Ruth wished it had more spice. Stone thought Traci cooked from the heart, but Gael and Bert battled over the flavors. Ruth loved the quail and sweetbreads, Stone praised the mixture of textures. Gael missed the crusty coating or mustard in the duck.

Based on the judging, it was clear who won, and in fact, Floyd did win. So, that’s a third Masters season done, and I personally liked the changes this season. I was more engaged in Masters than ever before. Maybe make it a tad less silly next season, a splash more dignity may be better, but I like the attempts to mix more fun into having these accomplished chefs on board.


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