Sunday, July 12, 2009

Top Chef Masters - The Magic Of An Egg

Sorry, this post is so late. We were away. Definitely more about that in a later post.

Douglas Rodriguez is the first chef out of the gate. I remember him from Patria, which is now closed. Ola, Miami is one of his restaurants. Chef Rodriguez calls his cooking “tortilla-free Latin cooking”. Others call it Nuevo Latino. Ayuda For The Arts is his charity.

Anita Lo, from Annisa in NY, has a Michelin star. “Critic” James says she works the line a lot, which will give her advantage here. She’s playing for SHARE.

John Besh is from New Orleans. He’s sweet. He’s been on Top Chef before. He has 4 or 5 restaurants with ”snazzy Cajun flair”. His charity is the Make It Right Foundation (Brad Pitt’s charity) to rebuild New Orleans.

Mark Peel of Campanile in Los Angeles started his career with Wolfgang Puck. He’s very passionate about Doctors Without Borders and that’s his charity today.

Kelly comes in and tells them the Quickfire Challenge – Create an egg dish with one hand behind their backs. The judges for this challenge are Gail Simmons, Terry Reish from Chino Valley Egg Ranch and Monica May, executive chef, The Nickel Diner. They have to put an oven glove on the hand they won’t be using. They have 25 minutes.

Douglas makes an arepa from scratch.

Wow, this is interesting. Mark Peel’s father was born with one arm and he watched him his whole life. He says if his father could do it, he knows HE can. He wants to do something out of the ordinary. He’s making a fresh duck egg pasta with a light egg olive oil cream sauce.

John Besh is working on Eggs Over Easy Topped With Asparagus.

Anita is having problems cooking one handed and cutting the tops off the shells to use a holder for her eggs. She’s making scrambled eggs with truffles and oyster sauce.

They're all having problems finishing their dishes in time.

Douglas – Open-Faced Corn Cake With Scrambled Eggs And Ham

Gail: Delicious. Monica: Nicely cooked.

Mark - Fresh Duck Egg Pasta With An Egg And Olive Oil Cream Sauce

Judge Terry wants to know how he made the noodles with one hand. Monica: The texture of the noodles is really nice. Terry thinks it’s bland, though, and so does Gail. Mark realizes at that moment that he’s forgotten the olive oil.

Anita – Soft Scrambled Egg And Shitake Mushrooms With Truffle Oil And Oyster Sauce

Gail: I think it’s beautiful. Monica: It’s lovely. Terry says it may be eaten with a small spoon, but “it’s a big taste in your mouth”.

The judges discuss the dishes further. John’s eggs never finish cooking, which results in him only having ONE partially cooked cocotte for the judges to share. Gail says that part of John’s soft cooked egg tastes like burned grease. Terry says it tastes like a fried egg and nothing more.


Mark - 2 1/2 stars

John - ½ star

Is that the first time that’s ever happened anywhere??? He’s amazed he got THAT.

Douglas - 3 stars

Anita - 5 stars

The Elimination Challenge is to create a dinner for Neil Patrick Harris at The Magic Castle in Hollywood. Douglas is excited to cook for Doogie Howser. Max Maven is introduced. He’s a magician and mentalist.

They have to create dishes which are inspired by a card that they draw from Max. Mark gets Mystery. He thinks that a dish en papillote will be a good choice. Spectacle is the card Douglas draws. He wants to cook the dishes that he’s sure will get wows. John Besh gets Surprise and is going to use the liquid nitrogen tank.

Anita gets Illusion, which she says to her means you expect one thing and get something else. She’s going to do Illusion of a scallop. She says she’s not the most theatrical usually, but this will be fun. Mark says the guys feel she’s the one to beat.

They have 250 dollars to shop.

They get to work. John is cute and talks about his military service and how it came in handy during Katrina. Doug says his main mentor was Julia Child and that he watched her instead of cartoons. He’s doing 4 different preparations of duck.

Tom shows up to give them moral support. Douglas doesn’t give him any details of his dishes because he doesn’t want to give anything away.

Tom says they can tell any story they want with food.

