Category Archives: Cooking

Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 6 – They’re Sexy And They Know It

Wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah.

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!

Quickfire Hits
• 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.

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Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 5 – Textural Violations and Other Stories

Sorry for the delay this week – family vacation to South Carolina takes precedent over watching famous chefs cook for Playboy playmates and their friends. And the 15-year-old me just punched me in the stomach for saying that.

This week’s episode featured many different kinds of women – from the E! reality show variety, to the Lilith Fair variety. From jiggle and fake boobs to earnestness and flannel. We had Holly Madison and her blonde buxom body which at one point in time regularly allowed Hugh Hefner’s withered old hands to have full access. And we had the Indigo Girls who would have broken those hands with their guitars if they got anywhere near them.

Continuing the bizarre trend of random celebrities judging elite chefs, the Indigo Girls joined Stone to pass judgment on the Quickfire. A quick one about the Indigo Girls. I have only recently been able to listen to “Closer To Fine” without shivering. My college roommate – and one of my best friends in the known universe – learned how to play guitar in college, and used that song as his first real conquest on the six-string. Needless to say, I heard that song a lot. I have never bitched about it because it was karmic payback for all of the songs I overplayed to death during my college days. Nevertheless, the song still held those memories for me – but we are cool now, the Girls and me. Even if they never knew, or cared, about this. And by the way, he’s a great guitar player now.

The Quickfire Challenge is to make a meat and veggie version of the same dish. They have 45 minutes to do so. The Hat whistles while he works , while CC wants to treat his meat. Whatever. Takashi shows an old photo of himself wearing an awesome checkered jacket. The big development is that Yeo fails to plate her dish properly as she runs out of time before putting the broth on the noodles.

Art – Chicken Pot Pie and Cheddar Biscuit Crust and Mushroom and Wilted Arugula Pot Pie with a Parmesan Savory Crust. Mmmmm. Love me some pot pie. Emily, the Meat Eating Indigo Girl, thinks it was beautifully balanced, while Amy, the Veggiego Girl, loved the crust.

Yeo – Faux Pho Noodles with Rib Eye and Faux Pho Noodles with Mushrooms – Doh! No broth! Amy rubs it in by pointing that out to Yeo, as she watches from the kitchen.

CC – Beef Bordelaise with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach and Portobello Bordelaise with Mashed Potatoes and Spinach – Amy found the inside to be tender, and Emily thought it was nice and rich.

Kerry – Chicken with Olives and Herb Flan with Olives – Emily found it to be moist and subtle, and Amy felt it was done well.

The Hat – Poulet Basquaise and Fricassee of Vegetable Basquaise – Stone thought it was the same dish, and Amy Simon Cowelled that it was like something from a wedding banquet.

Takashi – Agedashi Tofu and Eggplant with A Veggie Somen Noodle Roll and Agedashi Tofu and Eggplant with Pork, Ginger and Japanese Mushrooms – Stone gives it a wow. Amy said the eggplant was perfect. Emily said it was fabulous, with amazing spicy ginger and she would order it again and again if she could.

Lorena – Arepa Dumpling Soup with Queso Fresco and Chicken Salad Arepa with Avocado and Queso Fresco – Stone makes yummy eyes upon taking a bite. Emily says “whoa,” and wants to scrape it all off the plate. Amy thinks it was one of the most creative veggie dishes she ever had.
Back in the kitchen, Yeo is able to give them her broth now, and they twist the knife a bit by implying that she would have won with it. The Top Three are Art and his soul-warming food, Takashi and the beautiful textures and the plate-scraping goodness from Lorena. Takashi gets the win, five grand and immunity.

The Elimination Challenge is to make brunch for former Playboy playmate, ex-wife of Hugh Hefner, Holly Madison and her friends at a pool party. It will be canapé sized – so tiny bites. 150 people. She says she does not like garlic and onions. So whatever you do…don’t cook with those. Hey, Art…what are you doing? The Hat laments that garlic and onions is the basis of French food. I thought that was aggressive indifference. Oh, that’s the basis of French service.

During prep, CC says he is trying to mimic bacon with tuna. I think any excuse to bring bacon into the equation is a good one. At the pool party, there are lots and lots of pretty people in attendance. Lots. Bert, Katniss (welcome back), Lam and Stone come in and Bert gets all handsy with some of the half-naked men.

The Hat – Croque Madame with Bechamel Sauce and Tomato Vodka Shooter – Stone doesn’t think it looks like the proper dish, and Holly wonders/is-prompted-to-say that it should have an egg on it. Bert says the toast was burnt, Holly likes the fruit, Katniss wonders about the gravy, Lam thinks it was too gooey and rich but was a good idea to try and provide an entire brunch on one plate.

