The masters:

Hubert
Doucharello
Bayless
Lo
Tracht
Smith

First episode of the Champions Round. $5 if you can guess who I want out first.

THE LAST SIX WEEKS: Were not nearly as exciting as you would expect them to be. Hopefully people will start some shit up in the Champions round.

I wouldn’t want to go up against Chiarello, he looks like a biter.

10:02: Aw, Kelly Choi’s anatomy freaks me out just as much today as it did six weeks ago.  Either of her big ol’ hoopy earrings could double as a necklace.

10:03: ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: The mis en place relay race! I always like this challenge during the season. Hopefully everyone’s been out of prep practice long enough to make it funny. Hubert looks adorably shamefaced.

  • Open 15 oysters
  • Dice 5 onions
  • Butcher 4 chickens
  • Separate 5 eggs and hand-whip the whites.

10:05: The judge is…Hung! No, it’s not; that would actually be interesting. It’s Colicchio.

Tracht v. Keller, shucking oysters. She’s giving me a creepy, creepy vibe.

I think she is a robot. But the kind who that becomes sentient and turns on you. Look, she’s already fooled me into thinking she’s a person.

10:06: Smith v. Keller, onions.

Bayless on Smith: “He’s cutting his onions in a way I’ve never seen before.” WITH A SPOON.

If only.

Keller is slower, and yet, his onion-dicing method is like a thing of beauty. A dance, almost.

10:08: Lo v. Chiarello, chickens. He can’t keep from spying on his competition. You know, because he’s kind of a dick. But maybe also because he’s scared of her. I don’t blame him for that one.

They are both really fricking good at that.

10:09: Smith v. Bayless, egg whites. Smith: “Rick Bayless is my nemesis.”

Really? I would totally pay to watch that show. It wouldn’t be on for many episodes, since Bayless could kill a person with his forearms. I’ve never whipped eggs white like that it my life; that’s why god makes KitchenAids.

Bayless, Keller and Lo, winners. Smith, DON’T CRY. It’s too early in the episode.

10:11: Next up, each chef has to prepare their signature dish for the others…and then there’s a twist!

Brian: “I saw her smile! The Tracht lady! Just like when I saw Kelly Choi eat the nut! IT WAS REAL, MICHELLE.”

10:15:  Art Smith, I like you. I really do. But your gay-busybody vibe is going to start to grate.

Hubert grew up in a little village in France, where his parents owned a pastry shop. Of course they did. Is he even real?

Smith is serving fish that he served for the president. Which almost makes him cry. Good god, man. So now you’re a gay-busybody-namedropping-cryer. Officially grating.

10:17: Even listening to Chiarello describe his dish makes me want to kick a baby seal. His sad my-mom-died-of-cancer-too-soon story cannot pierce the frozen black carapace he constructs around my heart, and lord knows I’m a sucker for a cancer weepy.

10:18: Bayless is a giant hippie nerd! Love him.

10:19: ELIMINATION CHALLENGE: Re-create a competitor’s signature dish.

Okay, I looked up for the supposed Tracht-smile moment, and I gotta say, I didn’t see it. Maybe it was a twitch. Or a burp, like with newborns.

10:20:  Hubert takes Lo.  Lo’s stuck with Keller. Bayless and Chiarello. Tracht and Smith. Can we funnel some personality out of Smith and into Tracht?

10:21:  Mark it: 21 minutes in, Brian calls Anita Lo for the win. I’m torn between everyone except Chiarello and Smith.

10:24:  Unrelated but no less momentous: 24 minutes in, Brian declares that U2 has become irrelevant.

10:25:  Chiarello: “I want to honor Bayless by completely taking over his dish and using my own ingredients.” Bayless is doing basically the same, yet someone manages to sound not like an ass saying it.

10:26: Keller has never had mashed potato and sea urchin, which Anita did in her dish. “Eet was a revelation. Eetz grand!”

I don’t know exactly what Lo is doing, but I heard “lobster” and “biscuit” and I will take two of those.

