Liveblogging Top Chef Masters: Episode 4

Our champions so far: Hubert “The Inevitable Winner” Keller, Suzanne “It’s Not a Coma, It’s a Momentary Fugue” Tracht and Rick “I Can Make ANYTHING Into a Taco, Just Dare Me” Bayless.

Tonight: Anita Lo (Annisa, New York City), Douglas Rodriguez (Alma de Cuba, Philly), John Besh (Restaurant August, New Orleans) and Mark Peel (Campanile, Los Angeles).  There will be egg cookery.  There will be Neil Patrick Harris.  It’s a win-win!

LAST EP: Cheftestants had to cook offal and/or parts of animals most non-dog creatures don’t usually like to eat. Cindy Pawlcyn disappointed me.  There was a dickwad named Ludo who tried to top Rick Bayless at Mexican food and was pretty asswipe-y to the judges, because he is both a dickwad and an idiot. He was not punished by the pansy judges, which was disappointing. We had several sightings of Kelly Choi actually eating food.

I really, really didn’t like Ludo.

10:00: Douglas Rodriguez owns 10 bajillion restaurants. He does “tortilla-free Latin cooking.”  Kinda like the taqueria down the street is too “authentically Mexican” to serve guacamole, which I find “authentically a pain in my ass.”  They annoy me, and so does Rodriguez.  It’s Mexico.  They eat tortillas.  Deal with it.

However, Tom Colicchio trying to pronounce “nueva Latina” with any kind of vaguely Spanish accent = hilarious.

10:02: Holy crap, I am scared of Anita Lo. She could totally put the beat-down on you.

John Besh also owns 10 bajillion restaurants, and has a kick-ass accent. He does not annoy me and does not pull any “my style is crayfish-free Cajun” bullshit.

10:04:  I really can’t get over the Saveur guy / Bob Balaban thing.

Mark Peel is playing for Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders, which gives me an opportunity to plug this amazingly awesome book in which I have no stake at all other than wanting to spread the good word.

10:05: QUICKFIRE: Cook an egg. With one hand behind your back.  It’s a good thing Kelly Choi isn’t actually a cook competing here, because I don’t know that her back is actually wide enough to shelter her hand.

10:07: I enjoy that even when they’re just walking around the kitchen, they keep their hands behind their backs.  Hardcore.

Anita Lo smashing eggs trying to use the egg-topper thingy = an exact replay of what happened in my kitchen when Brian gave me one for Christmas.

10:09:  Wow, everyone’s plates look like ass.  Besh is trying to kill the judges with raw egg.  Peel has no time to wipe his plate down, and has sauce all over that shit.  Lo has some kind of grainy-looking scrambled egg thing served in hollowed-out eggshells.  Other guy either did something really great or so utterly heinous that they can’t even show it.

10:13: Okay, Rodriguez done good with his arepa.

Peel not only sent out a hot mess, he forgot an ingredient.

Lo’s going over well.  Give a foodie truffle oil, and walk off with the prize.

Besh only has one (uncooked) dish for everyone to share.

10:15:  Besh: Half a star.  Unsurprising but still sad.  Lo?  Five stars.  See?  Truffle oil.

10:16ELIMINATION: Cooking for NPH. And creepy magicians.  I don’t trust magicians. I mean they are all essentially liars, are they not? Like weatherpeople, but with capes and fog machines.

Rodriguez: “We’re cooking for Doogie Howser!”

10:18:  Max Maven, magician and mentalist, is doing something with a deck of blank cards that is both intensely complex and intensely boring.

It turns out they all end up with cards printed with one of the elements of magic – spectacle, illusion, mystery, some other crap.  Cut off your rattail, Max; it’s not 1984 and you don’t drive an IROC-Z.

Or maybe you do, in which case, go with it. It’s really working for you.

10:19:  Peel has “mystery” and is making something en papillote.  Because what’s in the paper? It’s a mystery!

NO IT’S NOT. IT’S FISH. WE ALL KNOW IT.  No one ever makes pork chops en papillote, or turkey leg en papillote. Now that would be a surprise.

Lo is trying to create the “illusion of a scallop.” Just don’t make it out of bananas, because I won’t be able to take it.  I’m going to start using this for everything: “I know it looks like a grilled cheese sandwich, but I’m creating the illusion of fondue.”