Art – Mabel’s Angel Biscuit – Turkey Burger with Garlic Chutney Stone likes the strong flavor, Bert says it is vibrant and Holly exclaims loudly when she discovered there was garlic.

Kerry – Chilled Red Pepper Coulis with Crab and Corn Fritter – Stone thinks it is a play on soup, and Lam is happy you can taste the crab. Katniss likes the punch of sauce but wishes for more seasoning.

Lorena – Bunuelos with Fresh Berry Compote, Chile Chocolate and Condensed Vanilla Sauce – She “put all of the sexy I have in it.” Lam gives a woo! Bert loved the warm center and the just right amount of crispiness. Holly seems to like having a fork.

Yeo – Pulled Pork on Toast – Lam points out to Holly the “lipstick problem,” a clever way of identifying the messy nature of the dish. Bert thinks the sauce was boring, Holly said it was bland and Stone says the bun was toasted too soon.

CC – Watermelon and Tuna Bacon with Golden Tomatoes and Pistachios – Bert instantly can see CC in the dish, and Holly loved the presentation. Katniss liked the bacon and the refreshing burst of melon, but Holly thought the pepper overpowered the dish. Stone said it was most complex and cleverest, but sometimes that can be too much.

Takashi – Sheep’s Milk Yogurt Panna Cotta with Citrus Gelee, Fresh Berry Compote and Almonds – Holly raves about the sweetness of the panna cotta and the tartness of the fruit. I am laying off the inherent humor in that sentence. Feel free to run with that one yourselves, folks.

The Top Four – Lorena, Art, Takashi and Kerry. Lam says the turkey burger is a Tragedy of American Cuisine. I may see that off-Broadway someday, starring Liev Schreiber and the Paula Deen in her acting debut. Lam said Art brought it back and redeemed the concept of the t-burger. And Holly didn’t mind the garlic. Stone thinks Kerry gave perfect brunch food. Bert thinks Takashi’s was stunning, not perfect, but delicious. Katniss uses the term “crispity crunchity” and made me laugh out loud as she praises Lorena’s dish. Lam could feel sexy just eating that. For making Lam feel sexy, Lorena earns the win.

CC, Yeo and The Hat file in for judgment. The Hat was missing the sunny side egg and the dish congealed without it. Lam makes a comment about the amount of awesome “buns” at the pool party, but Yeo’s dish didn’t have one of them. Ouch. And eww. Bert said she didn’t pull the meat (stop that) properly, it wasn’t thin enough. CC’s dish was too complicated for the moron models and the melon wasn’t enough to overcome the spices.

Basically, The Hat “went for it” but the bread was dried out and the sauce was incorrect. Yeo’s pork was made incorrectly – the “anti-pulled pork” – and was too bland. CC’s flavors were good, but the dish was overthought and, as Katniss said, had “textural violations.” That’s going to be the title of my book of poetry someday.

The Hat is gone. Seems like a nice guy, but I won’t miss not understanding a word he said.

Quickfire Hits
• Lorena claiming to remember her friends dancing and singing to the Indigo Girls makes me have to call BS on that. I can’t imagine too much frolicking to the Girls’ music among young Venezuelan women in the late 80s.
• Wouldn’t you want to grow up in a neighborhood like Takashi with the Tofu Guy going around selling things? I can only imagine the Mister Softee van driving around, but instead of ice cream cones, we get tofu salad.
• Love the shot of the beets on the ground. Beets on the Ground, Beets on the Ground.
• Art knows everything about a biscuit, except to not poor chicken broth on a veggie biscuit.
• Could it be more forced to listen to Art and Takashi opine about Holly’s beauty? I mean, she’s a Playboy model, so I get it, but boy, it felt like those two were reading off of cue cards.
• CC sprints through Whole Foods more than any other chef I can remember.
• Kerry talks about how his crab fritter is perfect hangover food, because of it being fried. I get that, but if I recall all of my many hangovers over the years, not once did I say, “Boy, I could go for some fish right about now.”
• Art is going with the Southern Angel Biscuit. Now THAT sounds like it should be one of the Playmates at Holly’s party.
• I am tired of the CC and Art battles. It may actually be the lamest Top Chef rivalry ever.
• Fun scene with the crew at the Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar and Grill after prep. We learn about The Hat having a knife accident, about CC’s first gig as a dishwasher at IHOP, Kerry’s as a busboy at Bonanza and Art’s at KFC. I have no jokes here – that’s a lot of fun stuff on its own
• Extra scene – Art swimming in a tiny green Speedo. So that happened.

Next week – Dita Von Deese. And a CC/Art argu…wait, that’s Lorena and Yeo going at it. CC and Art are fighting through surrogates now!

