Typically, our esteemed Liz Emrich guides the OS foodies through the first season of Top Chef Masters, a spin-off featuring celebrity chefs competing for charity and ego. Yet, this week Ms Liz is off playing with the SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) at Pennsic and I graciously offered to fill in because I am awesome and amazing (and have had a exceptionally challenging day so am punchy and filled with mood-altering *things*).
Some similarities exist between the regular "Top Chef" and "Top Chef Masters". Some of the judges for the initial series are contestants in the masters series (and are at times lamenting their toughness, snark, hardassishness with the contestants). At times, TC head judge and bald-is-beautiful (or at least sexy as all get out) spokesperson Tom Colicchio graces the show with his presence. Gail Simmons of the Bodacious Tatas also judges from time to time, moreso as the series has progressed. I like Gail. She's knowledgeable, offers constructive criticism, and has a sense of humor. But you know who I don't like (and no, I don't know her personally, she may be a gem)? Hostess Kelly Choi. Stilted, self-aggrandizing, loud, sneering, and way too skinny to convey a real appreciation of food and its pleasures, she would have turned me off of TCM in its entirety if not for dear Liz and our friendship. I didn't want her to be lonely like Kim Jong Il is and have to capture American journalists for company and wait until ex-presidents come to pay her face until she feels she can part with her new fake friends.
Did I mention I am punchy tonight? This is a whole new live blog. Poor Liz will prolly regret my fill-in but all's fair in love and free journalism.
Tonight is Part Two of the finale. Last week in Part One, Chef Suzanne Tracht lost her bid to become Top Chef Masters after a disappointing attempt to recreate Art Smith's Grouper with Spring Vegetables and Gnocchi. After reviewing the episode, I reinforced my belief that Suzanne lost only because she was too efficient, something with which I am totally and completely unfamiliar. She finished too quickly and plated too quickly, causing the food to be cold and overcooked as protein continues to cook after it is taken off the heat (it might have been perfect at the time she pulled it). If not for this, Art Smith might have been eliminated and this would not have broken my heart. He's a wonderful Southern cook but pigeon-holes himself in his style. Also, he is a self-important name dropper and I personally don't think this is a necessary ingredient for fine cuisine. On to Part Two...
Our five celebrity chefs, Michael Yum-Yum Chiarello, Anita Lo, Hubert Keller, Art Smith , and Rick Bayless.
Location Los Angeles, burgers and fries greet the contestants, much to their bemusement. "All About Burgers", Kelly tells us. Hubert tells us he has a $5,000 burger in his restaurant. Remind me, I need to ask him to pay my bills after all this is over.
Morgan Spurlock is one of the judges for the Quickfire; I LOVE him!
The chefs have one hour to create a gourmet burger and a side dish. Art is being very nice (because I said not-so-nice about him) and helping Rick Bayless with the meat grinder. "Food is love." Art is makng fried green tomatoes (which makes me think about the movie, Fannie Flagg, and Chris O'Donnell). Hubert seems confident. Anita is making cheese soup with bite-sized burgers. Oh my. She cannot get enough cheddar, story of my life. Chiarello says he will do what it takes to win and seems uber-confident.
Rick Bayless, fundido burger with three guacs, looks yummy and they like it, too.
Art Smith, hoecake burger with fried green tomatoes and cole slaw. Judges say they wouldn't change a thing.
Michael Chiarello, "hamburgese enorme" with truffle manchego potato chips. Lots of yums, ooh, and ahs. Delicious, perfect, flavor of good steak.
Anita Lo, cheddar soup with grilled burger, ketchup crouton, and bacon fried onion rings. "burger shake" "Wish it was a burger" Judges seem disappointed.
Hubert, beef and roquefort cheeseburger with caramelized onions and rustic potatoes. Yum (that's my comment). "Visually appetizing" "Cheese overpowering taste of burger" Hubert says he will see Spike on the rooftop. I love roquefort cheese personally.
Judges hated Anita's soup. Michael and Rick tie with 4 1/2 stars. Michael has his cocky on but he is very cute when he does that.
Time for a take on Liz's method. Who would be the date? Who would cook?
