Swinging for the fences. It’s the phrase that the judges kept repeating tonight as they sampled the final four Top Chef Masters contestants’ dishes, and it embodies what they’re looking for at this stage in the game. Not a competent dish, or even a good one: a home run. This week’s episode pared the group down to the final three through some rigorous competition, forcing the chefs to cook something that would be served the next day, cold, from a box. These were beyond difficult circumstances—the extra 12 hours changed the consistency of the dishes, and ultimately sent a frontrunner home.
Curtis shows the chefs into the kitchen that has been divided, fighting siblings-style, into two by a piece of red tape. The chefs have to team up, with one from each side occupying the pantry and the hot line. This means an absurd level of cooperation—one of them has to rely on the other either to execute the dish or to gather the ingredients. Patricia and Chris draw knives to get on the same team. They’ve apparently forged an Art and Lorena-like BFFdom, and are thrilled to be together. Kerry and Lorena make a more awkward pair. Lorena and Patricia get the pantry, while Chris and Kerry have the hot line. Kerry seems to have his own schedule on things, which leaves Lorena rushing about, and ultimately means that she has a pot of undercooked rice that doesn’t make her plate. Patricia and Chris make a smoother mechanism, turning out Berber-style duck and wasabi-crusted tuna, respectively, that look restaurant-level good.
Kerry and Lorena are nervous going into the judging, led by entertainment bookie Johnny Avello, but Kerry’s shrimp farfalle clinches it for their team. It’s another shot that confirms what we’ve been seeing for the past few weeks: Kerry is a stealthy but serious contender for the TCM throne.
The site of the Elimination Challenge is the Las Vegas edition of Diner en Blanc, which is the flash mob picnic equivalent of P. Diddy’s white party. Several hundred people, all dressed in white, tote their own food, cutlery, wine, linens, and tables into a public place, dine, and then vanish. It’s a fascinating spectacle, and a super-snooty packed dinner. So the chefs have to prepare three-course cold picnics for 75 people. The problems with this are multifold. We’re not talking sandwiches and grapes so much as high-end food cleverly packed. Robin Leach is there, for God’s sake.
Kerry has a white dish to compliment the proceedings, starting with a cauliflower soup that Hillary Clinton told him about, no less. He serves it up with a haricot vert salad and a grilled chicken and kielbasa dish that has Francis Lam waving emphatically in approval. “You bring the flavor hammer with that chicken,” he says. Chris also does well with his terrine, a risky move that pays off big. His swordfish is perhaps a little dry, but he and Kerry get a pass, and move into the top two.
Others are less lucky. Patricia makes a clever, world-spanning picnic, with edamame salad, bison with chili jam, and a sumac dusted bread stuffed with curry. Alas, bread doesn’t do well when left overnight, and the chili jam is too spicy and overwhelming for the bison. “They were waving at each other, but they never actually met,” Ruth comments. Lorena’s dish also has its hang-ups. Her Peruvian-style potato salad gains judge approval, but the chicken salad is too sweet, and the jalapeno chocolate pudding is too… something. James Oseland, resplendent in his white bowtie, made it sound like it had the consistency of caulk. It’s down to her and Patricia, a particularly serious match-up, given their disagreements over the past few episodes. But Lorena’s dish wins out, and Patricia gets sent home. Now it’s Lorena vs. cocky Chris and dark horse Kerry. (Soon to be action figures, one can only hope.)
- It must be absolutely terrifying to be in a Whole Foods when the Top Chefs come barreling through.
- Ruth’s comment to Lorena, “You were undone by sweetness,” would be a great fortune cookie message.