Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 7 – That’s Nacho Cheese!

This week on Masters, I am reminded of a great, terrible joke I once heard, as told to me by my college sweetheart, who rarely told jokes. She’s now a teacher molding young minds, mere decades after warping mine. Here it is – A wife sends her husband to the store for cheese. He goes, but before he reaches the store, he sees a wheel of cheese rolling down the hill. He takes it and brings it home. His wife asks him what kind of cheese it is. He said he isn’t sure, but he thinks it is nacho cheese. She asks why. He said, there was a kid running after me yelling “That’s nacho cheese! That’s nacho cheese!” I took out the horribly racist part of that joke – which I didn’t recall as being especially racist until I Googled it to get the lines correct. Memories. Shattered.

Anyway, the QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE in this episode involves the aforementioned nacho cheese. But first, we get the results of the Jen/Sue cook off on the sous chef web series. It seems Jen and Jor-El have survived. Bye bye Sue. I was actually pulling for her, as she has shown a lot more personality in her moments on screen. At least Superman’s dad made it. In a bit of ironic foreshadowing, Neal suspects that Jen is overmatched in this competition. Remember those words later on.

Stone introduces the challenge with a shorter, less racist version of the cheese joke. He also introduces the guest – actress Ali Larter, most famously known as the super strong woman on NBC’s Heroes. A show with an almost perfect first season (crappy final 10 minutes), and three pretty terrible seasons afterwards. But Ali was always worth watching. So very pretty. Burke agrees. Fist bump, dude. She is also wearing the weekly purple shirt. Glad she got the memo. Five grand and immunity goes to the winner.

Masters’ nachos. How awesome does that sound? Doug turns his salsa into a shot. Ok, sounding less awesome now. At least to me. Sang talks about his background and how he grew up with many cultures’ cuisines – he “literally got to eat the world.” Nope, you didn’t. Unless your name is Galactus.

Neal is making pork rind nachos and Sang has turned his into a corn cake. Bot has re-interpreted guacamole and Burke has chosen to add some blood to his dish. Well, not exactly chosen.

The results – Ali thinks Neal looks like David Spade. Sigh. Actors. Burke left his comfort zone – probably while bleeding. Doug’s is interesting. Jen’s pretty dish has good texture. Sang’s isn’t really nachos. Bot’s is a sexy dish.

On the bottom – Burke and his traditional, bloody thrown-together nachos and Sang’s powdered mac and cheesy dust. On the top – Doug’s shrimp and shot, along with Bot’s guac which reminded Ali of her honeymoon. The winner? Doug. Again. And another five grand for the pooches.

Quickfire Dishes:
Jennifer
Neal
Burke
Doug
Bot
Sang

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

We are going fishing. Not really though. Teams of two have to make a hot and cold seafood dish. However, they are shopping without the knowledge of what kind of fish they’ll be cooking. They will find out the next day when the fish delivery truck arrives. The teams are – Sang/Bot, Neal/Burke, and Jen/Doug. Rough one for Jen – she’s just back from near elimination and gets paired up with Immunity Boy.

We also learn that Neal once worked for Burke – and was recommended for the job by Jen! – and he slips right into his old habits as subservient to Burke. Sang/Bot have chose to do a smoke/BBQ theme, while Burke has chose a Mediterranean theme for his team. Jen has taken the lead – smart – and elected to combine the two parts of the dish into one. Sang fails to get wood chips – so there’s a bit of a problem there for the smoking process.

The next day, we have fish. Sang jokes about wanting sea horse. Now THAT’s a great challenge. Cook impossible food. Doug/Jen get first pick and take the John Dory. Wait? Dory? Is that the plot for “Finding Dory?” Yikes – just keep swimming, Ellen! Burke/Neal take the sea bass, and Sang/Bot settle for some sable.

Wait, Stone has the purple shirt again! What went on with him and Ali? Does his fiancé know about this?

The prep finds Neal praising his team’s lack of ego, which with Master Chefs, I don’t buy at all. Sang is making a seaweed immersion. Which just scares me a bit. Stone questions their choice of fish for what they are making. Sang is actually using Doug’s technique of using dashi to make the smoky flavor. I guess they do share a brain after all! Jen is using sliced plum as a barrier between the hot and cold part of the dish. That’s a much tastier way of keeping the hot side hot and the cold side cold. Despite what George Costanza says.

Our judges – Gail, Dr. Sweater, Lam and Stone. Gail flirts with Stone, because, well, he’s Stone.

Sang/Bot – Bot didn’t taste his partner’s dish. He should have. Stone actually spits it out. Capt. Sweater says it was lukewarm fish, not cold fish. Ew. Gail says he should’ve smoked it – if you only knew, Gail. Lam’s praise of the sea flavor may have saved Sang this week. As for Bot, they loved it. Le Gran Sweater actually said, “it is one of the smartest, most-realized dishes this season.” If Sang’s dish was better, Bot may have won this challenge.

Neal/Burke – Officer Sweater calls Neal’s a presentation mess. Stone can’t even cut the chewy, raw fish. Gail thinks Burke’s has 17 things going on, including greasy cous cous. She does think they did a better job connecting the two dishes than Sang/Bot.