Mark says it’s very tense working against the clock and it reminds him of the James Bond scene with the laser going close to his…well, whatever.

Anita is nervous that Douglas is smearing Sterno all over the outside of his coconuts.

Hold on, are those last two thoughts related in any way?

Mark has never been to the Magic Castle before. I didn’t know it was a private club.

Mark is happy he gets to go first with Mystery. John says his might flop, but it won’t be boring. Anita has a problem plating her food. Douglas says he hasn’t been behind the line in 15 or 20 years, but he’s having fun. The food they’re coming up with looks amazing.

Neil comes in with his buddies. Max tells them the building was built as a private home.

The critics are there - Gael, Gail and James. No Jay?

Mark – Mystery

Isn't that the name of that the name of that weird guy who "peacocks" to get women?

Tai Snapper In Parchment With Garlic Mashed Potatoes And Leeks With Scallion Oil And Dassai Sake

Neil says it’s so delicate. They toast to the first course.

John Besh - Surprise

He asks Neil to assist him with the liquid nitrogen in making a horseradish sorbet.

Salmon Tartare With Cauliflower Blini AND Salmon Roe Salad With Horseradish And Crème Fraiche Sorbet AND Tempura Fried Lobster Wrapped In Smoked Salmon

Neil says his horseradish sorbet ended up as a cream, not completely frozen, and he wasn’t too impressed. Others loved the surprise element of the dishes. Gael liked that he was so enthusiastic about the magic part.

Anita Lo - Illusion

Braised Daikon With Kombu Caviar And Steak Tartare

Btw, are they each doing a 3 course meal? I’m a little confused. No, it seems like they’re each doing just a one off presentation of whatever their theme is, but some of them are including quite few elements in each dish. This is a heck of a lot of food.

Neil says wow to Anita’s dish. It reminds one of the guests of the sawing-the-lady-in-half trick. Max thinks she nailed the illusion part. Someone doesn’t care for the daikon. Neil says this is easily his favorite. He loves the “accoutrements”. Show off!

The chefs in the kitchen are worried about Douglas’s Sterno flamed dishes. Douglas comes out and says to Gael Greene, “How are YOU?” He tells them to be careful of the flaming coconut.


Spectacle Duck Four Ways - Oyster Ceviche With Duck Broth; Empanada With Foie Gras And Figs; Duck Breast With Butternut Squash; Duck Soup With Young Coconut

There’s a plate of fire and ice. Amazing. James is worried about the flames. Max thinks it’s a very impressive spread. Neil doesn’t like it. One of the magicians says he uses a duck in his act.

The judges get to stay for a show by a magician. Eww, he pulls something furry out of his hair.

Back to the Critics Room to be judged:

John wants to surprise the guests with tastes and textures. Gael says the blini being cold was a not-nice surprise.

Gael says that Anita’s dish was like a surrealistic painting. Gail loves it and says it adds to that trick of the senses.

Douglas says he wasn’t happy with the way his coconut dish worked. Gail asks if he has ever set fire to a coconut before. He says yes. Gael says his ceviche is classic and properly tart.

Mark says he was little stumped by his word, mystery. The critics like the paper package. Gail says the sake was the crisp note that went really well with the dish.

Gael thinks John was great in that he attempted to DO magic. She likes Anita’s approach to magic. Gael thinks Mark’s dish was wonderful. James does too.



Diners scores - 2½

Critics – James 3, Gael 3, Gail 3

Total 12 stars


Diners 4

Critics - Gael 4½, Gail 4, James 3½

Total 18½

John is dismissed to go back to the kitchen.


Diners 3

Critics - Gael 2½, Gail 2½, James 2 stars

Total 13 stars

I don’t get that. I thought the only thing they didn’t like was that the soup needed salt. He’s dismissed too. Mark is up against Anita.


Diners 4 ½

Critics - Gail 4½, James 4, Gael 4½

Total 22½ stars

Anita wins! Douglas gives her a big bear hug. Mark says he’s taking away great appreciation for the talent of other chefs. Anita is kinda unhappy she has to do it all again in the final round.

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