Recap: ‘Top Chef Masters’ – ‘I’m With the Band’

We”re down to just seven chefs! That”s fine by me, actually, because I”m hoping that means team challenges will soon be a thing of the past. It always seems like someone gets to skate by with French fries while the rest of the team has to do the heavy lifting. But that doesn”t mean the end of ridiculously impossible challenges, which I”m sure we have more of tonight. It”s only a matter of time before we have the one-armed cook-off or the only cutting utensil the chefs are allowed to use is their own teeth.

[Full recap of Wednesday’s (May 11) “Top Chef Masters” after the break…]
Anyway, time for the Quickfire! For once the chefs get really good stuff to cook with like scallops and caviar and not Oreos and canned peas. The catch? They must make a fabulous dish (actually, two plates of it) in seven minutes. Hugh calls it a Quickfire on steroids. I love Hugh, but I don”t think he”ll grab immunity if he”s even slightly serious about half of his dish being the most elaborate cat food of all time.
Another twist! The chefs are judging one another. Traci thinks this could lead to animosity in the kitchen, and I think she”s right.
Hugh: Tuna two ways: chopped with caviar & ventresca with celery
Floyd thinks it”s bitter. Hugh blames the caviar. But I will say, it doesn”t look like cat food unless the cat is owned by a Trump.
Traci: Tenderloin beef carpaccio, truffle, maitake mushroom & balsamic
Naomi deems it really simple and really delicious, and other chefs dub if delicioso. In short, it”s tasty.
Naomi: foie gras, chantrelle mushrooms & fried lady apples
Traci is surprised at how much Naomi is flourishing in this competition, as she thinks this is the bomb. Floyd doesn”t. Floyd got a salty piece. Floyd”s being a real pain in this challenge.
Celina: Scallop crudo, blood orange, cumquat & lemon agrumato
Traci thinks it needs more salt. Celina agrees. It”s pretty, though.
Mary Sue: Scallop with pink salt, lime & cilantro
Everyone thinks it”s seasoned perfectly. But man, any nitwit could make this in seven minutes.
Alex: Prawn ceviche, cumquat, chili peppers, celery & blood orange vinaigrette
This is a pretty big hit with everyone, though not as much of a hit as Traci”s.
Floyd: Prawn with Serrano chili, wasabi, blood orange juice
Mary Sue loves that he fried the head of the shrimp. I”d like to fry Floyd”s head for being such a jerk during this challenge.
Oh boy. No privacy on the voting here – you must reveal exactly where you rank each dish on a great big flash card from 1 through 7, 7 being the bottom. Everyone shows their score for Hugh”s dish. He votes his last – and so does Traci and Floyd. Eek. Floyd also calls Hugh”s dish cat food. What kind of cats do these chefs have anyway?
Traci”s dish gets a top rating from Naomi and Mary Sue. Naomi”s is also well loved, except by Hugh who ranks it sixth. No one seems to dig Celina”s dish, and Mary Sue puts it on the bottom. Mary Sue”s dish is also muddling around the bottom of the rankings. Alex gets good marks – except from himself. He gives himself a six. Floyd gets a six from Naomi, so nyah nyah, Floyd.
Celina is worst. Sixth is Hugh, fifth is Floyd, fourth is Mary Sue, third is Alex. Top two are Naomi and Traci, with Traci winning. This is Traci”s third Quickfire win. Traci is becoming my bet to take the brass ring. Or knife. Or mirror ball. Wait, wrong show.
As the winner, Traci gets to pick a team of either three or four. She opts for four: Hugh, Mary Sue and Naomi. Floyd, Celina and Alex make up the other team. For the elimination, the chefs will be cooking a family style meal for a rock band: Maroon 5. Each band member has a request, whether it be vegan or Thanksgiving or Mexican or a steak or, um, corn.
Ironically, Traci”s advantage of having four people turns out to be not such an advantage. They quibble over who”s getting what at the store, they can”t figure out their budget (which isn”t easy at Whole Foods anyway), and then the kicker: they have to cook on a tour bus. Four people is a lot of people in the galley of a tour bus.  
It looks like Team Red is leaner and meaner and having fewer problems, but who knows if that makes for good food. Team Black (Traci”s team) also has the misfortune of a geriatric driver who seems to enjoy whizzing around turns so the chefs end up wearing half of the food they”re prepping.
Amazingly, they actually get some food out and it”s time for vittles. Our judges are James Oseland, Dayelle Freeman, Gail Simmons (I guess she”s popping over from “Top Chef: Just Desserts” because she”s a Maroon 5 fan) and, of course, Maroon 5.
