Saturday, April 17, 2010

Top Chef Masters - Are You Telling Me That Carmen Actually Served A Stew That Had Been Left Unrefrigerated All Night...And THEN Won?!!

The 5 chefs arrive.

Marcus Samuelsson

He tells us he was “born in Africa, raised in Sweden, living in New York and taking inspiration from all of those”.

Charity - UNICEF Tap Project

David Burke

Oooh! He catered that amazing Foodbuzz event at the David Burke Townhouse in New York. Gosh, the food was good! I can’t believe I didn’t get a picture of David Burke. But I got plenty of the food.

Charity - Table to Table

Monica Pope of Houston’s T’afia.

Her cooking is “splashy and worldy,” James tells us.

Charity - Recipe for Success

Carmen Rodriguez

“A tiny person who deals in HUGE flavors” says Jay.

Charity - ASPCA

The last chef is Thierry Rautureau, known as The Chef In The Hat!!! from Rover’s Restaurant in Seattle.

Why is he known as that? I guess it has to do with the signature fedora he’s never without.

Charity - Food Lifeline

My two instant picks are the two most renowned of the bunch – Marcus and David Burke. TWO of the chefs will move on to the Champion’s round.

Yup, after 4 minutes, I’m definitely picking those two.

The Quickfire Challenge is to create an extraordinary grilled cheese. And the diner and judge will be Kelly herself, who says that she LOVES grilled cheese sandwiches. They have 20 minutes to put one together from what they find in the Top Chef kitchen.

Oy, Carmen cuts her finger, but keeps going. They’re all rushing around and using exciting ingredients. This should be good.


Italian Baguette With Manchego, Garlic, Cilantro And Lime

Kelly: “I think your use of herbs is really nice in this.”


Triple Cream Cheese With Prosciutto, Almonds, Tomato & Rosemary

I don’t get exactly what the almonds are doing there. Where are they? On the edge of the plate? Or did David just say they were IN the sandwich?

“Thank you,” is all he gets from Kelly.


Grilled Gruyere & Cheddar With Gazpacho & Salad

Oh my, what an overachiever! HOW did he have time for all that? He says he wanted to tell a little bit of his immigrant story.

Kelly: “The sweet and the tangy is nice.”


Taleggio & Goat Cheese With Olives, Harissa & Pear, Pine Nut And Arugula Salad

I LOVE Harissa. He also didn’t forget the garnish.

“Have you made this before?” “NEVER!” Thierry exclaims. Kelly seems impressed by that.

I like Thierry. He’s amusing with a devilish, yet charming, look in his eyes. He seems like he’d be a lot of fun in AND out of the kitchen.


Feta & Farmer Cheese With Dates On Raisin Nut Bread & Herb Salad

Monica says the dish is Moroccan inspired. Interesting, but I don’t actually think it sounds that good.

Kelly’s reaction: “Exotic grilled cheese. Lovely, thank you.”

The results: Kelly says she loved that Carmen just had a simple sandwich and that she focused on the actual grilled cheese. (Does that mean she didn’t like all the other stuff with some of the others?)

She says she loved the prosciutto on David’s, but there were too many elements on the plate. To Thierry: “I loved your harissa. I wanted a little more taleggio though.”

Kelly says she was intrigued by Monica’s sandwich and that Marcus’s sandwich exemplifies “what he does so well – world cuisine”.

The winner is...Monica. I really know nothing. But, gosh, farmer cheese, for pete’s sake?!! She cries when she hears that she wins $5000 for her charity. She also gets an advantage in the Elimination Challenge. Doesn’t she know there’s no crying in the kitchen?!!

Marcus’s reaction? He’s “pissed that he didn’t win the Quickfire.” He thought he had an “awesome” dish and he can’t believe that Monica beat him. I can’t believe that Monica beat him by putting DATES on a grilled cheese!

For the Elimination challenge, they’ll be catering a birthday party for Mekhi Phifer. (Wasn’t it heartbreaking when he died on ER?)

Mekhi comes strolling in, looking very well. Is this the part where he tells them he’s a vegan? Or that he eats ONLY goat? Let’s see. Oh, no, it’s okay.

He wants them to make their own version of soul food for his birthday dinner. I guess that means they can make the food they love the most or grew up with and say it comes from their “soul” and be done with it!

Monica’s advantage is that she gets to choose her protein first and no other chef can use that one. Great for her, stinks for them. Marcus looks especially unhappy about that.

They have 45 minutes and $400. Monica picks shrimp.

David says he’s not going to play it safe. Uh-oh, does that mean he’s going to have a colossal failure?

They all seem to be taking the term Soul Food quite literally, which I did not think would happen.

David is doing a Sweet Potato Custard with Crab.

Monica is doing Shrimp and Grits.