Jen freaks out on the servers – demanding they keep the crispy fish out of the broth. Clearly they did. Jen/Doug – Secretary Sweater thinks the presentation is beautiful and a “wonderful juxtaposition” between the two elements. Stone thinks it was so well integrated that you cannot tell that it was made by two chefs.

Obviously, with that praise, Jen and Doug win. That’s another five grand for the pooches, and five for women. One of the other four is doomed – except for Bot. He’s safe. Sang’s was mushy, but the emulsion was good. Neal’s choice of serving an inferior tartare element was a mistake. Burke’s dish was just all over the map. I expected the dish that a judge literally spit out would be axed, but instead it was Neal and his bad tartare. Strange – usually inedible is the kiss of death.

Elimination Dishes:
Jennifer/Doug
Neal/Burke
Doug
Sang/Bot

Quickfire Hits
• Neal on Doug – He could take a rock and some Combos and make it good. I think they could all do that, and I want to see that challenge.
• Doug had a brain tumor ten years ago. Damn. Glad he’s ok. And I’m amazed his charity isn’t cancer research.
• At the chefs’ group dinner, we have a horrible Burke/Doug photo presented. And enough trash talk to make these guys blush.
• Sang’s mention about how sand gets everywhere and why he hates it. It makes me think of Anakin Skywalker and the worst scene in the history of Star Wars.
• Extra scene – The real Gidget. I didn’t even know there was a real Gidget. Is there a real Flying Nun too?

Next week – Wrestling, brutha.

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Survivor: Blood vs. Water – Preview – We Are Family. I’ve Got All My Survivors And Me

Welcome back my friends, to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend, come inside, come inside.

Season 27 is kicking off this week, and we are continuing the recent trend of returning players. And why not? It works. As you know, this is the eighth, um, ninth season to incorporate returning players…er…wait a minute. This is exactly the start of my preview of last season. At this point…I think I can open every season with this intro.

Last season, the streak of returning players dominating continued – Guatemala, Micronesia, Redemption Island, South Pacific, Philippines, and Caramoan. All had returning players either winning or in the finals. All of them. This season, we have 10 more returning players, including the show’s second four-time player. And a brand new twist coupled with the return of an old twist. That’s double twisting. Or more.

Let’s get into the details of this season.

First, usually the game lasts 39 days. Only once has it not – way back in Season 2 when it went 42. Why only that one time? Because that group almost starved to death. Now, in Season 27 we have added one more day to the tally. A 40-day game. They have added Day Zero the game. What is Day Zero? Well, it ties into the second twist.

Second, the 10 returning players are not coming by themselves. They are each bringing along a family member, or significant other. On that first day, each pair will be sent to 10 separate locations to spend the night. Then they meet up with Probst and the rest of the pairs.

Third, they learn that instead of playing with their loved ones…they’ll be against them. All the faves are on one tribe (Galang) and the family on the other (Tadhana). Boom.

Fourth, at that meeting, each side votes someone out. Double boom! Those two will be sent to Redemption Island. Welcome back, RI. Um, not sure if I am welcoming it back. I still like the vote out being final. But nevertheless, we are back with the Island. But there’s more…

Fifth, the loved one can volunteer to switch places with the RI castaway. That option exists not only at this first moment, but during the duels. So, if a puzzle challenge pops up, the loved one who is better at puzzles could jump in to save their loved one.

Another twist – the person who finishes first in the duel not only survives, but earns a clue to a Hidden Immunity Idol. They could give it to whomever they want. That means their loved one, or their alliance. Interesting.

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 6 – There’s A Party In My Tummy

So Yummy! So Yummy!

For everyone who has a kid, this episode was fun. For everyone else, it was a reaction like Burke who didn’t know what was going on. For the uninitiated, Yo Gabba Gabba is one of the strangest, and most awesome, kids programming you can find on TV. It is also the most awesome stoner broadcast you can find. It is Sesame Street on acid. It’s the Muppet Show if run by Snoop Dogg. It consists of a DJ dressed all in orange…and…well…just watch this and see.

So, the challenge was to cook for a ton of kids and make a dish they like featuring a traditionally “icky” kid ingredient. The Gabba Gang would be there for the event – sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club – and there would, for some unknown, random reason – be two chefs departing after the challenge. I’m fine with double eliminations if they are a natural occurrence – following a non-elimination, or a team challenge, etc. – but this one felt unnecessary. Especially with immunities still an option – it meant there was a 33% chance of elimination while in the Final 7.

I dug the challenge – it required creativity and strategy to come up with a dish that not only incorporates the anti-kid food, but does so in a healthy manner. A big feature of Yo Gabba Gabba is teaching kids to eat healthily in a fun way. How does one do that? Great challenge. Factor in the chefs who faced the sous challenge penalty – Neal, Jennifer, Sue – who are forced to include second anti-kid ingredient…the Brussels Sprout.

I will say, however, that I think the judges’ choice was insane. But more on that in a bit.

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE
Hey look! It’s Mindy Kaling! Which is weird because Bravo is an NBC network, and her show is on Fox. Usually that’s the network synergy we see on this shows. And yet, here she is. And Bot seems to know about The Mindy Project , despite its mediocre ratings. Or he is reading her bio as provided by the producers.

