Top Chef Masters Recap: Championship Round 2

By L. Stolpman in Food on Aug 6, 2009 5:00PM

TopChefMastersFinals1.jpg Last week, Suzanne Tracht was sent home, leaving to compete this week: Chef Hubert Keller, Chef Michael Chiarello, Chef Anita Lo, Chef Art Smith, and Chef Rick Bayless. The chefs walk into the kitchen and a stack of cheeseburgers and fries on a table. Choi wastes no time and we begin the Quickfire.

Quickfire. Gourmet burger competition from Season 3. I would just like to note here that Kelly Choi is using the term "cheftestant" which we're pretty sure was coined by a writer at Television Without Pity. Credit! Give Credit! We learn that Hubert makes a $5,000 burger at his restaurant. We roll our eyes and while we know he is very accomplished, sort of want to ask who the hell he thinks he is, charging someone $5,000 for a burger. And then we realize that some jackass has paid for it. And we grow a little sad for the human race.

Back to the challenge, yes? This time, the Chefs must also make a side dish. Rick does a queso fundido burger with three different types of guacamole. The judges like the burger but remark that they really only need one type of guacamole. Inside the kitchen, Rich blusters a bit that they can't seem to discern the differences between his guacamole, his guacamole, and his guacamole. Art serves up a cornmeal hoecake burger with fried green tomatillos and coleslaw. They say the burger is bursting with flavor. Michael offers the judges one huge hamburger patty sitting on three buns - "Hamburgese enorme" with truffle manchego potato chips. They think the flavor of the burger is pretty great, like a steak. We wants that monstrosity. Next up is Anita with a cheddar soup with grilled burger, ketchup crouton and bacon fried onion rings. Oooo, this goes over as well as a child who wakes on Christmas morning, rushes down to the tree and finds that not only did his younger brother open up all his gifts, all the gifts suck as well. Poor Anita! Finally, Hubert is up with his beef and roquefort cheeseburger with caramelized onions and rustic potatoes. The cheese appears to be overwhelming the taste of the meat, remarks one judge, and we get a shot of Hubert shaking his head in what appears to be disgust.

Results: Anita - 1.5 stars; Hubert - 3 stars; Rick - 4 stars; Michael - 4 stars; Art - 3.5 stars.

Elimination Round. The chefs will be cooking a meal for Zooey Deschanel. She's a vegetarian (she mentions that fish, meat, eggs or dairy are a no-no) and that she's also gluten intolerant and she doesn't eat soy. So, basically, she's like that one guest at your dinner table who you'd just rather not invite so you don't have to deal with her food issues. Which isn't entirely fair but there you have it. Art looks like someone just pulled the wings off his butterfly. If she had said she has high blood pressure and should avoid salt, he might have shot himself. They must create one dish for a group of 20 vegan diners. The chefs each pick a course and head off to shop. No stops at the meat case and a lot of time in the produce department.

Let's get to dinner. Zooey meets the chefs and immediately apologizes for being difficult. This makes us feel badly for cursing her earlier because it sort of sucks for someone to feel as if they need to apologize for no less than the simple choice of, or restrictions about, their food. Plus, we appreciate challenges like this because it forces the chefs to become creative all over again. We see the critics sit down, seeing Gael with that hat, we briefly think that Gael is sort of like Bret Michael in that you just want to see what's under there. This makes us think of Amy Poehler hopping on one leg and farting. We digress.

First course: Hubert with white gazpacho with grapes and vanilla oil, a timbale of avocado and asparagus, roasted beet salad. Guests seem to love it with the mild exception that eating the avocado felt like eating dip. Second course: Anita offers the guests a spicy grilled eggplant with lentil salad and cashew sauce. We make a 'meh' sound to ourself. Based on the guest comments, we fear for Anita. Slightly oily and overly spicy eggplant may do her in. Third course is Michael who presents a quinoa pasta with salsa verde and gremolata, tomatoes and crispy basil leaf. The guests love it. Fourth course: Rick serves corn tamales with chili-braised beans, braised greens and glazed mushrooms. Goes over well. Dessert! Art serves strawberry champagne soup, strawberry rice ice cream and almond brittle. Oy, his dessert goes down in relatively high heat flames. Ouch.

Critics' Table. Hubert's first course really impressed the judges. Elegant, and colorful. Anita's eggplant is again called oily and Gael calls the dish sad looking. Jay mentions a failure in execution. Michael's dish is declared confident and his pasta is praised. Rick's tamale is well received but Oseland says the salad was a bit lost in the ungainly dish. Art's rice milk ice cream makes the critics wrinkle their noses and when Jay questions Art's decision to purchase the rice milk, Art defends his choice and seems almost near tears. The chefs come back in and their fate is announced:

Anita: 13 stars; Art: 12.5 stars; Rick: 19 stars; Hubert: 19 stars; Michael: 22 stars. Michael wins for his charity! Woo! And, sadly, Art goes home.

However! Looks like there's going to be some EXCITEMENT next week when Dale (previous contestant) and Michael get into it! Ooooo!