Recap: ‘Top Chef Masters’ – ‘Blinded Me with Science’

06.02.11 6 years ago 9 Comments


Top five! This season has flown by. Although the challenges have gotten progressively weirder, I can”t say this is my favorite season ever. All the chefs are fairly likeable, but there”s neither a sense of fun or feisty competitiveness. It”s like watching line chefs go through the paces at a very slow five star restaurant. It gets done, there might be a little stress, but mostly it”s entirely pleasant and somewhat boring. Floyd, of course, has a competitive spirit, but I would call it less feisty and more “I think I”ll slip ground glass into your pudding.” I”m just saying, I don”t think we”ve seen his dark side yet.

[Full recap of Wednesday’s (June 1) “Top Chef Masters” after the break…]

Anyway, Quickfire! It”s a microwave challenge. A breakfast microwave challenge. Have you ever cooked an egg in a microwave? Did you actually eat it? Or convince someone else to eat it? Without a blindfold? Yeah, this is tougher than it seems and could be sort of gross.
Floyd has never cooked eggs in a microwave. Oh, don”t do it, Floyd! Naomi wants to make something with eggs. And she doesn”t know how to microwave. This is a nightmare. Hugh grew up with a microwave and his daughter cooks with the microwave, so I”m thinking he has an edge. Oh, and Mary Sue is forgoing the egg altogether, so I think she might do well, too. I”m telling you, egg is not your friend when it comes to the microwave.
The judges are Frances Callier and Angela V. Shelton, better known as the comedy duo Frangela. I have only ever seen these women as contestants on dumb reality game shows like “I”m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here,” so I don”t know which is which or how they got this gig but I”m jealous, even if they do have to eat microwaved eggs. I don”t think the chefs know who they are, either.
Naomi: egg, bacon, spinach & chanterelles on biscuit with fruit salad
This looks better than I expected. One half of Frangela gripes that the biscuit isn”t like her grandma”s. Naomi thinks she”s an idiot, given that she only cooks with a microwave.
Hugh: baked egg, chanterelles, bacon and tomato
Half of Frangela wants a runnier egg, but the other half is happy.
Mary Sue: goat cheese & avocado on baguette, bacon vinaigrette
Frangela finds it hard to eat, but they think it”s a good midnight snack.
Floyd: chanterelles, bacon & spinach omelette with grilled tomatoes
Curtis thinks it”s similar to something he had on an airplane. But Frangela loves it. Really, why was Frangela chosen for this again?
Traci: oeuf en cocotte, chanterelles, bacon & bananas with lime
Frangela loves the presentation and they”re transported to the Caribbean. But it won”t fill them up. Yes, they”re all about fine dining, as long as it comes in Claim Jumper quantities.
It”s time for them to announce their least favorites: the avocado sandwich (Mary Sue”s) is slammed for hard bread. And the oeuf (Traci”s) is not filling enough. They like Floyd”s omelette and Hugh”s baked egg. Hugh wins it! He”s won three Quickfires, which is pretty good for the guy who got booted out in the first week. Floyd loses again. He”s so embarrassed. I think he wants to take Hugh”s baked egg and rub it in his hair.
Elimination Challenge! The chefs are presented with lab assistants, each of which has an ingredient that represents a scientific property. Pizza dough is elasticity, milk and molasses represent viscosity, citrus represents acidity, vinaigrette is emulsion and beef represents the maillard reaction (browning, basically). This probably sounded like a lot of fun in the planning stage but in reality is like a kids” science fair and just about as exciting. Hugh picks first. He goes for emulsion. Traci takes acidity. Hugh wants beef. Mary Sue takes viscosity, and Naomi gets pizza dough. They must make dishes that taste good and demonstrate the principle, though they don”t have to make what they”re presented with.
Naomi is not in her comfort zone. Oh, and even less so when the chefs learn they have to cook with lab tools and beakers and test tubes. And Bunsen burners. And then they have to put on a little science fair and force kids to eat this stuff. Egads.