Anyway, anyone who has watched her show (and I have, it’s not bad) knows that Mindy loves rom coms. This challenge – randomly pick one of her favorite rom coms, which surprisingly all have an obvious food or city connection, and make a dish inspired by the movie.

Sue – Knocked Up. She’s doing pregnant/stoner craving food.
Burke – Sweet Home Alabama. Bad movie. But sweet and Alabama in the title.
Doug – Midnight in Paris. Um, French food.
Neal – Nicky Cristina Barcelona. Spanish and sexy.
Bot – Mystic Pizza. Do I need to say it?
Sang – When Harry Met Sally. Iconic scene in a deli, and Sang’s brilliant move of making pie a la mode with ice cream on the side.
Jennifer – Roman Holiday. Roman. Welcome to Italy.

Sue chooses to use liquid nitrogen for the first time. Why do chefs keep choosing network TV competition programs to use techniques for the first time? Even the Masters!

Mindy wants to get high with Stone and come back for Sue’s dish again. She is impressed with Burke’s sweaty face. Doug flirts with her and suggests feeding each other on a date. Um. Ok. Neal suggests that too much spice could end a date really fast. Bot puts out a pizza that looks nothing like pizza. Sang’s dish gets a very cute response. Jennifer’s antipasti gets ignored.

On the bottom – Sang and Jen. Mindy’s reasons are pretty dumb – she hits Sang for not making apple pie and Jen’s for not being memorable. On the top – Neal and his sexy, hearty, spicy dish. Doug for the great combo of eggs and caviar. Sue for the stellar stoner/preggers dish. Doug wins and the pooches get another $5K. Sang hysterically wonders what Doug did with his extra 27 minutes – you know, eggs and caviar.

Quickfire Dishes:
Sue
Jennifer
Neal
Burke
Doug
Bot
Sang

ELIMINATION CHALLENGE

Burke is immune and Sue/Neal/Jen have the sprout penalty. They also do not get 30 minutes of prep time with the sous chefs. The anti-kid ingredient for each of them – Sang/Cauliflower, Burke/anchovies, Neal/Spinach, Sue/Cottage Cheese, Bot/Beets, Jen/Melon, Doug/Eggplant. My son actually likes about half of those.

Sang put the cauliflower into a foam form. Good call. Neal has ground up the spinach and sprouts into pasta. Another huge call. Bot has made the beets into ice cream. Not good. Doug has made an eggplant jelly. He really has. I can’t say ‘eww’ enough. Burke has made something that makes no sense. He’s really lucky to have immunity. Jen carved out a cool pineapple, and then made a boring looking melon dish.

Jen’s dish is too sour, according to Gail. Lam thinks kids would never voluntarily eat something this sour. Sang’s line was non-stop for his meatballs and foam. Lam thought the foam was brilliant. Ruth says Neal’s was awesome, and that he created a gourmet Chef Boyardee. Doug’s was not something that Ruth thought a kid would like, but Gail thought it was slimy but fun. A kid said Doug wouldn’t win the challenge…well…

Burke’s was so bad and didn’t get any attention. I think he would have been out with no immunity. Sue’s mac and cheese was obvious, according to Stone. Lam is amazed she put the cottage cheese in there so effectively. Ruth found it to be too heavy, and with the bacon…not so healthy. Bot’s is really, really beety. Lam thinks it was a “faceful of mud.”

Somehow…and I am not alone, as Sang and Neal were amazed too…Doug/Sang/Neal are in the top. Doug?!?! And his eggplant jelly? What?!?!? Doug even knows – “(Sang) is standing next to jello boy, he thought he was dead.” Thankfully, Neal wins the challenge and not the jelly. That’s ten grand to research cancer. Glad we rewarded that instead of the dogs. Nothing against dogs and all, but…cancer.

Bot, Sue and Jen are the Bottom Three and two are out, thanks to Burke’s immunity. Jen’s was sour and boring. Sue’s was not healthy and too cabbagy. Bot’s was an “intense beet bomb,” according to Lam. To be honest, I am stunned that Bot was saved. And as a result, all the ladies are gone.

But wait, here’s Stone with a twist. The next sous chef internet challenge will pit Jen and her sous vs. Sue and hers, with the winner returning.

AH! So THAT’s why there was a double elim. Pretty sneaky sis.

Elimination Dishes:
Sue
Jennifer
Neal
Burke
Doug
Bot
Sang

Quickfire Hits
• Burke cries at movies. That’s pretty great. I also think he may have been drunk during this episode. All of his confessionals made no sense and his dishes were not very good.
• Oh, the sous chef drama for Doug? Family emergency and Doug gets a new sous. So, no drama.
• Jen wanted to choke Jor-El – and they are eliminated now – but really, he’s Kryptonian. It ain’t happening Jen.
• Regarding Plex…Kid – “What’s inside of him?” Gail – “Computer chips?” Kid – “No, a person” HA!
• That kid saying “teriyaki”? Pretty amazing.
• Extra scene – Lam and Gail singing “Party In My Tummy” with the son of the Gabba creator. Very cute.

Next week – The chefs go fishing. Or perhaps that’s a plot summary of an Andy Griffith Show. Not sure.

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Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 5 – Restaurant Wars. Huh!! What Is It Good For?

