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Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 9 – Where We Learn That Food Has To Be Delicious

Stone’s judgment is really a foregone conclusion. CC and The Sweater win it rather easily. That’s another five grand for CC’s charity – The Michael J. Fox Foundation – and he has earned $41,000 so far.

Elimination – The Southwest Career and Technical Academy trains 200 kids who need help outside of traditional school. One class they teach is the Introduction to the Culinary Arts. Their six best students are coming to the Top Chef kitchen and will make a dish for the chefs. Well, that sure seems nice. But I don’t like where this is going. The chefs will each get paired with two of the kids and Masterfy the dish. Ok, well, please don’t go all the way, show. The trick is the kids will be cooking – the Master Chefs in the Final Three will not even touch the food. This is a challenge testing their teaching skills.
Aw, hell. Top Chef Masters’ finals is about to be determined not by cooking, but by restaurant administration and babysitting. Awesome.

The dishes the kids make are:
Lacey/Emilio – Pork Tenderloin with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Calvados Sauce – CC is impressed with their skills. He decides to teach the kids about knowing where food comes from – such as apples, etc.

Brittany/Erwin – Chicken Florentine with String Cheese – Kerry is somewhat appalled by the string cheese. Kerry notices how Brittany is aggressive, but struggled with her skills, while Erwin was rather shy.

Jojo/Jhane – Lasagna with Grilled Crostini and Spinach Salad – We learn that this is Jojo’s first lasagna – so he is bold.

I have a hard time really recapping this episode because it requires me to talk about these kids. It is hard to be snarky with these guys. Especially after we hear about Emilio growing up in poverty and other bits of back-story. These kids are trying very hard to make something of their lives – and if they are lucky – they could become CC one day. And that’s a good thing. All I will say about the shopping segment is that CC gets it. He is treating the kids with respect and is truly taking this opportunity to teach them how to shop and cook as a Master. While CC works them like kids, Kerry works them like employees. I guess it is teaching in one way – now they know what it is like to work in most restaurants. Crack that whip.

Meanwhile, Lorena’s story with her kids is pointless. They’re trying to find red wine. Who knows. Should have been a hint right there about the outcome of the challenge.

I think CC did a very smart move in demonstrating the technique first – it meant the food he used could not be served, but it was still a wise move. When Lacey dropped a bottle and it shattered, CC was calm and collected. Emilio was struggling with the knife – he put him at ease, told him he preferred the kid with a “tall 10” fingers. At the same time, Kerry was barking orders as his teaching style. What he was saying was correct and wise – but it felt like poor Brittany was going to need a tall drink afterwards. With Lorena’s team, we learn that JoJo has diabetes, which is interesting, but not relevant to the show.
The challenge will be judged by Mr. Sweater, Ruth, Lam, Stone. They are joined by the school principal, Felicia Nemcek and staff chefs Allen Asch and Linda Burns. Also at the table, the kids’ parents. So no pressure, guys.

CC/Emilio/Lacey – Pork Loin with Hazelnut Brown Butter, Apples and Watercress – They finished too quickly and plated with five minutes to spare, and CC was quite worried about that. Ruth thought the pork was beautiful. Lam raved about the brown butter. Allen liked the pepper and crunch combo. Lacey’s mom was thrilled and now will employ her daughter to cook at home. Emilio’s mom was in tears, saying her son is her armor. Which I love.

Lorena/JoJo/Jhane – Three Meat Lasagna and Arugula Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette – It is served family style, which is kind of a good idea. Linda is Italian, and she thinks it is home cooking goodness. Felicia is a fan of the skillet serving. Lam likes the goat cheese. The parents are very proud.

Kerry/Brittany/Erwin – Florentine-Inspired Chicken with Orzo and Asparagus Ragout – Kerry says he would serve this dish in his restaurant. Ruth found it to be impressive. The Sweater called it the best cream spinach he has ever had. Linda found the chicken juicy and skin crispy. The parents are very proud. Allen says the three groups of kids did such a good job; it is why he became a teacher.

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