Top Chef Masters Season 4 Episode 8: Foodie Flash Mob

Hello I am Zin! I am filling in on top Chef Masters because… I do not really know why, I just am, maybe it is busy-ness, maybe it is sprained thumbs (honestly, have you ever heard of someone calling in sick because of sprained thumbs?!?), maybe it is boredom. But do not be afraid! We are going to have fun! And we are going to learn a lot! And I am sorry but I do not think the recipes are on the Bravo website yet! So I can not link to them like I was told to! [addendum: I found all but a couple of the ones from the QF]

Where we are (the Zin version): Four chefs are left, and two of them hate each other. Because it would not be reality TV if we did not have contestants who hate each other!

Quickfire:

Time for teamwork! Curtis has painted a red line down the center of the kitchen. To cross it means death! By luck of the knife draw, Chris and Patricia work together, and Kerry and Lorena work together. I wonder how many knife draws they had to do to get those teams! Each team member must stay in his or her own side of the kitchen, either the pantry or the stove, but both must produce the dish. So this means one cooks and must trust the other to get the right ingredients, and one does prep work and must trust the other to cook. I think the person who does the cooking has the most power! After all, by the time you are cooking, you have all your ingredients, you do not need the pantry person anymore! It could be by coincidence that the women on both teams end up in the pantry and the men do the cooking.

A bookie is the guest judge. Imagine that, a bookie on television! Elliott Ness must be rolling in his grave.

Kerry is very selfish! He has been a terrible teammate all along! And nobody ever calls him on it! Not even here on this blog! So I will call him on it! Kerry, you are selfish! You screwed Patricia on the Thai challenge! You got Clark sent home from the Grand Canyon! And now you destroyed Lorena’s dish! I do not know if he does it on purpose, or if he is just very focused and does not pay attention to other people. But if he is a chef, he should know better! And some one should scold him for it! Someone with more authority than me! I do not like Lorena, but I would treat her better than that! He cooked her salmon twenty minutes early so he could cook his shrimp! I would think the chef could handle cooking a piece of fish and some shrimp at the same time! It is not like they were cooking for 700 people, they were making three portions! And what makes me very angry is that Kerry wins! His Shrimp Farfalle with Herbs and Yellow Tomato Beurre Fondue was creamy and tangy. So what, he is Not Nice! I do not care if he is best friends with Tom Colicchio or not! City Harvest gets $2500 and it is hard to complain about that. Just because he is Not Nice does not mean his charity should be held responsible!

Lorena is very unhappy! I do not blame her! She does not understand why Kerry cannot cook fish and shrimp at the same time! She can cook six dishes at the same time when she is on the line! Wait – where did this thing come from that she does not cook on the line? Apparently she thinks she does. I do not know if she actually does or not, somehow Patricia assumed in the Thai challenge that she does not. Now she says she does. It is very confusing! Her sticky rice is undercooked but she can not serve it. Her Seared Salmon Filet Over Salsa Verde and Arugula-Celery Salad is good but it is only the beginning of a good dish. But because her team won, she splits the prize and gets $2500 for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation so at least she gets something out of it.

Chris is happy to be working with Patricia since she was his boss and they know how to communicate. At this point, that communication seems to be Chris telling her what to get for him. I am so glad he learned communication from Patricia. He makes Berber-Style Duck with Dates and Pine Nuts. He loses because the judges do not like fat on their duck! I do not blame them! I cannot find the recipes yet, maybe I am looking in the wrong place, so I will just tell you about Berber spices! Something I actually know about! I make a pretend-tagine with a pretend-Berber spice mix! I use cinnamon, ginger, cumin, cloves, and lots of black pepper (I got some Grains of Paradise for it but I used them in pfefferneuse instead). I actually once used it instead of a bio for an online literary magazine that published some of my stories! Do not laugh, one of those stories made the Wigleaf 2011 Longlist! It was the crowning achievement of my literary career! And when I realized it would be the crowning achievement of my literary career, I stopped writing fiction! We now return you to your previously scheduled recap!

Patricia feels sorry for Lorena! Maybe Kerry is performing a valuable service, is getting Patricia to let up on Lorena! She serves Nori and Wasabi-Crusted Tuna with Ginger and Scallion Vinaigrette and no one says much about it other than it is tasty.