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Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 4 – I’ve Got Me A Canyon, It Seats About 20…

Of course, this week Top Chef featured the B-52s, because when I think about fine dining, I instantly think about the B-52s. And what better casting for a show airing in 2012 than a band that last hit it big during the first Bush Administration. People born the week that “Love Shack” was released are now old enough to drink. The entire U.S. Olympic gymnastics team was not even born yet. Derek Jeter was in middle school. Padma was a teenage model. Tom was working in NYC kitchens. Curtis was studying for midterms at some Melbourne junior high school. Taylor Swift, Jordin Sparks and Daniel Radcliffe were infants.

But, yes, the B-52s are here to judge food. I guess Wolfgang Puck will be showing up in The Voice later this year.

So, the eight remaining chefs file in and Stone twists the Mark Elimination Knife a bit for Clark, implying that Clark can now claim the win in household arguments. They are shown a giant salad bar with 52 ingredients and instructed to make a gourmet salad. The Hat comments about how deceptively difficult it is to make a salad – much less difficulty in tossing salad. Well, for some. Stone drops a hint as to who the guests will be when he tells them to make a salad “as big as a whale, and there’s 8 minutes to set sail.” Oh, Stone.

Yeo smartly runs to the pantry instead of the salad bar to focus on making her vinaigrette instead of slamming into everyone else at the bar. Art goes for the blender to mix up some fruit soup, which Clark thinks is a risk given the time. Um, it’s a blender. It blends really quickly, you know, to save time. Kerry again comments about how much he wants to win – as opposed to the others who blindly stumble around and accidentally win all of the challenges. Lorena is the one taking a real risk as she races over to the grill to heat up her cauliflower. She barely makes it back in time to plate her dish.

Stone joins Kate and Fred from the B-52s to eat the salads, and surprisingly, no one questions why two singers are going to judge their food.

The Hat – Baby Arugula, Beets & Blueberries with Rice Vinegar Dressing – Kate doesn’t like fruit in her salad, but she digs this. Fred begins his ongoing theme of bitching about the dressing.

Lorena – Grilled Cauliflower with Lemon Vinaigrette, with Teardrop Tomatoes and Hearts of Palm – Kate sings about sad tomatoes before making yummy sounds and digging the saltiness of the dish.

Takashi – Romaine and Arugula with Beets and Pickled Radishes, with Yuzu Wine Vinaigrette – Fred wanted more dressing, and Kate commented on the tanginess. Stone likes the flavor and says it is a good salad.

Clark – Green Olives and Hearts of Palm with Mustard Vinaigrette – Kate loves the pretty presentation, and Fred is hung up on the tangy dressing.

Art – Tomato, Cucumber and Pomegranate Salad, with Balsamic Vinegar and a side of Watermelon Soup – Art calls this the Holy Trinity of Southern Food. I would agree, if it was fried. Fred bitches about the dressing, Kate likes it, but the soup is too sweet.

CC – Romaine Lettuce with Radish, Egg, and Soft Herbs – Kate thinks you can’t go wrong with radishes. Fraggles around the world agree. However, the salad is underdressed and a little bland. CC takes great umbrage with this.
Kerry – Salade Russe with Yogurt – Kate and Fred seem to both like the flavors a lot.

Yeo – Chopped Romaine and Chinese Noodles with Yuzu Dressing – Fred loves the “tacky” crispy noodles.

Kate and Fred are greeted with dancing and merriment from the chefs, and they give their top three salads, and none for the bottom. Lorena gave them a “tingling taste sensation.” There’s an ointment for that at your local CVS. The Hat’s fruit/veggie combo worked, and Kerry had a nice flavor combination. Lorena earns the win, the $15K for her charity to fight obesity, and the coveted immunity.

Elimination Challenge – Stone tells them that we all rely on the land for our ingredients, apparently forgetting about the existence of fish. An aside – The Existence of Fish will be my next punk band name. He brings in Louise Benson, part of the Tribal Council for the Hualapai Native American Tribe. No Jeff Probst to be found for the Tribal Council. She is inviting them to come to Arizona and cook a meal for the tribe using their native ingredients. Cool challenge.

Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 3 – In Case You Didn’t Know, Bravo Is An NBC Channel

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.

Quickfire Hits
• 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!

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Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 2 – Lady Gaga’s Sad Pineapple Cake

Looks like I am back in midseason form – with a column woefully late. Blame the talented Olympic athletes from around the world, along with the need to work and do some quality parenting. Oh, and Tony Horton has played a part in my tardiness.

