Top Chef Masters Recap: Take Me to Tokyo

“Does anyone know how to turn this thing on?” Photo: Isabella Vosmikova/Bravo

Still reeling from last week’s “Cakegate,” Art opens this episode with a firm challenge to himself: He needs to get over the “disaster by throwing something on the grill.” Lucky for him he’ll get his wish in about twenty minutes. But before that can happen, an ice bar appears that’s bearing ludicrous amounts of sea urchin, lobster, shrimp, and the like. Takashi is mesmerized, Chris is excited because he likes cutting animals open, and Patricia cranes her neck to see what’s going on. Curtis dutifully explains the Quickfire: Make a raw dish to be judged by seafood expert Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano. Never mind the fact that he’s got nothing to do with Las Vegas or professional cooking (except that old Food Network show): Bravo parent NBC is airing the Summer Olympics right now and cross-promotion, synergy, corporate buzz words, etc.

The gang has fifteen minutes to get something on a plate, and Takashi finishes last even though he’s called a “culinary ninja,” which is vaguely offensive if you wanna be real P.C. about it. Kerry makes some nice-looking hamachi but ruins it with eucalyptus oil, which probably tastes like licking a massage table. Boitano shows up looking like he never eats and gobbles down all the food, impressing Patricia with his fancy food words. (I guess he learned some things when he had that cooking show.) Curtis criticizes Art’s dish, which looks like baby food, and Art gets predictably crabby. Boitano hands down his judgment, Olympics-style: bronze to Mark, silver to Chris, and gold to Takashi because he’s the only one who knew what he was doing with raw fish. Kerry’s was the worst because eucalyptus oil.

Asian Week continues with a hibachi-style challenge, which seems to fill Patricia with dread. The group breaks into three teams; to the surprise of no one, Art and Chris are on the same team, which is just gimmicky at this point. They’re pseudo-entertaining but tiresome and predictable. Art knows how to survive this setback: “It’s all about kissing babies.” Meanwhile, the news that they’ll be cooking for cheftestants of seasons past has Chris “awe-struck … because they’ve all been in our shoes,” which should not inspire awe but he’s easily wowed. In other news, Mark is nervous because he’s not on the same team as Clark and “he plays with the Asian ingredients better than I do.” Foreshadowing!

Over at Whole Foods, everyone is pretty calm but Chris is running around and screaming about time. Thierry, on the other hand, decides to take a massage break. “You ding-dong!” cries Chris. Somebody get these two a CBS sitcom, stat.

It’s go time in the kitchen, and each team will have 30 minutes to cook and serve three dishes for the judges and special guests Mary Sue Milliken, Jonathan Waxman, Rick Moonen, and Susan Feniger. Oh, and smart, funny Francis Lam is here this week, which is a treat for all of us. The veterans chat about how happy they are to have this miserable experience behind them, and Jonathan in particular seems scarred by the blindfold incident.

The first team is up and they’re as nervous as Olympic athletes before their doping tests. Mark cooks bok choy on the Teppanyaki for the first time in his life and thinks it’s a “ballsy” move (not even close), but watching him cook is boring and his dish looks like spa food. Kerry throws some things in the air to create “the drama.” Lorena makes some burnt fried rice and adds cilantro to make it more like something they’d serve at Taco Bell (side thought: will Taco Bell still be advertising every week even after she’s off the show?). Foolishly, none of them taste their food and the diners are underwhelmed.

The next team is up, and they’re nervous, too! Clark breaks some plates and Takashi admits he’s never cooked on a Teppanyaki before, but he’s got immunity so it’s still chill. Good for him, because his savory pancakes turn out gritty, but Clark and Patricia make up for it with their dishes. She starts dancing because “this is Vegas” and she wants to get wild, but James needs more drama.

The final team is up, and their strategy “is not to cook Japanese,” which sounds like the worst idea ever. Art makes cheese-grits cakes which fall apart because Honey Bear apparently cannot make any kind of cake to save his life. But he redeems himself with his fanciful stories and pouring Jack Daniels on the griddle to make some fire, which is the Benihana action everyone has been waiting for. Chris does what he always does and barks at Art and everyone is scandalized by their dysfunctional relationship. Art maintains composure while Chris explains his overly complicated clam chowder. Thierry burns some crepes but somehow doesn’t get too much flak for it.

Let’s just get this out there: No amount of Taco Bell commercials will ever make us want to eat a “Cantina Bowl.”

It’s time for judgment, but it’s a weird week since the judges seem to be valuing entertainment and presentation over sheer deliciousness. Despite the infighting and renegade approach, Art, Chris, and Thierry are the favorites. Ruth says they were all waiting for flames and Art brought them, so he wins the challenge, prompting an outburst of Honey Bear tears because he knows he got the sympathy vote. Aside from brave Curtis, no one mentions Chris’s barky nature, because they don’t want to be yelled at, either, so they may just have to let him win this whole thing.

Who’s the worst? Mark, Kerry, and Lorena, that’s who. Mark played it too safe, and Lorena made fried rice that tasted like fruit juices, which makes eucalyptus oil sound good by comparison. Clark says he hopes Mark doesn’t get cut, for obvious reasons. Foreshadowing!

Bravo’s inane poll asks viewers if they’re on Art or Chris’s side. Guess who won? Also, how many people actually vote in these things? Like five, or is that too high a guess? More transparency, please.

After the commercial break, the moment we’ve been waiting for arrives and Mark is dismissed. Rather than accept it, he’s all indignant and “my idea was better than other chefs.’” In the kitchen, everyone’s mopey because he has to leave Clark behind, and in a weird bit of editing, the two don’t even really say bye to each other. “I can sleep in!” he says, trying to convince everyone and himself that’s he’s not going to cry his eyes out after parting ways with his twin.

Next time: The B-52’s! Helicopters! Cooking above the Grand Canyon!

Odds of Winning

Chris - 9/10. No wins this week, but in the long run this is still his to lose.
Patricia - 4/5. She’s still solid, but her food lacks some diversity.
Takashi - 2/3. He excels when he’s comfortable, but that’s unlikely to be the case in future challenges.
Art - 1/2. He proved himself as a survivor this week.
Thierry - 1/3. He’s coasting from week to week, but everyone loves him.
Clark - 1/8. He showed some finesse this week, but will he crumble without Mark by his side?
Lorena - 1/10. Every week she serves up disappointment.
Kerry - 1/50. He can make his own gochujang but he can’t win this game.

What Would Brian Boitano Eat?