10:28:  Tracht: “I’m doing Art’s dish, but he’s a hack so I’m making it more elegant.” Okay, maybe I was paraphrasing, but still, see?  The robot coup begins.

10:31: UnBalaban is here, he’s wearing a bright purple shirt, and he is READY TO JUDGE YOU HARSHLY. His cookbook is on my list, and then I will smack it down and the judger will be the judgee. Except that I’ll probably fuck it up and then he’ll show up at my house with Gael Greene to berate me in person.

Seriously? Of all the previous contestants you could bring back to judge you bring Ludo? And Christopher “Buy My Swanson!” Lee?

Art’s got a Scottish egg, sweet potato chili fries, and something else.

10:32: Rick’s got quail, prosciutto, wild greens. It’s not Mexican. Since this is not American Idol, he is not pinged for stepping out of the box.

Tracht’s got grouper, gnocchi, peas. Which is cold. And overcooked.

UnBalaban: “It does feel like once upon a time, this fish was cooked perfectly.” Isn’t that true of all fish at some point?

10:34: Mark it: 34 minutes in, Kelly Choi is shown looking very intently at food.

10:35:  Chiarello’s got lamb, fig mostarda. Which has a “seasoning defecit.” Heh. Heh heh.

Anita has a gelee something, some kind of soup and LOBSTER BISCUIT. And everyone loves it. And is scared of her, maybe she flashes her shiv when she presents? But dang, it sounds good.

10:36:  After the break, I have high hopes that Chiarello and British judge guy will start. Please, somebody, start. But they’ll probably just stare at each other for a minute and then everyone will giggle and hug.

10:40:  Interlude: Did you know Art loves FUN? And he likes to make people LAUGH? And he is a giddy joy-bearing fairy, and I’m not calling him a name I’m making a statement of fact. Lose a tooth, put it under your pillow, and Art Smith comes in the middle of the night to force you to laugh at a joke and mention that he worked for Oprah.

The grating may be worse than I had feared.

10:44:  CRITICS: Gael’s hat matches UnBalaban’s shirt. They TOTALLY call each other the night before.

They’re praising Anita’s biscuits…Art is getting hot under the collar. LET NO ONE ELSE EXCEL AT ANYTHING VAGUELY SOUTHERN. Even if your parents are from Tennessee. Because did you know, Art cooks Southern food?

10:46:  Tracht’s group takes a beating. She actually shows some spine, getting a little pissy. Or it’s the evil robot thing.

Everyone is laughing so very jovially, about everything. Not laughing jovially? Me. Do they sedate everyone before the show?

10:48:  Sometimes I wonder how UnBalaban enunciates his words so well with his lips constantly in the pursed-sneer position.

Anita’s getting high praise even when she’s not in the room, so either they’re still scared because they know she can hear you through 24 inches of concrete or she really did do a great job.

Gael is terrified of Art’s Scotch egg. And snatching a minute to actually look up, I have to agree.

10:50:  UnBalaban is impressed with Rick’s “quiet respect” of Chiarello’s dish. Would someone say that to Chiarello’s face: quiet respect? Because even when Chiarello is being “nice” he oozes Dick. And yes, I wanted that to sound just as gross as it did.

10:51:  Top two: Bayless and Lo. Rick ends up with 23 stars, which I think is the highest anyone has gotten all season.

10:52: Except for Anita Lo: 24 stars!  One star shy of a perfect score. Every minute, I love her a little more and more, because since she’s only on my TV I don’t have to be afraid. If she doesn’t take the whole thing, something is wrong with the world.

I call Art for the boot.

10:57:  Kelly Choi’s voice turned frighteningly nasal for a minute. Probably issues with airflow through the strand of thread she calls a neck.

Art gets pounded. I don’t even think Rick Moonen, who entirely failed to produce a dish in the quickfire, did as poorly.

10:58: Tracht’s getting it even worse…and she’s out. Aaand Art starts to cry. And something switches on in the kitchen appliances of food critics worldwide, as they get the “go” message from the Tracht mothership and prepare to attack.

NEXT WEEK: Catering for Zooey Deschanel. Art Smith: “I smell a rat.”