Gael Greene

Gael Greene expresses shock over Suser Lee's reaction to his Quickfire Challenge performance.

on Apr 29, 20100

Since we judges are normally stashed away in coolers during QuickFire I had no idea how shocked and devastated Susur Lee was by his flameout. As we watch him tackling the fruit, he is so sure of his superior knife skills that he is convinced his fruit dish can’t fail to win “artistic honors.” And then his dismal score puts him in a snit. What a tantrum. How quickly he blames the judges for not understanding Asian ways. So petty. And so wrong. Quite frankly, I’m shocked to see him so unlike the charming Susur Lee whose food I loved and raved about at Shang in the Thompson Hotel on Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

And given Jody’s self-doubt as she analyzes the competitors and sets out to tackle her tart only to freeze the dough, I find her triumph and surprise at winning to be quite touching. Since this was a High Stakes QuickFire, she is thrilled to get a free pass into the finals.

Lucky for Susur Lee, his wife on the phone that night did not indulge his megalomania. Instead she calmed him down, so he could focus on the real goal: “My job is to win,” he vows. “Now I am very motivated.” All these master chefs come to win but rarely are they as fierce and determined as Susur and quite frankly not all of them are as experienced.

The Elimination Challenge, to modernize a classic family dish and please the cast and crew of Modern Family, turns out to be nightmare face-off. Just shopping to feed 125 people, managing the prep work, then moving it all to the Studio canteen, reheating and serving – coitus interruptus as Jody calls it  -- is a killer assignment. That’s why they’re all on the run.
Seeing the kitchen action we judges do not normally see as the show airs on Bravo is a revelation. I am always surprised to see what chefs help each other in the kitchen and which ones stand back pretending not to see a colleague wrestling with disaster. Maria – whose sweet disposition comes right through the plasma screen -- suggests Debbie sauté her undercooked pork belly but alas, neither the glaze, the apple butter or Debbie’s wonderful winter squash slaw, can overcome the chewiness of undercooked pork. And in the combination of precooking and warming, Maria’s salmon went in the opposite direction – too cooked. All the judges loved her almond milk but that wasn’t enough to overcome the salmon syndrome.

14 comments
Julie C
Julie C

I too think it is interesting to watch who helps whom when there are problems. To me it seems that the women Master chefs are more helpful, especially with other women, while the men seem to work with a kill or be killed attitude.

ViewerNY
ViewerNY

Why is it surprising that a "Top Chef" is competitive? I'm surprised at the personal level of the reaction to his comments. Susur Lee did not use it as an opportunity to belittle another chef, as so many often do. He simply defended his own efforts and moved on, to great success.

Lisa H.
Lisa H.

Very disappointed to see the commercial. Major letdown. Wasn't going to finish watching the episode but was curious to see how Susur came back.

ViewerLA
ViewerLA

I don't know how to reach the powers-that-be at Bravo to castigate, flay, roast, poach, sear, fillet, par-boil, and vacuum-pack for showing the commercial of the first championship roind--prominently featuring Susur--right before the results were announced on this week's show. Sloppy, awful, rotten, and mood-killing. Somebody needs to be slapped silly with a wet noodle!

Quincy
Quincy

My only issue with this episode was the Quickfire win automatically getting a finals berth. I mean, seriously, a fruit plate??

tarheelmom
tarheelmom

I was extremely disappointed that the commercial revealed the winners before the episode was over. I changed the channel and didn't watch the rest...bummer.

txtopcheffan
txtopcheffan

I didn't find Susar's "tantrum" offensive at all either. I just saw his remarks as him defending his work. He never criticized or belittled other chefs the way many other chefs have been portrayed to do on past episodes.

Topchefer
Topchefer

I am confused about Debbie's pork. At Whole Foods she bought pork belly and at the dinner she said she was serving pork loin. In my mind, they are not one and the same. Thanks for your blogs, I enjoy reading them. Where is James?

SG
SG

Preview of next week's episode revealed Susur to be the winner of this one before judges table. Major suspense killer! Please don't do that again. Otherwise, enjoying the show from Montana.

Viewer2
Viewer2

just wanted to say thanks to bravo for airing next weeks promo showing ALL the chefs competing, including the two from this episode, before the episode ended. There was no need to watch the end of the episode because it was ruined, so thanks for that.

M3
M3

Gael, Thank you for showing yet another element that elevates Top Chef Masters from so many of the other Bravo offerings, namely your willingness to point out behavior unbecoming a master chef. Too often in the drama formula of reality tv we find boorish behavior highlighted as the norm. Since their culinary skills are already established there's nothing more impressive than modesty from someone of the master chefs' caliber.

Am excited to see how eliminations refine the group further. I'm rooting for Chef Waxman.

DaTruth
DaTruth

How ridiculous was it that Bravo showed a commercial for next week's episode DURING the episode? We see Susur running around in the commercial with the other winning chefs. Thanks for spoiling the result, Bravo? Idiotic.

FanFare56
FanFare56

Dear Gael,

Thank you for your wonderful insights. Susur's tantrum didn't bother me in the least. I have to say that his QF offering looked amazing. However, I didn't get to taste it. Of all the dishes served in the elim, his was the only one I was interested in eating. The rest seemed rather sub par from supposed "master" chefs of a high caliber. Rick's, for example, was composed of store bought sausage. There was nothing high end about that. Compared to S-1, the eliminated chefs are disappointing in their results. Their scores are lower, their dishes have less finesse. I haven't heard of 90% of them. They all seem a tad bit inflated in their own minds, since their dishes are somewhat flat.

Dave P
Dave P

Gael,

Love your critiques on the Masters show. I wished you could be a regular on the non-Masters version as well.

You cannot ever trust the Bravo edits you see on TV. It's unfortunate that you, as an "insider", do not have more access to the raw footage, which evidently you do not. I've learned from 6 seasons of TC and 1.5 seasons of TCM that the edits you see of the chefs (and the critics!) are far, far too often inaccurate (or flat out coerced) and manufactured for maximum drama.