Anyway, we have Episode 2 of Masters to talk about, so let’s get started with the Quickfire. What’s that? No Quickfire? Well, that sure makes that section easy to write about. And it likely means a grueling elimination challenge is coming their way. As Stone arrives with a young man and woman next to him, the likelihood of a wedding challenge becomes strong. And in fact, that’s exactly what we have. Meet Jay and Christine – who have had some issues with their wedding. Christine’s best friend died in a car crash before their wedding, and prompted them to postpone. Upon the rescheduling, the place they found for the wedding absconded with their deposit. Strike Two. One would start to wonder if fate was trying to tell them something. However, I am not one of those people. Romantic at heart, dontcha know.

So, the cupids at Magical Elves came to the rescue and lined up several world-class chefs to cook them a wedding feast at Ravella’s in Lake Las Vegas. The chefs will cook as one team and make a spread for 200 people – from cocktail hour to dessert – at the wedding the next day. Record scratch sound! Tomorrow? They have to make it all in one day! Yikes. Thankfully for some of them, the couple is fans of Asian flavors – right in some chefs’ wheelhouse. They also want a many-layered cake, thus putting one chef firmly on the firing line thanks to the show’s long history of cake failures. Art chooses to do the cake, humblebragging that he has made cakes for Lady Gaga, Maya Angelou and Oprah Winfrey. It won’t be the last time Gaga’s cake gets a shoutout this episode. The name dropping? Getting old.

As Kerry sings Viva Las Vegas – not Viva Las Gaygas (that’s for all of you Chandler Bing fans) – they head to purchase ingredients and supplies. Bring me 15 pounds of crab meat! Get your okra over here!! Debbie wants to make a light Thai papaya salad. What could go wrong with that plan? Oh, no papayas. Yeah, she’s doomed. Takashi shouts for pickles. Art stacks up some yogurt. And CC and Takashi do an amazing last second run and relay for pork belly. Part of the Mens’ 200-meter Meat Toss competition. Unfortunately for Kerry, in the scramble to get to the checkout, his cart full of canned crab fails to make it out of the store.

Prep time – four hours worth – begins and Chris and Art squabble over the oven. This is going to get tiresome between these two. Chris is so much a kitchen diva I think he needs a diva-like nickname. For now, he’ll be CC unless I can think of something better. Regardless, he wants the oven and doesn’t want crap from Art. Stone shows up and comments on Kerry’s corn. There’s a euphemism in there somewhere. We also learn that Tom was best man at Kerry’s wedding, and did the food. Ok, if Tom likes this guy, I will have to go along. Of course, if Tom liked almost anyone, I’d give it a go. He is just that cool.

Not all that surprising, Mark lets us know that his charity is a Maine group pushing for same sex marriage legislation. He and Clark have been together for 25 years, and cannot get married in Maine. That’s right – these two guys are a threat to marriages across the board. (massive sarcasm) One thing is for sure, these guys won’t be eating any pickle/chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A anytime soon. And judging by the fit he had when The Hat took some of Clark’s shelf space, I wouldn’t want to get in their way. And I’d like to say, that instead of getting fired up over shelving, he should look into a class action lawsuit against his hairdresser.

With two hours to service, CC puts on his apron like it was body armor and Art and Lorena head to a separate dessert-only kitchen. And all of a sudden – the kids get married! Hooray! Mazel Tov! There as guests for the ceremony were Bert, Ruth, Stone and Krista. One note – Krista sent me a really great tweet last week playing along with my Katniss reference and promising to go to the red carpet in a flaming chariot. First of all, I’m holding you to it. Second of all, awesome sense of humor. And third, you can’t encourage me on these pages, because I can’t help myself. Say bye bye to mild-mannered food critic Krista, say hello to “girl on fire” food critic Katniss.

Top Chef Masters 4 – Episode 1 – Excuse Me, I’m The Queen of Lemons

I have been gone from writing about cooking for so long, I forgot that the show actually returned! That’s right – this week marked the return of the Top Chef franchise after a virtually unheard of two month absence since Paul took the gold in Top Chef. We return with the franchise’s middle child – Masters. To sum up its past – first two seasons had a goofy preliminary round format and a wooden model host. Season 3 replace her with the hunky Curtis Stone, and sliced the participants down to 12 in a more standard Top Chef Competition format. Floyd took the title the last time the Masters threw down for competition – and battled for glory, ego and cash for charities.

Returning for action – Stone is host once again. Judges James Oseland (Bert on these pages due to how he reminds me of what Sesame Street’s Bert would be if he was an adult human food critic), Ruth Reichl (no nickname, but RR in my shorthand notes), and new judges. Salon and Gourmet writer Francis Lam did not appear this week, but LAist Food Editor Krista Simmons did. She may or not be related to Gail, but one thing is for sure, she looks like she could have played Katniss in the Hunger Games. That’s right – she’s 15 years old. Not really, but I was so distracted by how young she looked, I almost asked her to babysit.

