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Apr 21, 2011 12:14 AM

Top Chef Masters Season 3, Episode 3 - Spoilers


Just now watching the late airing of this show, HATING the insect challenge. Missed the first 7 minutes of the show. That's all I've got for right now..... BLECCHHHH.....

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  1. QF resembled an episode of Andrew Zimmern's bizarre foods show. Who cares if the cheftestants can "cook" green hornworms?

    EC was "OK", but I couldn't understand the logic of the critics in sending John Currance home for making a "perfectly cooked risotto" while the other two chefs cooked items that were not pleasing, one a ceviche that was marred by overpowering pickle, and the other a "chalky" pudding that wouldn't equal that produced by entry-level culinary students. Apparently, the critics felt John had not challenged himself in making the risotto; i.e, a safe choice. I submit to you that making quality risotto is much more difficult than ceviche or pudding.

    17 Replies
    1. re: Mayor of Melonville

      Have to agree with you - couldn't understand why he was the one to go either. I thought the puddin' (as Danyelle kept calling it) was going to send that chef (Tio?) home.

      Oseland said the following in his Bravo blog re: Currence's risotto: "John’s risotto, on the other hand, while as simple and unassuming at first glance as Naomi’s soup, failed to showcase technique and depth of flavor the same way. I adore John. He’s a seriously smart, talented, and hilarious chef. But you can’t play it safe and make risotto on a challenge like this one; you have to bring some showbiz to every dish you send out. "

      So yes - they sent home a chef whose dish was perfect fine; it just wasn't "showbizzy" enough...even with two other dishes that had major problems. Shame on the critics.

      I'm kind of just "meh" on this season so far (although I'm REALLY beginning to dislike Hugh Acheson more and more). But I agree with mariacarmen - didn't like the bug QF; although they seemed to do OK with it.

      1. re: LindaWhit

        Was anyone else bothered that Curtis Stone (aka the guy NBC/Bravo is shoving down our throat) wouldnt eat most of the QF dishes? Why have the chefs make stuff if even the host wont eat it?

        Am I over thinking this or am I just growing to hate Curtis Stone?

        1. re: EvanWilliams

          I was surprised that he didn't eat the majority of it as well. But then again, they had two "bug experts" to do the tasting. I'm trying to remember if Curtis ate at the two previous Quickfire challenges, or does he just point them out to the guest judge and that guest judge makes the decision?

          1. re: EvanWilliams

            I was annoyed with that as well. He was commenting on the dish, but not eating all of them, or at least not touching the bug parts. It was a little lame.

          2. re: LindaWhit

            Oh man, I went to bed at 10:40 and figured I didn't care if I read the results, but I'm pissed that this guy John went home. I liked him and don't understand the thinking about risotto. Esp. with all the stupid constraints they kept placing on them. No running water, really??? Bummer, I hope to eat at his restaurant when I'm in the deep deep south next week.

            And yeah, "puddin"? That was driving me up a wall.

            1. re: Joanie

              well, restaurants do face challenges like that - it's not unheard of to have your water shut off. one of them mentioned that they operated without electricity and the chefs cooked flashlights in their mouths!

              I agree John should have stayed. the only rationale that makes sense to me about sending him home is one of their criteria was, "which was my least favorite dish?" and apparently that was John's, tho the editing at Critics' Table didn't let us hear that. Why are they called Critics, by the way, and not Judges? Are they not supposed to be judging these master chefs' food? Well, they certainly are, and should be, or there would be no show! semantics, i guess....

              Hugh is bugging big time.

              1. re: mariacarmen

                It's one thing to trip a breaker or otherwise lose power temporarily, but losing water is much different. Aside from being an essential ingredient, it's absolutely necessary for basic sanitation. I'm pretty sure any restaurant operating without running water for that long would be shut down by the health department.

            2. re: LindaWhit

              From what we saw on the show, eliminating John seemed odd to me as well. Risotto is fairly simple, especially from a diner's perspective, but there is a decent amount of technique and finesse involved, and errors in technique show through easily - I wouldn't call it 'playing safe' given that a soup won (but she called it a 'veloute!' - how could it be a soup AND a veloute? OMG, my mind is blown!)

              It has always seemed to me that these reality show competitions with a panel of judges wind up with one judge whose opinion tends to count for extra - not in the sense that [s]he gets more votes, but rather the others judges either respect or fear him or her and are hesitant to go against their opinion, at least on TV. On regular Top Chef, that judge is Tom Colicchio - ever notice that his comments are the most predictive of who's winning and who's going? That's fine - Tom is a good judge.