Restaurant Wars is almost always the signature challenge for Top Chef. The chefs always look forward to it and it often brings about the most drama of all the challenges. However, I feel as if the drama is really much more organic in the original Top Chef show. Having the hungry up and coming chefs – many of whom have never opened a restaurant – band together and have to open a restaurant in 24-36 hours is a gigantic and fun challenge for them. The masters? Well, this is easy for them. David Burke has opened about 1,000 restaurants in his career. The time challenge makes it tough, but they are essentially and literally pros at this.

Needless to say, the chefs are always stoked to get to Restaurant Wars. And this lot is no different. They are greeted by the very funny Busy Phillips – co-star of Cougar Town and Freaks And Geeks, two very underrated shows. She is very pregnant and is quite the foodie. She has a great idea for a restaurant and is pitching it to them as the challenge. LA has a wide range of food influences – the challenge is to develop a restaurant that incorporates all of these influences. To be honest – that’s not too bad, although it kind of reminds me of Babu’s restaurant in Seinfeld.

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE

There is none. The Wars supercede them all. We do learn the results of the souses challenge. The second bananas essentially had to do a Chopped challenge as they were given a mystery basket and had to make something out of it. The sous chefs for Sue, Sang, Doug and Burke all wound up on the bottom. They will be one team. So the winning group of Neal, Jennifer, Bot and Canada are the other team. They also get two hours of prep time with their sous chefs as a reward. Neal’s sous won the challenge and so he gets immunity.

As they converse and develop a plan, all of Team Neal wants to cook and Jennifer eventually volunteers to work the front of the house. As a control freak, her words, this could be perfect or it could be a disaster. What it winds up being is very clinical. There was no warmth to the restaurant. Bot has tons of ideas, but the others seem resistant to them. Perhaps they should listen to the man who has actually done this challenge – and excelled at it. As it turns out, it would have been a good plan.

Team Burke has a disadvantage with fewer prep time, but they seem to have a more cohesive working arrangement. Burke volunteers to work the front because he’s an old pro at this. Burke is a natural. He has an easy-going nature and the restaurant is simply a lot warmer and pleasant than the other one. He assigned a server to be an expediter, which is risky, but not a bad idea. Surprisingly we learn that Sang is super rough on the servers. Note to all waiters who want to work for Sang.

Prep begins and the sous arrive – Superman’s father, Mohawk, Other Canada Woman and Neal’s Jason. Team Neal is calling their restaurant “Artisan” because they have a boring idea. Team Burke is calling theirs “72 and Sunny” because they are super clever. Great idea.

The challenge will be judged by Gail, Lam, Stone, Ruth, Busy and Dana Cowin of Food & Wine Magazine. Busy gets no wine – she jokes the baby only drinks tequila. Artisan gets the first visit from the critics.

Jen’s soup is more saucy than soupy and Lam thinks the pears are so overpowering that they are basically saying “What’s up, I’m here.” Her salad was beautiful, according to Gail, who liked the dressing. Dana thinks the elements are fighting each other. This salad may have saved Jennifer. Bot’s cobb salad got raves. Ruth said it made her fall in love with LA. Lam said that Neal’s NY strip was perfectly nice, but Dana said it wasn’t LA. Canada’s sundae was so rich it made Busy wince and say “Whoa!” Gail thought the sauce tasted like yogurt. Neal’s cake was moist, but Ruth wanted more flavors.

At 72 and Sunny, Doug’s salmon was “cool and jiggly,” according to Lam, and Ruth felt it worked. Sue’s salad was part of the “Year of Quinoa,” according to Dana and had layers of flavor as per Gail. Burke’s snapper was raw on top. Sang’s take on beef with broccoli takeout wowed them all. Busy said her craving was officially retired. Burke’s panna cotta was like a “French kiss” according to Lam. Stone thought it was a bit big. Sue’s malt was Busy’s favorite dessert and it felt like a deconstructed smore.

Clearly, 72 and Sunny kicked ass.

Elimination Dishes:
Sue
Sue 2
Burke/Doug
Jennifer
Jennifer 2
Neal
Neal 2
Burke
Canada
Doug
Bot
Sang

Our winners – 72 and Sunny. Sang earns another win and more money for the orphans.

As for Artisan, Neal is immune and Bot’s Cobb Salad was outstanding. So it is Jennifer or Canada leaving. Jennifer did a lot of work and had a decent salad. That trumped Canada’s one bad dish. Lynn was fun, but she consistently seemed to have issues and wound up on the bottom. I’ll miss her personality, but she was never going to win this season.

Meanwhile, Doug gets some bad news from his sous chef Drew. What it is? Next week. Cliffhanger!!!

Quickfire Hits
• The purple shirt returns and found its way onto Burke.
• Sue is a Freaks and Geeks fan. Good to know that Sue has excellent taste in television programming.
• I am trying not to think about the Sang/Doug conversation about condoms. I didn’t expect any condom conversation to take place on Top Chef. Ever.
• I loved the fake bad connection from Bot to avoid Jennifer’s constant requests for unseasoned rice vinegar, regular Belgian endive and ripe avocados.
• Would you watch a Beavis and Butt-head reboot starring Doug and Sang? The condom conversation would work better there.
• I would have loved to see Busy stick her face in Canada’s chocolate like she threatened to do.
• Gotta love the boys club in the kitchen. The “Hey Sue” montage. You would never see them do a “Hey Bill” montage in the same way.
• Extra scene – Burke’s bad ass shoes.