My tie is between Michael and Hubert but I suppose Hubert can cook and Michael can be wrapped around my finger (in my if-I-was-single dreams).
The challenge is cooking for the adorable Zoe Deschanel (Vegetarian, Gluten and Soy-Free!). Oh my!
Art is having a cow because he can't cook chicken.
Chefs are divying up the courses. No big conflict; everyone is nicey nice.
Michael, "Think of the things you want to cook and just say no". LOVE that man.
Rick, on the other hand, seems confident.
Art is making dessert (before proofreading, I typed desert, his dish ended just about as flavorful). Afraid of rice milk, he bought rice dream.
Michael and Rick have quite the bromance.
Hubert is making the appetizer, his palate is excited.
Michael is buying non-wheat pasta. Both his wife and Mary kelly's hubby don't do gluten.
Rick, fresh corn tamales, yum! Hubert, white gazpacho with rice milk, timbale with avocado, red and yellow beet salad. I die now from deliciousnes. Anita, unsure of her lentils. Michael, quinoa pasta with salsa verde and gremolata of pine nuts and he think it will be tasty. Art thinks the rice "Stuff" is awful. Rick is worried about Art's choices. Art doctored with strawberry ribbon, no bells and whistles he says.
OMG, Michael just squeezed the lemon with his teeth. Gag me with a spoon. Criminy. I change my Liz vote. I'll stick with the man I married 22 years ago.
Zoe is the cutest thing ever on this show. I have a girl crush on her (don't worry Robin, if I ever swing that way, I'm heading straight for you).
Time to eat with critic James Osland who looks just like the mad scientist in "Nightmare Before Christmas".
Plating is scary for Michael. Hubert saved the day, good karma Hubert! And then he is rewarded with sliding glasses that ruin his plates. Damn. He is adorable, too. "Hubert is prepared."
Hubert's food looks wonderful. Zoe loves the white gazpacho soup, someone said they thought they were eating dip however. The beets, even for people who don't eat beets, were a hit.
Anita's eggplant is oily and overseasoned. She had been doing so well up until now.
Michael's pasta looks wonderful, heirloom tomatoes and Italian language. Zoe feels like she has come home. Hilarity ensues when her mom says the same. Zoe wants to hug Michael.
Rick's tamales look even better than Michael's pasta. Zoe says they are the best tamales she has ever had. They will pry them from her cold, dead fingers (or something like that).
Art's rice cream with strawberries, um, why is he out of breath? Mom tells Zoe the dish reminds her of Zoe's b'day but for most, the dish falls flat. Not a hit and I confess I am not disappointed.
Rick is meticulous in the short and I love him for that. Not if he was my husband, granted, but if I was going to eat in his restaurant, yessir.
Judges Table, Gael is very complementary, is in love with gazpacho and beet salad. Avocado guilded the lily. Anita's again garners criticisms, thinks the criticism is subjective. Gael thinks Anita's dish is "sad", fell "flat". Michael's tomato celebration is a hit. Quinoa pasta was a fantastic but challenging, had to be pulled apart individually, task. Rick's tamales are a "delight" though "ungainly". Art is backpeddaling. "Disappointing" ice cream. He is defensive.
Judges are reiterating the face-to-face interviews. All seem surprised as I am by Anita's failure as she has done so well up until now. The judges forgot the vegan aspect in Michael's dish yet argue about his choice to buy the quinoa pasta at the store. Rick cooked at his best. They like Art's brittle but hate his ice cream.
As an aside, "500 Days of Summer" looks like a good flick.
And no, we have no winner yet Gregor.
Kelly speaks. Hubert, Michael, and Rick have top three scores. Hubert has a final of 19 stars. Michael has 22 stars. Rick has 19 as well. Michael is this week's winner!
Another episode? I thought this was it. WTF?
Elimination between Anita and Art. Art's out! Woohoo (I would so not be a diplomat). "Pack your knives and go, name dropper!"
Whoa, next week the TC ex-contestants come to assist and Michael is pissing off Dale. He eats Dales for breakfast. I guess this will be the final episode but who knows? We may be live blogging in December (cue Merle Haggard, "If We Make It Through December", everything is gonna be alright I know).
LOVE you guys. Thanks Liz for the opportunity. It's harder than it reads.