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Top Chef Masters Ep. #6 - 07/22/09 (Spoilers)

There's really only one word to use for this episode:


No rushing around from any of the 4 Master chefs, everything very methodical and easy-paced. Quite unlike the regular season TC. Even Gail Simmons talked about how friendly and helpful the chefs were towards each other....vs. what she usually sees on TC. But it also made for a less interesting show, IMO.

The Aisle Shopping Quickfire....Have to say that chocolate dessert by Cimarusti looked heavenly - chocolate and ginger - two favorite flavors together.

Interesting little sidebar bit (what do they call these throwaways that are not part of the show but almost like a little extra of the hours between the taping?) where they went to Kelly Choi's "apartment" and make dinner together.

Elimination Challenge - the Mystery Box. Again - all chefs very accommodating to each other - no one was going to sabotage the other by buying something they'd not be able to deal with. I was really hoping for Waxman to win. Although his plating definitely wasn't attractive, his dish sounded the best to me. But Smith's Mango Cobbler did look wonderful - a nice touch to go with the two (fried & smothered) chicken dishes.

So we now have the final 6. OH - and Gael Greene's blog is already up.


ETA: Choi's and Oselund's blogs are also up - and it turns out (per Kelly Choi's blog) that THIS was actually the first episode taped, albeit the last one shown!

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  1. Oh my word how I love this show and how hard it will be for me not to bring these wonderful chefs to mind when I am watching some misanthropic doughhead bitterly complain about how s/he doesn’t cook here-there-anywhere-name-that-prefab-ingredient.

    I wanted them all to win. I want this to be Top Chef.

    T’will be interesting is if/when these Master Chefs come back as judges on the regular Top Chef.

    1. MC was nice about it, but it was bush not to give him any fish to work with. Esp considering how accommodating everyone was.

      1 Reply
      1. re: AAQjr

        Agreed. Michael Cimarusti was really classy about that. Of the four, he was the only one that got dissed on his preferred protein.

      2. I really enjoyed the camaraderie. Although I did see a little bit of the competitiveness in Art Smith early on, that kind of disappeared pretty quickly. In reading Kelly Choi's blog and watching the chef's interplay during dinner, I thought they were all genuinely enjoying themselves and each other, more so than the vibe from the other shows.

        Art Smith generally rubbed me the wrong way, especially all the name dropping that he did in this episode and when he was a judge, but that man can cook! I was rooting for Waxman too, he seemed like a guy who has the pulse of his audience. Roy just seemed to be too distant from the everyday running of his restaurants to be able to deal with the time pressure and I think admitted as much.

        18 Replies
        1. re: Phaedrus

          While I'm not a big fan of Roy's restaurants I have much respect for him as a Chef. Even more so after he openly admitted that working on the fly like this is not his game.
          I enjoyed the show as well but thought it was slightly poor form for Chef Waxman to "deprive" Chef Cimarusti of seafood in his basket. Waxman may have said he wasn't looking over his shoulder but it was clear to me that's exactly what he was doing.
          I found this even more disconcerting since Cimarusti used to work for Waxman.
          In the end only two Chef's out of six won their respective episode that I'm not a big fan of including this one. I don't expect Art Smith to hold up well against the other TC Masters.

          1. re: Fritter

            I didn't catch this, but did they do a knife pull for the boxes or did they know who was going to get their boxes?

            1. re: Phaedrus

              I believe the knives had names of them. So after you pulled the knife, you knew whose box you're going to shop for.

              1. re: Phaedrus

                They didn't pull for boxes they pulled knives with the name of each Chef they were shopping for.
                When Cimarusti opened his box he was like WTH is my fish?
                Every one else besides Waxman shopped thinking of the Chef they were buying for.
                I gotta give big props to Chef Cimarusti for making the best out of the lamb and hitting a homer with the QF. He got the short end of the stick on both ends.

                1. re: Fritter

                  I will go to my grave believing that Waxman deliberately tried to screw Cimarusti by omitting fish from his basket, expecially after Waxman came in dead last and Cimarusti first in the QF. Waxman came off as terribly full of himself and mad as hell that he crashed and burned in the QF. I was so rooting for anyone but him by the end.

                  1. re: Fritter

                    Totally agree about Cimarusti getting the short end. I thought he was the most gracious and humble of the lot and really demonstrated camaraderie and respect towards other chefs, esp Waxman, his former teacher, which was only half-assedly reciprocated by Waxman. Half-assed because he said he was impressed with Cimarusti but then gave him a fishless box. Actions speak louder than words.... I didn't see it as a teacher pushing his pupil to do his best, but sabotage out of insecurity.

