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Top Chef Masters Ep. 2 06/17/09 (spoilers)

OK, I just *love* the mix of these 4 chefs! Fun QF challenge - the infamous Vending Machine Challenge! And as for guest judges for QF? Mikey's back! LOL (could have done with Ilan, but at least he no longer has the damn mohawk!) Did laugh at Wylie's reaction to seeing them, however!

Thought Wylie would take it, but a bit too much over-reduction. (Why would he have a sauce for a grilled cheese?) Have to say that Suzanne's dish looked the best to me, and obviously tasted the best.

Laughing at Graham and Wylie and their Frick and Frack repartee in WF. Wylie seems very intense, but so much more relaxed in this setting then he does as a judge on regular TC.

AND....ETA so far, if a Chef wins the QC, they also win the EC as well! Suzanne's dish seemed to be a major hodgepodge of lots of things, but I guess the flavors all blended well! Kinda bummed for Wylie...but at least he wasn't the lowest ranked.

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  1. good episode. LOVED the quickfire.

    1. I'm enjoying TCMasters. This is going to be REALLY hard to win. As a Miami Hound, I wish Michelle Bernstein and Michael Schwartz were participating....

      Keller Besh Finale????

      6 Replies
      1. re: The Chowfather

        Oh how I would love a Keller Besh finale! Besh is my favorite chef and I was rooting for him before this show began. I must say that I was pretty impressed with Suzanne Tracht but I don't think she could beat Keller...or Besh.

        1. re: Boudleaux

          a Keller-Besh finale would be so much fun to watch! but i wouldn't place your bets just yet. there are some really talented chefs coming up. Anita Lo or Michael Cimarusti might give those two a run for their money.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            You are so right! Looking forward to it. I think that what I love about Top Chef Masters is getting to see these chefs in the kitchen. I know the show is different from the original but I'm glad there isn't the behind-the-scenes drama, etc. I just want to watch them cook and create.

            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

              Do you know the pairings for the remaining first round episodes?

              1. re: The Chowfather

                Next week (Episode 3 on 6/24) is: Rick Bayless (Chicago-Mexican), Cindy Pawclyn (CA, farm-to-table), Wilo Benet (Puerto Rico-creole fusion/Latin), and Ludovic Lefebvre (CA-French).

                It looks like for 7/1 (per TVGuide.com), they're running a new episode of "Fashion Show" @ 10pm and a re-run of next week's episode at both 9pm and 11pm. So we'll have to wait for the next two first round pairings.

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  I was not all that thrilled with Wylie, he was a bit - pretentious? Like he expected to win... I really liked the was Suzanne was low key and I'm just doing my thing, lack of attitude-attitude. Very excited for Bayless bext week, and Besh when he comes on. So far I like this version of the show. Its more about the food and it really showcase each 4. That is always a big complaint on TC, too many cooks in the kitchen.

        2. i was rooting for Suzanne from the beginning, so i'm glad she won, and i honestly believe she deserved it.

          having said that, i was really impressed with GEB's performance, he definitely produced good food and gave her some stiff competition. but can someone PLEASE tell me why so many chefs mispronounce Niçoise? it's so irritating!

          Wylie surprised me - he sorta choked. he certainly redeemed himself in the EC, but i really think a regular (i.e. non-Master) TC contestant would have gotten dinged by the judges for screwing up the plating like that. they let him off the hook a little too easily.

          Elizabeth's performance was disappointing, but to be perfectly honest, i didn't expect that much from her - she's really a pastry chef first & foremost.

          and i understand why they used guest QF judges from the original vending machine challenge, but THOSE three? really? ugh, lame choices. what about Sam, Elia & Marcel? or at least Carlos, seeing as he won the original! i would have loved to see Cliff, but given the nature of his departure from the show, we know that would never happen ;)

          all in all, a really enjoyable episode to watch.

          oh, one more thing...i'm NOT happy with all of you who pointed out Kelly Choi's Giada-ness last week. i hadn't really seen it until you pointed it out, and now i can't think of anything else when i watch her!