Thierry’s doesn’t sound like classic soul food. He’s doing a Pork Shoulder with Farro and Roasted Cauliflower. And with everyone else doing such a close interpretation, I’m not so sure how this is going to go over. Plus between you and me, I don’t love farro.

The chefs pack up everything for the night. Uh-OH! The camera shows someone’s dish left behind.

The next day, some dude who forgot to shave, Jason Pomeranc, greets them at the Thompson Hotel. Oh, I forgot this is LA.

Thierry tells us that cooking by yourself and making 125 portions with such time constraints is definitely not something you do every day, even if you are a chef. That IS a big party.

Carmen is looking for her stew everywhere. Arrgghh! That must be the dish that was left behind. She decides to go back to the Top Chef kitchen to get the stew. She obviously doesn’t realize that she left it out all night.

Monica asks if there’s anything she can do for her. Carmen says she could deal with the yucca.

David says he has a charity he wants to make money for and the charity’s not called Carmen. The other guys basically say the same thing.

Carmen is in the car and is really upset…AND she hasn’t even heard what the others are saying. David gets somewhat done and so he DOES start the yucca. Monica does something with the oysters for Carmen and drains the yucca and sees that it’s burned. Thierry and David come over to see. Oy.

Carmen gets back with no time to spare and Thierry shows her the burned yucca immediately. She says it’s not her day. She says if the food isn’t right, she’ll pull out. I am still not understanding how she is intending to serve a pot of stew that was left out of the refrigerator all night. Will someone please explain that to me?

They go up to the rooftop area around the pool. It's so beautiful.

Carmen finishes up the stew with some sausage and a cilantro salad. BUT, listen, potential tasters, it wasn’t refrigerated!!! Can you hear me?!!

Mekhi arrives with his appetite, he says. Don Cheadle is there. Ooh, I love seeing stars.

Kelly arrives and introduces Monica to Jay, James and Gail. No Gael this week.


Shrimp & Grits “Mac & Cheese” Style With Okra And Tomato Jam

Monica says she took a little risk by serving the shrimp in the shell, but she wanted people to really get messy and get into it. Mekhi: “Pretty good.” James says she’s given them a deconstructed shrimp and grits. Jay: “Monica’s grits are an acquired taste which I haven’t acquired.”


BBQ Chicken With Mac & Cheese & Collard Greens

Mekhi: “Mmmm. Wow! I think I might need another plate of this one.”

Monica notes that people keep coming back to Marcus’s station, but that he was really selfish about Carmen, which she says was not something she could ever do.

I think we have to remember this is a COOKING competition, not a good citizen award and I’m not so sure Marcus did the wrong thing anyway.

James: “The sauce on Marcus’s chicken is a little too aggressively sweet.” But they all love the mac and cheese.

Thierry is sweet about Carmen. He says she cut her finger, forgot her dish and they burned her yuccas, but overall it worked out alright for her. Yeah, until all those folks get home and have a problem with the unrefrigerated stew…IF they EVEN make it home, that is.


Oyster And Hot Sausage Stew With Cilantro

James says he loves that it’s such a simple presentation. Jay wonders where the yucca mash is. (There was a sign that said what she was serving). Carmen says it was a judgment call and she decided not to serve it. James likes it, but says it’s more like a gumbo, than a stew. Gail says Carmen did a really good job and it didn’t even need the mash. James: “I DO miss the starch in this dish.” Jay: “There’s real power here. I really feel Carmen is dancing on my tongue.” Gail: “I’d like to see that.”


Sweet Potato Custard With Crab, Hush Puppies & Pickled Watermelon Rind

THAT sounds fabulous.

Mekhi and his group like all the different elements of the dish.

Gail:“I think he’s attempting to be playful and it’s certainly re-imagined.” Jay: “I think that’s rather lovely.” James: “The flavor of the hush puppy is very spot on. It’s the way a hush puppy should taste.”

DO we have our winner? ONE of our winners? I’d say so. Go David!


Moroccan Pork Shoulder, Farro, Roast Cauliflower & Brussels Sprout Slaw

Mekhi loves the cauliflower.

Kelly: “Thierry’s shoulder is tasty.” James: “It’s very porklicious.” But he continues to say that the cauliflower has “been cooked within a inch of its life”. Gail likes the slaw.

A pretty cake comes out. All the chefs come out to wish Mekhi a happy birthday. Marcus feels good that people came back 4,5 and 6 times.

Critics Table

Kelly says Mekhi had a great time.

David Burke says it was hard to get out all those elements and maybe he should have left off something or other. Gail says she’s glad he didn’t leave out the watermelon, because it was “killer”. James also loved it and they were surprised when David said he had never made it before.

Monica: “I tried to keep it simple and focused.” Gail said her dish was the most soulful of the night. Jay tells her that, unfortunately, the shrimp was undercooked. Jay says it was a disappointment.