10:21: Everyone sees her as the one to beat.  Everyone is right. Peel is already thinking about resorting to sabotage, with might not be a bad idea. Like a ninja or a killer fart, she is silent but deadly.

10:26:  Lo’s playing for a breast cancer charity, so I’d have to like her even if I weren’t afraid that she could kill me in my sleep with a shrimp deveiner. Besh is making tableside horseradish sorbet.  If you don’t like horseradish sorbet, there’s something wrong with YOU. (So yes, I’m assuming there is something wrong with me.)

Colicchio’s here!


10:27: Peel: Not As Funny As He Thinks He Is.  “The clock is ticking and the laser is creeping up the table toward your crotch.”

If only.

10:29:  Sterno-rubbed coconuts, set on fire.  Do they have the insurance to handle this?  Will they be handing out eyebrow-guards to the judges?

I’m not going to lie: I think the magic castle is both creepy and ridiculous and inane and annoying.  Maybe its ability to simultaneously exhibit all those qualities is the magic part?

10:31: The look Lo just shot Besh’s nitrogen tank was so withering, it was a thing of beauty. Besh is lucky he didn’t turn around, because there would have been a hole right through the middle of his head. Because SHE is the laser that’s creeping up the table.

I’m going to need to practice for YEARS to achieve a withering glance of such power and strength, and until now I’d really thought I was doing well in the withering glance department.

10:32: Hey y’all in the comments – I’m sorry I can’t be there to keep up with you!

What is it with Kelly Choi and the giant side-of-the-head flower?  I still say ballast.

Possibly creepier than her flower: Max Maven’s widow’s peak.  You could spear a marlin on that thing.

10:33:  The list of things wrong with Peel’s dish: (1) He told everyone what was in it, so there goes your surprise and (2) Did the editors just spell “Thai” wrong?  For reals?

10:35:  I missed most of what Besh served, but the snippets I heard sounded good. One day I’ll learn to use this TiVo.

10:36: Okay, the “illusion of the scallop” thing is awesome.  When they cut the daikon (?) open and the beef tartare spilled out: wonderfully gory.  Almost too gory, like guts spilling out of a teeny-tiny intestinal cavity.  And more of a mystery or spectacle than anyone else’s dish.  She’s taken on everyone’s challenge simultaneously.  Also, she can kill with her mind.

Who is Doogie’s foodie poseur actor “friend”?  Fail.

10:37:  So the flaming coconut is both dangerous and a failure. But that empanada with the foie and figs I would house in a second.

Despite the whole magic theme bullshit, I once again found Gael Greene’s hat more of a spectacle than anything else I witnessed other than the illusion scallop.

10:40: Everyone go home now, because Lo has pounded you but good.

I’m a little disappointed at the quantity of NPH.  I was led to believe there would be more.  That was clearly an inadequate amount of gay.

I’d thought it would be fun to be NPH’s friend, but if these are the people he hangs out with I’m not so sure.

10:43:  Interlude magician pulls bunny out…from under his hair.  Belief that magicians are creepy motherfuckers is reinforced.  Go go gadget backfiring!

Where are Penn and Teller when we need them?  I’d even take David Blaine, and I loathe David Blaine.  Maybe the challenge could be to make a tasty puree to feed him through a tube while he lowers himself into the magma layer of the earth’s crust in a leaden box filled with scorpions.

10:46: JUDGE’S TABLE: Simmons – it’s a blini, not a bellini.  You’re a food writer.  Get on the train.

10:47: Simmons, on Lo’s faux scallop: “It was gruesome, but in a good way.”  Again I say: you’re a food writer. You can come up with something better than that.  Pull a Bourdain if you have to, and stock up on one-liners in advance.  I can get away with that shit, I’m a crappy blogger.  You?  Get paid to do this.

10:48: Sadder than the kinda-flaming coconut is that he’s set a coconut on fire before.

Wait, Gael actually wondered what was in the paper wrapping? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PEOPLE: FISH. FISH EN PAPILLOTE.  ETA: However, her quote was unintenionally priceless – I direct you to Kimbaa’s comment re: dog shit.

10:51: John Besh is so, so losing.  And deservedly so, but it makes me sad. John Besh, you are adorable, and I still want to visit every one of your restaurants.

Everyone is depressed by the failed flaming coconut.  Failed Flaming Coconut: The new rock opera from my acid jazz-noisecore band.