The Masters

Patricia Yeo Om Restaurant & Lounge / Moksa Pan Asian Izakaya – Charity: Heifer Project International. A Bobby Flay disciple – she focuses on Asian-inspired American food, and Asian street food. And I must say, she looks so much like Margaret Cho’s version of Kim Jong Il from 30 Rock last season.

Takashi Yagihashi Takashi Restaurant and Slurping Turtle – Charity: Japanese Tsunami Disaster Relief. James Beard winner of Best Chef: Midwest in 2003. And his Noodles restaurant was one of the “Five Best Noodle Shops in America” by Bon Appétit.

Art Smith LYFE Kitchen and Southern Art Restaurants – Charity: Common Threads . Season 1 contestant Smith is back and 120 pounds lighter. He was once Oprah’s personal chef and owns Art and Soul here in DC. And he’s wearing a snappy hat.

Thierry Rautureau Rover’s and Luc – Charity: Food Lifeline. Another past contestant, and another snappy hat, and in fact, his nickname is “The Chef in the Hat.” His Seattle restaurant was featured in tons of food publications.

Missy Robbins A Voce Madison and A Voce Columbus – Charity: Grow to Learn NYC . A Georgetown grad who moved to Chicago, and like last season’s Sarah, became a student of former Master contestant Tony Mantuano. She cooked for the Obamas – and hopefully it was healthy, or else Michelle will kick her butt.

Kerry Heffernan NYC Chef – Charity: City Harvest. Part of me hopes that he is related to Kevin James’ character in King of Queens. He wound up working for Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud and was a guest judge during All-Stars.

Debbie Gold Kansas City’s The American Restaurant – Charity: Children’s TLC. She was also a former contestant and is prominent KC chef – I was just there, and didn’t go to her place. However, I did go to an amazing BBQ restaurant connected to a gas station. Gold built 40 Sardines into a hugely successful restaurant and was nominated for “Best New Restaurant” from the James Beard Foundation. Now that’s a good name for a restaurant. Or a punk band.

Lorena Garcia Lorena Garcia’s Cocina Restaurant – Charity: Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Inc . A very good looking woman from Venezuela, she left law school for cooking. Her restaurant is in the Miami airport – which beat the hell out of a Cinnabun. She was also a guest chef on All-Stars.

Mark Gaier Arrows – Charity: Equality Maine Foundation. That’s right – a gay man name Gaier. That’s like my college astronomy professor named Telesca. True story. Mark’s Maine restaurant was chosen as “One of America’s 10 Most Romantic Restaurants” by Bon Appétit and “One of America’s Top 50 Restaurants” by Gourmet.

Clark Frasier – Arrows – Charity: Outright Lewiston/Auburn. Mark’s partner – at home and at work. And they look exactly the same. So that will be fun for me to recap. They look like how the band Nelson would look today – if they became a gay chef couple.

Chris Cosentino Incanto Restaurant in San Fran – Charity: Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinsons Research. Cosentino has been notably featured on the Food Network in The Next Iron Chef America and Chefs vs. City. He’s also got a line of clothes – but I don’t expect him to show up on Project Runway.

Season 4 takes place in Vegas. Vegas, baby! Vegas! They gather in the kitchen and we discover that Yeo (sorry, it’s shorter than her first name) was once Chris’ boss. Chris actually utters that they “all can cook in our places of business.” Really? I thought this was Top Chef Amateurs. Sigh.

Stone tells them that we are in Vegas and they will have to do Vegas things this season. In this case, play food blackjack. They are paired up and are dealt two cards per team – however, instead of 21; they are getting ingredients on the cards. They only get 15 minutes to cook, and Chris laments that his catfish is whole, so he has to filet it in that time. After some frantic cooking, the teams put out their plates. Of course, the Masters are judged by three casino dealers. Because that makes sense. The one guy is name Bryon. Not Byron, which is what I spelled out at first. Bryon. He spells it that way, making me instantly hate him.

Top Chef: Texas – Reunion – The Ballad of Beverly the Bullied

Because we just needed another hour of programming of Top Chef: Texas, we get the obligatory one-hour reunion show, hosted by Andy Cohen. Awesome. This means that if you wanted to, you could sit down and watch the full season of Top Chef: Texas (with commercials), or you could watch the full extended edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, along with one of the two Star Wars trilogies. Hmmm…

Anyway, there was no plot, no challenges, so I’ll do this column mostly in Quickfire Hits. However, I will just touch on the main part of the reunion, and in fact, the main theme of the entire season. And I will do it in an art form respected the world round as the single most romantic form of poetry. The song parody. Billy Joel fans will know the classic – The Ballad of Billy the Kid. We will change it to The Ballad of Beverly the Bullied.

