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Top Chef Masters Recap: Week 4

By L. Stolpman in Food on Jul 9, 2009 5:00PM

Welcome back, food lovers. This week on Top Chef Masters, we have: Chef Douglas Rodriguez, Chef Mark Peel, Chef Anita Lo or Chef John Besh. We've got James Beard winners, a Michelin star recipient, and multiple Best New Chef namings. Another impressive bunch. Oh boy, we're impressed and bored already.

Quickfire: Oh man. They have to make an egg with one hand behind their back. Dude. You're not going to believe this. Chef Mark Peel mentions that his father had only one arm and so he has seen how this shit rolls. He's making pasta! Go, one armed father havin' kid! Houston, we have a favorite.

Again, for better or worse, these chefs are pros and they are kind and helpful to each other. Of course, one of the ovens doesn't crank up the heat. For a freakin' product placement, those ovens sure don't make a good name for themselves. Anyway, FINALLY we get some Gail along with a guy who raises chickens and a lady who owns a diner. Egg = liquid chicken.

Chef Douglas offers up an open-faced corn cake with scrambled eggs and ham. The eggs get good reviews - fluffy and moist. Chef Mark (you may have noticed that we're on a first name basis this week with the masters) serves fresh duck egg pasta with egg and olive oil cream sauce. We feel fat just looking at it. Judges say, "Bland." Turns out chef forgot the olive oil. We feel slightly less fat. Chef Anita made soft scrambled egg and shitake mushrooms with truffle oil and oyster sauce. Rave reviews. Last up is Chef John. His dish is described as "slow cooked egg." We cackle. The judges say it tastes like egg. Oh, and grease. Oh my. We're callin' this one for Chef Anita.

Results: Chef Mark: 2.5 stars, Chef John....HALF a star. This guy could have perfectly hard boiled an egg, tapped that shit with a spoon all grandpa-style and gotten at least one full star. Oh dear, dear, dear. Chef Douglas: 3 stars. Chef Anita: 5 stars. Woo!

Elimination Challenge
: Make dinner for Neil Patrick Harris and his buddies. A warlock enters to show them some magic tricks. Each chef gets a card reading one of four words: Mystery, surprise, spectacle, and illusion. The chefs have to make a dish inspired by their respective word. Honestly, for real? Is this the best they could do? Couldn't they make the chefs create a dish inspired by a classic magic trick? Like a rabbit coming put of a hat of puff pastry? We already know that Homaro Cantu and the guys from moto would have kicked ass at this by making their Jimmy Dean lookin' sausage and egg which turns out to be a crab cake and AWESOMENESS.

The chefs shop and start their two hours in the kitchen. More with the polite stuff with each other. We yawn. Tom Colicchio comes in! Bears everywhere swoon. The chefs discuss their menu and because these aren't a bunch of idiots, Colicchio can only say so much. Off to the Magic Castle for more prep and dinner. Finally, Neil! We love him. He and his guests and the judges sit down and start their first course by Chef Mark.

Chef Mark - "Mystery" - Tai snapper in parchment with garlic mashed potatoes and leeks. The fish is wrapped in the parchment so you don't know what it is until you open it. Except that he told them what it was when it was put in front of them. So, you's as much a surprise as being told what you got for Christmas and then opening the gifts. SURPRISE! However, the taste is good and the guests like it.

Chef John - "Surprise" - He uses liquid nitrogen to make a horseradish sorbet. *Yawn* His dishes: Salmon tartare with frozen cauliflower blini, salmon roe salad with horseradish & creme fraiche sorbet, and tempura-fried lobster wrapped in smoked salmon. The sorbet fell a little flat but the guests do like the dish and can recognize the surprise element.

Chef Douglas - "Spectacle" - Dude. Coconut shells on fire. No lie. He serves duck, four ways: oyster ceviche with duck broth, empanada with foie gras and figs, duck breast with butternut squash, and finally, duck soup in young coconut shell...that is on fire. The guests agree that it's a spectacle. Guests seem to be EH about it.

Chef Anita - "Illusion" - Braised Daikon (that looks like a scallop) with kombu caviar and steak tartare. Her plating is cool and impresses the judges. They dig the Illusion element. Neil calls it his favorite and says he's a big fan.

Critics' table
. Chef John gets marks for surprising them with a cold blini. They like his lobster and his interaction with the guests. The critics love the dish by Anita. Gail calls it "gruesome and shocking." In a good way. Chef Douglas immediately fesses up on his execution issues but his ceviche gets good marks. It falls a little flat. Chef Mark's dish did surprise and they did like it, particularly the fresh leeks.

Star totals! John - 12 stars. Mark - 18.5 stars. Douglas - 13 stars. Anita - 22.5 stars. Winner!

You know what would make this more interesting? If they had regular contestants vs. Masters and the tasting was blind. Bah. As it is...let's hope we have a douchey Frenchman on again some time soon.