10:52:  Is Gael’s hat collapsible, like those space-saving colanders?

10:55:  “Your blini gave me brain freeze.”  Okay, so Saveur guy looks like Bob Balaban but lacks the humor factor.

And Besh, predictably, is out first.

Oh dear god, when Kelly leans her head over to look at Gael down the table it really does look like she’s going to topple from the sheer skull size-to-neck diameter ratio.

And Rodriguez is out.  It’s Lo vs. Peel.  I wonder who will win?  The suspense is killing me.

10:58:  I lied, it wasn’t killing me.  Or was it, and the fact that I’m still alive is MAGIC?  No, it wasn’t.  Lo takes it by a mile. I might put some money on her against Keller.

Peel: “I’ve learned from this how good other chefs really are.”  THAT’S what you learned?  Go back to LA and give Ludo a call.

NEXT WEEK: Michael Chiarello brings the Napa style. My ire is already aroused!

50 thoughts on “Liveblogging Top Chef Masters: Episode 4

  1. Hypothetical question? My answer! O.K., I will stop myself.
    Sorry for the lack of self knowledge.

  2. Once again its nice having the lack of fake drama in the kitchen – masters of their art screwing up is so much more interesting ….

  3. If Gail wants something real to cry about… how ’bout that ridiculous fucking facial hair and George Clooney circa 1998 haircut that ol’ Dougie boy is sportin’

  4. Sarah, I was all excited because I thought you were saying that Gail had facial hair. As if anyone would notice with her rack.

  5. I don’t think Max is a magician when I look at him, I think that his clothes are too big. Which screams hobo.

  6. Wow – the judging went by so fast I missed it checking my mail. Bring back the kids! At least they had interesting things to say about the food (especially the ginger)

  7. My brand new saying is “I am trying to create the illusion of a scallop.” Any time I present a meal, that’s coming out.

  8. wow – mark’s a real math-a-magician… “anita’s the one to beat…” i love that it took the collective brain power of all 3 of them AND doug’s appallng facial hair to come to that conclusion

  9. Can I just say that John Besh is fucking adorable? And I’m a dyke!…I can’t help it. LOVE him.

    OK, back to the show…

  10. So – i’ve noticed that after the quickfire you can easily predict who is going to win…

    (i love harris and have run into him at various gay joints prior to him coming out but he was completely oversold here)

  11. TOM!!!
    We’ve missed you so much!

    I’m soooooo ready for Vegas! And, hot damn, one cheftestant is from my town Ann Arbor!

  12. i loved the awkward “high five the fist bump”….. i’m totally bustin’ that move out on the next unsuspecting soul who dares high five or fist bump me

  13. Totally off topic, but I know that this is the audience that can appreciate it–I am currently snacking on roasted chicken skin on toasted farm bread, and it’s spectacular. Most everyone I know would be totally disgusted.

  14. Sarah–
    That’s a hell yes, but I don’t have a home heart attack kit. But, I have to say, next time, that’s a go! What else beside perfect flavors is there to live for anyways?

  15. Syd–
    Had I only thought of that–the last time I used sterno, I was trying to make the
    Daredevil sign in my driveway. I am both a geek, and someone who wouldn’t think to set a snack on fire. I’m so shamed.

  16. you know what’s magical? the fact that kelly can keep her head upright with the weight of that fucking dinner-plate sized flower slapped on the side of her noggin’

  17. ok, i agree that there needed to be more of nph. he’s one of my favorite gay boys. :)

    kelly choi, when your hair decoration is bigger than your NECK AND HEAD, please go home. plz.

    off topic – did Apple just advertise COPY AND PASTE? COPY and fucking PASTE?! Christ, if that’s the biggest seller to the newest iPhone, you lose Apple. I love you, but you lose.

  18. Poor Kelly resembles, to me, Jack Skellington from Nightmare Before Christmas. Had she only the charisma.

  19. You gave us a mystery in a bag, and it was delicious.

    That’s my new saying for when I walk my dogs.

  20. also, i agree on the bullshit no tortilla talk. that’s like saying you do no carb comfort food. hush and give me some mashed potatoes, bish.

  21. wow, kick some ass anita. you look just as crazy fierce in your picture too. can she take down hubert? we shall see.