              But I'm worried that Oseland is becoming that judge for this season. Which is a problem because
              a) Oseland is a wiener
              b) I don't trust his palate. His choices seem to be especially guided by personal prejudice rather than respect for cooking technique or flavor. At times, he has struck me as plain ignorant of cooking technique, which is odd since Saveur is a pretty decent magazine WRT food and cooking. Also, remember the season 1 finale? According to the other judges, he totally screwed Chiarello (I had mixed feelings on this one because Chiarello is also kind of a wiener and I think there was some kind of unspoken passive-aggressive War of the Wieners going on).

              1. re: cowboyardee

                But I'm worried that Oseland is becoming that judge for this season. Which is a problem because
                a) Oseland is a wiener

                You could have stopped there. ;-)

                And "War of the Wieners" - TOO funny!

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  War of the Wieners is priceless. But funnily, Oseland doesn't bother me that much. Chiarello is def a wiener, tho.

                2. re: cowboyardee

                  <how could it be a soup AND a veloute?> Some veloutes are soups, some aren't. but it surely does sound "fancier" to call your soup a veloute (that would be a cream soup, I presume?)

                  And given Oseland's predilection for the effete, Naomi probably made a good choice. Otherwise she might have gotten sent home. ;-p

                  Apparently, many of the contestants were not any happier about having to cook those bugs than we viewers were about watching it.

                3. re: LindaWhit

                  I am also "meh" on this season, which really sucks because I've loved both previous seasons and I really look forward to Masters because of the focus on amazing cooking and all the respect between the chefs, unlike regular Top Chef and all the juvenile bickering.

                  So far, there's plenty of back biting and nastiness. Naomi is bossing around chefs who are her equal
                  (some are probably better), Hugh's bitching about her, Suvir criticizing Celina's puddin'. Could you imagine this going on between Hubert Keller and Rick Bayless? The respect and camaraderie was what I loved about Masters. I'm not liking how this season is going.

                  Also, the food hasn't inspired me yet. So far, the food is pretty pedestrian. Celery soup is the winner? Really? Maybe I should be on TCM - I make a mean celery soup! And sending someone home for a boring but properly executed risotto? What would Tom say? I believe that edible trumps inedible in the TC world.

                  What is going on here!!!!

                  1. re: chefhound

                    "Also, the food hasn't inspired me yet. So far, the food is pretty pedestrian. Celery soup is the winner? Really?"
                    I don't mind celery soup... oops, veloute... winning so much as I mind the double standard of it winning while an apparently well made risotto is sent home with no more of an explanation than that it was playing too safe. I don't know what the judges thought the distinction was. I could see it justified if the other bottom dishes were near flawless, but according to the judges' comments, they weren't. It left the impression that the judges (or at least Oseland, with the others following along) actually believed that Naomi had pioneered some bold new soupmaking technique and likewise disdained risotto just because they knew offhand how to make it.

                    To be fair to the judges though, the diners also liked the soup. Here's a link to the recipe:
                    Looks tasty enough. No less safe or more difficult than a good risotto though.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      Looks like a decent recipe, love the lemon oil but I think my celery soup would have beat hers by a mile. I use celery stalks, celery root and celery seed with leek or onion and cream. I also saute some cubes of celery root and celery slices to add after I puree. I bet if I drizzle with lemon oil, I could beat hers.

                      I think John's risotto takes a bit more skill. After all, Tom recently lamented on Top Chef the state of risotto in America and that he finds most risottos to be improperly prepared. I think soup is pretty easy to make. I do however agree with you and I am also mystified as to how they chose a properly prepared risotto to be worse that grainy pudding and mediocre ceviche.

                      I don't mind the soup winning but it's not inspiring. The lemon oil was all I got out of that. When I watched TCM1, I was mesmerized by Rick Bayless' story of the black mole and the diners' reactions when eating it. I was fortunate enough to taste that mole at Topolobampo when I was in Chicago and it was delicious. I had learned about something new and was inspired by it.

                    2. re: chefhound

                      This is exactly how I feel, too. The previous TCM were chefs but this batch is coming off as reality show participants and the challenges don't seem to help. And, I agree--how is celery soup the winner but well made risotto sent home (especially over a poorly made chocolate puddin')? I think the "critics table" is well named because they're not good judges. I loved Rick Bayless and Hubert Keller's season--probably my favorite TC season. Maybe it'll get better when we get down to the better chefs?

                    3. re: LindaWhit

                      I believe Celine made a very similar dessert on TNIC and it had similar flaws. Hands down, she should have gone home. I agree with other comments about Mary Sue's ceviche acting as an amuse and if they critic's understood that, then keeping her was ok. Nothing appeared to be wrong with John's risotto except for it's utter simplicity. Now if it wasn't cooked properly, that's a different story.

                      Maybe John will get a reprieve like Hugh did. I wanted to see more of John. He and Suvir are my favorites.

