Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reactions to Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 1

This season, Top Chef Masters takes on the regular Top Chef format, with all 12 cheftestants competing at the same time rather than in tournament fashion. The first episode starts with the chefs entering the Top Chef Masters kitchen, greeting each other like the old friends they mostly are. Once everyone is assembled, new host Curtis Stone appears to give them their first Quickfire Challenge.

The chefs must partner up with the chef next to them and choose from a selection of "Mystery Boxes" containing one ingredient. Using that one ingredient, and that of their partner, each chef must create a single dish within a 20 minute time limit. There ends up being some bizarre combinations of ingredients: sardines and dragon fruit; chicken livers and popcorn; marshmallows and canned corned beef; frogs legs and cottage cheese; peanut butter and licorice. Even though this is the Masters competition, it looks a bit like amateur hour with the chefs rushing around and more than one not getting all elements plated.

Judging the challenge are new critic Ruth Reichl and regular James Oseland. As they taste each pair of dishes, they declare a winner from each: Hugh, Mary Sue, Traci, Suvir, Floyd, and George. At the end, Traci des Jardins dish is declared the Quickfire winner, receiving immunity and $5000 for her charity.

Without further ado, we find that the Elimination Challenge is...Restaurant Wars! The chefs who won their Quickfire pairing are Team Red, while the remaining chefs are Team Blue (Celina, Naomi, Alessandro, John C, John R, and Sue). Team Red chooses the name Mosaic for their restaurant; Team Blue calls their place Leela.

After 45 minutes of shopping, 2 hours of prep, and 3 hours of cooking, the restaurants must serve 50 guests, including the judges. The kitchen at Mosaic works smoothly as a team, while Leela seems much more chaotic. The front of the house at Mosaic runs smoothly too, as guests are seated a few tables at a time, so as not to tax the kitchen. Meanwhile, at Leela, you guessed it - everyone is seated at once and the kitchen has a meltdown, especially since the seating charts are confusing.

The judges start out at Mosaic before moseying over to Leela. It's pretty clear that they prefer the former over the latter. However, their vote is not the only one that counts - the diners get to choose the winning restaurant.

As the diner's favorite, Team Blue is called out to Critics' Table first. Naomi's chocolate cake was a favorite dish, but Alessandro's fricasee appetizer wins the challenge. They get sent back to the "wine room" and are asked to bring out Mary Sue and Hugh, who made Mosaic's weakest dishes. Mary Sue's chocolate cupcake was deemed too safe, and a bit dry, but the bigger mistake was Hugh's, for his under-cooked and over-salted scallop dish.

Hugh is the first Master out of the competition.

So what did you think about the episode? the new format? Please tell us in the comments.

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Marsha said...

Well, sadly I could not stay awake late enough to watch the entire show! I did watch the Quickfire. How amazing was it that 3 of the chefs could not finish it?

So great to see Mary Sue Milliken again...and also the gal who competed in "Next Iron Chef" - she was very good in that competition.

MoHub said...

I zonked about halfway into the Quickfire, so I'll need to catch a rerun. However, I really preferred the old format—and Gael Greene and Jay Rayner as well. And so far, Curtis Stone doesn't do it for me either.

Marsha—By the gal from Next Iron Chef, do you mean Celina Tio? I was pulling for her then, and I got on Team Tio as soon as I found out she would be on Top Chef Masters.

I believe there is more than one Next Iron Chef competitor on TCM this season. I think Traci Des Jardins was also an Iron Chef wannabe.