Next week – Kids and Yo Gabba Gabba. And Mindy Kaling.

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Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 4 – Here Comes The Bride, She Used To Be On 90210

Bravo TV. The home for wedding and party planning for its stars. Perhaps we should wonder about whether or not this is a big scam so that people like Heidi Klum and Nina Garcia can get free dresses, and people like Curtis Stone can have major life events catered for free.

And yes, I know Project Runway is a Lifetime show, but it used to be on Bravo. Don’t be such perfectionists!

This week, the big twist for the remaining chefs was that instead of catering a big ole party for Dr. Sweater’s Saveur magazine, they were in fact going to be catering an engagement party for Stone and his fiancé, former cast member of Beverly Hills, 90210, Lindsay Price. This is one good looking couple. Price’s IMDB page reads like a who’s who of failed shows – but she’ll always have Beverly Hills.

At first, I thought the biggest news of the episode would be that Stone’s purple shirt from last week seemed to have morphed into the latest sweater for the Captain of the Sweaters. This thing is turning into the symbiote that became the Marvel supervillain Venom. Look it up, non-nerds, and smart people who avoided Spider-man 3. Next it will appear as a pair of purple pants for Gail.

I found it a bit surprising that the elimination came down to a decision between punishing the chef who took on too much responsibility compared to his two teammates who let him – where that decision went against the hard worker. It goes to show you what happens when you make your meals a bit too complicated for their own good. One bad cocktail can just ruin a meal, and send you home. Even if you are a Marvel superhero yourself.

But before we go to the planning of the engagement party and the untimely departure of our favorite Captain (not he of the sweaters), we have a Quickfire to take care of!

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE

The sous chefs competed online and were tasked with a dish from their Masters that the bosses thought would be a good dish for the souses. Meanwhile, the Masters had an unrelated Quickfire this week – they needed to make their own curry and pair it with a Product Placement beer. However, they only had 30 minutes, which is far from ample time to make an honest to God curry. However, at least it would be judged by a classically trained chef, who specializes in all of the nuances of the subtle art of curry creation.

Or some DJ. Whatever works. Sigh. Sang knows this guy – Jason Bentley, the music director of KCRW. Sang appears to have a lot of musical interest – he previously compared curry to an Arcade Fire song. Lots of layers and orchestral aspects. Um, ok.

Canada is slicing up apples – because that’s what I think of when I think of curry. Maybe that’s Canadian Curry. Which would be a great nickname for a hockey player. Meanwhile, Neal has a great new exclamation – Holy Balls on Crutches. He just needs a “Batman” to follow that.

Dr. Johnny Fever seemed to complain a lot about having to put effort into dishes – especially from eating mussels. My seven-year-old can eat mussels. Anyway, Fever bitches about Cap and Jennifer’s tough to eat plates. Doug’s isn’t a real curry. Canada’s was unexpected with the apples, but it worked. Sang’s was fantastic. Neal had too much rice, it absorbed too much of the curry. Bot had the best pairing, but Stone complains that it isn’t exactly Asian. Bot is Irish-Italian, so there. Then Bot and Sang get into a rather iffy choice of ethnic jokes culminating in Bot asking if Sang had some fairy Asian dust to sprinkle. Slowly moonwalking away from this.

Quickfire Dishes:
Cap
Burke
Canada
Neal
Jennifer
Doug
Bot
Sang
Sue

On the bottom – Doug and Cap. On the top – Canada and Sang. Winner, again, is Sang. That’s another five grand for those orphans, who will soon be moving into the swankiest orphanage in the world.

For the ELIMINATION CHALLENGE – Harold and The Purple Sweater fakes out the chefs and tells them they in fact are going to be surprising Curtis. Lindsay comes out and gives them a whole bunch of Stone’s favorite foods – mainly crab and chocolate (get Doug on the job!) – and some stories behind their earliest restaurant dates. The results of the sous chef challenge are revealed and Doug landed another immunity thanks to his sous. Meanwhile, Canada, Bot and Sang all wound up on the bottom again thanks to theirs. Their punishment is to be a full team for the three-team challenge, and they will only get 15 minutes to do their full shopping. This led to some frantic moments in the market for Bot and Sang.

Neal is going simple because of Jennifer’s complicated pasta dish, and has begun to help her finish. However, that leaves half the responsibilities to fall on cap. That’s a problem. The challenge is going to be judged by Herr Sweater, Gail, Ruth, Stone, Lindsay and a rotating set of friends and family.

Lord Sweater likes Sang’s take on Korean beef. Lindsay thinks his tartare is exciting, she always wondered what it tasted like raw. Stone loved Canada’s crab, while Ruth liked Bot’s scallop. Gail thought the team’s sponge cake was bland.

Lindsay reveals to Stone that she is not a lamb fan when Neal’s meat on a stick comes out. News to Stone. Sweater for Hire said the meat was too fatty. He also can’t find the lobster in Jennifer’s lobster dish, even though Lindsay found the dish to be clever. They are all taken aback by Cap’s cocktail. Stone says there is no dainty way to eat a donut. How about a knife and fork?
Sweater Man said there was no taste and the chocolate looked like a skidmark. Ew.