                    4. re: Mayor of Melonville

                      These shows are often lame. Especially when the critics don't know what they're talking about.
                      An overpowering pickle? Before, I remember they thought it was bland. Now, it's not bland, but too much pickle? Get it straight critics. Also, this functioned as an amuse bouche - and she purposely said she wanted to taste the fish (hence not jacking up the other flavors). An amuse bouche shouldn't be overpowering. It sounded right to me. The risotto was well done, but nothing special. I think he should have made a great risotto. Something special. Lobster and uni or something decadent. (10 course meals are inherently decadent IMHO) Also, did you notice his "perfect" risotto was a little chunky? They didn't mention that (but it sent a chef home in the NON MASTER Top Chef elimination challenge. The gritty, chalky pudding should've been sent home. She should have tried the pudding and tasted grittiness - and fixed it.

                    5. The bugs quickfire came awfully close to jumping the shark for me. The eye candy host is a distraction. Too small a kitchen makes the Indian chef have to deep fry veal? The celeb-du jour judge last episode who mistook fennel for dill? Too much time spent on chefs detailing their charities (time better spent on getting to know the chefs). John should not have gone home. This season just might end my Top Chef addiction. Lots of better things to do on the warm spring nights yet to come.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                        Not a fan of these judges. Surprised to see someone gets sent packing at this stage for making "safe" risotto. As we have seen on Top Chef, risotto is rarely "safe."
                        By the way; I ate at (Colicchio's) Craftsteak in Vegas last weekend and had an awesome risotto with pork confit and wild mushrooms.

                        1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                          I hear you, it's almost a mockery of what it once was. I do like Stone as the host however I was annoyed that he didn't taste the bugs, it's like why go there if you aren't going to eat it.

                          but what really stood out was having the guest that mistook fennel for dill and not eating a meatball sandwich the way it was intended. Something tells me she's on a no/low carb diet.

                          We were yelling at the tv the whole time during that very painful judging.

                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                            <We were yelling at the tv the whole time during that very painful judging.>

                            so far I've found the judging in all three episodes to be fairly "painful."

                            Am NOT liking this season of TCM very much. at least not yet.

                            1. re: ChefJune

                              I just hope we get to see some real awesome cooking without all the gimmicks and judges that deserve to be in the presence of the masters.

                              1. re: ChefJune

                                I agree, it's very hard to get into for some reason. I kind of liked the star system last season and now it seems like the new judging system just isn't working. Maybe it's just because I'm still on an All Stars high though...

                            2. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                              I agree with everything except the charities. They've done this the other years and I think it's kind of nice to give some background for people not familiar with them. That's why they're there (partly at least). All the rest is totally true. First season will always be best for me, as it often is in shows like these.

                              1. re: SarahInMinneapolis

                                "Too much time spent on chefs detailing their charities"

                                I feel the opposite - they hardly spend ANY time detailing the charities, or "getting to know the chefs", for that matter. Too many chefs per episode this season. I preferred the four at a time from the previous two seasons.

                              2. I thought the "roadblocks" were ridiculous.

                                No running water? Seriously?

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: C. Hamster

                                  But couldn't you see a restaurant coming up against that? I mean, it's not likely, but I'm sure it's happened. I didn't see them using broth at all - maybe that's too plebian an ingredient for a professional kitchen to stock? or maybe that was just a further obstacle.

                                  In any case, with all three of the obstacles they faced, they all finished and not one of them blamed one of the challenges on the failure of their dish. These guys are pros!

                                  1. re: mariacarmen

                                    Lack of running water is a major health code violation and *should* shut a place down if its off for that long.

                                    1. re: C. Hamster

                                      and, in the rel world, it would. not even a maybe. Among other things, the toilets in the rest rooms would not be able to flush. :-(

                                    2. re: mariacarmen

                                      Health code violation aside, no restaurant can operate with out running water, can it? Wouldn't they temporarily close until the running water was restored? To me, it's not a real-world situation.

                                      1. re: MartinDC

                                        But Chef Tio talked about her restaurant not having running water once so no toilets, and having to send patrons across the street to the supermarket (I shop there!) to use the restroom. Ew! Did the employees run over there to wash their hands?

                                        1. re: Parrotgal

                                          I thought it was no electricity, because she said the chefs had to cook with flashlights in their mouths....

                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                            It was Naomi who talked about the power outage and staff using flashlights. And Tio said it was the restrooms that went out-of-order in her restaurant, not the water supply overall.

                                            Loved it when Oseland made his comment to his co-judges (specifically in regard to Traci's ribeye) about their "young palates", not yet experienced enough to judge more subtle aspects. Wonder how the two of them reacted to that...Looked like Curtis Stone nodded in agreement.

                                            1. re: cmvan

                                              "Loved it when Oseland made his comment to his co-judges (specifically in regard to Traci's ribeye) about their "young palates", not yet experienced enough to judge more subtle aspects."
                                              That wasn't the point he was making. He was talking about how the success of Nouvelle Cuisine has made it so younger people never got used to seeing vegetables that were more than lightly cooked. How it became dogma that the only 'right' way to cook most vegetables is very lightly.