From a show known as Top Chef in Texas
Came a woman with pack of knives in her hand
And her time on the show
Was full of bullying, I know
And she cooked every form of Asian in the land.

Well, she started with a note, from her family
She pinned it to the mirror, to motivate
And her spunk and her size
Took the others by surprise
Except, she didn’t seem to have any vertebrate

Well, she always got real clumsy
Yes, she spilled on Padma’s pants
But she soon put many other chefs to shame
She won Last Chance Kitchen
And made the Final Four
But the other ladies never treated her the same

Well, she got thrown under the bus once by Heather
And Lindsay of the Corn mocked her fish
And Sarah who just missed winning
Sent Beverly’s head a-spinning
With her passive-aggressive tone about Bev’s dish

Well, after watching their act on TV
Sarah was the one who felt the shame
She got right onto the phone
Luckily, Bev was right at home
And told her, I’m sorry, and I was lame

Well, she always got real clumsy
Yes, she spilled on Padma’s pants
But she soon put many other chefs to shame
She won Last Chance Kitchen
And made the Final Four
But the other ladies never treated her the same

On a show known, as Top Chef, the Reunion
Sat a girl, looking for an apology
Except she wouldn’t get the words
Heather’s excuses were for the birds
She’ll be the villain of this anthology.

Top Chef: Texas/Vancouver – Ep 17 – We’re Gonna Jam Out, With Our Clams Out

Season Nine is in the books, after over 17 hours of television. And the reunion still to come! I would rank the season somewhere in the middle of the pantheon of Top Chef seasons – it was a bit too long, and had far too many non-descript contestants. There were too many cook outs, and too many challenges that were just too physical and complicated rather than focused on the cooking. However, it was enjoyable, and produced some of the more memorable characters in show history.

If we look ahead to Season 16 and the next assumed All-Stars, I can easily see our two finalists involved, along with Bev, Edward, Grayson and Malibu. All for varying reasons. Bev’s story was so interesting with the bullying and the confidence issues coupled with some really good cooking. Edward was the king of the quips this year, and Grayson was the queen. Malibu was interesting only for his good looks and creepy paintings – but he is running away with fan favorite voting. Stunning that the good-looking guy is winning a vote dominated by the women and gay men who populate Bravo’s fan base.

We pick up where we left off week as the judges tell Qui-Gon and Sarah that the final challenge is to make a four course tasting meal. They are taking over two restaurants – Black & Blue and Coast and will each get a team of sous chefs. So it is a mini Restaurant Wars to some degree.

Sort of Quickfire Challenge – Some of the past chefs come in, even three from the first two episodes’ play-in round – The Butcher Boy, Vegan Guy and Pressure Cooker Girl – and two master chefs – Barbara Lynch and Marco Canora. They gather to earn the right to be hired help. Malibu shares that he has back sweat. Thanks, and ew. The Butcher is back and is annoying as we remember. There is a great, classic Grayson-Malibu exchange – That’s pretty/you’re pretty. Sarah and Qui-Gon come in to taste and for some reason, Sarah is shaking. Malibu went Asian to entice Qui-Gon, because he just really wants another five minutes of screen time. There is no reason given for the absence of Edward, Lindsay, Bev, etc.

Paul gets the first dish – He picks what sounds like the Butter Soup, Shellfish, Milk and Honey Caviar – That lands him a master chef as Barbara joins his team. Sarah picks Halibut, Green Mussels, Pomegranate – And she gets RILCK monster Nyesha. Qui-Gon’s second choice is The Destroyer’s Buckwheat Noodles with Local Shellfish.

Sarah tries to be cute and guess what Heather made in order to get her. Of course, I have no idea why she was going out of her way to get Heather, other Sarah’s stated desire for a pastry chef. That was all Heather did well this season, one would think she’d be trying to land the other Master Chef available! Anyway, she guesses a gross looking Sweet Scallops with Raisin Sauce dish that she remembers Heather having on her menu. Instead she gets The Butcher. If you recall from Ep 1, Tom awesomely axed that young, cocky guy for totally destroying a piece of meat. He never even got to cook! He almost took out Grayson at the same time – as he was butchering her meat as well. Imagine, Top Chef Texas without Grayson. Scary, right?

Qui-Gon’s third is Malibu’s Lamb, Blueberry Mustard and Crispy Parsnip. Mission accomplished for Malibu. Sarah guesses Heather correctly for her third slot – Chicken with Black Pepper and Buttermilk Dumplings. Lastly, Qui-Gon calls for the dish with Dungeness Crab and gets RickRoss and his awesome beard. Our last chance for just a bit more Grayson is successful as Sarah chooses her Pasta Carbonara with Fried Brussels Sprouts. We know Malibu was aiming to lure Qui-Gon with his Asian meal, well, I think Grayson was doing the same for Sarah with her pasta dish.