The last team’s main dish puzzled Gail – there is no surf and turf in Korean cooking. Sue’s was a big bite, according to Stone. Doug’s had a nice shiitake flair. Stone liked his take on a “margarita.” Burke’s dessert didn’t look good, but it dazzled for them. It made Gail want to giggle. Aww. That’s always fun.

Elimination Dishes:
Canada/Sang/Bot
Burke/Doug/Sue
Cap
Cap 2 – The Winter Soldier
Cap 3 – The Search for Cash
Burke
Canada
Neal
Jennifer
Doug
Bot
Sang
Sue

Our winners – The Sue, Doug, Burke team. I just left the “u” out of Doug’s name by accident. Given his charity – I think I should keep that up! I think Burke’s dessert put them over the top – but no individual winner was named. Five grand to each of their charities.

On the bottom – The Cap, Neal, Jennifer team. I expected Jennifer’s poor dish that she didn’t even finish herself to be booted, but Cap took the fall for his team leadership and bad cocktail. He’s just not a good bartender.

IDEA! A Top Chef for mixologists! Someone get on that.

Quickfire Hits
• No purple shirt for Stone, but it did appear that he was wearing about three or four other shirts during the Quickfire.
• Cool shots of behind the scenes at Top Chef.
• Am I imagining things, or does Jennifer’s hair color appear to change in every other shot?
• Cap was a big fan of the sweetness of mussels. That was the original Blanche DuBois line of dialogue.
• Doug jokes that he made chocolate shrimp curry for his QF. That would have been so awesome and just so wrong.
• Sue, on Lindsay – “He’s a very lucky guy, he gets to marry that (Bleep).” What was the bleep?!?!
• Heck of a shot by Bot tossing an item of food over the railing and into a moving shopping cart on an escalator. Reminds me of the old Bird-Jordan McDonald’s commercials. Nothing but net.
• Burke called Sue “silent but deadly.” Just what every woman wants to hear – be compared to a style of fart.
• Sang wants Bot to stop being charming and to tell more stories about his philandering days. Snerk.
• Cap created something called “the Pickle Factor.” A great name for a memoirs.
• How many female readers swooned when Stone called Lindsay, “My love”?
• Mr. Sweater on Neal’s lamb stick – “It came off the stick as I lifted it to my mouth.” There may need to be a new feature – Euphemisms spoken by The Sweater.
• Extra scene – The chefs giving Bot some shit. Meh.

Next week – Restaurant Wars. Have at it, folks!

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Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 3 – Sex. Greed. Murder. And a Purple Shirt.

Another week, another delayed blog posting. This time, my excuse was a good one…if you are a TV fanatic. I’ve been binge watching “Breaking Bad.” All the while trying not to live a life where the ends justify the means. Yo.

Also, I am going to start trying to streamline my columns, and a big part of that is going to be the elimination of listing all of the dishes. It is just too time consuming, and the Bravo site does a good job in showing all of the dishes, complete with a fancy schmancy photo of each. So, if you want to see all of the dishes in their delicious glory each week, click away. I will just post winners and losers.

Speaking of winners, this episode was dominated by one obvious winner – and that winner was Stone’s purple shirt. Whoa, doctor! That was one impressive piece of men’s wear. I had to adjust my color settings on the TV. Prince called and wanted to know where Stone found a brand new shade of purple.

Also winning this week? Dishes with huge knives sticking out of them. But that’s for discussion in a few moments. First, we go to our….

QUICKFIRE CHALLENGE

The sous chefs competed online in a challenge to make sausage. Here in Washington, DC, making sausages is something you can unfortunately watch on C-SPAN on a daily basis, and is in a large part the reason the U.S. Congress has an approval rating barely ahead of many reality stars. However, in this case it is literal sausage making. What they didn’t know was that their leftover scraps were going to be the main ingredient for their Masters to use for their dish. They had 30 minutes to cook, and had $5,000 on the line.

Cap had venison scraps, Neal started bragging about his package. Yikes – no sausage jokes please. Sue had pork on the bone. Again…please refrain. The Bot talked about hunting in rural Maryland and elected to make his dish a hunting theme – so he added coffee soil. Um, yuck. He has also never won a Quickfire before. I think that adding stuff you normally throw away from your morning cup of Joe is not a good way to end that streak. Might as well add a banana peel and egg shells while he’s at it. Jennifer seems to be cutting up a dishtowel in the pasta cutter. This is a strange one.

Stone brings in two ladies – Amelia and Erica – from the LA-based butcher store “Lindy & Grundy.”
Sang says they know a lot about meat. Goodness, I hope so. I want my butcher to know about meat the same way I want my urologist to know about…well…again, let’s refrain from sausage-making jokes.

During the tasting, Stone called Neal’s (which looked amazing to me) “aggressively seasoned.” Doug’s was a nice pairing, with a lot of fat on the duck. That just sounds like it should be a euphemism for something, doesn’t it? I thought Canada’s looked great, but it was called “very rich.” Sue had a huge amount of bread. Again with the bread, Sue? Meanwhile, Bot’s venison/coffee grounds/granola combo seemed to, well, not impress. Burke’s was in need of salt, while Sang’s huge lettuce leaf and simple dish was ballsy and impressed the butchers and the Purple Shirt.