          17 Replies
          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            Yeah, not my top three picks for the season 2 returnees, but Mikey was memorable in that challenge, Ilan was the season winner, and Betty is from LA and has not shown herself to be camera-shy at all, shall we say -- she may have been an easy choice, logistically -- who knows how many folks were approached.

            And my apologies for my role in the Giada/Kelly comparisons ;-)

            1. re: momjamin

              Actually I've been referring to Kelly as the "low rent Padma." She has the same over-dramatic, breathy speaking voice. Yuck!

              1. re: srr

                Low rent Padma! That's funny. Yes, they both have annoying diction but I find that Padma under-enunciates while Kelly over-enunciates. Padma sounds like she has a short tongue and just woke up from a nap. Kelly sounds like she's overly conscious of her speech and is listening to herself talk. I know this from my own experience of having to learn a new language and being very conscious of my own speech. But I'm not on TV!

                1. re: soniabegonia

                  And the way Kelly Choi kept saying "The Lost Supper" in that over-enunciated tone...my BF and I just kept looking at each other and giggling.

                  I can't help but keep noticing how super thin she is! I know skinny people can pack it down but it just makes her head look *that much* bigger.

                  I also loved how Wylie also kept dropping the F bombs.

                  I was really rooting for Tracht too, as she seemed so unassuming and calm. Just wished the presentation on her EC dish was a little neater. It looked like a little too much like a holiday plate! :-)

            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

              I missed the Choi/Giada association on previous posts but as I watch tonight that hit me like a brick.

              1. re: scubadoo97

                <I missed the Choi/Giada association on previous posts but as I watch tonight that hit me like a brick.>

                I think Giada is much more graceful than Kelly Choi. As well, Choi really irritates me with all that "we" stuff in reference to Top Chef, the original. She has nothing to do with that, and the writers need to get that correct.

                1. re: ChefJune

                  "As well, Choi really irritates me with all that "we" stuff in reference to Top Chef, the original. She has nothing to do with that, and the writers need to get that correct."
                  i said the exact same thing last week! it really irks me.

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    The hostess is the official voice of the producers, which makes the word "we" appropriate.

                2. re: scubadoo97

                  Other associations: Choi kinda looks like a bratz doll. MrLit remarked that she reminded him of the description of Draco Malfoy's mother in the Harry Potter series: a woman who always looks as if she's smelling dung right under her nose.

                  I do love the camraderie of the chefs, and in this episode I loved WD's potty mouth. Funny! This is a great addition to the Top Chef franchise, imo. It's nice to see a more human side to these famed chefs.

                3. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  I was thrilled that Suzanne Tracht won as well. Especially given that the competition was fierce, with Wylie Dufresne, Graham Elliot and Elizabeth Falkner. This week it seemed like the cheftestants took it a little more seriously, with a better result on the food front.

                  I have to say I was tickled to hear their challenge was cooking from packages and cans, other than the proteins provided. I threw a party a couple of years ago, in the summer of 2004 prior to the election, that I dubbed the "End of the World" party, where everything I served was canned or preserved, as if we were the survivors. My friends thought I was crazy, but when caviar, escargot (canned, from France, from the store Surfas in Los Angeles), and other goodies appeared on the menu, the party ended up being a success.

                  I am really enjoying this mini-season of Top Chef, and it is so entertaining to see so many seriously TOP chefs willing to participate. I hope next week is as good as this week was :-)

                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    I agree with the choices of guest QF judges - not particularly thrilled except with Mikey. Betty seemed MUCH more toned down, as did Ilan. But my distaste for him is such that I just want him to fall off the face of the earth never to be seen again.

                    And so far, I've avoided remembering the Giada-ness of Kelly. But frequent mentions will probably put it front and center soon enough. :-) (Still not crazy about her tho.)

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      Sorry - I know I am a bit late for this discussion, but I finally caught up with TCM yesterday. Out of the 3 episodes, this one was my favorite so far. I LOVE WD anyway, so to watch him in action was really entertaining for me.
                      I loved the cookie scene too.

