Episode: Bonsai Food
July 15, 2009
Previously on Top Chef Masters: Four Masters made one-handed eggs. One screwed up royally and never recovered. In the magic-themed elimination challenge, an excellent chef showed how she can make all the personality in the room disappear. In the end, she won a spot in the finals.
Welcome back to another week of great cooking, great food and not a whole lot of charm with your Top Chef Masters! Competing this week are ...
- Rick Moonen: Master chef of New York and Las Vegas. Specializes in seafood. This week’s designated dark-smock-wearer. Has ADD and will be distracted by shiny things. Playing for a fish conservation charity.
- Nils Norén: The Swedish Chef. Known for his very human hands, bushy mustache, unfathomable accent and tendency to chase chickens around the kitchen with a cleaver. When he’s not bork-borking around, he plays in a Swedish reggae band. He’s playing for the Friends of the French Culinary Institute.
- Lachlan M. Patterson: The obligatory young'un -with-something-to-prove of the bunch. As does everyone here, he has a boatload of cooking awards. From Boulder, Colorado. Specializes in Northern Italian cooking. As his child was in crisis at birth, he’s playing for the local children’s hospital in order to to thank them for their good deeds.
- Michael Chiarello: The veteran back in the ring for another shot at greatness. From the Napa Valley. Hasn't been in a restaurant for some time. Oh, and he’s as hot as an oven. Yow. ... Jus’ sayin’. Playing for a local charity which helps underprivileged Latinos with health care.
NotPadma arrives to introduce the ...
This week, the Masters will be competing in a challenge from back in Season One of Top Chef, wherein they must make a fine dining dish inspired by a specific junk food selection. In comes a cart covered in what most Americans call food. The Masters look upon it quizzically, not really sure what these items are.
After the usual knife block pick, the Masters, in turn, approach the table of crap and pick their inspirations.
- Chef Michael the Sexy gets first pick and selects ... fish sticks and tartar sauce.
- Chef Lachlan the Twink goes next and picks ... hot dogs.
- Chef Rick is bothered his two top picks are taken, but settles for ... a corn dog.
- And lastly, Chef Niels Bohr of Denmark picks ... fried shrimp.
NotPadma then reveals that the judges for this week’s Quickfire will be the cast of Bravo’s hit TV show Flipping Out. (Which was nice to see, since it could have just as easily been the cast of one of those dreadful Real Housewives shows.) The premise here is cross-promotion that Jeff Lewis and crew are always eating junk food on the show, which makes them experts. The fact that a whole new season of Flipping Out returns August 17, only on Bravo! has nothing to do with this.
The Masters get to cooking.
Chef Lachalan loves making sausage. Chef Rick is very focused ... until he sees a butterfly and forgets what he was doing. Chef Nils Lofgren figures that he’ll just make a high-end shrimp dish (which isn’t fried at all). And Chef Michael opts for making a curious fish meatball dish.
But as time ticks by, Chef Rick realizes that what with spending too much time assembling a bookcase, changing his oil and giving the camera crew mani-pedis, he’s run out of time to prepare his high-end corndog. As a result, when time runs out, he has absolutely nothing on his plates. Baaaaad move, Master.
Up first is Chef Lachlan’s prosciutto stufado with pork sausage, or in lay terms, a fancy broth with sausage chunks. Other than there being sausage in it, nothing really suggests “hot dog.” And Jeff notices that the sausage is undercooked.
Next is Chef Michael’s swordfish meatballs with fisherman’s sauce. Jeff’s assistant, The New Adventures Of Old Christine, is excited by “anything fried.” She loves the three “perfect balls.” Being six years old, Jeff finds that lewdly funny. No word on how he reacted to the term “fisherman’s sauce.” The dish is a major hit.
Third out, comes Chef Nils of Greenland’s poached shrimp dish. Proving that they actually have taste buds, the diners notice that the shrimp doesn’t taste fried at all (because it wasn’t). The chef thinks it just went over the diners' heads.
And lastly, comes ... nothing. NotPadma reveals that the fourth chef didn’t finish and there is nothing more for them to judge. Jeff protests that the Masters had plenty of time and, had he known there was nothing else, he would have had more of Chef Michael’s Schweddy Balls.
Once they’re all done, the hostess reveals the scores.
- Chef Lachlan earned ... 3 stars.
- Chef Saab earned ... 3 stars.
- Chef Rick earned ... 0 stars. (Yeah, that’s just sad.)
- Chef Michael earned ... 4 1/2 stars.
Rather than end the episode there, NotPadma makes believe that anyone could still win this and introduces the ...
For this challenge, the Masters will have to prepare a three-course meal for 100 guests all by themselves. After the chefs are collected off the floor, the spokestron reveals that the three courses are actually to be hors d'oeuvres, inspired by an appetizer, main course and a dessert.
The Masters head off to the Publix to shop for ingredients. Once there, the original lead singer of Roxette tells us he’s going to be using salmon, since he wants everyone to know he’s from the volcanic island of Jan Mayen.
Chef Rick is putting a lot of pressure on himself to pull off an upset win after his crushing misstep and is picking up some fish when he spies a hummingbird flying through the store and chases it out into the parking lot before forgetting what he was doing out there in the first place. He comes back in and buys some pretty flowers.
