Saturday, June 20, 2009

Top Chef Masters - Is Wylie Wily Enough To Win Or Did He Get LOST Along With The Writers?

I’m watching the last few moments of last week’s show…I love Hubert.

This week’s chefs are being introduced. My heart dropped just a bit when I saw that MC wasn’t on this week, either.

The chefs are Graham Elliot Bowles of the restaurant Graham Elliot in Chicago. He has a wild website and cool red glasses, is the youngest competitor and he's playing for the American Heart Association; Suzanne Tracht of LA’s Jar (her charity is the SOVA Food Bank); and the well-known (to me) Wylie Dufresne of New York’s WD-50 (Charity - Autism Speaks). The last chef is punk-haired (there HAD to be one) Elizabeth Falkner of Citizen Cake and Orson Restaurant in San Francisco (Edible Schoolyard is her charity).

Graham doesn’t want to be beaten by Wylie. Wylie tells us that even though he’s known for his molecular gastronomy, he continues “to reject the title, because it doesn’t sound sexy”.

James Oseland tells us Graham is snazzy and urbane.

Tom says Suzanne’s food is straight forward, simple and unpretentious. Jay describes her as a West Coast chef who doesn’t “complicate things on the plate”.

Gael says Wylie's customers love to see his “cutting edge” cuisine.

Elizabeth considers herself to be an all around chef, but Gail tells us she’s known for being an avant-garde pastry chef.

Quickfire Challenge:

Create An Amuse Bouche Using Ingredients From A Vending Machine In 30 Minutes

Ooh, maybe they’re talking about those really cool vending machines that make pizza or dispense just-made sushi. (I may be making that last one up.)

Graham says he was hoping for that challenge - a repeat from Season 2. The judges for the Quickfire are 3 Top Chef contestants, who had actually done that challenge themselves - Ilan, Betty and Michael. Unfortunately for Wylie, HE was a judge that season and wasn’t looking forward to running into them again.

Graham just laughed. He’s a jolly guy. He feeds a lot of quarters into the usual kind of vending machines. Graham's arms are full and he says, “That’s just lunch. Now I gotta get something for the contest.” How can you not like him?

Wylie tells us he would have been a professional athlete if he had been athletic and that professional cooking reminds him of professional sports. Hmm, interesting.

Suzanne likes fresh food (what chef doesn’t?) and so this is a challenge. Elizabeth thinks of ice cream as a savory dish – like a frozen sauce. That’s kind of neat. Wylie’s running around and I think there’s going to be a problem.


Red Onion & Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Dr. Pepper Reduction

Hmm, do the judges not know who made what? That’ll be good for Wylie. Judge Betty says the presentation is lovely, but that her sauce has solidified. Michael LOVES it. Ilan says it’s a little too big and difficult to eat. Wylie is mad at himself. They definitely seem NOT to know whose dish they’re eating.


Fried Shallot Rings With Microgreen Salad & Dr. Pepper Aioli

Betty: “Fun.” Ilan: “Smells delicious. It’s really yummy.”


Braised Beef Jerky With Orange Juice, Lemon & Horseradish Ice Cream

Michael: “My beef jerky fell into my ice cream and it’s like a wonderful thing.” Betty: “The flavors do NOT work for me.” Ilan:”I liked it A LOT.”


Tuna Salad With Pickled Shallot, Ginger Orange Bubbles & Beef Jerky Miso Powder

It seems that he may have out-Wylied Wylie. Betty: “It’s like a tuna salad that came from an Ivy league school.” Great comment. Ilan: “Beautiful taste. Beautiful acidity.” Michael says it tastes just his mom’s, which is a good thing.

The results:

Elizabeth - 3 ½ stars

Graham – 4 ½ stars

Wylie – 3 stars

Suzanne – 5 stars

Suzanne wins.

The Elimination Challenge is to cook dinner for the creators and writers of ABC’s Lost. Is this a shameless tie-in for publicity? I suppose it’s no worse than pimping Glad bags all over the place. Now that I think of it, I haven’t seen those suckers in this episode…yet.

The challenge is to cook a meal as if they were among the survivors on the island. They can use only the fresh ingredients provided, as well as buying some canned and preserved items from a pre-approved list. They have 15 minutes and $200 to do it.

Oy, Wylie’s in trouble (again) because he’s never seen Lost. Suzanne thought it was cute when Wylie and Graham were shopping together and bouncing ideas off one another. I did too.

They come back and, oh good, there’s the pile of Glad bags. Whew!

They get down to cooking.


Ancho-Beer Braised Boar Loin

Coffee Scented Poached Boar Loin

Yam Papaya Pudding

Oh! She’s cooking the loin sous-vide. Watch out! Maybe it takes a seasoned professional to do it properly.

Wylie keeps running around. Graham is calm. He tells us he’s eaten monkey.


Maki Roll with Tuna & Dehydrated Pineapple

Tuna Niçoise

Tuna a la Plancha

Do you think Suzanne really didn’t know how to make a plantain less starchy when Wylie asked her or do you think she didn’t wanna give away any edge she may have?


Risotto With Uni, Clams & Prawns

Wild Boar Strip With Oyster Beer Sauce

Mango Corn Salad

Wylie keeps asking the others questions. Instead of answering him, Elizabeth asks the question back at him. The guys are a lot chattier than the gals.