                      But my comment here is - Is it me - or did Betty get some kind of face-lift or something??
                      I thought her face looked different - and weird!!!

                      1. re: NellyNel

                        Rather Joker-ish? LOL I'd have to go back and look at the clips with her in it. I just thought perhaps because her hair wasn't pulled back she looked a bit different.

                        And I agree - I enjoyed this ep most so far.

                        1. re: LindaWhit


                          Yup - that's the word!!!

                    2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      <but can someone PLEASE tell me why so many chefs mispronounce Niçoise? it's so irritating!> I agree. and how about "AAAA-oli?" that also gets my goat (especially when it's all gussied up with a whole bunch of flavors that have NTHING to do with Aioli).

                      Loved this episode. I thought even before the series started, that in almost every case the chef who may seem most "obvious" will not be the winner. It's about more than cooking under pressure, it's a lot about being comfortable in front of the camera.

                      1. re: ChefJune

                        same with "vichyssoise"

                        quick French lesson: if there's an e after the s, you pronounce the s. If no e, the s is *usually* silent. Not always, but in most cases.

                    3. I missed the first episode but was able to watch tonight. I love the show.

                      What I don't like is that it's just one episode (one chance) and you're out. I'd love to see a season of masters but suppose that's unlikely because they'd have to leave what they're doing for too long a time.

                      This show and the regular Top Chef have inspired me. I've become much more inspired and innovative in my cooking. Kudos to Bravo for bringing some great programming to my boob tube.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                        "What I don't like is that it's just one episode (one chance) and you're out."
                        but that's the way it is with the regular TC as well.

                        1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                          I think Ima's talking about the fact that THREE of the chefs are gone in each episode of TC Masters, vs. only one of the cheftestants from the regular TC.

                          Essentially, with 24 Master chefs competing, the "season" is only going to be 7 episodes....6 to get through the initial 24 at a rate of 4/episode, and then the finale. Unless they split the finale into two episodes, and then we get 8 total.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Linda's right. It seems a shame that even if a chef outperforms two other chefs, they're still packing their knives.

                            1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                              I'm surprised they don't have a wild card spot or two.

                              1. re: The Chowfather

                                You give me hope, Chowfather! That's a fantastic idea. Maybe they can do a viewer's choice kind of thing.

                                1. re: Ima Wurdibitsch

                                  They should bring back the eliminated chefs and have them battle for one wild card spot. That would make 7. I would also bring back all the past Top Chef winners and have them battle for one spot. That would leave us with 6 winners and two wild cards for the Great Eight.

                                  1. re: The Chowfather

                                    How about getting all the past TC winners together to form a JT.

                      2. I'm loving the show. One criticism I have is I miss the meal development that you have on TC. On masters you don't really know what they are making until they are serving it to the judges.

                        1. It seemed like my TV had a permanent magnification function on Kelly's head, now that EVERYONE has pointed that out. Oy.

                          Didn't know Graham Elliott Bowles before this but I am now jotting down his restaurant on my gotta-try list for Chicago.

                          Did anyone else notice that he did tuna as protein for all of his dishes? Kind of strange but it worked for him, they all liked it.

                          I am not a huge fan of putting sweet and savory together if the tastes aren't complementary in some way and Elizabeth's choice of boar and mango just did not seem thematic enough.

                          Suzanne's dishes looked dynamite. Wish I could have a taste.

                          When they said "Lost", I thought they were going to go Andrew Zimmern on us and provide bugs and slithery creatures as protein.

                          Same reaction about the QF judges.

                          It was kind of fun to see Wylie drop f-bombs like a juvenile delinquent, makes his oddly endearing and human, after the whole cerebral and rational build up they gave him.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: Phaedrus

                            My memory of the Season 2 vending machine quickfire was that they did not have nearly as many options in the vending machines or use of non-vending machine items.
                            I may well be remembering wrong but it seems the chefs had it a lot easier last night in that challenge.
                            But once again I think we saw a very different approach to cooking. Whereas many of the younger chefs are offended by criticism and blame the judges when their food doesn't taste good, we saw a classic example from Wylie last night when his quickfire dish was criticized. He didn't lash back, he expressed extreme disappointment in himself for making food they didn't like.
                            He accepted full responsibility rather than look for someone to blame.

