Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Top Chef Masters: “Holly Madison’s Pool Party”

Illustration for article titled Top Chef Masters: “Holly Madison’s Pool Party”

At this point, it’s almost a sure thing that the be-toqued executives at Top Chef Masters have some elaborate bet going to see who can reel in the most unexpected celebrity judge combination. You have to hand it to whoever lined up the guests for tonight: Have the Indigo Girls and Holly Madison ever appeared on the same hour of television? Except on some VH1 special about guilty pleasures of the early millennium? But bizarre guest stars aside, this week’s episode picked up some of the oomph that last week managed to leave in the Grand Canyon.

Quickfire Challenge

Unlike last weeks pop-up B-52s visit, at least the Indigo Girls’ appearance on the show seemed related to the Quickfire they were judging. Since one of the duo eats meat and the other does not, the chefs were posed with the challenge of making one traditional meat dish and one vegetarian version of the same, using the fairly generous allotment of 45 minutes. It’s probably true that chefs like Art and Chris have to adapt their dishes for celebrity clients, many of whom have standards that are far more finicky than an ovo-lacto vegetarian. What would have provoked a number of regular Top Chef contestants into heated camera comments about putting bacon in everything, no matter what, doesn’t seem to even phase the Masters.

The only real disaster of the bunch was Patricia’s, and only because she ran out of time to put the broth for her faux pho—try saying that three times fast—in the bowls. Almost every single dish looks great, though Thierry gets the dreaded “wedding food” diss.  The Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray and Emily Saliers seem to have a firmer grasp on what to look for than most “hey, let’s bring in a band!” type judges. Though Art almost snuck in there with his last minute potpie recipe, the winner is Takashi’s Japanese-inspired dish. Takashi, who explained earlier that he knew how to cook with meat from when his family had to go without it, is so stunned that you just want to hug him. “I almost cried!” he admits.

Elimination Challenge

Curtis waltzes into the kitchen to introduce Holly Madison, a former Girl Next Door girlfriend and current wannabe Kardashian.  Holly’s challenge is for the chefs to prepare bite-size brunch items for a poolside party of 150 of her most hungover friends for the following day. Oh, and Holly doesn’t like garlic or onions, so avoid those. And you know, flavors, generally speaking.

“I don’t think there are enough quail eggs in Las Vegas,” Patricia muses. Though it’s Chris who voices what’s actually on our minds: “What do Playboy bunnies eat?” Focusing on the “hungover” part of Holly’s statement seems key, so many of the chefs head for the deep fryer. “I must put all the sexy I have in these bunelos,” Lorena says, before crossing herself. Meanwhile the judges, lounging poolside, joke about James Oseland’s fondness for the shirtless poolside dudes.

Thierry goes with a tiny Croque Madame, a sandwich bite that looks delicious but comes off as a gut bomb. Art ignores Holly’s original request and serves out a teeny turkey burger on a biscuit, slathered in garlic chutney. Luckily for Art, Holly can’t tell that there’s actually garlic in it until the judges tell her. Lorena’s bunuelos must have sucked up all the sexy in that kitchen, because they were met by a tremendous response. Francis Lam actually snapped, which is the highest compliment a bunuelo can receive, I believe.


Takashi, Lorena, Art, and Kerry all land in the top of the class for their dishes. But it’s Lorena’s buneulos that get the nod, beating out Takashi’s panacotta and Kerry’s crab dish. The bottom three are all big personalities on the show, so regardless of who went home—Pat, Chris, or Thierry—the show would take a hit in the next few weeks. But as culinary sins go, Pat’s stale pulled-pork bun wasn’t as bad as Thierry’s slightly burned sandwich, and the most cheerful, straw-hatted Frenchman ever on Bravo had pack up his knives.

Stray observations:

  • “Definite lipstick problem” was an apt way for Lam to describe what happens with a poorly constructed pulled pork sandwich.
  • Takashi and Thierry’s bromance must sadly go unrecorded, now. I’ll miss them.
  • James Oseland’s push-up competitions was one of the best DVR-killer bits that the show has ever had.