                                              As a young(ish) person, I sort of agree with him on this point (no, I'm not softening to him). Though I love crisp fresh young vegetables cooked lightly and simply in keeping with modern culinary style, there are a lot of older recipes and recipes from other cooking traditions calling for more thoroughly cooked vegetables that are absolutely delicious in their own right.

                                  2. I agree with pretty much all of the above. For the first time, I actually contemplated not even finishing the episode. Like Sarah said, the bug contest bordered jumping the shark. I'm also getting really sick of all the "twists" that have nothing to do with cooking and are completely unrealistic.

                                    No running water? Yeah, that's a realistic test of a chef's skill. No wait staff? Yeah, same thing.

                                    And the critics...what's going on there? I actually loved Oseland last season, but tonight he was off and his critiques seemed very strange. I was really annoyed when he criticized Suvir's dish (although he loved its flavor) for being too much in line with the chef's style. WTF? If he's a master chef on Top Chef Masters, it's only fair to assume he'll cook the food that made him a master. It's like criticizing Thomas Keller for making the food that earned him his reputation instead of trying to make BBQ or Indian food.

                                    Finally, the decision seemed completely unjust. The pudding and risotto were equally uncreative/uninspired (according to the critics), but the risotto was well-executed and tasted good, while the pudding was poorly executed, tasted bad, and had an unappealing texture. So naturally they send home the risotto...

                                    7 Replies
                                    1. re: ryansm

                                      you just changed my mind about the risotto. i was trying to give them the benefit of the doubt above by saying they picked their least favorite dish to go home, in their words. but how could it have been their least favorite dish if it tasted perfectly fine and they didn't like the taste nor texture of the pudding? John should still be there.

                                      and i'm repeating myself, but why is it so outlandish that the water may go out in a restaurant?

                                      i also agree about Suvir - and the fans proved Oseland wrong.

                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                        mariacarmen, see my response about the water in reply to your comment above. It's also important to point out that they seemed to be without water for quite some time, not just a few minutes, as might happen in a kitchen that had to cut off water for a quick plumbing fix.

                                        It's mostly a health department problem. Violations surrounding sanitation are ridiculously (overly, I think) strict, especially regarding basics like water. "Incorrect" temperature at a hand washing sink is a common violation, let alone not having such a sink, not to mention having no running water!

                                        1. re: ryansm

                                          Ok, that makes sense. i guess i was thinking it was an emergency, and would a health agency be able to make it out to shut them down in time?

                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                            would a health agency be able to make it out to shut them down in time?
                                            if they continued to operate without running water, i'm pretty sure they could be fined - and potentially shut down - after the fact.

                                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                              I think the restaurant would have to shut itself down before the health department got around to it. One example: How can you wash dishes so you can serve more customers?

                                              1. re: MartinDC

                                                you can't, or at least not properly...but sadly i'm sure there are proprietors out there who would try. after reading this discussion i was curious to see what was out there on the WWW regarding the matter, and i actually came across this query on a Yahoo message board:

                                                "Do I have to close down my restaurant if there's no running water? We don't use any water in our cooking, and we have water for another hour, so I can put buckets aside for cleaning. However, is there a law that says you must close if there's no water, or does it just make things inconvenient? Restaurant is in Atlanta, GA if anyone is familiar with health codes in that area!"


                                      2. re: ryansm

                                        And the blogs are really not helpful in explaining why he was sent home. Often they add to what we saw on TV, letting us know why some decision was made. But here, they say the same -- it was too safe -- without explaining why poorly executed pudding deserved to stay.

                                      3. I was so p'd off at them even trying to force a Hindu to kill something I turned it off. I'm not a vegetarian, but geez. I give that Chef a huge amount of credit for not only not compromising his ideals, but not making a huge scene. I might have in his position.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: sommrluv

                                          I'm glad he stick by his morals and religious beliefs. I found it fascinating last challenge that he makes meat dishes without tasting them. He must have a good sniffer.

                                          I think he's going to have a hard time though because that does put him at a disadvantage in some aspects. Too bad he can't have a taster assigned to him.

                                          1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                            Suvir Saran has a fantastic reputation for his cooking. And that's not for vegetarian cooking. A chef friend of mine in Toronto says he is his culinary idol.

                                            I'm not thinking he's at any disadvantage.

                                            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                                              I find this fascinating, partly because I'm a veg and I always assumed no vegetarians could ever participate in these kinds of competitions (or be food critics, but that's another issue).

                                              I'm also glad he stuck to his guns. At the same time, I wonder if he warned the producers that he can't kill anything for religious reasons -- maybe they would have changed the challenge?