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Top Chef Masters Ep. #5 - 07/15/09 (spoilers)

I just saw on TV Guide's website that one of the judges for tonight's episode is Jeff Lewis from Bravo's "Flipping Out". Lordy, *please* make him less anal-retentive than he is on his own show!

Chef's competing tonight are: Michael Chiarello, Rick Moonen, Nils Noren and Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson. Of those, the only name that is familiar to me is Chiarello.

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  1. Linda - I think I remember the Flipping Out guy was a guest judge on Top chef before...
    Am I crazy?

    1 Reply
    1. re: NellyNel

      If he was, I didn't see that episode, Nelly!

    2. Oh, Hell, I'd rather see him as a contestant on a cooking show, "Extreme OCD Cooking".

      1 Reply
      1. re: ChinoWayne

        See, now THAT might be interesting! LOL Although none of them would finish their dishes in time - the clock would run out. ;-)

      2. Wasn't Nils Noren a judge on TC Season 3 French Culinary Institute episode? I believe he was the guy who said Sara Mair's dish wasn't too Jamaican as he goes to Jamaica frequently because he's in a reggae band. If it is indeed him, that's kind of scary as I'm starting to sound like those Star Trek nerds who remember every damn detail.

        3 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          Miss Needle, if I *EVER* see you with a fauxhawk, I'm disowning you as an honorary TC nerd. <vbg>

          1. re: LindaWhit

            Now now, there is nothing wrong with a properly coiffed fauxhawk.

            WTF am I saying! Have....the .....urge......to......make scallop dish.....a la .....sou vide!

          2. re: Miss Needle

            If they ever decided to have a Top Chef-style reality series in the Star Trek universe it would be called Top Replicator.

          3. VERY surprised that Moonen didn't plate any of his QF...but he seemed to have redeemed himself a lot in the Elimination Challenge.

            Very smart of Chiarello to enlist the guests' help in plating his dessert! What a flirt. :-) Laughed at Gael Greene's "lawn cuttings" remark about the basil gelato.

            LOVED the presentation on all of the elimination challenge dishes.

            1 Reply
            1. re: LindaWhit

              I totally agree re: Moonen. He probably would have won if he just got SOMETHING onto a plate in the QF...

            2. So Chiarello wins. Has any of the winners of the QF *not* moved on to the finale? Except for Ep. 3, where Wilo Benet won the QF but Bayless won the overall, whoever won QF gets enough stars to move on.


              11 Replies
              1. re: LindaWhit

                Hmmm.... I thought Bayless won the QF, but don't fully remember.

                Looks like Bravo is pushing their new season line up onto TC Masters... I won't be surprised if the next guest judges are "The Real Housewives of ???" It will be a catfight!

                1. re: dave_c

                  The Real Housewives made an appearance on Shear Genius (or whatever the hair stylist show was called) -- Bravo definitely likes maximizing their people.

                  1. re: momjamin

                    I'm sure I saw the flipping out guy as a guest judge on another Bravo show too - was it Project Runway??
                    I swore it was TC
                    But Linda would have remembered that - or someone else!

                    1. re: NellyNel

                      He was a judge on season 2 of Top Design. Which makes sense since a lot of his business is interior design.

                      1. re: 512window

                        thanks for that - I thought I was going mad!

                    2. re: momjamin

                      And one of the TC losing chefs prepared a meal for the Real Housewives last season. Poor guy.

                        1. re: newhavener07

                          Wasn't that Malarkey! who had to prepare the meal for the OC Real Housewives? I do remember an interview with whoever it was and the chef saying they were a real PITA. No surprise there.

                          1. re: LindaWhit

                            Yes, it was Malarkey! on an episode when a housewife and a son deliberately got another housewife drunk...I didn't see it, but that's what I gathered from Malarkey's blog.

                          2. re: newhavener07

                            Richard Blais somehow was roped into blogging about the RHofAtlantaSuburbs.

                    3. Rayner is becoming a favorite, especially after he called Oselander "Fishboy". And Oselander is dropping in my eyes.

                      I thought the critics were pretty effusive in their comments, so I was surprised to see how they scored the chefs. Its the damned editing again.

                      I thought thier comments on Nils Noren refelcted a lot of cultural bias, it is like when the started Iron Chef America and had Morimoto and Sakai come to the US to compete. The judges were pretty dismissive of their dishes because the dishes did not reflect the American food sensibility. To be fair, Noren hasd been in the US for quite a few years now so he should have known better.

                      I like Chiarello niow than when he is hosting his show. Didn''t dislike him before, just didn't care one way of another.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        Wouldn't it be great if they swapped out Jay Rayner for Toby Young on the regular TC?

                        1. re: Phaedrus

                          Oselander is so cranky: too hot, too salty, too cold!

                          1. re: mnosyne

                            Yes, he does seem to be the Goldilocks judge, doesn't he?

