Top Chef Masters Season 1 Episode 2 Review

Top Chef Masters Season 1 Episode 2 Review
Original Airdate: June 17, 2009

After an exciting and close first episode, we’re back with the second of six qualifying rounds in Top Chef Masters

Judges Panel
Gael Greene, New York Critic
James Oseland, editor of Saveur magazine
Jay Rayner, London observer

This week’s Chefs:
Graham Elliot Bowles (Chicago) – Graham Elliot
Suzanne Tracht (Los Angeles) – Jar
Wylie Dufresne (New York)- WD 50
Elizabeth Falkner (San Francisco) – Citizen Cake

Quickfire Challenge
Create an amuse bouche using ingredients from a vending machine

It’s back! One of the best quickfire challenges ever, from season 2, was to create a dish using things from a vending machine. Perhaps my favorite dish EVER in Top Chef was when Michael made the mound of crushed Snickers with Cheese Doodle coming out of the top. And what do you know, they reference that exact dish with a PICTURE right here on Top Chef Masters. Maybe that’s everyone’s favorite dish from Top Chef 2.

The panel of judges for the quickfire are chefs from Season 2 – Ilan, Betty and Michael are sitting outside and waiting for the results.

The chefs go to the vending machine. Suzanne Tracht claims not to know where to even find a vending machine. What? What world are these chefs living in? Each chef pulls a couple items from the vending machine, and have 30 minutes to turn it into a dish.

Wow two different chefs use Dr Pepper as a reduction. I wonder if Sandra Lee will use that idea as Semi-Homemade port wine reduction.

After the commercial we’re back with the judges. Ilan is a bit of a douche as he was in Season 2, but didn’t do anything overly douchy. Betty, however, comes out with the bitch guns BLAZIN ripping into a couple dishes. Michael, who I still cant believe is a chef with all these other people, has a backwards green cap and green t-shirt that says “Go Cook Yourself” and is just loving everything. I think the chefs get a lot of leeway in adding things to these dishes – shallots? Were those in the machine?

Star Ratings
Tracht: *****
Bowles: **** 1/2
Falkner: *** 1/2
DuFrense: ***

Elimination Challenge
The chefs leave and the kitchen is reset with Kelly introducing the challenge – she just loves Lost! And eye makeup! And looking like a prostitute!

The elimination challenge is to cook a meal for the creators of the TV Show Lost. Tracht shows some real life saying that she also loves lost and watches them in 3 hour marathons.

The twist of this challenge is that ingredients are limited to the canned and packaged ingredients that would have been in the Dharma Initiative kitchen. Fun! The chefs take it in stride and go off the Whole Foods with an approved list of what they can buy.

Bowles talks about how he dropped out of high school the day he turned 18. I turned 18 in April of my senior year – what kind of idiot drops out 2 months before the end? He was playing in a band and finds cooking to be just like playing music. He seems to enjoy eating too. Earlier in the show Wylie Dufrense talked about how he dreamed of sports but sucked, so settled for cooking. What an odd pair of stories about how these guys fell ass-backwards into cooking after trying something they liked better.

After the commercial we’re in the kitchen, and these four established chefs are acting like the regular contestants – running around the kitchen, preparing their food and calling out the time left. Is this courtesy? Or are they told to keep reminding each other?

The table they are serving is Kelly, our judges Gael Greene, Jay Raynor and James Oseland, as well as the creators of Nash Bridges Damon Lindelof and Cartlon Cuse and the “The writers of Lost” (not introduced individually of course). Each chef introduces the food, and everyone comments. Kelly Choi looks like an alien or something. Was that inappropriate?

Major screwup alert- Wylie serves two pieces of chicken to one person and not to the judge Jay Raynor. Liz has two chickens! Make Liz give Jay one of HER chickens. That’s all well and good but I wonder if in regular Top Chef if they would have allowed it. Two different chefs made Wild Boar. I wonder if that’s how John Locke would have liked it prepared.

Before they break to rate everyone, the judges confront the chefs for explanations of each chef. James describes Wylie’s egg as a “delicious custard” and despite it being the dreaded MOLECULAR GASTRONOMY, old lady Gael liked it anyway. It’s never a good sign when they compare your food to baby food, Elizabeth, and in taking another look, it had the color of baby food too. With that said, a sweet potato and papaya puree would be something I’d really like.

The chefs head back to the kitchen so the judges can confer, and in their down time they decide to make cookies! Geez, how long was this judging? The cookies didn’t look that good for the record. In the judges table, James rallies against Molecular Gastronomy again, but then talks about how he loved the dish. Jay makes the point – hey, maybe it IS your thing.

Diner Ratings
Tracht: **** 1/2
Bowles: **** 1/2
Falkner: *** 1/2
DuFrense: *** 1/2


James: ****
Gael: ****
Jay: *** 1/2

James: *****
Gael: ****
Jay: **** 1/2

James: ***
Gael: *** 1/2
Jay: ***

James: ****
Gael: **** 1/2
Jay: **** 1/2

Tracht: 23 1/2
Bowles: 20 1/2
DuFrense: 20
Falkner: 16 1/2

Keeping Score
Each week I’ll check to see if the quickfire winner is a good predictor of the final winner, and if each judge and the diners correctly called the winner.

Quickfire Winner – Tracht 2-0
Diner’s Winner – Tracht/Bowles (tie) 2-0
Gael’s Winner – Tracht 2-0
James’ Winner- Dufrense 1-1
Jay’s Winner- DuFrense/Tract (tie) 1-1

Final Thoughts
I don’t think anyone expected this lady to win and she won by a wide margin. She is added to the final six chefs in the competition. Funny note – the remaining chef slots are represented by a silhouette of a chef and they apparently used Hubert Keller. So the silhouette has long flowing hair and is ambiguously male or female, but then the top left is the exact image of the shadow. Pretty funny.

Also I failed to mention in the first review, but instead of “pack your knives and go”, Kelly tells each chef to “Please return to the kitchen and pack your knives.” Doesn’t really have the same zing-factor. It’s borderline polite!

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