Elimination Challenge

It is time for a Vegas Dîner en Blanc! Curtis calls it “high end dining experience with food served at a picnic.” Chris was excited! He thinks it sounds like an art project! It does sound like fun. He and Patricia bounce ideas off each other, not because they are teammates because it is an individual challenge, but because they know each other and they respect each other and they are friends! Lorena is jealous this! Who will she bounce ideas off of, Kerry? He says he knows she is upset about the Quickfire, but he tries not to pay too much attention to what’s going on. Poor Lorena, since her buddy Art left, I think she has been lonely, because nobody else will play with her!

Three hundred people will attend but each chef must make three dishes for only 75 people. It has to be packed as a box lunch. They do the preparation but it will sit overnight, and some of them take this into account and some do not.

The critics are James Oselund, Ruth Reichl, and Francis Lam. They are joined at the dinner by two people from Dîner en Blanc. The woman is wearing a veiled hat that makes her look like a middle-aged bride at her third or fourth wedding. It is very distracting. But very stylish! She should be on Project Runway instead of Top Chef Masters!

Kerry is going to make cold cauliflower soup from a recipe Hillary Clinton told him about. And here I thought Art was the only name-dropper. Then he speaks French to the diners, who respond with blank looks. Maybe this is why he has been Kerry Who? so far this season. But his food is more successful than his personality. He first serves the Hillary Clinton Chilled Cauliflower Soup with Saffron Coulis, and they love the color! Ruth is happy to have cold soup! Next comes Haricot Vert, Orzo and Mozzarella with Pesto, and James loves the harmony of the basil and garlic. His final dish is Grilled Chicken and Kielbasa with Peppers and Paprika Coulis, and Francis says he is swinging for the fences with this.

Chris goes for things that will taste better the next day. This sounds like a good idea! His first dish is Pork and Chicken Liver Pâté with Hazelnuts and Truffles. Forgive me, I am going to digress! I cannot help it, it is my nature! At several points his pâté is called a terrine. What is the difference? Digressing minds want to know!

Strictly speaking, the difference between the two lies in how they are baked. By definition, a terrine is baked in an earthenware dish. The dish itself is also called a terrine, a word derived from the French terre, meaning “earth.” Today, other materials besides earthenware, such as glass or metal, may be used for terrines. Terrines may be presented in their baking dish, or they may be unmolded.

A pâté is, by definition, baked in a crust. The word pâté (with an accent on the e) is derived from the word pâte (without the accent), meaning “pastry.” Today, however, the word pâté is often used for terrines baked without a pastry crust. To avoid confusion, the term pâté en croute is used to specify a pâté with the crust.

And by the way, a terrine plays heavily into a wonderful story by Rebecca Lee called “Bobcat“:

It was the terrine that got to me. I felt queasy enough that I had to sit in the living room and narrate to my husband what was the brutal list of tasks that would result in a terrine: devein, declaw, decimate the sea and other animals, eventually emulsifying them into a paste which could then be riven with whole vegetables. It was like describing to somebody how to paint a Monet, how to turn the beauty of the earth into a blurry, intoxicating swirl, like something seen through the eyes of the dying.

Except the terrine/pâté Chris makes does not have sea animals, but pork parts and chicken liver. Everyone loves the terrine/pâté and the Man from DeB says it is the best he has ever had! I think he is overdoing it a little bit! Next in Chris’s picnic basket is Swordfish Conserva with Green Beans, Tomatoes and Olives. It seems to me (and I could be wrong) that a conserva is an Italian confit, which is poaching something in oil below frying temperature. But go look for yourself if you need to know! There is a recipe on Epicurious for swordfish conserva. This is what I like about Chris, I learned things from him! I have never heard of conserva before! His conserva recipe says “splash” instead of “oil-poach” but maybe that is for the home cook? The lady with the veiled hat thinks the swordfish is a little dry. His final dish is Marinated Wild Mushrooms with Toasted Pine Nuts and I did not note any comment about that.