                            1. re: tofuburrito

                              Ah yes, tofuburrito speaks wisdom. The difference between TC and TCM is maturity.

                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                this was also illustrated in the way they all accepted the limitations of the challenge without moaning and griping about using canned/preserved products as though they were above it. Suzanne made a couple of comments about not having access to fresh herbs, but she wasn't whining the way the chefs on the regular seasons usually do. i took it as more of an acknowledgment/explanation that she was a bit "thrown" by it and might have some difficulty working outside her comfort zone...though she certainly proved otherwise!

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  You don't think they were told ahead of time (prior to any competition) that the parameters of the QFs would be taken from past seasons? Or just that they should "expect the unexpected" in any and all challenges?

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    the regular season chefs know all that as well, but some of them still act like they're above it.

                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                      Either Kelly said it on the show, or I read in an interview (or both) that 1) the chefs were sent a video in advance of 25 QFs from the regular seasons and 2) their QFs would be taken from that set.

                                      Whether they knew 2 when they received 1 is unclear to me.

                                      I think I read 1 in an interview with one of the chefs, and Kelly said 2 to the chefs in one of the eps.

                                      1. re: momjamin

                                        Kelly did tell the chefs in the first episode that their QFs would be replays from the regular TC seasons. I assume she repeats this wisdom each time, since there are new contestants each episode, but that they're not going to keep it in every edit.

                                        FWIW, I don't think the episodes are necessarily being televised in shooting order (and with this format, they needn't be), because Jay Raynor said in his bravo.com blog last week that Gail Simmons filled in for him at the last minute because he was held up beyond the start of shooting by visa issues.

                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                          Ah! I was wondering how that worked when I read it.

                                          By the way, I got Rayner's book. He is as erudite and funny as he is in the show.

                                        2. re: momjamin

                                          Regarding 1, Michael Schlow said that in an interview with the Boston Globe:


                                          1. re: nonaggie

                                            That would be it -- I did read that article. Thx.

                                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        One of my biggest annoyances, mostly in young chefs and food fans, is the utter, immediate disdain for ingredients like canned anything or dried herbs. It shows arrogance, and often ignorance. One of the best pieces of fish I've ever eaten was from a $6 can of sardines, and I use things like canned tomatoes and pumpkin very regularly.

                                    2. re: tofuburrito

                                      I also thought they were able to use too many non-vending items in the QF. I mean the winning item was (essentially) shallots and lettuce, neither of which came from the machine. I think it would have been more fun if it was more limited.

                                    3. re: Phaedrus

                                      "Didn't know Graham Elliott Bowles before this but I am now jotting down his restaurant on my gotta-try list for Chicago"

                                      GEB is a great guy and a stellar Chef. He was on Iron Chef a few seasons back. If you get the chance don't miss the opportunity to try his new place.

                                    4. Missed the beginning, but caught the QF judging. I almost turned it off the show when I saw Betty, Ilan and Mikey.... Out of all of the previous TC contestants, they are the bottom three on my list. It was a triple whammy. However, Wylie and Graham's friendly rivalry kept me watching.

                                      1. Another pet peeve. Why the &*&^$% is Kelly telling the chefs to pack their knives when they get eliminated? They're all leaving and only one is coming back, much later.

                                        This is different than the regular TC where the contestances are stuck there and the eliminated one has to move out.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                          Yeah, I'm not crazy about that part of the JT. But I guess they have to have some kind of "tagline" as the chefs are leaving.

                                          1. re: Phaedrus

                                            That really bugs me as well. Wylie had to leave without hearing how everyone else did. The next chef did worse than him, but he wasn't able to hear the results. I think they should keep all 4 of them at JT to hear all the results, then they can say the "tagline" to all 3. Just seems a little harsh to me.
                                            Beyond that, I do love the show. I was cracking up at all of Wylie's cursing and also enjoyed the repartee between him and GEB.

