Top Chef Masters Recap

By Jason Lee

May 3, 2010

He is possibly the angriest contestant in the history of the show. But Rick is a much bigger jerk.

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We’re back at the Top Chef: Masters kitchen to see which chefs will get the final two spots in the Champions Round. Frankly, I’m a little eager for this portion of the competition to be over; getting introduced to a bunch of new chefs, week after week, only to never see most of them again tends to dial down the drama a little bit.

Competing for those all-too-important final spots are Jody Adams from Cambridge, MA, Maria Hines from Seattle, Rick Tramonto from Chicago, Debbie Gold from Kansas City, and Susur Lee from NYC. It’s a pretty eclectic group, with no signs of the bravado that marked some of the countenances of previous Master contestants.

Kelly enters and inquires as to how it feels for Rick to be on the other side of the table, seeing as how he guest judged in Season 4 (he was the chef who took Spike to town for using frozen scallops in his dish). Rick says that this experience won’t make him any more merciful in the future.

The Quickfire this week is from Season 1. The chefs must take a basket of gorgeous looking fruit and turn it into a delicious looking fruit platter. The dishes will be judged by Gail Simmons and a renowned food photographer who has worked on Top Chef in the past. This is a challenge that I remember well because I totally, absolutely disagreed that the pompous, arrogant, snide Stephen should have won. I think I threw something at the TV.

Anyways, Kelly announces that there’ll be a big twist to this QF. It’s a High Stakes QF, reminiscent of Top Chef: Las Vegas. Okay, okay, so what do they win? More money? A car?

Nope, even better. The winner of this QF gets an AUTOMATIC SPOT IN THE CHAMPIONS ROUND. Wow. I’m blown away. This QF now comes with insanely high stakes. Work a little magic with some fruit and you’re into the next round, nice and safe. The Masters are ready to get started.

As the cooking starts, most of the chefs seem to be doing “dishes” more than “platters.” This is resulting in products that are strangely lacking in color. Considering the bright and beautiful baskets that they started with, it seems strange to see all this grey and brown.


Jody serves up her dish first: a fig and walnut tart with pomegranate. The photographer says that the tart looks beautiful and Gail laments that the dough was not cooked all the way through.

Debbie goes next with a pecan tempura with stuffed fig and persimmon. The photographer says that there’s color on the plate but wishes that it looked more visually enticing. He says that the walnuts are beautiful (“they’re pecans,” Debbie corrects him) and Gail says that it was prepared very well with good technique.

Susur is next with an east-meets-west fruit plate with blueberries and thai basil. Susur is a strange man – if you can imagine a World of Warcraft nerd who works as a chef, that’s pretty much him. Though everyone clearly respects Susur and believes that he’s the man to beat, his plate is not great. The photographer and Gail both remark that compositionally the plate lacks focus.

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