Once again, sorry for being tardy this week. This time, I actually have a culinary excuse. I have decided to reboot P90X this week, and this time, do the Tony Horton suggested meal plan. The only problem – I am one of the world’s worst cooks. Yeah, I know, the irony of this column is overwhelming at times, but that’s the case. I spent this week basically trying my wife’s patience as we made about four recipes per night of various sauces, soups and other dishes. One thing about this plan – 3000 calories per day of healthy food is a boatload of food. And thank goodness for all of those calories – after cooking and exercising deep into the night each day for a week, I was exhausted.
So, I didn’t get to watch Masters until Sunday night this week – and boy, what a strange episode it was! It had Stone flirting mercilessly with the guest judge, and it had an odd and deeply intriguing fight between Lorena and Yeo. It also featured the Masters’ version of Restaurant Wars – as it would be far from interesting to see these chefs battle over opening a restaurant, since all of them have done just that 10 times over. It’s a novelty for regular Top Chef because those chefs are not usually restaurant owners. So, a little twist on the challenge and we had this week’s Thai challenge.
Quickfire – Top Chef is bringing sexy back. Lorena even helped out the theme by giving us a literal “Bowm Chicka Bow Bowm” song. It seems Dita Von Teese is the “epitome of sexy.” I don’t think I would have gone there – not in a world where Scarlet Johansson exists. But she’s pretty sexy. And as it turns out – incredibly – she’s also the first really good stunt celebrity casting they’ve had. It seems that Dita knows her food. The challenge is to make a sexy dish using tons of traditionally sexy ingredients – oysters, chocolate, champagne – and others which could be sexy if you’re creative enough. Five grand and immunity are on the line.
CC starts by chanting “sugar, sugar.” I would have liked it if he sang instead. Other chefs were busy destroying the arsenal of blenders. Art began to question his sexuality thanks to Dita, and Lorena broke out some impressive knife skills. As someone who has chopped a lot of veggies this week, I can appreciate how hard that is. Kerry is making a tuna salad – and I instantly scoffed at the notion of tuna being sexy. I would be proven wrong later. Takashi began talking about sweet and slimy sexiness and I started to get uncomfortable again.
Dita begins her tasting with Stone – which would later have to be accompanied by a couple of cigarettes – by dropping a line about how the tease is important, but you need a payoff in the end. Yowza.
Art – Ile Flottante – Chocolate Vanilla Sauce with Strawberries and Brittle Bits Dita shows her cred by instantly identifying the dish as an Ile Flottante. He wants to dive into a giant vat of it. Naked. And awesomely, Stone is flustered by her comments. It’s really funny. Dita later added that it was a bit too chocolaty.
Lorena – Tuna Telitaas with Avocados and Arugula – Stone thinks that is a lot of cilantro. Dita thinks it was delicate and light, but not sexy. She would be too worried about getting anything in her teeth.
Takashi – Chilled Oyster and Sea Urchin with Yuzu-Truffle Vinaigrette – Dita said this is made out of three of her favorite things. She calls it cold, fresh, slippery and sexy. And Stone flirts even more with her. Seriously, give these two a show. That’s good onscreen chemistry.
Yeo – Chawanmushi, Caviar, Tempura Asparagus and Love Apple Salad – These are more things that Dita loves – she equates it to soft caresses followed by a quick smack. Excuse me while I get a cold glass of ice water.
CC – Foie Gras and Figs in Rose, Fig and Champagne Sauce – Dita wants to lay around and feed figs to, well, I think most everyone watching inserted themselves into this scenario.
Kerry – Seared Tuna with Uni, Soy and Aromatics – She is sexually excited over the uni. She adds that when you’re out seducing, you don’t want a heavy meal. Damn. Dita Von Teese, ladies and gentlemen. She sure can deliver the promises.
The bottom two is Art and Lorena. Art’s was a wise choice, but not a true Ile Flottante. Lorena’s wasn’t sexy. Kerry and Takashi make the top two – with Kerry’s giving her the ability to “go all night.” Holy crap. Takashi’s “felt good sliding down her throat.” No. words. Takashi gets the win, the cash and immunity.
For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs will be concentrating on Northern Thai flavors by visiting the famous Vegas Thai restaurant, “Lotus of Siam.” They must make a Thai inspired dish as they create their own Thai restaurant – each of them creating at least one dish on the menu. Lorena is worried about the challenge, but Yeo has confidence since she used to live in Thailand. They must be ready to serve in 12 hours. Yeo speculates that Lorena and Art would not be good at this challenge because she is not sure how good of a line cook they would be.
Before shopping, they go and visit Lotus of Siam and get a feast from the little old Thai lady who runs the place, Shuipan Chutmera. And her very cute granddaughter, who I am hoping is at least 18 years of age after commenting on her cuteness. Or else, I feel really badly about myself. Lorena sees a coconut soup which makes her realize that Thai and Latin cooking are not all that far off from each other. At Whole Foods, Kerry seems to be buying the entire meat and fish station, asking for “all that, all that, all that.” There is some drama/comedy as Kerry tries to communicate via two-way with CC to explain that they can’t find raw peanuts or duck.
