Top Chef Masters Recap: An Unforgivable Elimination

Making all the wrong choices.
Making all the wrong choices. Photo: Isabella Vosmikova/Bravo

Last night, the unthinkable occurred on Top Chef Masters — well, not the unthinkable, which of course would be Art popping out of a cake in a diaper and proposing to Curtis, but it was something pretty bad. I’d like to think I’ll never forgive the judges for what they’ve done, but it’s fine if they want to ruin the show’s credibility and, frankly, I’ll be moving on to happier thoughts after this kitchen closes. But before that happens, let’s revisit the grim details of last night’s competition and again place bets on who’s going to win, shall we?

Our four remaining chefs make their way into the kitchen like they got leaden feet. Everyone is anxious and contemplative because no one wants to be the loser who’s sent home right before the finale. Tough cookies, chefs, this here is a competition. For the Quickfire, the kitchen is split in half between the pantry and the cooking area. Only one member from each team can be on either side, and they can’t switch, which basically means one chef will have to tell the other how to cook a dish on their behalf. While it would have been highly entertaining to see Patricia and Lorena scream and throw things at each other as teammates, the knife draw was likely rigged to prevent this doesn’t turn out that way, so Lorena’s with Kerry.

Surprising to no one, Chris and Patricia communicate in the way former lovers do, her knowing how to prep his ingredients, he knowing just how to salt her water. Meanwhile, Kerry and Lorena are flustered and Patricia feels so unthreatened that she just pities them. Kerry’s a bad teammate because he just focuses on his dish and throws Lorena’s together at the last minute, but he’s riding high on last week’s victory and he’s not about to slip because of that pesky thing called teamwork. In strolls Johnny Avello, a big-shot Vegas oddsmaker, to taste the food. He takes issue with the layer of fat on Chris’s duck (Chris is like, “Huh?”) but thinks everything is generally marvelous, even Lorena’s straightforward salmon that Kerry probably made terribly to sabotage her. In the first shock of the episode, Kerry wins (again?!) for his farfalle with shrimp (snooze), which is probably an indication not to ask Johnny Avello for restaurant advice next time you’re in Vegas. The win doesn’t matter much, though, because no one has immunity. Anyone could be cut! This is bloodsport!

For the main challenge, each cheftestant has to make a three-course picnic meal to be served at Vegas’s first Dîner en Blanc, the world’s largest dinner party that foils sloppy eaters with its all-white dress code. While they go shopping, Chris and Patricia are sure they’re going to make it to the finale, while Lorena silently fumes about Kerry not making her salmon right, even though they both won money for their charities so GET OVER IT. Kerry doesn’t care, because he’s just there to avoid the drama and make a cauliflower soup he learned how to make from his old pal Hillary Clinton. They prep their picnics and Patricia is beaming over her Marco Polo theme (“Italian with Asian influences”) and castigating Lorena for always “building the same flavor base.” Those are fighting words, Patricia, and the boxing ring was last week, so move on. Amazingly, they let the food sit overnight. Mmm, so fresh, those diners are going to love all of it.

Except the thing is they do love all of it, if the crowd footage is to be believed, but what’s not to like when you’re eating twelve courses and making your Bravo debut? The chefs dutifully explain their food to the diners, which seems like a bad sign, because picnic food should be fairly straightforward, but it’s mostly well-reviewed by diners and judges alike. The best-looking dish is Chris’s pork-and-chicken-liver pâté with hazelnuts and truffles (give to me), and the worst-looking is Lorena’s mango-laden, too-sweet chicken salad. Kerry hears praise for his soup (Thanks, Hill!) and Patricia earns raves for her salad and bison with chili jam. By the way, James is wearing a bow tie and Robin Leach just happens to be slumming with the plebes at this thing.

All in all, the food was exquisite in appearance if not flavor, which leaves the judges no choice to nitpick. But first, the winner: Chris, recovering nicely after a bad showing in the last episode. He moves on to next week’s second-to-last episode with other favorite Kerry, leaving the ladies up for elimination. Lorena’s chicken salad was too sweet (Ruth hated it) and her chocolate mousse had turned into more of a frosting, but she did make a potato salad that Francis went on and on about. Patricia’s concept was flawed and her flatbread was stale, but everything else seemed somewhere between fine and really good. Even if you put aside your bias and just look at this round, it’s clear who should win. But the workings of Top Chef Masters are mysterious and the judges throw a screwball by keeping Lorena on. Chris is devastated, but I guess we all should have seen this coming, since the show had clearly planted Patricia in the role of Bully Who Will Later Have a Downfall. She makes a graceful exit, but I’d like to think she ran out to vandalize every Taco Bell in a 30-mile radius.

Next time: cooking with Francis and Ruth, cooking with teenagers!

Odds of Winning

Chris - 99/100. The clear winner from the very first episode. Win it for Patricia!
Kerry - 0.7/100. So he’s proved himself these past couple of weeks, but he’s not the best.
Lorena - 0.3/100. If she wins, this thing is rigged.

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