                    The 2 old guys really got on my nerves with their incessant juvenile jib-jab and their food seemed similar - homey, down-to-earth comfort food - which is fine, but to me seemed pedestrian and not innovative or spontaneous. I'm not a fan.

                    Of course, I'm biased because I'm a fan of Providence and Cimarusti. He seems like a lovely person and I thought it was sweet he referred to his wife - that she would be proud for his 5 stars on the QF.

                    1. re: soniabegonia

                      "I didn't see it as a teacher pushing his pupil to do his best"

                      That was my take as well. When I was much younger I worked under a Chef who used to say my job is not to teach you to cook. My job is to make you a Chef. I think it took me 20 years to really appreciate what he meant. I can't imagine sticking it like that to a Chef I brought up. I'd rather win to be sure but at the same time I'd be fairly proud to have my clock cleaned by one of the guys I helped train.

                2. re: Fritter

                  Interesting..I'm not much for being overly competitive but it seems like I'd be in the minority for thinking this...It's one thing for these guys to not be jerk by way of putting complete and utter garbage in their opponents' baskets.

                  But it's still a competition/game - no foul play in giving the leader a little extra challenge.

                  It would have been interesting to see what Waxman would have done if Cimarusti were not in the lead or if Waxman had drawn a different competitor. Or if he had given Cimarusti Doritos and Chocodiles in his basket. If he had done it to a last-place Cimarusti (or if he had not done it to a first-place Yamaguchi) it would say something much different about his character.

                  But as it is....if I were on this show and I drew the guy in first place and I knew what his strong suits were, I would give him something else and I would expect anyone in the same position to do the same to me. I would certainly be good enough to not give you trash, but if I know your speciality is a crab cake....you better believe I'm not gonna give you any crab.

                  1. re: jzerocsk

                    I saw a video clip somewhere where Waxman explained that he actually didn't include any seafood because he felt that the quality of what he saw at Whole Foods was not up to his standards, and therefore he wouldn't want to stick Cimarusti with inferior product. Whether that's really true, who knows...

                    1. re: cmvan

                      Well, I don't know if that's true or not. But what Waxman said about the bad quality of seafood at Whole Foods is definitely true (at least in NYC).

                3. re: Phaedrus

                  Art Smith generally rubbed me the wrong way, especially all the name dropping that he did in this episode
                  Same here - didn't think that was really necessary. And he wins for making fried chicken?

                  1. re: Phaedrus

                    i so agree with you phaedrus! Art's incessant name dropping was annoying. And I love how Jonathan, I think, said how Roy probably hadn't shopped in a supermarket in 30 years! the distance was obvious!

                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      I agree about Art Smith. The name dropping and the ego talk was very annoying. His cooking with love comment reminded me of Carla.

                      This episode was very enjoyable.
                      I would have loved sitting down to that meal.
                      Their attitude of respect and treating each other as they would like to be treated was very refreshing.
                      Best yet! No false bravado (except for Chef Smith). The chef were very honest about their own strengths and weaknesses.

                      The comment about Chef Roy not being inside a supermarket for 30 years and the shot of him asking people where where the cheese is was hilarious.

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        I was definitely getting tired of the name dropping by Smith. I agree - he rubbed me the wrong way as well - Waxman just seemed normal to me.

                        1. re: LindaWhit

                          Outside of Chicago, the only way Art will be recognized is by name dropping. He's a talented chef but unfortunately heavily influenced by fame. He just tries so hard to make sure everyone remembers who he knows.

                          1. re: Dee S

                            Well, I had heard of him. But again, ONLY because he was Oprah's personal chef for so long. But I agree with goodhealthgourmet below - he's just a little too saccharine & schmaltzy for me.

                            Based on the final 6, I don't think he stands a chance in hell of coming anywhere near winning this. Keller and Bayless seem to be the strongest (I don't know enough about Tracht and Lo).

                            And INTERESTING! Wikipedia's breakdown has a total of 4 more episodes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Top_Chef... So it looks like one will be eliminated in Eps 7/8/9, and perhaps 3 vie for the Top Chef Master title?

                            1. re: LindaWhit

                              If there are a final three the strongest, in my opinion, would be Hubert Keller, Rick Bayless and Anita Lo.

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                The name dropping was a problem for me, but I think that some of the blame can be laid at the feet of the producers, since they are the ones that greenlight the editing. At any rate, I would think that all of the contestants in TCM have cooked for celebrities and high ranking officials from many countries(presidents and prime ministers from all over the world), and we don't hear them being so indiscreet as to announce them on TV.

