Seemingly from nowhere the production team conjured up a full tent village, complete with a video gallery to run the shoot, and the six cooking stations for our chefs. The sun shone, the crowds cheered, and we tramped out to eat our tailgate food. This, for me, was the essence of Top Chef Masters. Any of these guys, given a properly-equipped kitchen and enough ingredients, could play a blinder; but here they were in the field, with just a Weber Grill with which to work and cramped surroundings. Plus, for two of them — Marcus and Susur — it was completely alien territory. They had no hard-wired cultural memory of what a tailgate party might be. Curiously, I think that might be why they went through and Tony didn’t.
Marcus and Susur just cooked. Susur in particular simply decided to regard the grill as another hot thing. The dumpling might have been one of those ideas to be filed under "very bad," but his Korean beef was luscious. Tony, by contrast, headed towards the essence of tailgate and went for party food, which meant simple food. The problem is if you do simple food there is absolutely no margin for error. It has to be perfect. Tony’s grilled pizza simply was not perfect.
Which was why he lost. Which was why he went home. Which was why, in this edition of Top Chef Masters, he was the one who ended up being genuinely grumpy.
Jay Rayner is the author of The Man Who Ate The World: In search of the perfect dinner, published by Henry Holt. Follow him on twitter @jayrayner1