Recap: ‘Top Chef Masters,’ Season 5, Episode 3
In this week’s episode, the Quickfire really demonstrated how much the sous chefs can torpedo their head chefs’ best-laid-plans, and not only did the Elimination Challenge awkwardly introduce us to a few of the chefs’ more sensual sides, it resulted in one of the more arguable eliminations in recent memory.
In walked the chefs as the episode began, and Curtis Stone was there to tell them about the Quickfire: the sous chefs apparently made sausage without knowing that the meat they had left over would be all their head chefs would have to work with, and the chef who did the most with those scraps in 30 minutes would win $5,000 for their charity.
Some chefs had plenty to work with while most only had bits and pieces, but those who got the short end of the stick adapted well, for the most part.
Least favorite dishes included Lynn’s carbonara with arugula, leeks, and mushrooms, which was one-dimensional, and Sue’s charred pork, cannellini beans, Swiss chard, and salsa verde, which was dry. On the other end, Neal’s ricotta cavatelli with pork and duck sausage was well-balanced, and the daikon in Douglas’ duck breast with sweet corn, roasted daikon, and ponzu put it over the top, but Sang’s spicy pork larb with cabbage and Thai chilies was bright and just about perfect, and he was named the winner.
Onto the Elimination Challenge. They were told that they’d be cooking for the cast of Days of Our Lives, who’d just taped their 12,000th episode. The challengers would be inspired by “the three cornerstones of soap opera plotlines,” according to Stone: sex, greed, and murder. Douglas, Bryan, and Sue chose greed; Neal, David, and Franklin got sex (and the opportunity to make just about everyone around them uncomfortable when they described their dishes); and Odette, Jennifer, and Sang got murder. Lynne, whose sous chef won the earlier battle, got immunity and her pick of themes (she chose sex). As opposed to competing with their teams, however, they’d be competing against each other for the superior dish. Bryan, Franklin, and Sang got a 30-minute delay in the middle of prep because their sous chefs performed poorly, and whether it really threw them off their game remained to be seen.
Here were the final dishes, judged by Gail Simmons, Ruth Reichl, and LA Magazine Dine editor Lesley Suter:
Jennifer: Seared duck breast and citrus chili-duck sausage with fregola and celery salad
Odette: Mushroom and soft egg yolk-filled ravioli
Sang: Chicken liver, thigh, and meatball with forbidden black rice and crispy chicken skin
Jennifer’s duck was a great play on duck a l’orange, Odette’s ravioli was a bit bland, and Sang’s chicken was too salty.
Franklin: salmon; crab, yuzu, and green apple; scallop with fennel and chilies; tuna and avocado
Neal: Scallop ceviche; snapper and yuzu kosho; uni and cauliflower egg with crème fraiche and caviar
David: Lobster scramble with XO toast, grains of paradise, and caviar
Lynn: Bacon-wrapped duck breast with carrot puree, grapes, and chocolate port sauce
Franklin’s dish was a “full sexytime explosion,” according to one of the cast members, Neal’s snapper was overwhelmed by the sauce, David’s “breakfast in bed” was a little muddled, and Lynne’s dish was too rich.
Bryan: Turbot with mussels, clams, crab broth, and smoked potato
Sue: Tempura Dungeness crab with caviar, avocado, carrots, and coconut-lime broth
Douglas: Salem sweet shrimp with DiMera bitter crab
Bryan’s shrimp was too salty but good conceptually, Sue’s was well-executed and flavorful, and Douglas’s dish was overwhelming and confused, but Reichl loved it.
Jennifer’s duck ended up winning the competition, and $10,000 went to her chosen charity, Work Options for Women. On the bottom were Douglas, Lynne (who had immunity), and Odette.
Lynne’s duck took on a grayish, spongy look, and the carrot-chocolate sauce was too heavy and weird. Odette’s dish was missing something, and the egg yolk surprised the cast, who had most likely never seen it in that application before. Douglas’ shrimp was too aggressively seasoned and the cardamom was overpowering, even though the shrimp and crab were nicely-cooked.
In the end it was down to Douglas and Odette, and Odette ended up getting kicked off, even though she prepared her signature dish and it was cooked perfectly. It was bland, though, and that’s apparently the kiss of death in a show where the stakes are so high.