                          2. re: Phaedrus

                            I'm not sure if it's the editing, I think it's more that they don't want to say anything uncomplimentary or too critical to chefs who they know are all very accomplished, so have lots of praise for what they liked, gentle criticism for what they didn't, and then give stars according to how they really feel.

                          3. Quite possible that, if Moonen had finished his Quickfire dish, he could have come out on top, since he ended up only 2 1/2 points shy of Chiarello.

                            And if I was hearing right, at the table, didn't Chiarello say something about how he was glad Moonen didn't finish, because his dish sounded great?

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: cmvan

                              I thought the Swede had it, they must have really hated that dessert.

                              1. re: cmvan

                                If Rick Moonen, easily the most accomplished chef in this group, had completed the quickfire, even with a low score, he most CERTAINLY would have placed first.

                                1. re: cmvan

                                  You did hear correctly - Chiarello stated later that he knew Moonen was his biggest competition. And I do think Moonen might have won had he plated his QF.

                                  Here's his recipe from Bravo's site: http://www.bravotv.com/foodies/recipe... I definitely think these Shrimp Moon Doggies would have beaten Fish Balls. :-)

                                  1. re: LindaWhit

                                    I hope they ate them while in the stew room since they were sitting in the basket just out of the fryer. They looked good.

                                    Chiarello was very comfortable in front of the camera and with the ladies having done a lot of TV shows. I thought Moonens food looked amazing and he was the winner in my mind. I would have loved to tasted Noren's app and salmon.

                                  2. re: cmvan

                                    Yes, I thought Chiarello made that comment too. Moonen would have easily gotten 3 stars on his QF challenge.

                                  3. For some reason this group didn't impress me. Not that they weren't all accomplished chefs, but nothing they created made me think "wow, I really want to eat at his restaurant." Maybe they were all too much alike: trained in classical techniques and doing the same kind of trendy modern American dishes and flavor combinations (herbs in ice cream, yuzu, ceviche, etc.).

                                    1. I only have one notable problem with this show. Is a brandade still a brandade if you fry it? Traditionally, it's what we would call a "dip." So if you fry skordalia or taramasalata, are they still skordalia and taramasalata? I don't think so... I think they would be a mess! It really bugs me when cook/chefs take the name of a classic dish and apply it to something that doesn't even resemble it. Then everyone stands around it and talks about it as if they're afraid they won't be hip if they say, "Hey, this is NOT brandade! This is a fried cod fritter!" <sigh> Some stuff really bugs me.

                                      13 Replies
                                      1. re: Caroline1

                                        I don't know what a brandade is but I agree with your sentiment.

                                        1. re: Caroline1

                                          It wasn't even made with salt cod, so while I think it's possible to serve brandade the way he did, this wouldn't qualify.

                                          I'm going not going to be harsh, though. They're trying to be innovative, so the dishes they create don't have recognizable names, and at the same time, they have to have some kind of way to convey what they dish is to the diner without going into a long explanation of every ingredient and technique they used. So if they use a classic term as some kind of short hand -- in this case, for a puree of seafood and potato -- then I'm inclined to give them a break.

                                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                            In the show, they showed him soaking the cod in a glass bowl, then during the cooking/presentation, he mentioned that the brandades were cod with chopped scallops and (forgot the other seafood) mixed in.

                                            1. re: boogiebaby

                                              No scallops in Brandade de Morue! Here's the recipe from my files;

                                              BRANDADE DE MORUE
                                              (Purée of salt cod with potatoes, olive oil, garlic and cream)

                                              makes about 1 quart -- 6 hors d'oeuvre servings

                                              1 pound salt cod, soaked overnight
                                              1 bay leaf
                                              1 onion stuck with 1 whole clove
                                              1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
                                              4 to 6 large cloves garlic, puréed with the side of a chef's knife
                                              1 large warm baked potato (about 1 pound)
                                              3/4 to 1 cup cream, warmed (use whole milk if you prefer)
                                              about 1/2 cup more olive oil, warmed
                                              sea salt & freshly ground pepper
                                              a few drops of lemon juice

                                              1. Place the salt cod in a large bowl of cold water to cover. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to soak for one or two days. Change the water at least four times during the soaking period. Drain. Before you poach the cod, taste a little bit to make sure it is not too salty.

                                              2. Put the cod into a heavy, non-reactive 3-quart saucepan and cover with cold water. Add the bay leaf and onion and bring slowly to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer gently for 5 minutes, then allow it to cool in the water. Drain. Remove skin and bones and break it into pieces.

                                              3. Clean the saucepan and return the poached cod to the pan. Add the 1/4 cup olive oil and stir vigorously over moderate heat for several minutes to shred the fish and warm the oil. Heat the remaining olive oil and cream in another pan just to warm them.

