Top Chef Masters Recap
Episodes 1 and 2
By Jason Lee
April 16, 2010
And here we are, back for another season of Top Chef: Masters. Before this season started, I wasn’t sure how eager I was for another dollop of Masters drama. The first season was great, to be sure, and featured a level of culinary expertise unseen on Bravo until (arguably) Top Chef: Las Vegas. But do we need another return to the Top Chef: Masters kitchen?
I guess a large part of my ambiguity comes from the fact that while it can be fun to watch chefs on the brink of culinary greatness fail at grueling culinary challenges, it’s less fun to watch a chef whose personal and professional reputations are built on culinary excellence fail at those same challenges. That said, I’m trying to approach this season with an open heart and mind (and stomach).
Episode one featured six (count ’em, six) chefs. We have Govind Armstrong of 8 Oz Burger Bar in Los Angeles, Susan Feniger of Border Grill in Santa Monica, Ana Sortun of Oleanna in Cambridge, Jerry Traunfeld of Poppy in Seattle, Jimmy Bradley of The Red Cat in NYC, and finally Tony Mantuano of Chicago’s Spiaggia (one of Obama’s favorite restaurants). Whew. What a bunch.
Cutting straight to the chase, the chefs each pick a pot (the Masters equivalent of drawing knives) and find a colored apron inside. They are split into pairs based on the color of their apron and are told they are going to Chinatown for their Quickfire. In the car on the way, the Masters start pondering Asian-inspired dishes. Smart move.
Or not so smart move. The Masters are taken to a gas station where they’ll shop for ingredients for their Gas Station Quickfire (incidentally, this was a GREAT challenge in Season 1 of Top Chef, which was won by LeeAnn Wong). The Masters are not only dismayed that all their brainpower has gone to naught, but that they have crap for ingredients.
But that doesn’t stop them from coming up with some great dishes. Cooking for The Bravery (a band I’ve never heard of), we have:
- A bread pudding with maple sauce and caramelized bananas from Susan and Tony. It’s criticized for being too sweet, though a band member who loves dessert ends up loving the dish.
- A cheetos mac-and-cheese with grilled slim jims and tomato soup from Govind and Jimmy. This looks and sounds horrible to me but the band is impressed with the flavors
- A crispy rice cake with clamesco sauce from Jerry and Ana. It looks beautiful and a band member remarks that the dish could have easily been served at any nice restaurant.
Tony and Susan with their sweet-tooth bread pudding ends up winning, with Govind and Jimmy in second, and Ana and Jerry in last. Boo.
The Masters remain in their pairs for the Elimination Challenge, much to Govind’s dismay. They need to get in touch with their inner cupid because they’ll be cooking romantic dishes for a bunch of diners on their first date. “Help someone get lucky in love,” Kelly Choi advises them.