Top Chef Masters has gotten a little easier to watch now that all the charity plugs and schmaltzy introductions are out of the way, and Anita Lo rocked it last night. First there was the Quickfire relay race refereed by (surprise!) Tom Colicchio (whose pants seemed, er, specially tailored for the ladies): Lo went Edward Scissorhands on a chicken in order to get her team back in the lead after Hubert Keller’s onion-chopping fail (Michael Chiarello: “girl can cook”). Then, preparing her signature dish for the other chefs (seared scallops with potato purée, bacon, sea urchin, and mustard greens), she did something unheard of on Top Chef — she actually credited the person she got the dish from (she first made it with Bouley, who got it from Robuchon). Lo’s modesty and her (albeit nervous) composure was great in the face of Art Smith (lovable though he is) name-checking the prez and practically marinating his undercooked lamb bolus with his tears.
During the elimination challenge, each chef had to put his or her own spin on another chef’s dish — Keller paired up with Lo, and while the Frenchman stuck pretty close to her original (switching out her potato purée for a cream of sea urchin that didn’t taste enough like sea urchin), Lo put a refined Asian spin on his lobster and truffle cappuccino by turning it into a corn chowamushi topped with lobster tartare — and then traded his corn madeleine for a biscuit with lobster knuckle (money shot: Lo putting a knife through the lobster’s head and tossing its still-moving claw into a bowl). Needless to say, she impressed the departed masters who came back for a tasting (good to see Chris Lee again, but why didn’t Wylie show up?) and blew the judges away: Jay Rayner went all “I’m not worthy” on her and Gael Greene looked like she was witnessing the second coming of the King (funny, by the way, that Lo was a possible answer in the “who did Elvis?” commercial-break trivia question).
With Suzanne Tracht eliminated and Chiarello, Hubert, Smith, and Bayless still in the running, we’d say it looks good for Lo, but then again that damned spoiler also looks more and more likely to be true. Next week’s Quickfire, per the preview videos: a gourmet-burger cook-off (how timely!) followed by a luncheon for Zooey Deschanel, who doesn’t eat meat, dairy, fish, gluten, or soy.