Back to the kitchen.
Chef “Waterloo, baby my Waterloo” now tells us he’s from the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. And, as such, will be serving three different preparations of whale blubber.
Chef Michael reveals that one of his dishes will be “pissed off prawns.” We gather that this means they will be spicy, rather than freshly water-boarded.
Chef Rick is determined to resist the urge to assemble a model train set, fold origami swans and swim the English Channel and puts his head down long enough to actually prepare his dishes.
And Chef Lachlan gets the honor of being this week’s personality of wallpaper.
Day one ends and day two begins with the Masters coming back into the kitchen to make their last-minute adjustments before service. But the first order of business for Chef Michael will be to overcome the Curse of the GE™ Monogram appliances. It seems that the shitty appliances have screwed him over (as they have so many others). His cross to bear: the fridge did not adequately freeze his basil gelato.
Thankfully, youngster Chef Lachlan knows how to work some fancy kitchen contraption which magically reverses a sponsor product’s damage. (Oh, these kids and their gadgets, their long hair, big pants and rock and roll!)
With 30 minutes to go, the Masters head to their tables to set up. Since most of them aren’t accustomed to catering large events (particularly all by themselves), it’s curious to see how they manage.
Everyone scrambles mightily, except for Chef Dolph Lundgren who’s done most of his work the day before and gets to spend his spare time decorating his table with Ikea accents. (I believe the table unit is called the Äta Min Mat Bord. Allen wrenches, not included.)
The diners, one-hundred of Top Chef’s biggest fans (where was my invite?!) arrive along with the critics, Gael Green (from TV’s hit show Lidsville), Jay Raynor (Penn Jillette’s creepy British cousin) and Doctor Dillamond (a goat, and Shiz University's only animal professor).
Up first, the appetizer course.
- Chef Michael has prepared a shaved Brussels sprouts and asparagus salad. The diners love it, as do the critics, though they don’t think it works very well standing up at a cocktail party.
- Chef Lachlan offers up a fried pineapple wrapped in Richard Speck, lightly battered. Everyone finds it odd.
- Chef Rick serves a ceviche dish with Opa-Locka and Coati Mundi. I wouldn’t think that a dish with those components would work, but it seems to be quite popular.
- Chef Ace Of Base presents a scallop with smoked potato cream with curry oil. It’s very caviar-like.
Next, the main courses.
- Chef Michael serves his “pissed off prawns” and a hot and spicy presentation to go with them. Everyone seems to like the shrimp, but the critics are very put off by the need to use a knife to cut the tail off the shrimp while standing at a table.
- Chef Rick’s second course is a brandade of scallop and shrimp with a fennel salad. I have no idea what it is, but it’s so good it makes everyone weep.
- Chef Lachlan offers his grilled short rib which (it seems) is to be eaten wrapped in a lettuce leaf. Gael The Red Chapeau loves it, though scary British guy thinks his was too salty.
- Chef Dag Hammarskjöld’s second course is a slow-cooked salmon with napa cabbage with chorizo. Another hit. Plus, it looks beautiful too, with its concealed storage compartments, slide out tables and sleek, modern lines.
Lastly, it’s the dessert course.
- Chef Lachlan serves a strawberry frangipane tart. The diners like it, but the critics think that since it vaguely looks like steak tartare, it also tastes like it. And that doesn’t scream dessert.
- Chef Michael’s dessert, a basil gelato concoction, is very, very complicated and takes forever to put together. But with his sexy charm and dashing good looks, he easily convinces some female diners to help him put on the finishing touches. (Michael, call me. I’m in the book.) The diners swoon over the dish. And so do the critics, even Gael Headgear who started out saying that she’s not a fan of “grass clippings” in her dessert.
- Chef Rick (who gives us our first “I’m not a pastry chef” of the season) presents a lemon panna cotta with ginger. The critics don’t know how he pulled off such a complicated dish under these circumstances. And the creepy Brit mutters something about panna cotta giggling like a a woman’s breasts. ... Aaaaaand there goes the appetite. But first ...
- Chef Bergman must offer his dish, a chocolate goat cheese ganache with a sprinkling of socialized medicine and cara cara orange gel. This seems to be the one true dud with the diners and critics who think it’s way too smokey.
Later, at Critics Table, the nitpickers pick at the Masters’ nits. They enthuse over the successes and slam the dishes they disliked.
During the Q and A, we learn that Chef Nils is actually from Sweden and has been known to smoke things before.
And then come the scores. After consulting the Top Chef Masters GE™ Monogram Abacus, the results are in.
- Chef Rick earns a total of ... 17 stars. (A tremendous comeback!)
- Chef Lachlan earns a total of ... 15 1/2 stars. (Chef Viva Lachlan is out!)
- Chef Nils earns a total of ... 17 stars. (A tie with Chef Rick!)
- And Chef Michael earns a total of ... 19 1/2 stars! (Chef Michael wins!)
Chef Michael moves on to the Champions’ Round to compete against four other Masters and a Hubert Keller silhouette to be named later.
Tune in next week when ... a chef enters a supermarket for the first time in 30 years. And a queen needs a drink.