                                          2. I enjoy watching these chefs in the stew room. Their respect for each other is refreshing.

                                            It's also funny how pleased they seem when they come back in to the room after Critic's Table and see the wine.

                                            Thought the cookie baking scene was sweet.

                                            Wonder what the regular TC contestants would do during "stew" time if they had access to the kitchen?

                                            9 Replies
                                            1. re: Mushroom

                                              Forgot about the cookies, that was cool. seeing them act like kids, with really serious skills doing something fun.

                                              By what Bravo has shown us, the contestants on TC would still get seriously hammered.

                                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                                The regular cheftestants definitely get hammered during their time in the stew room! Do you remember Jamie and (I forget who, but someone else) were so drunk during one JT last year that they actually had to postpone it a bit to try and get them to sober up? And even so, they were still definitely silly while standing at JT. LOL

                                                I enjoyed the cookie baking as well - Wylie was funny: "I'm really good with a sauté pan!" and making the flipping motions when asking Elizabeth if they could pan-fry the cookie dough instead of using the oven. :-)

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  Was I the only one who thought ... next time I make cookies I'm going to try pan frying some of the dough.

                                                  I think it would be fun if they left the regular cheftestants in a kitchen instead of the "stew room" which is designed to make them unhappy and uncomfortable. I'd love to see them cooking to blow off steam.

                                                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                    You were not the only one! I thought so too.

                                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                      I thought about that, too. Then I remembered some of the cat-fights and thought about the dangers of mixing alcohol and sharp things and I'm not so sure it's a great idea. Remember someone is almost always bitching about getting "thrown under the bus."

                                                      1. re: MplsM ary

                                                        That's what I was thinking -- alcohol + knives + flames...the producers are very well aware of the potential dangers, as I think I remember reading around the time of Cliff's departure.

                                                    2. re: LindaWhit

                                                      "Do you remember Jamie and (I forget who, but someone else) were so drunk during one JT last year that they actually had to postpone it a bit to try and get them to sober up?"
                                                      Jamie's partner in crime for that one was Leah.

                                                2. There were two things that really stood out for me about this episode. One was that Wylie seemed sort of out of control for the whole episode. That surprised me because he is so scientific in his approach to food, and he just seemed to be running around like a manic and cursing a blue streak. I really liked him much more than I have when he's been a judge. The second thing is that Suzanne, the winner of the challenge, had the fewest number of votes as someone whom the viewing public would like to be stranded on a desert island. She did seem extremely serious and focused -- which might have helped her win. I have to say that her dish didn't appeal to me at all. I'm sure that it was delicious, but it seemed like a complete mish-mash, which the judges certainly acknowledged. I'm happy that Choi is on the show. She hasn't eaten in a really, really long time and this will give her a chance to have a bite...

                                                  7 Replies
                                                  1. re: roxlet

                                                    "I'm happy that Choi is on the show. She hasn't eaten in a really, really long time and this will give her a chance to have a bite..."

                                                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                      Read Jay's blog on Kelly. According to him, he felt the same way, until he saw her pound the food away.

                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                        If you believe that, I know of a bridge in Brooklyn that's for sale!

                                                        1. re: roxlet

                                                          Some people just have really high metabolism. My sister is 5'3" and weighs less than 95lb and you should see her EAT! And she has 2 kids.

                                                          1. re: soniabegonia

                                                            I know a lot of thin people who claim they eat a lot, but they starve themselves for the most part and exercise like fiends. I heard one say that she could only have a small skim latte so that she could have a glass of wine later. Not to say that is bad, it's just the way they stay really, really slim. They eat little teeny bites of things and constantly say how delicious everything is and how stuffed they are. I would bet money that Choi's daily calorie consumption takes place on the set of TC. Your sister is special and very, very lucky!

                                                          2. re: roxlet

                                                            I know a woman who coached with me and we went to a mexican place and she powered down more food than I did, believe me that is saying a lot and she is a tiny little thing , so yes I believe it.

