Kelly Choi

Kelly Choi breaks down the buffet challenge.

on Aug 13, 2009

I absolutely loved this episode.

In fact, it’s my favorite of the entire season. For so many reasons, some of which include that through these challenges and the many twists I presented to the Masters, I was able to get to know each chef much more intimately. And I’m confident that you did, too. Pour yourself a generous glass of wine (or a fresh cup of coffee if you’re at the office) and get ready to relish the three-course menu of what I’m about to tell.

The First Course: The Blindfold Taste Test
This was soooo much fun. For one thing, it was physically the closest that I had been to Michael, Hubert, Rick, or Anita at any given moment in the entire competition, and being face-to-face with someone reveals a lot. Only a table with 20 small cups of ingredients, a plate of lemon wedges, and some bread and water separated us. Here we were, stadium spotlights blaring and the clock started ticking. The cameras seemed to descend into darkness, and the entire situation made me feel like something really big was about to happen. I think I can speak for each chef when I say that in that moment, we felt very exposed.

At least for me, though, I wasn’t the one who had to risk being made to look like a fool. Think of the pressure! Here you are, a culinary savant, a Master Chef, being put through the paces of having to test your palate on national TV. It must’ve very intense for each of them because how else do you explain that the highest number of correct answers out of 20 items was only seven? Weren’t you thinking the whole time, "I wanna try it to see how many ingredients I could guess right?"

So Michael was up first. I secured his blindfold and handed him the first cup. He took it, whiffed it deeply, then stuck his index finger into it. Then he tasted. It was silent in the kitchen, yet it
was almost as though you could hear his brain synapses firing back and forth. Michael’s technique continued like that, methodically and analytically as he sniffed first, touched next, and then finally, ate the condiment. Seven correct guesses for Michael.

Then it was Hubert’s turn. Blindfold on, he lept out of the gate. Hubert’s pacing was faster. He tasted each ingredient without necessarily smelling first, and it surprised me, especially after
Michael. Hubert’s approach scored him a five.

Now, Rick. Wow, if I thought Hubert’s method was quicker, Rick’s was 10 times more so. As soon as I handed Rick a cup, he dumped the food into his mouth! Did you hear that one time when he clanked his front tooth on the glass cup of mango? Rick didn’t bother with
smelling the ingredient first. He was a completely trusting and wide-eyed child. It was as if I had told this sweet child that I had something yummy for him to taste, and he lapped it up straight away. Six correct answers for Rick.

And finally, it was Anita’s turn. Anita’s tactic was similar to Michael’s in that she, too, smelled the food before she ate it. Her strategy, though, was to eat as much of each ingredient as possible in the hopes that tasting a lot of the food would make it obvious as to
what it was. A few minutes and many sips of water later, Anita guessed six right.