The red team of Alex, Celina and Floyd is first up.
Floyd: Winter salad; Soy & rice wine vinegar marinated steak with Asian slaw
Celina: Vegan silky corn soup plus a couscous salad with spanikopita
Alex: Penne with broccolini, tomato and garlic; enchiladas with onion & seitan and a coconut-almond tapioca with grapes. AND breaded turkey cutlets. WTF, did Alex cook everything? What the hell was Floyd doing, flossing?
No one loves Celina”s spanikopita. Even one of the guys from Maroon 5 thinks it tastes prepackaged. Curtis is hugely impressed with Alex”s cheeseless enchilada, though the band thinks it looks like chud. His pasta is roundly condemned for being bleh and overcooked. James declares that Alex has made cafeteria food. Ouch! Floyd”s steak is called okay, the slaw amazing, but the salad? Not impressive. The verdict is that the turkey is a bomb, but the gravy is a hit.
Curtis points out that Alex made four dishes, which is pretty incredible. The judges are now wondering what the heck the other chefs were doing. My question exactly!
Black team up!
Mary Sue: Chips with salsa Diablo & guacamole; tostadas with black beans, chopped salad & crispy fried avocado wedge
Hugh: Corn soup with vanilla, pecans & Brussels sprouts; fennel-parmesan-spinach spanikopita, dill salad, lemon vinaigrette
Traci: Japanese style steak, miso braised daikon, cucumber & pea shoot salad
Naomi: breaded turkey, chantrelle smashed potatoes & sour cherry-cranberry chutney; apple crisp with coconut, almonds & oats
And don”t forget the margaritas! That was a brilliant idea from Traci, and I think it probably does add a little something to the meal. Not that you have to get boozed up to eat it, but Black team really thought about jazzing up their food. Which is a good thing, because both teams made almost exactly the same stuff.
The chips and salsa are a big hit with the band, but the tostadas are described by lead singer Adam Levine as looking like poop rolled in birdseed. James agrees, but thinks they tasted great. Everyone agrees that Hugh”s corn soup isn”t as good as Celina”s. But the band digs his spanikopita. Traci”s steak gets a thumbs up from Danyelle. James hates Naomi”s turkey and said the breading tore up the roof of his mouth. The band disagrees about the potatoes, and Gail says they can be the band”s Yoko Ono. James declares Naomi”s crisp to be flaccid.
During the break, we have a Hugh moment as he cleans the sink and Mary Sue asks to see his butt crack. Not a career high for Mary Sue, but Hugh is awesome. He says he has youth, panache and one eyebrow on his side. I hope he doesn”t get voted out again too soon because he”s a lot of fun, and heaven knows this show needs fun.  
Black team is called before the judges. They won! James loves that no one would guess the food was basically cooked in an Easy Bake oven. The winning chef is… Traci. Damn, she had immunity and she still won. Traci hopes she becomes the first woman to win Top Chef Masters. I think she will be.
So, yes, Red team lost. Alex better not get the boot because he cooked the whole damn thing, apparently by himself! James gives him credit for a heroic level of juggling, but he thought the enchilada was kind of disgusting. He also can”t understand why Floyd and Celina made such bland food. Danyelle declares this team”s meal the least attractive food they”ve eaten on the show. Curtis tries to make the point that Alex shouldn”t suffer when his teammates sat on their hands. No kidding! Celina has been circling the drain for a  few episodes, and Floyd has not only been jerky this episode but he”s made subpar food. Pick one of those two, judges!
No one”s mentioning that Celina”s soup was a clear winner, but I hope they”re remembering that Floyd really blew it. He made a salad you could buy at Trader Joe”s. Plus his steak was bland and he was a real jerk during the Quickfire. Send Floyd home!
The chef going home is…Alex. What? No! Well, no good deed goes unpunished, I guess. Alex doesn”t mind. He won $10,000 for his charity and he realized he still has the fire to cook after thirty years in the kitchen, so it”s all good. Still, I liked Alex. More importantly, I liked him a lot more than Floyd, who may not have made crap pasta but let”s face it, he hardly made anything! Steak? Salad? This is what frat guys who can”t really cook make for their dates, and they don”t usually screw it up because it”s THAT easy! Arrgh!
Do you think Alex deserved to go home? Were you glad to see Gail on the show? And do you think Adam Levine has a future as a food critic if his gig on “The Voice” doesn”t work out?