After last week's season premiere threw out a series of Vegas-themed twists, week two of Masters competition goes for a no-nonsense approach. Curtis Stone enters the kitchen and immediately informs the chefs to stand down: there will not be a Quickfire this week.
Instead, he announces that the chefs will be attending to as classic and as frustrating an Elimination Challenge as Top Chef ever gives us: catering a wedding in a single day. Oh, and the bride’s maid of honor recently died in an accident. Also, the hefty deposit they put down for the caterer completely disappeared. Basically, the fact that this wedding is happening at all is a miracle. No pressure, chefs!
Of course, the wedding challenge meant we got to hear all about the chefs’ own wedding days. Chris Cosentino sported spiked blue hair, and Fedora Thierry had a five-tiered wedding cake connected by bridges. First “Masters” couple Mark Gaier and Clark Frasier have been and worked together for over twenty years but are unable to get married in Maine, where they live (Mark is cooking for a Maine-based charity for same-sex marriage equality). Meanwhile, Art Smith did get married last year, but only after he and his partner jogged to their wedding site at the Lincoln Memorial. Like you do.
I only mention these wedding stories because for the most part, the episode included enough so that it barely showed the actual cooking at all. Traditionally, Top Chef wedding episodes are frantic and uncomfortable to watch. The chefs sprint around the kitchen, eyeing the clock like it’s a ticking bomb while praying the hundreds of guests will take full advantage of the open bar. We do get some drama in the form of Chris and Art having the all-too-familiar “did you touch my oven?” argument, but otherwise, these Master Chefs plug steadily along. Curtis even remarks on the kitchen’s calm, saying skeptically, “I hope the execution is as good as the creativity.”
Luckily, it seems as though most of the Masters delivered on their ambitious promises. The judges love the “Grandma’s Blood Soup” from Thierry, meaning his grandma didn’t have to “come into the kitchen and kick the crap” out of him as was apparently possible. Cosentino’s corn panna cotta with shrimp looked and apparently tasted wonderfully refreshing (a cruel tease in this humidity), while Takashi Yagihashi’s braised pork belly was a favorite for both the crowd and the judges. It was Patricia’s one-bite pickled mackerel appetizer, though, that eventually came away with the win.
The strangest thing about these latter seasons of Top Chef Masters has not been James Oseland’s metaphors nor Curtis’ limited rotation of facial expressions, but that the line between Top Chef proper and Top Chef Masters has gotten progressively blurrier. Most Top Chef alumnae could very easily compete against their Masters counterparts. In fact, most do. But at the end of the day, what really unites the Top Chefs with their Masters counterparts is that they all fear the poor sap that gets stuck making the cake.
Art Smith briefly made it hard to sympathize with his plight. He reminded the bride and us several times that his particular pineapple upside-down cake was the same one he made for Lady Gaga’s 25th birthday (and yes, Lady Gaga really is only 25). Nevertheless, it’s always brave to volunteer for dessert duty on Top Chef seeing how the risk rarely pays off, so watching Art’s cake sag was still plenty depressing. Plus, intercutting Chris and Patricia running frantically around the hotel while Art stood above his cake like he had just watched it flatline turned Top Chef into ER for one glorious minute, for which I will always be grateful.
Hilariously (and to the judges’ obvious surprise), the bride and groom loved their wonky cake. This obviously did not stop the judges from booting Art to the bottom three along with Mark and Debbie. Art was on the edge of tears as the judges teased him for his leaning tower of cake, but at the end of the day, his willingness to try making the cake at all is what saved him. So despite Mark’s raw sesame-encrusted salmon, the critics ended up sending Debbie Gold home for her “charred cabbage” salad, which committed the ultimate crime of being a dish any of us lesser mortals could have messed up ourselves at home.
- This week’s Top Chef Olympic sport submission: the Pork Belly Grocery Pass Relay.
- Seeing Lorena Garcia’s Taco Bell commercials during the episode is incredibly jarring, but they must be very effective DVR-busters.
- Kerry Hefferman’s wedding flashback revealed that his best man and caterer (in that order) was Tom Colicchio. I’d watch that show.
- Chris, trying to rescue Art: “Aren’t there any stairs?!”
Patricia, successfully winning my allegiance: “No! No fucking stairs!”