  22. ok, i think i have an addiction to commenting now that i’ve started reading your live blogs. but michael chiarello next week? :yaaaaawn:

  23. Emily– I’m with you. Just being around witty people makes you want to arise to the occasion. If only we could be in a big Mystery Science Theater style room together.

  24. Mystery Science Theater! Ok, Kimbaa, you have my heart with that. And I’m rewatching it since I missed the first five minutes and laughed my ASS off at Colicchio’s “neuva latina cuisine” attempt.

  25. ok – the night is now complete with the MST3K reference.. we’ve peaked… it’s all downhill from here.

  26. hooray for de-lurking!

    i will totally organize a top chef-con where we rent a movie theater to watch the finale and yell insults directly at the screen in real-time.

  27. do they even have direct flights from minneapolis to jersey? if so, me AND my in-flight-valium are SOOOO there!

  28. oooh, ooh, for the finale!
    by the way, i’ve been meaning to say this for a while – it’s nice to have a no bullshit cooking blog. i read a lot of them, but this one is a nice, snarky cut to the rest. ;)

  29. Waaaaay late on the draw, but I used to work in the Saveur test kitchen, and I never saw Bob Balaban around the office. He must be a new addition to the clique-y high school that is Saveur.

  30. kimbaa, does it have to have the bread? it would feel odd to interfere with a perfectly crisp piece of chicken skin

    sarah and emily, when i said “rent a theater” i was thinking more like “take over the home of a friend with a television larger than 22 inches.” but i will provide snacks.

    and emily, thanks. i try very hard to hew to the blog’s original motto: “fuck it.”

    all y’all are awesome and hilarious – i wish i had time to be talking with you while the show was on. come back next week, because you totally do a better job than me.

  31. There appeared to be a crack in the floor at the critics table which caused my husband to fear that Kelly might fall into until I pointed out to him that her head would catch and save her.

    I’m all for the MST3K idea. I’ll bring booze.

  32. MST3K is one of my all-time favorite t.v. shows. Most people look at me askance when I quote it or mention it. I love the idea of a TopChef3K. We would so need snacks. Good snacks. Not Mikey/cheeto/vending machine snacks.

    Kelly Choi: Is she a real human or is she an Animatronic Bobblehead? Did she eat anything on camera this week?

    John Besh: All kinds of awesome. Can I legally adopt him as a brother? Is that possible? Even my husband loves Besh. We were totally pulling for him. Bummer.

    No tortillas: Jerk. Who hates tortillas?

    Anita Lo: Scares me in an I-Love-Her kind of way. She’s stealthy. That withering glance saved her from flat-liner territory, though. Lo’s not so big on the emoting.

    Peel: I don’t know what to think about him. I’m conflicted.

    I finally realized that the reason Gail bugs me. She reminds me of girls in high school who really were idiots but were cute and popular and pulled good grades because they learned a couple important key words and flattered the right people. “Bellini”? Crying over eggs? Gruesome in a good way? Puh-leeze.

    The creepiest moment of the night was that guy pulling a poor, drugged up rabbit out of his rats’ nest hair. And I didn’t get his schtick. What in heaven’s name does pulling a rabbit out of your crazy hair have to do with Japan and Samurais? Is that a lesser known Samurai skill set? This reinforces my disdain for magicians.

    Did anyone else catch NPH telling Kelly “Bobblehead” Choi that the rabbit was peeing on her? THAT was a moment to remember.

  33. Maybe someone already said this…

    Gail: I wish there were more of that herb
    Other judge: yeah, it’s bland

    Peel : Oh, I forgot Olive oil..

    hum, dude, olive oil might be capital to many dishes, but it’s not the kinda thing you go like : Hum, this sauce/vinaigrette could use more kick and flavor, let’s add oil. She did say MORE OF THAT HERB!

  34. Days later…(hey, I’ve been job-hunting and binge drinking) if you get the theater, I’ll cook the snacks! I make a killer caramel corn (and could even incorporate Snickers….)

  35. alex, a fine catch.

    brian, my BIL, who manages a movie theater, has been known to set up after-hours xbox on the big screen. if i tivo this, there must be a way to hook it up…

    so who lives within a reasonable distance of central NJ, where the theater is?

    of course, i should probably, y’know, ask him.

  36. Pingback: Human Trend » Recap Roundup: Top Chef Masters Episode 4

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