The chefs break down the job responsibilities and Art and Lorena are basically assigned the job of the front of the house. This stems back to Yeo’s comments about their line cook experience. Lorena is not pleased about this and tells us in confessional that she has plenty of line cook knowledge. This leads to the clash in the kitchen between the ladies. It is presumably about Yeo’s displeasure over Lorena’s mise en place and Lorena’s reaction to Yeo’s attitude. However, what I think happened here was Lorena was steaming over being sent to the front of the house and she took it as a slight. And she blamed Yeo for it. I am sure Lorena has had to deal with that kind of thing her whole life – a woman in the kitchen, especially an attractive one, has probably been dealing with respect problems from Day One. And we watched it manifest on cable TV. Fascinating.
Anyway, back to prep. Kerry is trying to make taro palatable. He calls it simple, but only if you’re a master. So…not simple. Glad this isn’t Top Chef: Simpletons. The other dynamic with Kerry is that he has elected to be the expeditor except that he is not being all that aggressive. Now, CC and his big mouth…that’s an expeditor. And as we see later on, the service troubles the group had would have been solved with CC calling the shots.
Shuipan and granddaughter Penny join Bert, Lam, Stone and Alan Systma, the young critic from last year who looks like Michael Ian Black. Less funny though.
Lorena – Pisco Chicken Soup with Galangal, Cilantro and Lime – Alan thought there were too many garnishes, as her chilies were all over the dish. Shuipan liked the dish though.
CC – Sirloin Steak Larb Tartare – CC has taken the flavor of larb, although I chuckled because I thought he said lard. Shuipan thinks that for an American, this dish was good. Ha! Lam thinks it is beautiful, with a great clean beef flavor.
Takashi – Yellow Curry with Shrimp and Crispy Noodles – Penny and grandma praise the curry.
Art – Cashew-Crusted Chicken, Crispy Rice Salad with Lemongrass-Lime Vinaigrette –
Lam didn’t feel enough of a Thai inspiration. Alan thinks the vinaigrette was the saving grace.
This is where we have some drama. Yeo and Kerry are serving the last course and need to send it out together. However, Kerry isn’t ready, so Yeo needs to scrap her duck and re-cook in order to make it work. However, doing so, she winds up with awfully rare duck. And gets rather pissed.
Kerry – Braised Pork Belly with Chinese Mustard Greens and Taro Root Puree – Alan thinks that there is nothing not to like. Stone thinks taro is mainly just for spackle, but boy, Kerry made it tasty. Shuipan said this one was the closest to Thai style of them all. Which guarantees a win for Kerry, right? Right?
Yeo –Seared Duck Breast with Green Pineapple and Massaman Curry – Bert thinks the duck is frighteningly rare. So much so that he actually sends it back. Alan agrees about the chewy meat. Shuipan thinks the herbs needed to be harsher.
All six face the critics and Bert tells them they made good dishes but not all were with the signature flavors of Thailand. CC and Kerry make the top. Alan tells CC that it was nicely constructed, but wisely held back on flavor. Lam tells Kerry there was thoughtfulness on the garnishes, and Stone adds a comment from a diner that it was “Thai meat and potatoes.” The win and ten grand go to CC. Kerry is still without a win, and yet is now in the Final Five.
Lorena, Yeo and Art hit the bottom. Welcome to third place, Takashi! Art is not surprised to be there. Stone says it was plain, simple, but boring. Bert thinks he put “Southern jazz hands” on the dish. That’s awesome. I just picture the Savannah production of “Guys and Dolls” now. Lam tells Lorena she had a problem with garnish, but good chicken. Stone said the chilies needed to be cut to infuse the flavor. Yeo tries hard to avoid blaming Kerry for her issues but the critics push her. Alan did like the smokiness of the eggplant, but Bert said the dish felt more French than Thai.
The critics confer with Bert thinking that Lorena should not have poached the chicken separately, it felt like two dishes. Alan said the garnish error was an amateur move. Stone thinks Yeo was an inch from being the best, but that duck. It seems Kerry’s fears about being the cause of her demise were unfounded. He was possibly the cause of her not winning the challenge outright. Alan thinks Art struggled to translate his style, and Lam thinks it was just too bland.
Art and his personality get the heave ho. He will be missed. However, bland and boring is often the kiss of death on this show. He and Lorena have a tearful farewell and Art vows to one day open a restaurant with her. I hope it is here in DC – because I am there!
• Sometime in between last week and this week, it seems that Wolverine got his claws into Lorena’s wardrobe. Did that not look like claw slashes across her shoulder?
• It was as if Stone was having way too much fun with the food/sex analogies. A “sensual feel in the mouth?”
• CC thinks foie gras oozes sex. If he could manage to infuse that into a dish, he’d make a lot of money.
• Did Art really dream about chocolate? He should have dreamt about Thai food.
• It is somewhat disconcerting to hear Yeo talking about burlesque. It’s almost as if someone replaced the script of the first half of this episode with that of the Real Housewives.
• Did Yeo demand that one of the other chefs not call her Jesus?
• One of those Thai dishes contained pork blood. Well, I think I would bypass that entrée on the menu.
• Extra scene – Kerry and Yeo make up.
Next week – – Sugar Ray Leonard. And Stone going the full Michael Buffer.