Thursday, April 14, 2011

“Here’s the meat. And here’s the grinder.”

Well well well, look who’s blobbin'. You guys you wanted to play so here we go- it’s the Top Chef Masters Pool!

I did a TCMP (as we in the industry call it) once before (once) but I have the feeling this will be a lot more fun. Why?
#1- (like you didn’t see this coming) Curtis Stone. The new oily bo-hunk host is trying to pull a Gordon Ramsey with being on this show and NBC’s Next Great American Restaurant (which always makes me sing the theme song to The Greatest American Hero- OH SNAP THAT SHOULD BE A SUB SHOP- don’t bite! That one’s mine.)
#2- One chef is eliminated per ep and the winner each ep gets money for their charity
#3- and most important, we get to see these often arrogant, lofty chefs scramble about the kitchen, use instruments and ingredients they aren’t familiar with or have outright hatred for and get bitch slapped by the Critics not only in criticism but in the types of Challenges they’re given. (I think Bravo wisely realized all the pressure they’ve put on Top Chefs in the past and are finally really giving it to the Masters who SHOULD be able handle pressure, right…?)

And those Critics are: the picky, gesticulating Saveur Magazine editor and 2011 version of Floyd The Barber from The Andy Griffith Show, James Oseland.

And foodie phenom Ruth Reichl (btw someone parodies a mash up of her and Bourdain called ‘Ruth Bourdain’ which just won a James Beard Award for Humor
(Thanks for that intro, Nikki M!)

In my opinion, there are no long haired, Hubert Kelly-level chefs amongst our Masters this season but we do have:

Southwest Cuisine guru, John Rivera Sedlar

Big-Eyed Sue Zemanick (EyeZ!)

Alex (“I beat pancreatic cancer!”) Stratta

Former Next Iron Chef contestant, Celina Tio

Adorable Indian Jazz Patched, Suvir Saran, and His Lisp

Owner and Chef of Beast in Portland, Oregon: Naomi Pomeroy

Mary Sue Milliken (almost as cute as Our Indie Film Star, Kelly!)

Bald John Currence

Tough Traci Des Jardines

Chris Issak & Lyle Lovett combo, George Mendez, (ChrisLyle!)

Owner of the only Michelin-starred Indian restaurant in the U.S., Floyd Cardoz

And, finally…
“Yes I have a unibrow and my lips curl up at the corners because I will always act as if I know more than these chefs and you especially since most of them went to culinary school and I didn’t and did I mention I didn’t go to culinary school?” Hugh Acheson

So first, a quick recap of last week’s first episode-
Unibrow calls himself “the White Swan” as opposed to the “Black Swan.” (Which means he’s the Black Swan.)
Naomi and Tio don’t plate their food in time for the Quickfire Challenge! Wow! These Masters do realize they have made every Top Chef contestant a culinary genius, right?
Tough Traci wins immunity and 5k for her charity and then it’s…Top Chef Masters Restaurant Wars!
Tio, EyeZ, Bald John, Alex, John Rivera Sedlar and Naomi (who will be front of the house)
ChrisLyle, Unibrow, Floyd, Mary Sue, Suvir and Tough Traci (front of the house)

Naomi decides to serve all 34 diners at once because that’s how she does it at her restaurant. (So it’s all weddings all the time there then?) Her teammates are nervous and Alex cuts veggies like someone’s going to measure each cube. Um, dood?
Tough Traci has immunity but still plates her own salad and makes a jab at Naomi’s seating technique when the Critic’s arrive. They include
Smarmy Danyelle Freeman (author.)
Unibrow serves a gigantic salad that’s too salty and Mary Sue can’t find unsweetened chocolate chips in the kitchen so she’s unsure about the amount of sugar to add to her flourless chocolate cake. But Naomi’s team gives the Critics raw lamb (ew!) and apple garnish that still has the fruit sticker on the skin!

All the chefs are shocked at how difficult the challenge was.
Suvir: “We are title heads, we are inspiration, we are the muse, we don’t work, we don’t sweat. Some of us may I don’t, I’m honest…So this is wonderful it’s the first time we come back to planet earth and we be living like normal people.” I like Suvir!**

Stone calls Naomi’s team out to the table and tells them their restaurant wasn’t their favorite. Uh oh. but….the diner’s decide and they won! The winner is Alex (He beat cancer, now he beats You!)
Only the Losers go to the Critics: Mary Sue and Unibrow for dry cake and salty seafood, respectively. In the back room, Bald John says Unibrow is too good to be in front of the Critics but in the end, even though he made a dish that was unfamiliar to him (he liked pointing that out) Uni is sent home.
I’m already tired of looking at his tight mouth and want to punch him in it.

Now…on to the 2nd ep!!!

“Here’s the meat. And here’s the grinder.”

