Using some patented NBC/Bravo synergy, Masters put together an Olympic based Quickfire challenge – one that had nothing to do with Ryan Lochte peeing in the pool, Gabby Douglas’ hair, McKayla Maroney’s sour face, Usain Bolt’s ego or cheating badminton players. Yes, I am officially Olympic obsessed and am currently carrying massive crushes on Lolo Jones and Hope Solo. And yes, I want to combine their names to make Lolo Solo. But that’s just me.
Anyway, instead of asking what Brian Boitano would do, we are presented with the question – what would Brian Boitano eat. Bravo does a double synergy whammy by trotting out former Olympic skater Boitano, and keeping the network’s gay cred going despite the sports angle. I’ll lay off criticism of the fact that Boitano is a winter athlete and his appearance should have been saved for the Russian Winter Olympics in 2014.
Anyway, the chefs enter and Stone presents them with a massive display of seafood on an ice wall. The chefs are excited, but that enthusiasm is lessened upon learning that they have to make a dish without heat. So no stoves, ovens, grills, open fires, Bunsen burners, etc. Not a single luxury. Takashi is very excited over this – especially the sea urchin. The chefs have 20 minutes to prepare the raw meats. Art drops his on the floor – how embarrassing. Kerry wants to win – well, duh! Mark takes on Maine lobster because, well, he lives in Maine. CC has a great idea as he uses a charcoal brush to give it the illusion of being cooked. It’s not a trick, Michael, it’s an illusion. Hat feels good about his dish, while Takashi amazingly doesn’t even start doing anything until there were only five minutes remaining.
Takashi – Aji Sashimi with Sea Urchin, Heirloom Tomatoes and Daikon Apple Salad – Boitano loves the crunchiness, not the messiness.
CC – Mackerel Fra Diavolo – Boitano likes the many flavors and Stone is impressed with the complexity of the dish. Yeo is impressed by Boitano’s food chops. No word on what he thinks of her figure skating.
Art – Yellow Tomato and Avocado Soup with Chopped Clam and Prawn Salad – Boitano again comments on crunch. Stone says the presentation was a letdown.
Kerry – Hamachi with Lemon Eucalyptus Oil – Botiano likes the plating, but wants more oil. Stone laments the lack of acidity.
Clark – Oysters with Watermelon and Lemon Relish – Boitano says it had the perfect combo of acid and crunch. Seriously, dude, enough with the crunch.
Mark – Maine Lobster Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes – Boitano likes the “tomato bed,” which I think is an obscure skating maneuver.
The Hat – Geoduck, Cucumber and Seaweed with Sea Urchin Dressing – Boitano noticed the textural similarity of the elements. Stone says there’s a party in his mouth. No word if everyone was invited.
We have no idea what Lorena or Yeo made because Top Chef hates women. I mean, I didn’t realize how badly the season was for the ladies until this challenge – Lorena and Yeo are the only two women left!
Kerry and The Hat get put in the bottom, and further the shameless Olympic synergy with the medal system. Mark gets the Bronze, CC the Silver, and Takashi wins the Gold Medal. Boitano gives his explanation, but I don’t really care. Why? Because he’s an ice skater. Just like I don’t care what Michael Phelps thinks about shoes.
Elimination Challenge – It’s Teppanyaki Time. What’s that? Ever been to Benihana? It’s that. The meal will be served to the critics and to former Masters – Mary Sue Milliken, Susan Fenniger, Jonathan Waxman and Rick Moonen. Yay, Jonathan! I can break out my Obi-Wan nickname for him again! The chefs are broken out into groups of three – Art, The Hat and CC; Takashi, Yeo and Clark; and Mark, Lorena and Kerry.
The former Masters join with the critics – Bert, Ruth, Stone and Francis Lam, the features editor at Gilt Taste, and senior writer at Salon. No Katniss this week, instead, we have Lam. Meanwhile, the chefs cone out to use the grill with Mark putting bok choy on the grill for the first time, and Kerry doing a whole lot of talking and making Lorena nervous. The team has 30 minutes to cook – about 10 minutes each, but if one goes too long, no extra time will go on the clock for the others. Bert wonders about Kerry’s combination of tarragon and sesame oil, and about the sheer amount of Lorena’s ingredients. Susan notices that the three of them failed to actually taste the dishes as they prepared it, and the lack of seasoning showed.