Roasted Chicken With Poached Egg

Beets With Dried Corn

Plantain Purée

Kelly (that’s her name, right?) comes in and introduces the critics, as well as Damon Lindelof, Co-Creator and Exec Producer of Lost. Okay, great, I just wanna see Matthew Fox and Sawyer…and hopefully with their shirts OFF. If Kate has to be there, that’s fine too.

Carlton Cuse (Executive Producer) is also there. He looks less scary than Damon. And Kelly introduces “The Writers” of Lost…who aren’t important enough to be named! HEY, who creates that magic every week? They got dissed big time. The Lost folks claim that every Thursday morning they come in and discuss Top chef from the night before.

Wylie is in trouble with the clock.

The folks all ooh and awe as Elizabeth’s food is brought out. She describes the food (as they eat? or does it just look like that). A nameless writer says the boar’s taste doesn’t agree with him. Another one says she loves it. Carlton says it’s delicious. Another writer says the pudding confused his palate. James said “Like Hello! baby food.” Jay would have liked “a bit more saucing”. Is that British…to use sauce as a verb? I’m gonna try that…when I want to sound (even more) pretentious.

Graham comes out with a big smile. He IS delightful, even if he pronounced Niçoise wrong. He said Nee-swah. It’s Nee-swaaahhzzz. (I never said I wasn’t pretentious). Writer guy: “Really good.” Writer gal:” The risotto is delicious and the hearts of palm work incredibly well.” James remarks that this is one of the “most excellently seared pieces of tuna” he has “EVER seen in his entire life”.

Wylie gets off to a bad start when Jay says he doesn’t actually have any chicken on his plate. Just shut up and switch with one of the nameless writers! One of the writer’s DID have 2 pieces. It’s resolved with some humor.

Gael loves Wylie’s slow poached eggs and says it’s one of her favorite dishes of his. Damon says it’s like art in a museum that he doesn’t understand. A writer says it’s the best piece of chicken he’s EVER had. Jay says Wylie has come to this challenge and continued to cook like himself. And? What was he supposed to do?

Suzanne says her food is like Christmas dinner on the island. The writer (we’ve now seen him enough that it’s insulting we don’t know his name!), who didn’t like the previous boar dish, does like Suzanne’s. Carlton: “It shouldn’t work, but it’s magnificent.”

DARN! I just realized that I got Damon and Carlton confused. Every time I wrote Carlton, it may have been Damon and vice versa. Whatever. If they can’t give the writers names, then they shouldn’t have them either.

Other comments on Suzanne’s meal: “I was sold.” “Phenomenal.” I think she may have the advantage.

The chefs are in front of the critic’s table.

Kelly asks the dumb question of how did you come up with your menu to Wylie. James: Can you describe how you cooked the chicken? Wylie does but I don’t have that much time or space.

Graham says he loves to cook with ideas from Hawaii and the Philippines where he’s lived before. Jay likes that he added coffee to the outside of the tuna. James loves his green beans. James may know how to pronounce Niçoise, but Graham is a lot more adorable.

Elizabeth loves to use stuff she’s learned from doing pastry and bring it into the savory world. Gael disses her yam pudding. Jay wishes she had “sauced” the plate more. He didn’t actually use that word. He said “braising liquor”, not liquid, that’s too common, but LIQUOR. THAT’S also going into my use-a-more-pompous-word-whenever-you-can list.

James likes Suzanne’s boar. Jay loves the sea urchin in the risotto. They show Suzanne the least. Hmmm, what does that mean?

Back in the kitchen, Elizabeth tells the group that THEY were meaner when they were judges.

Oh, listen up, Gael thought Elizabeth’s braised boar was wonderful and the sous vide boar was dry and boring. See? Jay didn’t like the purée. James didn’t think the purée worked on the plate.

Jay didn’t like Graham’s tuna roll. Gael loved all his dishes, pronouncing the sssssssssssss at the end of niçoise beautifully.

James says molecular gastronomy is “profoundly NOT” his thing, but he adored Wylie’s dish. Jay said it was brilliant.

Jay initially thought Suzanne’s dish needed “editing”, but as he worked his way around the plate, he loved it all. These judges ARE much better than they were last week. They’re making sense and they’re speaking succinctly, which is necessary in this format as opposed to written reviews.

They’re waiting for the judges and Elizabeth has decided to make some chocolate chip cookies. Uh-oh. I sure hope they don’t eat any raw dough. They mix and bake them quickly and then eat them. Sweet.

Who wins?

Graham gets 20½ stars. Wylie gets 20 stars. Wylie is told to go to the kitchen to pack his knives. Awww.

Elizabeth gets 16 1/2 stars. She’s out of there.

Suzanne gets 22 1/2 stars and wins. I thought they all did really well and I would have been happy to see any of them triumph.

Suzanne is really happy. Graham says he had great time. Elizabeth did too. Wylie says he lost a fair fight. Cool. Chefs are nice people. This week.


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Tom said...

That's one of the things I like about you, Sue, your unabashed enjoyment of male hotness (preferably shirtless)!

Sue said...

Thanks Marshall,
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What can I say? Men are gorgeous!