When the Masters get to the kitchen they’re one short, John Rivera isn’t there! Stone shows up in a suit (I’m hoping he’ll arrive in less and less clothing as the season progresses) and tells them John dropped out because of an emergency.
Wow, bummer!
Well, good thing we didn’t set this off last week, huh Poolers?!
So now that means…
Awww man, Unibrow is back.

I’d like to say two things about this, please. First I found another blob that actually calls Hugh Unibrow and I want you all to know that but I think it’s an easy nickname to arrive upon.

Yeah, see what I’m sayin’? Second, I think if you make food and you know people are going to look at you with said food in their mouths at some point and you continue to act like you DON’T HAVE AN UNRULY HORROR OF HAIR across your brow that should be plucked or, in this case, mowed; and makes me question where else you have hair (on your knuckles? Am I getting knucklehair in my custard?) you should go home and STAY THERE.

Stone gave the obligatory it’s-nice-you’re-back-Unibrow-because-the-Critic’s-had-a-hard-time-letting-you-go-but-the-real-reason-is-I-had-it-written-into-my-contract-that-they-would-not-have-a-male-chef-competing-that’s-hotter-than-me-and-your-unibrow-kills-that-and-any-chance-you’d-have-of-banging-Padma-if-she’s-on-this-show-cause-that’s-my-job speech.
Unibrow said he bought a small salt shaker this time. But did you bring tweezers? Use the ones you have to pluck fish bones, g’head.

The QuickFire Challenge
Stone points to a table of fresh meat and tells them to make a meatball dish in 30 minutes. “Here’s the meat, and here’s the grinder.”
ChrisLyle: (to CAMERA) “Shut the f*ck up!” No one wants to grind meat. (No comment.)
The meatball judge will be…Kelis. Yes, Kelis would be bringing her milkshake to the yard and then by the Top Chef Masters kitchen. Turns out she used to be a…chef?! Pardon? And here I just thought she used to be a decent singer and the rapper Nas’ ex-wife and BabyMama to their son, Knight (middle name Rider?) What is she here to publicize? The fact that Nas still owes her 52k from the settlement?

During the QF, no one can attach the grinder to the table! (Har! It’s durty sounding AND true) Naomi is not used to using a cheap grinder, she butchers animals whole! Including this one…


When time is up, Stone stands in another room with the chef’s dishes and the Masters watch on close circuit flat screen. MSNBC newscaster Tamryn Hall? Wait- THIS is Kelis now?

Not the milkshake I was expecting at all.

Kelis hated ChrisLyle’s meatballs in froth, Floyd’s salty ball and Unibrow’s (she didn’t like the combination of yogurt and pepper sauce. Unibrow (to CAMERA) “…her criticism is pointless.”)
She loved Suvir’s but her “most favorite” is Bald John’s Vietnamese meatball. Bald John gets 5k for his charity, No Kid Hungry.
(If you ask me you can just take the rest of those meatballs Kelis didn’t eat and ship ‘em over. Wasteful!)

The Elimination Challenge
They pick skewers from a fondue pot and each get a classic 60’s dish. Then Goo-goo-gorgeous ‘Joan Holloway’ from Mad Men, Christina Hendricks, and The Luckiest Geek on Earth, her husband (this still surprises me sometimes) Geoffrey Arend appear.

Christina hates 60s cuisine since she’s always eating it and she’s wants the Masters to update the dishes. (Who’s gonna say No to Joan?) The Masters must create the classic dish and an updated version appetizer-szie.

45 Minutes to Shop/$200
Bald John tastes oysters for his Oysters Rockefeller and does a tourism commercial for New Orleans. Floyd is stumped by his pick, ambrosia.
Me too! I’ve only seen it once before in my life and the combination of Jell-O (which I already don’t like) marshmallows and canned fruit are nonsensical! It’s like Fruit Loops swole with milk and VOMIT.

In the kitchen, Suvir tenderizes veal for Veal Oscar, Alex decides to add Chai tea to his bread pudding, Bald John washes his oyster shells and holds off on opening them until the Next Day…

1.5 hours of Prep in the smallest kitchen EVER.
EyeZ and Suvir have no room to cook or plate (!!)

And by the time Suvir gets to the hot line there are no gas burners, just a deep fryer.
He’s gonna deep fry veal?!
Not sexy and potentially not edible either.
Suvir and EyeZ help the other chefs (Suvir plating for Tough Traci and EyeZ aiding ChrisLyle and Tio) just so they can get them out of the way and cook their own food.

In the dining room, everyone has 60s-style drinks. The Mad Men actor who played that bearded, pot-smoking copywriter who dated a black woman mills about looking for free drinks and potentially a real life job as a waiter.
Finally…Bald John presents mignonette pickled oyster, horseradish crème fraiche, collards and spicy bacon (Oysters Rockefeller) and Mary Sue- Japanese style poached egg with umeboshi & mustard miso mayonnaise (deviled eggs.) The Critics find Bald John’s oysters perfect. Christina isn’t sure if she’d call Mary Sue’s egg deviled but she loves it. (After the app, the copywriter asks Christina which one was Oysters Rockefeller. MF tryna get more screen time!)