Quickfire Dishes:
Cap
Burke
Canada
Odette
Neal
Jennifer
Doug
Bot
Sang
Sue

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Ep 2 – Double Elimination, Double Your Fun

Sorry for the delay – but for those of you who read my stuff week in and week out, this is not really a stunner. I like to think that good things come to those who wait, and that my musings on reality television fall into the good things category. Of course, my ego is about the size of Oseland’s sweater vest collection – so take that with a grain of salt, and save some to properly season your meat with.

This week we get two chefs getting ousted – one at the Quickfire and one at the standard Elimination. That takes care of the weird 13 chef starting point nicely. As stated before, I am not a big fan of the Quickfire eliminations – it is a night and day kind of challenge for the chefs, and I think the playing field should be the same. Quickfires require speed and quick thinking, while the Elimination challenges grant them more leeway with what they can do. I think it’s a totally different skill set – many chefs in the past have been poor Quickfire contestants, but skilled at the big challenges. But no one asked me. So here we are.

Before we get into things – I am cool with the sous chef aspect of the season. Because I think it’s fun to have the master chefs overcome obstacles, and because as was already stated on the show, the chefs often have to work in tandem to be successful. What I am not cool with is the way they make it essential to watch the web show to appreciate what’s going on. For example, the sous chef on the Quickfire-losing team departed with his hand clearly bandaged. In the previews last week we saw that there was some sort of knife incident. However, we did not see it in the broadcast. Only with eagle eye viewing did anyone notice that there was a reason that team most likely lost – the injury. Bad choice, show. At least with Last Chance Kitchen, you could watch the show independently and be nicely surprised at the end when the LCK winner is revealed.

Anyway, so we start with a sous chef challenge already in progress. They are preparing a mise en place for the Masters’ Quickfire. The first one to finish not only earns immunity for their Master, but provides them with a full set of prepped ingredients for the challenge. The other chefs have to spend a portion of their 30 minute cook time finishing the prep before cooking. See what I mean; is it fair to eliminate a chef based on this?

So, as Sang praises Sous Jed for his prep skills, Jed finishes and calls for a check. Monobrow and Stone give him positive marks for the celery root, the squidlings, the rack of lamb, and the pomegranate. It’s almost not fair, as Jed has a tattoo of a friggin’ pomegranate on his arm. And ladies and gentlemen…I present to you the only man in the world with a tattoo of a pomegranate on his body. For the record, there are three women in Spain who lost a bet in a strange fruit tattoo challenge bet.

So, Sang is safe and the others have some prepping to do. Jennifer is first to finish, then Franklin (also known as Couch Potato Captain America from last week), and Jenn. Sue is worried. BryanBot finishes, and David is finished next at the 24 minute mark. Neal is done a minute later. Canada Lynn and Sue end at 21 minutes and Sue instantly collides with Cap in the kitchen. Odette only has 18 minutes to cook, but she’s not in the worst shape. Douglas ends at just less than 17 minutes and poor Richard, he of the injured sous chef, has only 13 minutes to cook. Factoring in against the Masters is that most of them have not had to prep in a long time. To make up for the lack of time, Richard has chosen not to cook the lamb, but to go for a tartare.

But who gets eliminated at the Quickfire? Well, not Cap. You know how I know? Because in the “coming up” teaser we see Cap shopping for the Elimination, and he has no immunity. Good job, show. Way to give a mini spoiler.

QUICKFIRE/ELIMINATION #1 MEALS

Jennifer – Seared Lamb Loin with Caramelized Celery Root, Pomegranate Reduction and Squid – Gail thinks the lamb is cooked well, and loved the flavors.

Sang – Baby Squid Stuffed with Spiced Lamb Sausage and Pomegranate Pickled Celery Root – Gail found it dramatic and outstanding.

Sue – Seared Lamb Loin, Celery Root Puree, Fennel Pomegranate Slaw and Crispy Calamari – Gail thought it was super tender and well-seasoned.

Canada – Grilled Rosemary Lamb, Celery Root and Pomegranate Salad with Grilled Calamari – Gail was not crazy about the raw celery root. And the salad lacked acid.

Hipster Jenn – Lamb Tartare with Fried Squid, Celery Root and Pomegranate Seeds – Gail said it was very well-seasoned.

Richard – Lamb Tartare, Calamari Salad, Pomegranate Jicama, Micro Green Salad – Gail said the meat was too largely sliced, and a tartare is more finely chopped up. There was also inconsistent knife work. Richard’s lack of time factored in substantially.

Douglas – Lamb Tataki Hot Pot – Gail likes the flavors, but found the broth to be murky.

BryanBot – Carpaccio of Lamb and Celeriac, Pomegranate Fish Sauce and Squid – Gail likes the idea, but it was bland.

Odette – Lamb Chops with Celery Root, Pepper and Black Olive Ratatouille and Crispy Squid – Gail thought the ratatouille was disconnected, but the squid was cooked well.

Cap – Squid with Lamb Shawarma, Salad of Celery Root, Arugula, and Pomegranate Seeds – Stone gives it a Holy Squid Shwarma. Gail thinks the flavors are huge. I hear shwarma, and I think this.

