Top Chef Masters Recap

By Jason Lee

June 4, 2010

I get sent home for 'burnt sienna, depressed and avocado'. How much BS is that?

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We’re at penultimate episode of Top Chef Masters and I gotta wonder, “Is it sad that the commercials for Top Chef DC are exciting me more than the actual episodes of Top Chef Masters?" Frankly, I think this is due more to the fact that the only Masters I was rooting for have been eliminated than any perceived lack of quality on the part of the producers. The show is still well-done; it’s just a pity that the most likable chefs have packed their knives.

With Susan gone, I have no one else to root for. I feel a lack of vested interest in the outcome of this competition. Wait, I take that back. There is one thing I’m rooting for: the elimination of Rick Moonen. With every new episode, he says something pompous or egotistical that makes me hate him more. While I can’t deny that he has culinary chops, I’m hoping that he falls on his face.

The Quickfire for today is a challenge that you could never do on Top Chef. Cookbooks written by each of the four remaining Masters are lined up on a table in ominous fashion, and the Masters are told to pair themselves up. Rick goes with Susur, while Jonathan goes with Marcus. The producers have chosen one recipe from each cookbook; each pair will have to cook the other person’s recipe.

Seems like a pretty straightforward challenge: execute against a written recipe in a cookbook. The Masters get to work, each adding their own little panache to the recipe they’re given. As I watch, I’m a little stunned that the final Quickfire before the finale could be so easy.

As a longtime viewer, I can’t believe I let myself get duped. After an hour of cooking, Kelly re-enters the kitchen and announces a twist: working off of a great challenge in Season 5, the Masters will have to show off their improvisation skills by transforming the dish they’ve been working on into a soup that maintains the integrity of the original recipe. This is a GREAT twist. I love it. Now the challenge begins.


Most of the Masters roll with this punch, immediately switching gears. There isn’t too much trouble with the actual cooking; most seem focused on trying to channel the spirit of the original recipe (and of course, the culinary style of the Master who wrote it) into their new soup.

Jonathan has a chicken Thai curry soup with Thai basil based off of a recipe by Marcus. It is presented to critic James Oselander who will judge this competition. Incidentally, I find it incredibly appropriate in this challenge to use a judge who can compare the new soups against the original recipes. James likes Jonathan’s soup, saying that it’s thick like porridge. His only complaint is that for a Thai curry, it’s remarkably mild.

Marcus has a chicken soup with tortilla chips and an avocado goat cheese guacamole based off of a recipe by Jonathan. James loves the taste, and especially the lime. He’s impressed by the re-working of the original recipe, noting that the soup isn’t too far off.

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