Recap: 'Top Chef Masters,' Season 5 Episode 9

Burgers, teachers, and a fateful soufflé

With only four chefs left, the pressure was on.

Four chefs remained heading into the penultimate episode of the series: David Burke, Bryan Voltaggio, Jennifer Jasinski, and Douglas Keane, and the stakes were obviously higher than they’d been at any point in the series. For the final Quickfire, Curtis challenged them to create a great burger, a dish that’s been made many times before on Top Chef. Jennifer went Asian; Douglas, who owns a burger restaurant, decided to make a burger that was inspired by the shrimp burger at Japanese McDonald’s; David, who has a burger at his Bloomingdale’s restaurant, decided to go the lobster route; and Bryan, who’s "a purist when it comes to a burger" and hadn’t won a Quickfire yet, went a more traditional route. Sang Yoon, who got booted last week (and who judged burgers back in season one), was brought back to judge.

Here’s what they ended up with:

David: Lobster and burrata "burker" with apple pickles and quail egg
While it was a "strange combination," it’s wasn't off-putting and the the patty was "nice and juicy."

Jennifer: Beef burger with caramelized bacon, shiitake ponzu slaw, and Sriracha ketchup
The shiitake added flavor and texture, and even Sang liked the ketchup.

Bryan: Bacon and Cheddar beef burger with special sauce
It was classic and big, but the meat was a little spongy and "meatloaf-like."

Douglas: Shrimp burger with shiitake and radish slaw and ponzu sauce
The shrimp "disappeared" for Sang, and it’s clear that it just didn’t go over well.

Sang wasn’t crazy about the Douglas' shrimp burger, which was spongy and overpowered by the mushrooms; and Bryan’s burger, which had a weird texture. Jennifer’s burger was smoky and nicely charred, and while David’s sounded disgusting, the seafood played well with the apples. Jennifer’s ended up winning, and with it came $5,000 to her charity, Work Options for Women. She’s won every single challenge since she came back from elimination.

Only one challenge now remained before the finale. In the Battle of the Sous Chefs, Bryan’s chef won, giving him immunity and a spot in the finale. It’s oddly late in the season to give chefs immunity, but Bryan probably would have made it anyway. For the Elimination Challenge, they were tasked to create a four-course "tribute dinner" for four chefs from the Los Angeles School District. They each needed to create one course, each geared toward a specific teacher. Burke decided to cook a soufflé for 60 people, which required "titanium balls," according to Doug. They went to the Whole Foods, then had three hours to cook.

Here were their dishes:

Douglas: Smoked salmon with cauliflower, cucumber, and three kinds of caviar
It was luxurious and fancy, and "feels like a celebration," according to James Oseland, but was "rich on rich on rich," according to Curtis.

Bryan: Calamari Bolognese with miso cavatelli, bacon, and squid ink
"It makes me want to cry, it’s so good," said surprise guest judge Alan Richman, and it basically blew away everyone in the room.

Jennifer: Rack of lamb with creamy grains, pear, fennel, and red wine reduction
The lamb was just a little bit undercooked, but the porridge was tasty.

David: Bittersweet chocolate soufflé with toasted orange peel and raspberry sauce
While the fact he did a soufflé was admirable, it didn’t have the springiness of a perfect soufflé.

The chefs were called out to the critic’s table, where Curtis told them that Doug and Bryan had their favorite dishes. The smoked salmon was among the best James had tasted, and every component of Bryan’s dish was just about perfect, with the miso doing "amazing things," according to Richman. Bryan took the win, which incredibly was his first, and with it $10,000 for Share our Strength.

David and Jennifer were the least favorite. The lamb was undercooked, and didn’t have enough of a sear, but the porridge was delicious and had "a warmth and authenticity." David’s soufflé was simple in a good way and certainly daring, but the texture was a little soggy. Both of these would have easily been passable a few episodes ago, but not this late in the game.

In the end, it was David who got the boot, for making a soufflé that was simply nothing special. Which means that in the finale it’ll be Jennifer, Bryan, and Douglas. David took a chance, and it just didn’t pan out.

Recap: 'Top Chef Masters,' Season 5, Episode 8Recap: 'Top Chef Masters,' Season 5, Episode 7Recap: 'Top Chef Masters,' Season 5, Episode 6

See you next week for the grand finale!