Patricia wants to tell a story with her meal! I love stories! It is a story about the Silk Road that Marco Polo took between Italy and China! She loves to trace a dish and where it came from! And that is why she is better than Lorena, she has a depth of knowledge and a broader range! Oh Patricia! You were doing so well! Why did you have to spoil it with that nasty remark? She serves Daikon, Edamame and Radish Salad with Whitebait first. I am confused. But what else is new. I have found several references to whitebait as a New Zealand delicacy. I am not sure but I do not think Marco Polo went to New Zealand. But I have never heard of whitebait before so maybe it is now famous somewhere else, or maybe it was brought to New Zealand from somewhere else. They like the salad but James thinks it is tricky and there is too much to do. The Uyghur Spiced Bison with Chili Jam is a bit too spicy for the Man from DeB. For the digressive among us (see, I learn things from Patricia, too), Uyghur is a culture in Central Asia with Turkish roots and many flavors and ingredients from all over Asia in their food. It is her Sumac Dusted Flatbread with Curried Cauliflower and Red Chief Lentils that is the real problem! The lady with the veiled hat thinks it is funky with the pop of sumac except for the bread. The bread is stale! The Man from DeB calls it supermarket bread. My supermarket has pretty good bread! They have When Pigs Fly and Borealis and a couple of other boutique brands. They do have Wonder Bread, but you do not have to buy it! Why spend $1.50 when you can spend $5?

Lorena this had some success with dessert so she will include a dessert, but she is going to mix it up! She will have a sweet main course, and a spicy dessert! This sounds like a great idea! You and she has a famous chicken salad! Oh no! Chicken salad? Tom Colicchio is on record declaring chicken salad is not an upscale item! Just ask Grayson! But maybe the TCM crew did not get that memo. She serves Jerk Chicken Salad with Mango and Caramelized Pine Nuts and Ruth thinks it is too sweet. Curtis calls it a “nice chicken sandwich” but the Man from DeB says it is a four-star chicken sandwich. Except it is not a sandwich at all! There is no bread! At least in the picture. Francis enthusiastically praises her Huancaina-Style Potato Salad with Aji Amarillo and Cilantro. That potato dish is a real thing, and aji amarillo is a Peruvian yellow pepper! See, I can learn from Lorena as well! But her Jalapeno Chocolate Mousse with Berries and Whipped Cream is too sweet.

Critic’s Table:

Everyone is invited.

Lorena: James asks if she tasted the chicken salad, and was it not sweet? She explains she tasted it the day before, but not that it was served. Curtis asks her about the texture of the mousse, and again, the day before, it was perfect. I think we have a pattern here! Ruth says the potatoes were wonderful, but it did not come together as a meal.

Chris: James praises the wonderful progression of flavors. Chris planned the menu so it would develop flavor overnight. Ruth loved the elements from the sea, air, and earth. Curtis says some fish was overcooked and some were not, but the flavors were very nice.

Kerry: Francis liked the progression with the flavor hammer of the chicken at the end. James continues the baseball metaphor Francis used earlier and credits him with “stepping up to the plate.” Kerry is credited to Patricia and Chris for helping him at the last minute. I do not blame Lorena for not helping him! Poor Lorena! She is really the outsider! But that is okay, she can design another taco bowl for a fast food restaurant, and cry all the way to the bank.

Patricia: Francis liked the bison spices and Ruth thinks it would have been perfect if it had been warm. They mentioned the stale bread and Patricia wishes she had thrown it out, but a baguette did not make sense with the meal. I can respect that, it was a choice between two evils. James did not think the dishes worked together as a whole.

Results:

Kerry and Chris are the favorites (duh!) Because they planned for overnight development of flavor.

Chris wins! He gets another $10,000 for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.

Lorena and Patricia are the last ones standing because they did not take into account of the dishes would hold up overnight or how they would work at room temperature the next day. I do not think this was a drama set-up either, they really did seem like the worst dishes.

Patricia is out! I am not sure about that. Was the stale bread really that bad? But they really loved Lorena’s potato salad, and they did not feel any element of Patricia’s dishes stood out. And besides, there is more advertising to be had from Taco Bell. But Patricia is happy that she raised some money for Heifer International and so am I!

Next week:

It is time for the “teach a mystery-partner to cook from behind a partition” challenge! It was so funny watching Naomi Pomeroy scream unknowingly at her father last season! Then they mentor cooking students. I wish they had not left this until the end, I would’ve liked to see more of the chefs in a teaching role. Then again, maybe that is why they left it until the end!

Thank you for visiting my Top Chef Masters recap! See, it was not so bad, was it? Next week I am sure everything will be back to normal!

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