They move on to Marcus. Gail: “I thought it was really delicious. James: “Your mac and cheese was a…deconstruction of mac and cheese.” Marcus says it was an Italian approach. James says they were the most complicated collard greens he’s ever had. Marcus says he wanted to make them “lighter and brighter” and to bring a new way of thinking of collard greens.

Thierry’s up. Gail loves that used farro. James loved the slaw. Thierry says he wanted something cool against the hot.

Jay says there might have been too many elements. Thierry says that it’s basically the French idea of trying to put 7 courses on one plate. They all laugh. (He IS charming and it’s always a good idea to leave them laughing. Could he win?)

Kelly asks if Carmen found things difficult. She tells them that she left her main ingredient at the Top Chef kitchen. They all groaned. “Oh my God! CRAP,” James says. (WILL Carmen admit the stew was unrefrigerated? Nope.) Gail says the yucca mash would have been a nice element.

Back in the stew room the chefs drink and laugh.

The judges think Marcus’s dish had a lot of flavor. “But the greens were too fussy,” James says.

James says David got too lost in his head. Jay loved the crab and bacon hash.

Gail loved Thierry’s farro, but she didn’t think all of his elements went together that well.

Jay says he’s not surprised when he learns that James LIKED Brussels Sprouts as a child.

They agree that Carmen had a beautiful bowl of food, but was it soul food?

Gail loved the presentation of Monica’s dish, but the shrimp was undercooked.

I totally can’t tell who they’re going to pick. I’ll stay with Marcus and David.


Gail 4 stars Oh come on!!! THAT’S too high!

James 3 1/2 stars

Jay 4 stars (What am I missing???)

Diners 4 stars

Total 15 ½ stars

THAT was the highest score we’re already told. I’m not happy. She wins $10,000 and told she can go back to the kitchen.


Gail 3 stars

James 2 stars

Jay 3 stars

Diners 3 stars

Total 11 stars

He says thank you to each judge.


Gail 2 ½ stars

James 2 stars

Jay 2 ½ stars

Diners 3 stars

Total 10 stars

THAT stinks!!!! He’s told that’s not enough to beat Thierry and he goes back to the kitchen.


Gail 3 1/2 stars

James 3 stars

Jay 3 stars

Diners 3 1/2 stars

Total 13 stars

She beats Thierry. He gets deep-sixed and goes to the kitchen.


Gail 3 1/2 stars

James 3 stars

Jay 3 1/2 stars

Diners 4 1/2 stars

Total 14 ½ stars

Marcus beats Monica.

They hug a lot. I’m not sure if Marcus actually says this to her or Monica understood it without him having to say anything, but she says the lesson from Marcus is to take care of YOURself. Monica tells us this as she weeps.

Marcus assures us that he never thought he’d leave at this point.

Was Marcus really as bad as they tried to make him this week? No, even though they edited it to look like he was quite disagreeable.

The truth is that Marcus said what is obvious. You can’t go cooking for someone else (especially when that person made a really dumb mistake) IF you haven’t finished your own dish. The challenge was to cook YOUR OWN dish, not stick your nose or hand into anyone else’s.

I might not be so tough about this if I had a straight answer about the conditions under which that stew sat out all night.

Plus, how was that ONE container of stew enough for 125 people?

There are quite a few unanswered questions and they don’t leave me happy that David Burke was eliminated. Here's another look at some of his food from the Foodbuzz event.

Next week is ALL returning chefs. THAT’S a good way to do it, so no one chef has a big advantage in the midst of newcomers.


Ciao Chow Linda said...

I haven't been watching it so thanks for the recap. Uncooked stew left out does not sound safe to me. You have to wonder how these judges come up with their selections sometimes.

Tracy said...

I wondered about the stew myself. The only way I could rationalize it is that it was just the veggie part and she added the proteins the next day. In any case, the outcome was a surprise.

I also thought I saw someone double dipping a tasting spoon...

Phyllis said...

Omigosh, I was in complete shock when Carmen served the stew that had been left out all night. And then to win? Crazy, that must have been some stew! The scores were also the lowest I've ever seen in a Top Chef masters so far. I'm glad Marcus Samuelsson gets to move on, didn't think he came across bad at all, he's always such a classy refined fellow (maybe I just love the accent?!) Sorry to have missed the foodbuzz event last year at David Burke Townhouse, the food looks awesome!

Sue said...

Hi Linda,
It REALLY sounded bad to me. I didn't mind the idea of the stew, just that it was growing bad things overnight.

Hiya Tracy,
Wouldn't ANYTHING go bad overnight?

WHO double dipped? I need to know.

You and I both were appalled! I also thought they gave really low scores.

You would have loved David Burke's food.