Hello. This is culinary aficionado and reality-television goddamn expert Dave Hill checking in with another important recap of Top Chef Masters, the popular program on the Bravo network that us “foodies” just can’t get enough of.
As you’ve probably noticed, Top Chef Masters is racing toward its dramatic conclusion not unlike a runaway train barreling toward one of those damsels in distress in an old silent movie, only instead of a damsel in distress being tied to the tracks, its Sang Yoon or Gail Simmons or somebody, which is nuts.
Anyway, last night was episode nine in this incredible series, and things are seriously getting so down to the wire I’ve stopped wearing pants altogether while viewing. This time around, things got off to an electric start with just David, Jennifer, Douglas, and Bryan still around to take part in the Quickfire Challenge. And Curtis Stone — no fan of bullshit — didn’t waste any time slapping them around in the form of asking them to create a burger, a word that sounds especially delicious when spilling forth from his perfectly balmed Aussie lips.
As he said it, it was hard not to picture Curtis and I in the Old West, riding horseback together for miles on end, our faces covered in soot as we passed a bottle of whiskey back and forth before stopping to build a fire and sit down to talk about everything and nothing at all late, late into the night as coyotes and other beasts howled in the distance. Oh, and we’d grill burgers too.
As for the chefs, Bryan went the classic route with a bacon-and-cheddar burger that featured some mystery sauce I (and the rest of America, too, I bet) am still puzzling over. David got nuts with a lobster-and-burrata number that featured quail egg and apple pickles. Meanwhile, Jennifer took a standard beef burger and tore it a new one by adding caramelized bacon, shiitake ponzu slaw, and Sriracha ketchup, something I wish I could get by the gallon cuz I love that damn Sriracha. Finally, Douglas did some serious trailblazing in the form of a shrimp burger with radish and shiitake slaw and ponzu sauce. Personally, I think everyone needs to calm down about this ponzu bullshit, but whatever — we can talk about that another time.
As if things weren’t already off to a crazy enough start, the guest judge in the Quickfire Challenge was none other than Sang Yoon, who was sent packing like a disgraced clergyman last week. I don’t think I was alone in worrying Sang might just lose his shit after being booted just a week earlier and then asked to come back and judge four chefs who — between you and me — couldn’t cook their way out of a paper bag compared to Sang most days, but whatever. Anyway, Sang basically told Douglas and Bryan to go screw themselves but had kind words for David and Jennifer, who ended up taking the prize this round because, duh, caramelized bacon!
Thanks to Bryan’s sous-chef winning that sous-chef thingy they do each week, he won immunity so he and his goatee got to head straight to the big finale no matter what happened. Meanwhile, the chefs were asked to create at tribute dinner for four teachers from the Los Angeles School District, a nice thing any way you slice it.
And as if all that’s not enough, the chefs got to shop at Whole Foods for their ingredients, which is great because, if they’re anything like me, they can stop off in the personal-care section and luxuriate with the lotions for a bit before getting down to business.
The immune one, Bryan, got things off to a bold start by making calamari bolognese sauce with miso cavatelli, bacon, and squid ink. (Once again, a bullshit ingredient, if you ask me. When will people get over this?!) Meanwhile, Doug got loose with smoked salmon with cucumber, cauliflower, and so many different kinds of caviar I almost passed a stone. Talk about a guy who hates rules!
For his part, David got dainty by whipping up a bittersweet-chocolate soufflé with raspberry sauce and toasted orange peel (the toasting really makes a difference in my opinion). And Jennifer brought the heat by making lamb with creamy grains, fennel, pear, and a red wine reduction.
After they were done, the judges came out and, as usual, were total dicks about everything.
They basically told David and Jennifer to go sit in a goddamn corner and think about what they’d done for playing it so safe this late in the season. And as much as I want to wrestle James Oseland to the ground and break his glasses right in front of him and his own mother, I couldn’t help but agree.
The judges loved Doug and Bryan’s dishes a whole bunch and were so complimentary I don’t think I was the only viewer who thought they might all just start boning right then and there. Bryan took the win with his crazy-ass miso cavatelli, a dish I intend to try to replicate in my own kitchen using ordinary household items just as soon as I am done typing this.
And now for the bad news: David, a fan favorite and guy that I could totally see letting come along with me and Curtis on one of our horse-riding expeditions, got sent packing last night. So it’s down to Doug, Jennifer, and Bryan for the big finish. Holy shit. Yeah, I know — I can’t believe it either.
Tune in next week as Top Chef Masters returns for a no-doubt dramatic conclusion Wednesday at 10 p.m. on Bravo, the Andy Cohen–based network. It’s gonna be so, so great.