Top Chef Masters Recap: Flunking Out

How'd they get <em>her</em> on this show?
How’d they get her on this show? Photo: Nicole Wilder/Bravo

Our five remaining cheftestants enter the kitchen looking weary (PTSD from last episode’s Guantánamo-style sensory deprivation, perhaps?), and Curtis is already smirking because he knows he’s about to make them do something stupid. “We’re in a kitchen full of cutting-edge equipment,” he tells them, but too bad, so sad they won’t be able to use any of that for this Quickfire. Instead, they’ll be cooking breakfast … in ten minutes … using only microwaves!

“I have a line of food that is microwavable,” says Floyd (we know you do), “but I have never cooked eggs in a microwave.” So he’s never heard of an Egg Wave? But Floyd isn’t the only one using eggs. Almost everyone else is using them, too, along with bacon, chanterelles, and spinach. Seriously, four of the dishes they come up with are variations of each other, but it’s the producers’ fault for constantly coming up with challenges that yield homogeneous results. Only Mary Sue thinks outside the box with a warm goat-cheese-and-avocado sandwich with bacon vinaigrette, which is not breakfast food, but gold star for effort.

For no reason at all, the Quickfire judges are comedy duo Frangela, whom you might remember if you used to spend your Friday nights misguidedly watching Best Week Ever. Like many comedians, they say nothing funny at all, and the only good thing they do is ask Curtis to take his shirt off. (He does not oblige.) Curtis advises the ladies never to cook bacon naked. “And never use a meat grinder naked, too!” Floyd adds. Let’s leave the dumb jokes to Hugh, shall we? Anyway, Hugh wins because he “baked” an egg in a microwave and made it look pretty.

Then, because “recipes are a lot like formulas,” five scientists come out to explain the elimination challenge. They’re all really smart people working on things like nanotechnology and experimental physics, but they’ve been called here to explain food-related concepts like emulsions and acidity. (Is this more insulting for the chefs or the scientists?) Hilariously, the chefs will be paired with the scientists to create a dish and a presentation that reflect a certain scientific principle for an “edible science fair” to be attended by high schoolers. And they can only cook with beakers and Bunsen burners! This is going to be bad.

Traci wants to make ceviche to demonstrate acidity (bad idea); Naomi wants to make little pizzas to demonstrate elasticity (huh?); and Mary Sue wants to drizzle different things on churros to demonstrate viscosity (seems kind of weak, but whatever). Meanwhile, Hugh is getting schooled by Augustine, the polymer physicist (total star of this episode), on how to do his emulsification presentation. Appropriately, they get along like oil and water, and we see a pic of high-school-era Hugh in Ray Bans and a red bandana to show that he was too cool for science, even though his not-so-cool memory of that age is, “I liked drinking a lot of coffee and hanging out.”

It’s time for the edible science fair and the kids flock to Mary Sue’s churros station while giving Traci’s ceviche the side-eye. The judges critics show up and OMG IT’S PADMA! Who tricked her into coming on this mess? Also, Ruth is back and James is wearing a bow tie and suspenders, so there’s that. And then, possibly the worst thing we’ve ever seen, all the food is served in petri dishes. Padma eating out of a petri dish is something that could only occur on a show of this caliber.

The whole segment is really boring because there’s a lot of repetition and more focus on the presentations than the food. Naomi’s presentation is laughable because she’s making it up as she goes along and somehow tries to relate mushrooms to elasticity. Floyd looks likes he’s set to win because his beef prepared various ways nimbly shows off why meat browns and looks scrumptious as well. Hugh looks set to lose because his fried okra salad has broken mayonnaise running all over it.

The critics sit at an actual high school science lab table to discuss what just went down. James is surprised the food tasted good because of all the crap he’s eaten this season, and Padma wonders what she is doing there. Even though Floyd should win, Mary Sue takes the prize. James proves himself a man never to be questioned on the issue of emulsion, because he attacks Hugh’s broken mayonnaise relentlessly. Traci gets guff for using lemons for acidity. Naomi’s soggy calzones come under fire. “That melting gelée really did spurt into your mouth in the most unpleasant manner,” says James. Yeah, he went there.

In the end, Hugh is dismissed for his dismal mayo. It’s too bad, seeing as he was able to hold everything together since returning after his first elimination, but ultimately everything broke apart. Get it? Okay, we’ll stop now.

Next week: Naomi screams at some guy! A homecoming dinner for members of the military! Floyd makes a guy cry! Floyd cries!

Blinded Me With Science