                                                      2. re: roxlet

                                                        I did note that suzanne got fewer votes but attributed that to people voting more on who they wanted to split a beer with than who they wanted cooking dinner.......

                                                        As for appearence of her dish, I thought it was part of her theme---I mean, if you are stuck on some island, odds are you are eatting a bunch of stuff in a bowl, not things that are neatly laid out on a plate. For me, the fact that every one of the judges said to ignore the looks and go for the taste said a lot.

                                                        And as for that choi woman, I can barely stand to look at her---EAT SOMETHING, PLEASE!!!!!!

                                                      3. I thought it was interesting that Graham seemed to think Wylie was his biggest competition. Hurray for the women chefs!

                                                        3 Replies
                                                        1. re: melly

                                                          I thought, just given their respective resumes, that Wylie was the obvious front-runner. Faulkner is primarily a pastry chef, and her restaurants aren't among the best in San Francisco, and I'd never heard of the other two (although after seeing their work, I'd be interested in eating at either of their restaurants).

                                                          I was surprised to see Wylie basically choke under pressure.

                                                          1. re: melly

                                                            I dont think he underestimated the women chefs. His and Wylie's style seemed to be similar (innovative, playful use of ingredients, more pushing of the envelopes) than the other two chefs so naturally Wylie would be his toughest competition.

                                                            1. re: lbs

                                                              I agree with that, and I also think that they knew each other before, which would make them naturally competitive.

                                                          2. My wife told me to pick a restaurant for Father's Day so after last night I checked Jar (Suzanne's restaurant) for reservation availability and it's not totally booked so I'm looking forward to giving it a try. The menu looks good and they have a decent beer list!

                                                            3 Replies
                                                            1. re: tofuburrito

                                                              make sure someone orders the pot roast - it's one of her most popular dishes.

                                                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                                                Thanks for that recommendation. I went with the pot roast and it was one of the best dinning experiences of my life.
                                                                I realized why the one thing in the competition that seem to throw her was not having access to herbs. Her dishes include a lot of herbal flavor, not over the top though, very well balanced.

                                                                1. re: tofuburrito

                                                                  i'm so happy to hear that!! thanks for letting me kow :)

                                                            2. Kelly Choi is clearly trying for some drama in her delivery, what with the overenunciation, but as the only actual modulation in her voice is change of volume, she sounds very wooden and flat - bringing Katie Lee Joel to mind more than Padma.

                                                              Although I'm as disgusted by Ilan as the next chowhound, I have to say, he was the only one of the three who had anything substantive to say about the dishes. Mikey just said everything was delicious, and Betty either wanted to lick the bowl or push it away.

                                                              Am I the only one who can't begin to imagine quite what Dr. Pepper aioli would taste like?

                                                              1. I thought this show would be a yawn, but actually it's fun to see people who really are at the top of their game. It's sort of like seeing an all-star game instead of real baseball, but seeing Graham goofing around was really fun, and makes me interested in going to his restaurant. I wish they would concentrate a bit more on the food and prep, but it's not a major fault.

                                                                I thought Graham was going to win pretty easily, but Suzanne's dish must have been better than it looked.

                                                                I hope they bring back some of the top losers to give them another chance.

                                                                1. Was checking out bravo and it sounds like there are 6 weeks of 4 chef winner moves foward rounds. Than the final 4 weeks will be the 6 round winners, eliminated 1 each week until final show down. I like this format. It really allows the food to be showcased and you only "get to know" those who will be in the top 6. Cool.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: jme1beachbum

                                                                    I saw that in a TV Guide article as well. I was originally thinking that the finale would be only 1 week - I like that it's 4 weeks! That means they must have one week in the "final 4 weeks" that no one goes...OR - a two show finale with the final 2.

                                                                    And the 7/8 chefs are listed now: "Chief chefs Anita Lo, Douglas Rodriguez, John Besh and Mark Peel are all tied up. That is, they must cook an egg with one hand tied behind their back. Later, they conjure up culinary magic to impress notable guests, including actor Neil Patrick Harris."