Kerry – Shrimp with Eggplant Herb Salad and Gochujang Sauce – Bert liked his showmanship but Ruth found the shrimp to be overcooked.
Mark – Scallops with Bok Choy, Pickled Mushrooms and Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce Moonen noticed that Mark didn’t have the bok choy in the center of the grill and Susan found it to be a safe meal.
Lorena – Chicken Fried Rice with Spicy Chili Oil, Cilantro and Orange Guava Sauce – Obi-Wan felt there wasn’t much to the sauce, and it lacked ample salt. Susan thought Lorena ran out of ample time to make it properly.
The next team comes out and the highlight is Yeo pretending to do a striptease. Bert was disappointed that the group was a bit lackluster with its presentation. Obi-Wan was impressed that the three of them worked well together and made it like a meal. And we learned that Moonen loves lettuce wraps. Who knew!
Yeo – Beef Kalibi Lettuce Wrap with Gochujang Sauce – Mary Sue wanted more of a sear and marinate.
Clark – Lobster Tails with Mango and Orange Butter – Susan felt it was underseasoned, but Ruth loved it.
Takashi – Sautéed Calamari with Savory Oko Momiyaki Pancakes – Man, I wish those were chocolate chip! Anyway, Susan found them to be gritty.
The third team comes in and Art and CC continue their bickering. This one was over a mandolin. Bruce Hornsby wants them to cut it out.
Art – Griddled Shrimp, Cheese Grits Cakes and Swamp Greens Salad – Bert thought it was a little salty, but Susan found it to be the best of the day.
CC – Grandma Easton’s Rhode Island Clam Chowder – Moonen found it to be tasty, but a little thin.
The Hat – Pear Crepe Flambé with Almond Cream and Pear Butter – Mary Sue found it to be gutsy to make a crepe, and Moomen thought it was more like a waffle cone.
The winners were Art, CC and The Hat. Bert loved Art’s cakes, Lam praised The Hat’s pears as a classic dish, and Ruth found CC’s to be very ambitious and that perhaps he needs to be an Angry Chef. Not an Angry Elf. Art gets a somewhat unexpected win thanks to his cakes – a big differences from his bad cakes from last week. Upon return to the Stew Room, Lorena basically mugs him in celebration. However, it is not a long celebration as she joins her team in the Bottom Three.
It came down to some bad seasoning for the most part. Mark’s was too safe, Lorena’s didn’t cook properly throughout and Kerry’s shrimp were overcooked. Kerry’s showmanship probably helped him, and Lorena’s flaw was seemingly something that could be easily corrected with some seasoning and even fruit juice. Mark was boring and safe – and that’s a bad combo on Top Chef. He gets taken out and the Nelson pair is torn asunder. Instead, Clark and his haircut will have to move forward alone.
• Art and Lorena are a little crazy with each other – “My baby!!” “Miss sexy!!”
• It took every ounce of restraint in my body to resist mocking Boitano’s critique of a dish having a “salty sea taste in (my) mouth.” Every. Ounce.
• You know, is it me, or has this season had an inordinate amount of Asian based challenges?
• CC digging through clams in Whole Foods made me think that there are tons of walruses swimming around the Arctic who would be baffled by his pickiness.
• What Whole Foods has a massage therapist on staff? And would you do what The Hat did and actually get one in the spice aisle? It made me agree with CC in my amazement that The Hat would do that – although I probably wouldn’t actually call him a “ding dong.”
• I can listen to Lorena basically say anything. I would listen enraptured to her read the Paul Ryan budget plan – and I’m a dye in the wool liberal!
• Art and Thierry’s hats must get so incredibly sweaty in the kitchen.
• I like how Art removes his hat for the judging. I don’t know why, I just like that.
• Did I miss when Clark injured his thumb? Seems strange to omit that, unless he stuck it in a socket or something stupid.
Next week – Love Shack Baby!