The Chicagoist will be launching later but in the meantime please enjoy our archives.

Top Chef Masters: Championship Round 3

By L. Stolpman in Food on Aug 16, 2009 7:15PM

TopChefMastersFinals1.jpg Apologies for the late recap, Top Chef Fans. This will be a quick and dirty to get us back on track before the final episode. Last week, teddy bear Art Smith was sent home, leaving to compete this week: Chef Hubert Keller, Chef Michael Chiarello, Chef Anita Lo, and Chef Rick Bayless. The chefs walk into the kitchen and the Quickfire is announced.

. Oooo, yes! The palate test! Each chef will be blindfolded and will taste 20 ingredients which they are then asked to identify. Each chef will receive stars relative to the number they identified correctly. Let's touch on some notables: Michael thinks hoisin sauce has a texture unlike anything he's ever put in his mouth before. He thinks marscarpone is sour cream. Fortunately, he's able to identify oregano. Hubert does well until he identifies poppadom as potato chips. We have to looks like they went easy on these contestants compared to our regular group of contestants. Some of the ingredients include: corn, peanut butter, ketchup, and maple syrup. This makes us want to do our own blindfold taste test. Now here's a kicker. Rick Bayless knocks back some hoisin sauce like it's a shot of vodka and says, "Ranch salad dressing." No lie, folks. He identifies mango as plum. Anita blanks on hoisin. Heh. She pegs dashi, though. Here they are in order of how they did and the number of stars they received: Michael (7) - 5 stars. Rick (6) Anita (6) - each get 4 stars. Hubert (5) - 3.5 stars.

Elimination Challenge - The chefs will be working with past contestants to cater a dinner for 200. The worker bees are chosen playground style after a little interview period. During the interview, Michael asks the chefs to cut vegetables a certain way. Spike flat out refuses to cut a carrot saying, "I know how to cut a carrot, chef." Michael says, "There's not a rat's chance in a hell he'd step food in my kitchen for this challenge." We admit that the first time we watched this, we took Michael's tasks as fun spirited but upon a second watching, did get more of the jerk vibe. We also see a clip where he asks each interviewee if they know his name, testing for pronunciation of his last name, and then making sure they know that they will be calling him CHEF in the kitchen. It smacks of arrogance. Richard Blaise says, "It's pretty insulting, honestly." The other Masters ask the chefs about experience with particular cuisines. Jamie and Anita have worked together before. Teams are picked and they head to get produce.

Michael: Fabio, Brian, CJ. Hubert: Antonia, Elia, Spike. Anita: Jamie, Dale, Ilan. Rick: Richard, Alex, Betty.

As the teams return from the grocery store, there is a kerfufffle over refrigerator space when Michael asks Dale about his lockdown. Dale, who already has a bit of a reputation as a hot head, is a little defensive about Michael calling him 'young man' and confronts Michael, asking about the attitude. Michael plays his "trust me, you don't know how tough I am" card which, as it does it most situations, sort of makes him look like he's bluffing. It's all a bit ridiculous but overall, both don't come off like shining stars.

Michael gives his teams a menu, recipes, and direction while the other Masters ask for more input from their sous chefs. The day of the event, the teams are told that they must pack up their food for transport as they'll be serving at a different location...and outside, in the hot sun.Also, they have to ditch a sous chef. Let's get to the menu and how the tasting goes.

Michael: Fabio, Brian, CJ. Michael serves a rustic Italian buffet. Risotta taste is meh, but it is cooked well, Oseland gets a briny shrimp and the swordfish is butchered. Michael confesses that he did not entrust his sous chefs with as much as the other Masters.

Hubert: Antonia, Elia, Spike. Hubert has an unbelievable spread with 18 different options. They all wow the critics. His oysters completely wowed Gael and Oseland loved the progression of his dishes.

Anita: Jamie, Dale, Ilan. Anita, in particular, gets quite the nasty shock with the outdoor setting as she had planned a raw bar. Her table serves an Asian buffet with an array of sauces and condiments. The pork ribs get good marks from the critics.The critics, though, dock her a bit for not re-thinking the raw bar.

Rick: Richard, Alex, Betty. Rick digs Richard's suggestion about using liquid nitrogen and they incorporate it into the menu with an avocado ice cream. Rick does a Mexican food buffet. Declared full of flavor and very good. His menu is called a feast. He served shrimp with figs and nuts which Gael liked.

Results: Hubert: 22 stars. Rick: 21.5 stars. Michael: 19.5 stars. Anita: 17 stars. Hubert rocks the house and Anita packs her knives for home. Wednesday brings us the finale of Top Chef Masters as well as the start of a new season of Top Chef in Las Vegas!