Top Chef Masters Recap: Dave Hill on Ketchup Aversion and Accordion Dances

Ketchup is not this man's friend.
Ketchup is not this man’s friend. Photo: Bravo

Top Chef Masters: Will we ever truly understand it? Probably not. But one thing I know for sure is that as season five barrels toward its no doubt dramatic conclusion, I continue to be on the verge of a goddamn seizure wondering what the hell these damn chefs will be forced to put up with next. Last night was episode eight, and I and everyone else at the free clinic agreed that it was easily the craziest episode yet.

Since Doug Keane’s sous-chef Paul won the Sous-Chef Challenge, they got to design the Quickfire Challenge together and came up with some crazy shit where the chefs all have to create a dish that makes ketchup the star, which is insane, especially to chef Sang Yoon, who won’t even allow that crap in his restaurant. He is pissed.

“Suck it,” Doug and Paul seemed to be saying to Sang. It was nuts. Then Sang was just like, “Why don’t you guys suck it?” as he whipped up this fried chicken dish with grilled enoki mushrooms and chili sauce that looked pretty damn good to me.

Meanwhile, Doug made some duck breast with ketchup and mustard red miso, scallions, and blood turnip, which everyone pretty much thought sucked, as best I could tell. Even Curtis Stone — whose hair and, well, just about everything else, looked really great while he sat there being forced to eat that crap — couldn’t get into it.

As I sat there watching it all go down, I couldn’t help but wish I could take Curtis away to some lovely bed-and-breakfast with a five-star restaurant attached, situated way out in the woods somewhere, away from all this madness. You know, just a couple of totally straight dudes clearing their heads and enjoying a really nice meal together before getting back to their lives.

Anyway, other standouts in the Quickfire Challenge were Bryan’s buffalo wings with celery emulsion and blue cheese and Jennifer’s scallops with ketchup sauce, fermented black beans, blood orange, and avocados, which the powers that be ultimately decided was the best of the bunch — the powers including guest judge author Daniel Handler, who at one point totally broke out an accordion for no good reason, and pretty much no one could handle it. It ruled. They should do that on every show.

As for the elimination challenge, it was pretty much the craziest thing this culinary expert has seen on the show yet. A bunch of masked Mexican wrestlers (or “luchadores,” if you wanna get all technical about it) from Lucha Vavoom walked in and looked like they were about to kick everyone’s asses, including Curtis (even though I bet Curtis could have beaten each and every one of them up if he felt like it). Then, as if all that weren’t enough, the chefs were asked to make two Mexican dishes that would feed 300 people. Ummm — what?!

After the chefs got done practically soiling themselves at this news, they got to work. David made a shrimp and chorizo quesadilla with chipotle and watermelon, and also a red snapper with pumpkin seeds and cactus.

The seemingly unstoppable Sang made Thai shrimp cocktail with avocado and tortilla strips and barbecued pork with corn sopa and cabbage slaw. Bryan made shrimp and chorizo with plantain and yellow rice porridge and chile masa dumplings with braised beef tongue, salsa, and avocado. Jennifer made shrimp, bass, and scallop ceviche with papaya, mango, pineapple, and plantains, and also guajillo chile posole with shaved cabbage, lime, cilantro, and some (in my opinion) bullshitty cheese.

Meanwhile, Doug practically gave up with his Bloody Mary with spicy tequila, tomato, and then some goddamn lemons and stuff, and also a chorizo and corn fritter with scallion and garlic aioli. Seriously, Doug — get your shit together!

The judges for the elimination challenge this time around were Jane Goldman from Chow.com, Lesley Sutter (food lady from Los Angeles magazine), and, of course, Gail Simmons, who, as usual, looked so beautiful my TV practically exploded. They loved Jennifer’s dish the best, especially Lesley, who thinks it will make for great hangover food. I hope someone had “the talk” with her after the show. We’re all here for you, Lesley. And when I say “we,” I mean America.

Meanwhile, the judges decide to give David, Doug, and Sang (!) a stern talking to. They all thought David’s “quesadillas” were bullshit, and Jane wouldn’t stop talking about his damn olives. Curtis thought Doug was a wuss for serving a damn Bloody Mary, but whatever, he’s got immunity anyway, so yeah, right, like he even cares. And finally, Sang was basically told to go screw himself for that damn Thai shrimp cocktail. They ask him to leave and he feels great, great shame. No one could believe it. I swear, sometimes I don’t even wanna live in this world.

Tune in to Top Chef Masters next Wednesday at 10 p.m. on the popular Bravo TV network. It’s getting down to the wire, dammit!

Top Chef Masters Recap: Dave Hill on Ketchup Aversion and Accordion