                        2. It was such a pleasure to watch this show. Of course they all have their egos, but what a joy to see them cooking together. Some of those young bucks (and buck-ettes) could take a lesson from them.

                          It's also interesting to see just how difficult it is to produce that number of plates in a very lttle time, even if you are very experienced/accomplished.

                          18 Replies
                          1. re: PattiCakes

                            This was the first time I was annoyed by the Masters competition. I'll admit that I was pulling for Roy Yamaguchi because I think his restaurants get a lot of unfair criticism but I can't understand why the judges were making such an issue of the ribs & mahi combo when that's what he was given to work with.
                            I think they were star struck with the "Oprah chef" and he had it in the bag no matter what he put out there. Five stars for fried chicken, really?
                            Not looking forward to another round of the honey bear schtick in the finals.

                            1. re: tofuburrito

                              hmmmm two chefs from Chicago in the final 6.

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                Yes. One heavyweight (Rick Bayless) and one lightweight (Art Smith)

                                1. re: ChefJune

                                  Also two from Northern California (Keller, Chiarello). One from NY (Lo), one from LA (Tracht).

                                2. re: tofuburrito

                                  I also wondered about Gael Greene's rating. 5 stars for fried chicken? Is the fix in with Oprah or sumptin'?

                                  What has really impressed me with this whole series is the apparent cooperation and camaraderie of the Masters. They all seem to respect each other in a way that is most appealing to watch. They show that they can be competitive but respectful at the same time. I also enjoyed seeing that segment where they all prepared a dish for the common dinner. I would have liked to have seen more of this segment.

                                  1. re: araknd

                                    <I also wondered about Gael Greene's rating. 5 stars for fried chicken? Is the fix in with Oprah or sumptin'?>

                                    I doubt it. If you read her blog, you know how much she loves Waxman. My guess is that fried chicken was seriously smokin' -- whether you like Art Smith or not. I was amazed they were all blown away by his food, but there must have been something to it.

                                  2. re: tofuburrito

                                    Seems unlikely to me that they would be more "star-struck" by Smith than they are by any of the other star chefs. It's not like the judges are a bunch of ordinary folks who don't have a lot of exposure to the high-power media world. They *live* in the high power media world.

                                    1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                      Maybe not star struck but they were certainly giddy with excitement over his verbal presentation before they even tried the fried chicken and I think it's certainly possible that his constant references to Oprah and President Obama may have had a significant influence.
                                      It seemed more personality driven than food driven to me, especially when you consider this "Master" was worried he wouldn't have chicken in his basket because he doesn't know how to butcher anything else.

                                      1. re: tofuburrito

                                        THAT comment threw me for a loop. Oh really chef, can't butcher anything but a chicken? They should have done the steak butchering QF last night.

                                        1. re: tofuburrito

                                          Well, Rick Bayless has cooked for President Obama too. And I really have a feeling that some of the name dropping was prompted by the producers, I bet there was a "Who have you cooked for?" question that some of that was in response to. Also, his references to Oprah and Obama were in the interviews, I don't remember him saying that to the panel.

                                          1. re: JasmineG

                                            Exactly. *We* heard his name dropping, but I doubt the critics did; they heard about the food and the food=love shtick, but not necessarily the roster of who he's cooked for. At any rate, I doubt that the critics would be swayed by that for this one chef, when all four of them in this round can rightfully say they've cooked for Big Name People.

                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                              Why do you doubt that he would stay in character for the judges? We don't know what was said other than the few minutes we see on TV.
                                              I wish Colicchio had been there, we know how he feels about food made with love.
                                              Whether or not he name dropped to the judges it's pretty clear the judges found him charming and the magazine critic developed a big man crush on him so I don't think it's crazy to suggest personality influenced their scores. Again; 5-stars for fried chicken while Roy got 2.5 because he used the ingredients that honey bear picked out for him.

                                              1. re: tofuburrito

                                                I just don't see the critics being overly impressed by his kind of name-dropping, vs. culinary reputations. Roy Yamaguchi and Jonathon Waxman certainly have more impressive reputations than Art Smith, IMO.

                                                As for Smith's 5 stars vs. Yamaguchi's 2.5, a can only say that a) fried chicken wasn't the only thing on Smith's plate by far, so I'm not sure "5 stars for fried chicken" is necessarily a fair ding; b) there were a fair number of comments expressing problems with various components of Yamaguchi's dish, beyond the pairing of short ribs and mahi mahi; and c) most important, we the viewers cannot taste the dishes, which limits the extent to which we can really know which contestants are most worthy.