On the top of the heap – Sang and his unbelievable mint puree, Sue and her technically beautiful dish, and Hipster Jenn and her fried calamari instead of bread choice. Sue gets the win, and $5K for saving the Gulf of Mexico.

On the bottom of the pile, Canada and her two dishes not speaking to each other, Odette for not melding the ratatouille, and Richard for not having a balanced ratio. Richard gets taken out and is the second chef eliminated.

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.

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Preview – Wait, Is That BryanBot Returning?

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Preview – Wait, Is That BryanBot Returning?

Welcome back, Cheffers. Is that a name? Can we make that happen? If so, then Watch What Happens.

Ok, back for two seconds and already not making sense. Let’s start again.

Welcome back, Top Chef fans – we are ready for Season 5 of Masters tonight – and quick…anyone able to tell me the first four winners?

I’ll wait. I have Pandora on.

Man, I expected more of you to get that – I see you’ve already forgotten the Fearsome Foursome of Rick Bayless, Marcus Samuelsson, Floyd Cardoz and Chris Cosentino (CC). Well, they haven’t forgotten you. Well, beginning on July 24, a brand new crop of top notch successful chefs begin the process of competing for the Top Chef Masters crown and some nice charity work.

The season will once again be hosted by Aussie star Curtis Stone – known as Stone on these pages. The returning judges include James Oseland – once known as Bert here because he reminds me of Sesame Street’s favorite now-able-to-get-married Muppet. However, he is now Mr. Sweater thanks to the CC-coined nickname revealed last year. Sometimes he may be Doctor Sweater, Captain Sweater, Baron Von Sweater. We’ll have fun.

Joining Kaiser Sweater will be Ruth Reichl (she needs a nickname already), Frances Lam (Lam), and a guest judge last season, but now a cast member, Lesley Suter, dining editor extraordinaire. Also, Gail Simmons will be head judge – that’s pretty cool, but I bet Doctor Sweater is not thrilled by that turn of events.

Bravo claims the challenges will be difficult and unique – we shall see – and the chefs will cook for several celebrities. Included are – Mindy Kaling (underrated TV star), Busy Philipps (on very underrated show, and I love her despite her newborn’s name), Kathie Lee Gifford (my mom loved her, let’s leave it there), Lindsay Price, the cast of Days Of our Lives, Ali Larter, and the cast of Yo Gabba Gabba.

Wait, Yo Gabba Gabba!!! There’s a party in my tummy. So yummy, so yummy! I wonder what they’ll cook for DJ Lance, Bix Markie (seriously), the dude from Devo (double seriously) and the gang. I can’t wait!

This season will feature 13 world-renowned chefs and a grand prize of $100,000 for their charity. It also appears that the chefs will be involving their own sous chefs in the process. Thus giving me twice the names to learn and nicknames to create. Sigh. According to Bravo…
“In a new twist this season, each Master will have his or her sous chef compete in an online competition, “Battle of the Sous Chefs,” hosted by Hugh Acheson. The results of each online episode directly impacts the Masters, awarding them advantages, such as immunity (the winner of each battle earns the Top Chef Master immunity), and sometimes, disadvantages, depending on their sous chef’s performance (the chefs who perform the worst always earn obstacles for their Top Chef Master). “

So, good for Monobrow in getting the gig – but it sucks for him that it’s just a Last Chance Kitchen rip-off.

The new chefs are – with some text taken straight from Bravo’s website:

What’s Hot on TV Tonight – Happy 4th of July

It's the 4th of July, meaning parades, celebrations, fireworks, and not a whole lot on TV. But there are a few things. There are some fireworks celebrations – in New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C. – and a couple of movies that are notable. Enjoy the day.

1. Macy's 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular. Nick Cannon of America's Got Talent hosts this fireworks extravaganza from New York City. His wife, Mariah Carey, and Taylor Swift and Tim McGraw will perform. Will Mariah do it live this time or will she be caught lip synching again? It's probably a great time to lip synch it out, but everyone is going to be watching to see if she is. She'd be better off just singing live. 7:00 PM CT NBC

2. A Capitol Fourth. Tom Bregeron hosts this celebration form the Dapitol. Performers will include Barry Manilow, Candice Glover, Scotty McCreery, Darren Criss, Jackie Evancho, and Megan Hilty. 7:00 PM CT PBS

3. Philly 4th of July Jam. Yet another 4th of July celebration, this one coming out of Philadelphia. The performers will include The Roots, John Mayer, Jill Scott, Demi Lovato, Ne-Yo, Grace Potter, and J. Cole. I don't know. 4th of July and Philly, I would have hoped to hear Elton John do Philadelphia Freedom. 7:00 PM CT VH1

4. The Music Man. What's your favorite Music Man song? 76 Trombones? Shipoopi? Gary, Indiana? Sing along with all of them tonight. I's the original movie starring Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, Buddy Hackett, Pert Kelton, and Ronny Howard. Yes, Ronny Howard, not Ron. 7:00 PM CT TCM

5. The Watch. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, and Rosemarie DeWitt star. A neighborhood watch group finds out their town is being taken over by aliens masquerading as regular suburban folk. Maybe it would be better if they'd masquerade as George Zimmerman. 8:00 PM CT HBO 2

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