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Top Chef Masters Recap: Week 3

By L. Stolpman in Food on Jun 25, 2009 4:00PM

TopChefMasters3.jpg What are the chances that Top Chef Masters suddenly became interesting this week? Let's find out. Tonight we have Wilo Benet from San Juan (who looks better with that goatee), Rick Bayless from Chicago, Cindy Pawlcyn from Napa, and Ludo Lefebvre from L.A. As soon as we see judge James Oseland (Editor-in-chief of Saveur Magazine) who gives us some background on Pawlcyn, we remember where we first saw him. He was a judge on Iron Chef and always spoke with food in his mouth, which kept dribbling out. We don't care. We sort of love him. You know why? Because he has that nerdy-ass charm our Korean mother always told us was such a good thing. What can we say. Some shit sticks better than others.

Anyway, back to Ludo Lefebvre. The moment he lights up that kitchen, we love all that is Frenchy-Douchey about him. Please, please let him be so totally French all episode long so we have something to write about.

Kelly Choi greets them in the kitchen. Rick Bayless expresses some nerves and Lefebvre pulls a look that says, "I would pick you last to be on my kickball team." The QuickFire begins with the drawing of the knives, each a different color. The chefs must make a dish using the single color of their knife. The judges are food stylists/photographers/writers.

We see Lefebvre working on his red dish and he tells us that we have no idea, NO IDEA how they train in France. It is so deeefeeecult! Deh are poooshed so hard! His tousled hair says, "Do you see? I am French. You suck." Then we see Rick Bayless. And he is the complete opposite of Lefebvre. He grew up in Oklahoma and damned if that good ol' midwestern kindness and Campbell-Soup-Kid-look didn't stick. He's a dork, bless his heart. And that, my friends, is the oldest Midwestern trick in the book. You can say anything rude you want and follow it with 'bless his heart' and it is instantly seen as oddly generous in spirit.

Lefebvre's red dish is up first: Steak tartare with watermelon, red onions and red beet gazpacho. He pitches a French fit when the servers forget the gazpacho which, when poured over the dish, makes it look like Hannibal Lecter is coming to dinner. He keeps saying "Shit!" in French. Next up is Chef Pawlcyn's yellow vegetable curry over sweet corn grits and fried corn tortillas. The judges like the different shades of yellow and the different textures. Chef Bayless serves roasted vegetables, mole verde with tomatillos, green chiles and pumpkin seeds. It's declared complex and very tasty. Benet's dish is a wild smoked salmon tartare with coconut milk and tomato paste sauce. He forgets to remove the ring mold from the dish which the judges are not thrilled about seeing. But the taste is good.

Results: Pawlcyn: 3.5 stars. Bayless: 4 stars. Lefebvre: 3 stars. Benet: 4.5 stars.

Elimination Challenge: The chefs must create a street food dish to serve at Universal Studios Hollywood. The catch? The protein they must use. Pawlcyn gets tripe; Bayless lucks out and gets beef tongue; Lefebvre gets pig ears; and Benet gets a cow heart. Lefebvre scoffs at this attempt to stump his genius. He proclaims that the French know how to cook everything! He knows how to cook any of zeese things, you eediots!

Lefebvre decides to do a quesadilla which makes Bayless cringe. Bayless is doing a taco and Lefebvre complains that Bayless copied him. Right. Nerd-Chef-Mexicano never would have come up with TACOS if you hadn't led him right down the path with quesadillas. *eyeroll* Pawlcyn is making menudo and Benet is making something similar to a sandwich from P.R. Everyone is plugging along in the kitchen but Frenchy is behind. Chef Bayless offers to help pack things and we get a voice over from Ludouche saying, "Stay away from me. Leave me alone. Don't tell me how to cook." What a complete asshole. Bless his heart.

Out at Universal Studios, the chefs prep before the crowds invade. Chef Bayless feeds them tongue tacos. We have flashbacks to Chicago Gourmet when Bayless was serving food and had his assistant with him who barked at people and then let out an exasperated, "I'm not used to people being so SLOW!" Well, my dear, everyone was moving slow because THERE WAS NOTHING TO EAT. We digress. His chorizo, bacon and tongue tacos with guacamole and pickled onions look awesome and the judges dig it.

Off to Benet who is serving beef, ham and chicken tripleta in pita bread with some caramelized onions . The crowd is lovin' it and the judges find the heart tender instead of chewy.

We then see Ludouche with crowds around him, no food yet served. The judges make their way over to try his pork quesadilla with chorizo, pinto been puree, lime aioli and spoke paprika. Ludouche, who does not yet have his quesadilla ready, is instantly put off by the English judge who appears to want to EAT SOMETHING. Ludouche and said English judge throw daggers with their eyes.

Pawlcyn's menudo is up next and she nails it when she calls her dish the more intimidating dish because she didn't wrap that shit up all tight in a pita or tortilla 'cause nothing says non-threatening to yer average folks like another part of the world's version of Wonder Bread. Well, she didn't say all that. But you get our point. British dude says it might be slightly under-seasoned.

We see the chefs clean up and Ludouche states that he wants to beat Rick with his quesadilla because then he'd beat Famous ol' boy Rick at his own Mexican game. Oh God, we almost hope this jackass wins just so he keeps things interesting. Let's get to the critics' table.

Ludo's quesadilla is warmly received and the judges acknowledge that his ingredient sort of sucked. Pawlcyn gets dinged for under-seasoned menudo. Bayless gets big praise for his taco. Benet's sandwich is good but could have been better with a warm pita.

Final star count: Ludouche: 16.5 stars. Pawlcyn: 15.5 stars. Benet: 19.5 stars. Bayless: 22.5 stars.

Rick wins! Yay, Chicago! We are happy for him and his charity. Nice work! We'll be back next week to see what happens next. Until then....Bye, bye, Ludouche!