So the teams are: Qui-Gon, Barbara, The Destroyer, Malibu and RickRoss vs. Sarah, Nyesha, The Butcher, Heather and Grayson. Sarah notes that it is her Restaurant Wars team but with The Butcher. He replaces Bev – and I am sure she regrets not having Bev for this (and Nyesha for Lindsay is probably a win for her too).

They get six hours to prep, followed by another three the next day. Sarah goes for a German/Italian menu, which she says is out of her comfort zone. Um, Italian? Isn’t that the warm underbelly of her comfort zone? The Butcher tries to make the most of his unexpected bonus 10 minutes of screen time by pestering Sarah to make things he wants to make, in the style that he likes.

While shopping, Qui-Gon grabs some extra shrimp just in case. These shrimp might as well have been called Foreshadowing Prawns, as they came in handy later on after his crab went awry.

Top Chef: Texas/Vancouver – Ep 16 – Quang Dang, the Anti-Gridle and a Whole Lot of Eggs

Like the Republican Presidential Primary season, the endless Top Chef season just keeps going and going and going. This week, the Final Three do battle in order to survive the final elimination. It featured a very fun Quickfire Challenge and a fairly mediocre Elimination Challenge, but I am going to give a spoiler right off the bat because that is really what I took from this episode.

Sarah has chosen to bring her A game to the finals, and as one of the Final Two, I wonder if she is poised to earn a somewhat unexpected win. Every season one chef shows up to the finals with a fire in their belly and makes an unexpected run at the title. Last year, it was Isabella. Season 2’s winner Ilan was not one of the favorites that year, but he had a great finale. Lisa almost stole Season 4 from Steph and Blais. This year, it may be Sarah.

Now, Sarah has not been under the radar or anything, she’s been a solid performer. However, I don’t think many fans of the show have put her forward as a potential winner. Near the end of the Texas run, well, she found herself near the bottom a few times and known more for sniping with Beverly. She was even borderline out last week after the wacky Olympics challenge. But this week? This was a Sarah that we hadn’t seen before.

Not only did she cook very well, but she had a spring in her step. A twinkle in her eye. She’s cracking jokes, she’s having fun. Is it all the Bev departure? I don’t know, but I wish was saw more of this Sarah this season. She was pretty bad ass this week, and did it with a joy that was actually rather infectious. I mean, she made pasta for 150 people by hand! And at one point she was rocking two pasta makers at one time!

I know a lot of other bloggers have taken Sarah to task this year for the Beverly nonsense. I won’t do that. I think she’s probably a bit embarrassed at how that came across on TV, but I think they were just two people who didn’t get along. Sometimes two warring people can both be cool people – one doesn’t have to be a villain. I am sure Sarah would like to go back and act in a better way, and I am sure Beverly would like to go back and react differently as well. But they cannot. All I know is that the two of them seem cool with each other now and chalk it up to show stress. So, perhaps we should do the same thing. We learned that Sarah dropped out of high school(!) to go to culinary school. This is a woman who is very serious about her trade. We should not forget that.

Meanwhile, we have a Final Three to recap here. The Quickfire Challenge featured Padma, Emeril and Chinatown. By the way, is anyone else incredibly disappointed in Emeril as a judge this year? Bring back Anthony Bourdain!! Heck, bring back Toby – at least he was interesting. Emeril has been monotone and has contributed very little for someone of his stature. Anyway, the chefs are paired with three former Top Chef: Masters contestants – making me really nervous that Bravo is about to spring another season of Masters on us right away, making me have another 200 episodes to recap.

Sarah is apparantly buddies iwth Takashi Yasihashi, but he winds up paired with Qui-Gon. Lindsay of the Corn gets Anita Lo, while Sarah is paired with last season’s Masters winner Floyd Cardon. You remember Floyd? The guy who never won a thing during the season (at least Quickfire-wise), and kind of stuck around until an outstanding burst at the end earned him the win. Sound familiar?

The task is great – 40 minutes to make a dish. The Masters cook for 10 minutes and tag out. Then the Final Three get 10 minutes to continue and tag out. The Masters go again for 10 and the Final Three anchor the culinary relay. I love the relay challenges and this one was no different. The winner earns twenty grand. Floyd sets up a curry, which is not Sarah’s cup of tea. She goes along with it, to the point where she doesn’t really know what the veggie was. Lindsay didn’t do exactly what Lo had set out for her to accomplish, but she came close. Meanwhile, Qui-Gon and Takashi were on the same wavelength, but a last minute dose of spice really turned out to be a wrong move for our Jedi.