There”s a lot of science talk that makes me think Alton Brown is soooo much more interesting than this and I now give him that much more credit for making science and food interesting. Hugh seems to agree with me, as he usually skipped science class growing up. Floyd, however, has a masters in biochemistry. Now, that”s an edge! No wonder his dad was disappointed he became a chef. No offense, it all turned out alright, but still, that”s a lot of education to only use during a reality competition challenge.
Naomi begins delegating to her lab assistant right away. Smart, Naomi. A little mean, but smart.
Floyd is determined to beat Mary Sue. I”d like to point out Mary Sue and Hugh helped Floyd get his meat to the checkout line at Whole Foods at the last minute. Wait, less than that – I think four seconds were left on the clock. Without them, he would have been short on his beef. So, yeah, Floyd. Nice. This is for charity, remember? Good karma?
Hugh is arguing with his lab assistant. How did Hugh get the scientist with an attitude? Naomi has her brainiac running around like slave labor, and Hugh is trying to defend his dish to Junior Master Chef.
Look! In addition to a ton of kids, Padma Lakshmi is judging! James Oseland and Ruth Riechl are, too.
Mary Sue – Viscosity
Dulce de leche churros, chocolate mousse and spiced café de olla
Kids love them the churros! Even though it looks a little gross to see churro balls bubbling around in a beaker of grease, I”m sure they taste good.
Hugh – Emulsion
Fried okra salad with tomato, fennel, bacon & green goddess dressing
James points out it”s barely a mayo. Hugh argues that it”s a mayo. Amazingly, his scientist defends him. But I think Hugh”s in trouble nevertheless.
Naomi – Elasticity
Calzone with truffle, mozzarella, chanterelles & arugula, balsamic gelee
Naomi is enjoying the lecturing. That”s so Naomi! Ruth seems to be stuck with a gooey bit, so I think Naomi may be in trouble, too, no matter how many elastic and plastic things she pokes on her little table.
Traci – Acidity
Tuna carpaccio and ahi tuna tartare
I”m surprised to see this from Traci. It”s kind of obvious and these are like crudités from 1994. This was the best she could do with acidity?
Floyd – Maillard reaction
Spice-crusted beef, mushrooms, asparagus & fried potatoes and beef shabu-shabu
He”s worried his broth might over reduce. But it does look good in a red meat kind of way.
Judges” table! The favorites are Mary Sue”s and Floyd”s. Ruth thought Mary Sue”s was delicious. James thought it was brilliant to shoot the dulce de leche inside of the churro. James loved Floyd”s grandma inspired broth. The winning chef is… Mary Sue. Floyd is going to stab her in the throat, I swear. He hates being second best all the time! I”m telling you, dark side. Wait for it.
Naomi”s dish was too busy and overwrought. James thought Hugh”s emulsion came apart. Hugh says it wasn”t broken! James and Padma say, um, Hugh, shut up, it was broken. Ruth thought it was too obvious anyway. Curtis thought Traci”s demonstration was too obvious. Ruth wished she”d played with the flavor aspect of acid.
The judges talk. I think Hugh is going home. The cornmeal breading was like sand, it was messy, yada yada yada. Really, they go on and on. Traci gets more of a beating for being obvious, while Naomi is canned for having mushy crust and an unappetizing gelee spurt. But I think Hugh is definitely getting the boot.
The chef going home is… Hugh. Waah! He”s won $15,000 for his charity, so it”s all good. But I will miss him for being the best comic relief of a rather dry season. Although it seems his fried okra was pretty unappetizing. I”m not saying he doesn”t deserve the boot, but I will miss the unibrow.
Next week, we see Naomi yelling at someone. And Floyd cries. And hopefully no one gets killed. Just saying.
Do you think it was time for Hugh to go? Why do you think Floyd always loses to Mary Sue? And what did you think of using scientific principles for a challenge?

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