ChrisLyle shows off his roasted chicken breast, lemon yogurt & vegetables (chicken a la king) and Tough Traci- steak tartare & fired noodles (beef stroganoff.) Critic Ruth is thrown by ChrisLyle’s bread but everyone else likes it. Christina isn’t sure about there being enough mushroom flavor in Tough Traci’s dish.

In the kitchen, Suvir knows he made the wrong choice to deep fry the veal (did he have a choice?) EyeZ cuts meat there are only 40 seconds left to plate!
She yells out for help and Naomi comes to her rescue. Unibrow shows up with five seconds left but it’s too late.
EyeZ: “I’m going home.”
She hugs Naomi. Only half of her plates are complete. WTH, where were the people she helped to help her?! Rude, yo!

Suvir’s Veal Oscar, fried veal with mint, cilantro & tomato chutney & asparagus salad and EyeZ’s Duck A L’orange- crispy duck breast, spicy blood orange gastrique & pineapple mango salad are presented.
EyeZ apologizes and chokes up about the dishes missing crispy cracklin and mango. When Stone asks why the plates are incomplete (apparently some diners received even barer fare) Suvir says EyeZ helped all of the chefs and “her generosity harmed herself.”
Suv’s veal is deemed bland and one note. The Barber calls it ‘mystery meat.’ Ouch. Christina asks if the cracklin would have made a big difference on EyeZ’s plate, they all say Yes.

In the kitchen, Unibrow swears and berates the staff: “No, no, no, no NO, you take those two!” As the wait staff leaves: “I mean, I love you.” INSERT any woman (or man, for that matter) doing the same thing after being around Unibrow for thirty seconds. Scene still works, right?

Tio’s chicken frisee salad, pickled shallots and carrots in a bacon vinagrette (Coq au Vin) and Unibrow’s filet mignon, mushroom espuma & crisp puff pastry- the latter consisting of a piece of meat on the plate and a scotch glass with stuff in it and meat with a crispy puff pastry on a skewer (this is beef Wellington?) are up.
Unibrow: “I went lighter on the salt.”
Use the salt to kill that caterpillar on your brow!
The Barber doesn’t like the vinegar in Tio’s salad but Ruth & Christina love it. No one knows what to make of Unibrow’s dish except me: Make it garbage!

Alex’s Chai-spiced custard, Panettone & roasted apple salad (bread pudding) looks great. They like the bread but not the custard, mind you, he didn’t make the bread. Floyd’s ambrosia looks nothing like the original, it’s a grilled peppered pineapple with mango, coconut and orange custard. Christina’s husband loves the pecan at the bottom of the custard (and also life, he gets to motor boat Chrisina Hendricks on a reg!) Naomi’s chocolate mint soufflé cake with toasted Kirsch marshmallow (grasshopper pie) is a little off to Christina but The Barber would eat it at any party in Mayberry.

Critic’s Table
The contestants stand super close to the Critics. Like a foot away. Floyd, Mary Sue and Bald John are already there, (I guess Stone don’t go to the ‘Stew Room’ to get nobody.) The three are… the Favorites!
Stone wanted Mary Sue’s recipe and says he’d be proud to serve it in any of his restaurants. (Wiki says you don’t have any restaurants, Honey.)
The Barber says (gesturing like he’s painting a wall with his palms) Mary’s Sue’s eggs were “just so delightfully unctuous in the mouth…”

I think we’re going to enjoy The Barber’s contributions.

The winning chef? Mary Sue. She gets 10k for her charity which is also No Kid Hungry.

The losers? EyeZ, Suvir and Alex.
Suvir says there were too many divas throwing him aside and taking up all the burners. Stone asks who the divas were. Suvir says it didn’t matter.
Ruth expected something ‘Wow’ for bread pudding from a Master Chef because “you can really play with it.” Alex: “…my strength is in olive oil, garlic and onions” and the job I held at The Olive Garden. (My Mama loves your work, Alex!)
When they’re called back, EyeZ is asked to leave.
Stone says they will be making a donation to her charity, Louisiana SPCA ($25.00.) EyeZ says something she must have heard on some other reality show: “I know the women will take it.”
This is not men versus women, EyeZ! And you should have REAMED those Chefs you helped for not helping you! Turn in some of your giant eyeball portions for backbone and stamina!
You’re a good chef with great skin! Don’t forget that. Look at Unibrow and don’t ever, ever forget…

Well, that’s 2 eps down. If you want in on the madness- hit me with your cheddar and two picks before showtime next Wednesday. And if you know anyone who wants to play, pass along this link.
I’ll put everyone’s picks in the post next week and send it out before the new ep airs. So get to picking and sending and sharing.
Do it for EyeZ!

Next week-the Masters cook with…bugs?! And I thought nothing was worse than ambrosia.


  1. Nice one! That's actually what the Grub Street blob calls him!