Worst Cooks in America, Feb. 19 – Help Me, My Two-Foo Isn’t Melting

Welcome back to week two of Bobby Flay, I mean Worst Cooks in America.  Last week we saw two people go home because pancakes and eggs were just too much of a challenge.  Contestants were given fair warning that it is only going to get harder.  Well here is a question; could it get easier from there?  I guess they could have a boiling water challenge; just seemed like a silly statement to me.  Only one way to find out and that is to hit play.

I’ll assume it is morning when the contestants find a giant fortune cookie on the dining table.  The fortune reads, “Get ready to stretch your culinary abilities.  Venture east to Chinatown where adventure awaits.”  As someone who loves all the food-related cooking shows, my mind goes to a Chopped basket filled with beaks and feet.  However this is a different skill set of contestants, maybe dumplings or noodles.

Tiffany and Erica are terrified; they must watch Chopped also, as their thoughts go to Octopus, Shark and other crazy endeavors.  Sarina feels right at home with “the emblems on the wall and the giant dragons.”  She notes, though, that just because she is Asian doesn’t mean she knows how to cook Chinese.  Well you are American and couldn’t do pancakes either, so don’t sweat it.

Today’s challenge is to make Asian-inspired noodle dishes, with homemade noodles.  Chef Lee comes out with a cart and very few ingredients to show them how it is done.  Bennett comments that he has magical ninja powers kicking in.  Imagine a six-foot long noodle jump rope being slapped down onto a steel cart and you will get the visual.  Kelli described it as Noodle Cirque d’ Solei.  I’m impressed!  After stretching the dough, he cuts it into 10-inch chunks and starts the process over again.  Somehow it is turning into noodles, so he must be using his fingers to pull it apart as he stretches it out.

The contestants are spared the long jump rope part and will be given one of the logs to stretch and pull.  Erica believes she could stand there for 5 years and not get it.  I have to say that I fancy myself to be somewhat skilled in the kitchen, more so at canning and baking, but still skilled.  I have rewound this 3 times and still don’t have a grasp on how exactly he does it.

The dishes that they’re going to have to replicate (on top of the noodles) will be, Asian Stir Fry for Anne’s team, and Bobby will make Asian Noodle with Coconut and Red Curry.  Bobby’s dish looks like it has tofu in it also.  My 16-year-old is a vegetarian and proper preparation of tofu has always been a challenge for me.

All the contestants gather round Bobby and Anne to learn various knife cuts.  The most important thing they will be looking for in this challenge is consistency.  I think the most important thing should be fingers!  Last week people could not use a spatula properly and this week they are expected to thinly julienne carrots.  I was right; Bobby’s team also will cube tofu.  Again, consistency is stressed.  They are given 45 minutes to replicate the team dish.

They all head to their work areas, and it seems everyone is keeping their fingers.  For the most part, although messy, most contestants seems to be handling the challenge fine.  Rachel is trying to press a piece of garlic and is basically killing the entire bulb, paper and all.  Anne has to stop her because she is worried she is going to stab somebody.  This really isn’t someone who doesn’t know how to do it; she just doesn’t listen or follow direction at all.

Sarina is the only one who can’t pull a single noodle; she keeps adding flour and it is just falling apart.  I know this is a mean thing to say, but we are all friends here.  Secretly I am hoping she goes home.  She has one of those 5-year-old little girl voices that stops being cute at 31.  It’s like nails on a chalkboard.  She finally makes something that resembles noodles.  Poor Bobby Flay; are you really going to have to eat it?

Erica might be the reason I have to listen to that voice another week.  She is making her red curry sauce.  She is worried, though, because her “two-foo” is not melting.  I guess she thinks it is butter?  She decides the only way to get it to melt is to press it down in the pan till it disintegrates.  Like I said earlier about Rachel, these people don’t listen.

Bennett is done with his Stir-Fry.  He compares it to Lindsay Lohan after a night out.  He says it’s “Chunky and jagged, but not a bad party”.  Sarina doesn’t think hers is spicy enough, so in the last minutes adds a tablespoon more of red curry.  Time’s up, all noodles must be in the bowls.

Erica is up first for the blue team.  Bobby tries to correct the word Two-foo; he has no idea what is in store for him with that spoonful.  Time and time again he says it properly and she says it wrong.  I sure wouldn’t want this court reporter in charge of keeping the details of a trial I was involved in.  After all is said and done he likes the seasoning, and even though he asks her if she is real, he thinks there is hope for her yet.

Vinnie is next and gets good marks on taste and consistency of cuts.  Sherrill is overly confident in her under-seasoned, over-sized noodles.  Benjamin does well cutting his carrots, but there is no rhyme or reason to the tofu cubes.  Tiffany also does well.  David was excited to learn this dish as his wife is vegan.  Bobby suggests more curry paste next time.