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Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 1 – Watch Out For The Tumbleweed!

Welcome to the premiere of the next season of The Amazing Race Chef Masters…or something. I don’t know, I was just getting tons of flashbacks to many episodes of The Amazing Race as people jumped out of an airplane seemingly against their will. We were also treated to the rather unfortunate AR tendency to pretend that contestants will fail to pull off the task. Let’s be honest – they’re going to jump. Just stop.

For those who have not yet watched the episode…well, what are you doing reading a recap? Anyway, the show went against usual formula by having the master chefs decide if they wanted to jump out of an airplane. If they did, they get two hours to cook. If they bailed and chose the leisurely driving option, they only get one hour. The chefs are cooking for a team of skydivers – and one of the twists…they are doing so outside.

The other twist is the Masters’ take on Last Chance Kitchen. They are having the chefs’ sous chefs take part in their own competition. The results of which will only be on the web – however, we will see the consequences. If the sous chef wins the challenge – the Master will get immunity. However, the sous chefs ranked on the bottom will bring about obstacles for their Masters. I wonder if this means changes to the Quickfire formula, but regardless, it kind of worked in this premiere episode.

To refresh – the chefs…
Franklin Becker – The Little Beet, NYC
David Burke – David Burke Townhouse, etc., NYC
Lynn Crawford – Ruby Eats, Toronto
Odette Fada – San Domenico, NYC
Neal Fraser – Fritzi Dog, etc., Los Angeles
Jennifer Jasinski – Rioja, etc., Denver
Douglas Keane – 2 Michelin, Sonoma County
Jenn Louis, Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern, Portland
Richard Sandoval, Richard Sandoval Restaurants, Los Angeles
Bryan Voltaggio, Volt, Frederick, MD
Herbert Wilson, Sushi Samba, Las Vegas
Sang Yoon, Father’s Office, Los Angeles
Sue Zemanick, Gautreau’s, New Orleans

The chefs gathered and learned about the various twists. Douglas is the only one to bail on the jumping, which seems like a risky move. That hour of cooking time seems to be huge disadvantage. However, his lame move is rescued by the performance of his sous chef, Drew Gassell. His victory gave Doug the immunity and the ability to drive leisurely to the task.

David, Lynn and Richard are the ones who may be accepting resumes after that first task, as their sous chefs were on the bottom. As a result, when they arrived at the task they discovered the absence of their knives. All they have to cut with are a butter knife and scissors. If they lose, they won’t have to pack their knives and go…they are still packed.

The last twist – whatever the sous chefs used to make a dish they felt best represented their Master, the Masters must use for their dish. I like that one. Several souses (I have no idea how to pluralize this word) did a good job, but many left their bosses with very few options. Neal’s sous gave him a dish that contained 17 ingredients. Meanwhile, Herb’s made an oyster dish, leaving his Master having to wrestle with oysters on a table in the middle of the windy desert.

Before we go into the season and hit some snark, let me just put this out there, as I often do before Top Chef seasons. All of these chefs are friggin awesome. If you went into one of their restaurants, you’d be getting a kick ass meal. If they screw up on this show, it is only because of the goofy challenge, the time constraints, the lack of sleep, or via minute nitpick. They are all great. That said, I’ll likely be mocking each and every one of them at some point this season.

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