                                                Look, I wasn't overly impressed with Art Smith myself, but I don't see any evidence that the critics gave it to him because they were star-struck or gaga over his name-dropping, vs. just being more impressed with his food, even though it was more casual and countrified than the others'. Maybe it just tasted better. Yaaguchi was at the bottom of their ratings for the four, so it's not as if he stole it from him.

                                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                  Fair enough but did you really not detect a certain swooning towards Art Smith that didn't seem totally food related? Also; do you think they had a bit of an attitude towards Roy because he was quiet and reserved?
                                                  All I'm saying is that I think personality figured into the scoring.

                                                  1. re: tofuburrito

                                                    Art Smith is by far not the biggest name chef that they've dealt with, I'm not sure why you'd think that they would swoon for him just because he'd cooked for Oprah. Maybe his food was just that good.

                                                    1. re: tofuburrito

                                                      I don't know that I would say they had an attitude toward Roy, but they might have tipped toward Art Smith because he really sold his dish. Chefs with a winning performance always seem to do well on TC.

                                                      1. re: tofuburrito

                                                        I didn't see the judges swooning over Art Smith, I saw Art Smith swooning over Art Smith, I also expected him to break out in tears any second. He was very distracting.

                                                        Oh, right, I think I did see at least one judge swoon over the mango cobbler, a fricking peach/apple/berry cobbler done with mango... What inspired genius, Southern diner food. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but really for "Top Chef Masters"?

                                                2. re: JasmineG

                                                  While I normally give the contestant the benefit of the doubt with editing, it does seem like Smith is a bit of a name dropper. If you look at his Q&A session with Bravo, Bravo asked him why he made a complete meal on a plate. His answer included Oprah and Streisand.


                                        2. I just want to know why Eric Ripert did not compete? Maybe pretty boy was afraid to get dirty.

                                          9 Replies
                                          1. re: Fritter

                                            OK, now you've don it. You will now have the wrath of LindaWhit upon you.

                                            1. re: Phaedrus

                                              ROFLMAO!!! Yeah, don't you go pickin' on Eric, Fritter! <vbg> I think you'd have several of us with our chef's knives ready to defend Chef Ripert at any given moment!

                                              As for why he didn't compete - I'm assuming scheduling time frame just didn't allow it. Here's hoping he makes it to Las Vegas, however. :-)

                                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                                Now lets not makes excuses for pretty boy. He didn't compete and a few of the other chef's had been TC judges. If we are to make any assumptions it would be only fair to assume that Ripert had the opportunity to compete as well.

                                                1. re: Fritter

                                                  One might argue that Ripert is even higher on the totem pole than these masters.

                                                  1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                    You could argue just about any thing. Eric Ripert is not a CMC so at least on some level he is no "higher" than the rest of the Chef's and possibly lower as a judge for failing to compete.

                                                  2. re: Fritter

                                                    I will always make excuses for Chef Ripert. ;-) And as I said - in all likelihood, schedules didn't permit him to be out in CA on the show whereas the others were able to fit it into their schedules.

                                                    1. re: LindaWhit

                                                      Face it. Pretty boy was skeered! LOL

                                                      1. re: LindaWhit

                                                        All in good fun my friend. I think Ripert is a stellar chef and I was just dissapointed not to see him compete.

                                                        1. re: Fritter

                                                          You and me both! Would have loved to have seen him up there with the best as well. If they have another Masters TC, perhaps he'll have the time in his schedule.

                                                          Other than Bourdain, I think Ripert has been a guest judge on the regular TC more than any other chef. I think.

                                            2. I would love to have seen Michel Richard as the fourth instead of Art Smith.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: mnosyne

                                                I would love to see a turn-the-tables show, with Tom, Padma and Gail forced to make appetizers for 100 food snobs in 15 minutes with only the produce in the "half-price" bin at my local inner-city market, what they can forage from the weedy edge of the TC parking lot and the ends of loaves of Wonder Bread.
                                                I want to see the bear sweat.

                                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                                    Now that is something I'd love to see. Along with an episode devoted to "honoring the protein" for Tom!

                                                    1. re: TampaAurora

                                                      And perhaps another segment devoted to Tom preparing Coq Au Vin with an old rooster.

                                                      1. re: Hurner

                                                        LOL, forgot about that.

                                                        How about Jay Raynor proving his point about panna cotta and women's breasts.