                                              4. Place the cod in the workbowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add the potato and garlic and process for a few seconds. Add the garlic and continue processing, alternately adding warm oil and cream until mixture is the consistency of fluffy mashed potatoes -- exact amounts of each are up to you. Season to taste with salt, pepper and drops of lemon juice.

                                              5. To serve as a dip, place in a warmed bowl, garnish with finely chopped parsley and a handful of Niçoise olives, and surround with toast points, crôutes or freshly made potato chips.

                                              Teacher’s Tips: Brandade can be served as a cocktail hors d'oeuvre, as a first course or as part of a brunch buffet. With the addition of just a tangy green salad and a loaf of crusty bread, it becomes a casual supper main dish!

                                              If you have any leftovers, they can be turned into delicious codfish balls or cakes, using your favorite recipe.

                                              1. re: ChefJune

                                                "No scallops in Brandade"

                                                Your recipe looks very nice but for the uber picky even Larousse indicates that a "True Brandade" does not include potato.

                                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                              "They're trying to be innovative, so the dishes they create don't have recognizable names, and at the same time, they have to have some kind of way to convey what they dish is to the diner without going into a long explanation of every ingredient and technique they used. "

                                              Exactly! On top of that marketing sells and in this case the Chef's were directly marketing their product to a crowd. I doubt more than a few if that knew the difference between a Brandade and a Fritter and even those few probably didn't care if it tasted good.
                                              I'm surprised no ones in a tizzy because the term "Pissed off Prawns" was probably applied to shrimp.

                                              1. re: Fritter

                                                Ultimately, wasn't what Moonen made more of a croquette than a fritter or brandade? (I did have to go look up a brandade definition.) But when I saw it plated, I thought croquette.

                                                1. re: LindaWhit

                                                  From what I recall I'd have to agree that it was more of a croquette because it was breaded and there was no batter involved but even a cod croquette involves potatos and white sauce. I can't remember if he used those ingredients. I guess I'll have to watch the show again and pay more attention. My initial thought was that it looked more like a fried fish cake.
                                                  Classic dishes get distorted all the time. In the case of the brandade the norm probably IS to incorporate potato but that's not a "true" brandade at least according to some sources. I do see Caroline1's point though as this was a pretty big stretch.
                                                  You have to wonder what Mr. Coq Au Vin has to be made with a Coq would have had to say about that to one of the normal TC contestants.

                                                  1. re: Fritter


                                                    There's the recipe as on the Bravo site - I can only assume it's very close to what Moonen made. He used potatoes; he didn't use a white sauce, unless the heavy cream is considered part of that. While there wasn't a batter, he did coat it in flour/panko crumbs and then fry it.

                                                    So he used a different term for what ultimately, seemed to be a croquette. :::Shrug::::

                                                    But yes - Mr. Coq au Vin's comments would have been very interesting to hear on this particular dish. ;-)

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      When you scroll down the recipe you get to where he calls the dish brandade "cakes". I'd say that's a fair description.
                                                      I didn't hear the term "cake" used on the show so maybe it was edited or he just deserves the benefit of the doubt for a verbal slip.

                                                      1. re: Fritter

                                                        Exactly re: the editing. As all the judges have said - there are hours of deliberation at JT. We end up seeing and hearing what the editors want us to.

                                              2. re: Ruth Lafler

                                                I appreciate your generosity, Ruth, in not being harsh, but.... My viewpoint on shows such as this is that in addition to attracting people to great food, that goal, by definition, requires that you educate them as you draw them in.

                                                As a direct result of this show, how many people are now thinking, "Brandade? Oh yeah, that's something like popcorn shrimp, except with a lot more stuff in it." Basically, someone has served eggs sunny-side-up and called them a souffle! Tons of things he could have called his dish other than "brandade." And none of the creativity in coming up with an interesting and original name would have diminished the flavor of the dish. I don't respond well to bait and switch in any form. If the menu says pate foi gras en croute and they bring me chopped chicken liver with toast points, you better believe I'm going to be ticked!

                                                1. re: Caroline1

                                                  A written menu had a lot more ability to describe the preparation than handing someone something at a cocktail party. The menu at the French Laundry puts many terms in quotation marks to suggest that they aren't using the term in the strictly classical sense -- would that satisfy you?

                                            3. This episode finally broke through for me--the food looked great and impressive, the judges kicked off some sparks and Jay got lots of screen time. Loved it! These three judges are great together and a lots of fun to watch. I loved the little "fish boy" exchange, and when Jay talked about panna cotta meant "to jiggle like a woman's breasts," I nearly dropped my remote. I haven't been this in love since George Clooney on the old "ER." Jay is the Top Chef god. I still miss Padma, tho.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: newhavener07

                                                I just saw that again. Kelly Chois was totally serious and replied:"Is that really true?" to Rayner's juggle like a woman's breast comment. She dropped a few notches there.