                                              2. Maybe I had too much wine with dinner (is that possible?) but watching this particular series is rather tedious and the food is rather uninspiring. I'm sure the fried chicken tasted good, but I would rather see a bit more creativity and risk from a Top Chef Master. Still, while it was probably tasty, I'm sure most of us of had better tasting chicken at a takeout restaurant somwhere in the world...

                                                Do I really care that he has cooked for Obama and Oprah? Are people supposed to be impressed because a chef cooks for celebrities? I've never really understood that concept or line of thinking. The crying was really over the top and I'm wondering how many takes they had to cut in order to produce enough tears.

                                                I'm hoping that the finale is a bit more energetic than these episodes and while I don't have a strong favorite, I'm hoping that Keller wins.

                                                3 Replies
                                                1. re: vinhotinto75

                                                  That's interesting, vinhotinto -- I've had exactly the opposite reaction to this series. I find it a pleasure to watch the professional chefs, who seem to take their tasks in stride and are open to admitting mistake or defeat with grace, as versus the contestants on the regular series, who rarely demonstrate composure under fire. I do wish they would be given a little bit more free reign to show off their skills, but from the previews, it looks like we will be given more of that in the finale, where the chefs have to cook their signature dishes.

                                                  As for the celeb comments, Smith was a little name-droppy, but I just figured that was because he was from Chicago, so of course he'd cooked for Obama -- I'd guess most of the chefs in nice restaurants have cooked for him, seeing as he's from there. It was a little bit more mellow than other episodes in the series, but I for one am thoroughly enjoying the lack of melodrama throughout!

                                                  1. re: DanaB

                                                    I agree with those who find TCM a little anemic and boring, though it has its appeal.

                                                    You can't really compare TC with TCM. The "Master Chefs" just don't have as much at stake. They've already carved out their place in the food world. They were invited on the show, spend a day or two playing in someone else's kitchen, and even if they lose, they get a grand for their chosen charity and successful restaurants to go back to. For these chefs, the whole thing is a lark and some good publicity.

                                                    I wonder how congenial these Master Chefs would be if the stakes were as high for them as for the Cheftestants.

                                                    I've been surprised and touched at how cooperative and helpful most of the TC Cheftestants have been with each other, especially the Miami and NY casts. I prefer the drama of TC to the professional courtesy of TCM. For both the Cheftestants, and for me, there's just more at stake.

                                                    1. re: JayEsBee

                                                      Everyone's point so far is that the TCM contestants have less incentive, are less hungry, and therefore have less drama in their contests, which I would agree with, but I think of TCM as a time travel version of TC. I look at the TCM chefs and think of them as what the TC contestants can be if they get their successes, kudos, and wealth, that is, they become the TCM in about five or ten years. I at least hope so.

                                                      So my view here is that I would certainly hope that the ones who were schmucks on TC (Ilan, Marcel, Spike, ad infinitum) could still retain their chops in the future but would act differently once they have attained their success. Two sides of the same coin, as it were.

                                                2. I too found Art Smith annoying. Anyways among the remaining chefs, my top 3 are Lo, Tracht and Keller.

                                                  1. ok, so i'm a little late to the party this week...

                                                    i'm glad i'm not the only one who was bothered by Art Smith's shtick; i always have been. maybe it's unfair, but something about him strikes me as a little too saccharine & schmaltzy to be 100% genuine or believable. (i may also be a bit biased because i've never understood why so many people take Oprah's word on everything as gospel, so i guess he irks me by association.)

                                                    i have to say i was pretty shocked that Art pulled this off - i thought he was way out of his league when i first saw the lineup for this episode. of course i was also cranky about the result because i was pulling for Cimarusti. (i was initially rooting for Waxman as well, but that changed when he pulled that juvenile crap on Michael by withholding seafood for the mystery box challenge. seriously, grow up.) Michael's dessert in the QF looked & sounded divine, and i really wish there had been fish in his mystery box so he would have had the opportunity to showcase his talent.

                                                    i have the utmost respect for Roy Yamaguchi as a chef and restaurateur, but i thought they made it pretty clear early on that he doesn't spend much active time in the kitchen anymore, so i didn't have any expectations that he would win. i did find it sort of cute & amusing that he couldn't find his way around a supermarket :)

                                                    i get the sense that Art Smith is a one-trick pony. i'm not yet convinced he can keep it together if forced to do anything beyond his comfort zone of fried chicken, pie & cobbler...so he really may be in over his head in the Champions' Round if he has to make something else. whatever he makes, if he starts talking about "cooking with love" again i'm gonna be sick.