Kelly Choi

Kelly Choi says why Mark Peel's dish had her wanting more.

on Jul 8, 2009

I must’ve been a mother hen in my previous life cuz I love eggs. And dang it, I sure wanted to taste the Quickfire dishes our Masters prepared.

What a great way to test our phenomenal chefs' talents using this very basic ingredient, and how the four rose to the occasion! I mean seriously, how do you make fresh pasta or an arepa from scratch in just 25 minutes, all with one arm pinned to your back? It’s unfathomable.

I admit I was ready to suppress my laughter when I revealed the Quickfire challenge to Anita, John, Mark, and Douglas. I thought these guys would be more taken aback with the one-armed constraint and the logistics of the task?!

But hardly a flinch! Dammit, that’s no fun!

It just goes to show you why these chefs are who they are and where they are, for they’ve seen it all in their restaurants. I could’ve told them to use only their feet to cook and might have gotten the same non-reaction.

If I were to do a brief sum-up of each chef’s strengths / weaknesses,I would say this:

John Besh’s selfless nature, though a wonderful trait, got the better of him during the Quickfire. He was helping Anita cut her egg tops off meticulously, and that chivalrous act might’ve distracted him from checking on his eggs in the oven — the eggs which never cooked. Raw
egg dishes aren’t appetizing, ergo, his paltry score of half a star.

Mark, to me, is the campus quarterback who everyone admires and likes. He is skilled in so many areas, always pulled together and charming at the same time. When we had our Top Chef Masters premiere party at Campanile in Los Angeles, Mark personally served me his scrumptious grilled cheese sandwiches and pulled pork sliders, kept an eye on his
kitchen, and managed to converse with his diners all at once.

Chef Douglas Rodriguez thinks and dreams big and conceptualizes his ideas like no one else. You can tell, too, that he’d be a blast to hang and cook with. This guy likes to have fun!

And the gentle-spoken yet full-bodied chuckling Anita Lo: never underestimate the quiet ones, I say. Anita’s Mensa head has a lot of rapid-fire synapse action going on under that cool exterior. When Anita is on, she is pure genius. And her soft-scrambled eggs in that beautifully decorated vessel was ON.

OK, so Quickfire over, the mysterious Max Maven and I deliver the Elimination Challenge to our competitors, and then, Sim Sala Bim, we’re off to the Magic Castle in Hollywood!

The castle was enchanting. I wanted to explore all of its eery rooms and secret treasures. Neil Patrick Harris, our guest of honor, actor, and accomplished magician, knew the location’s ins and outs intimately. Neal truly loves magic. He even told me about a magic store in Hollywood where I could go to get started on my path as an amateur magician. His recommended trick of choice involves a roll of nickels and dimes, or something like that. I can’t now remember the
name of the trick, or the store, for that matter.

Neil is a supremely knowledgeable foodie and a tough critic. I might even say more so than his super-cute boyfriend, David Burtka, who also happened to be a culinary student during the time of our taping. They and their guests were opinionated and funny, which made our meal all
the more entertaining.

For me, Mark’s dish had me purring for more. His stark food-in-a-bag presentation was modern and beautiful, and the taste of his Tai snapper and luscious potatoes were bold and decadent. Mark’s sake pairing was also purrfect. A wise decision, too, because the clean, crisp drink cut the richness of his fish like a titanium blade. Delicious!

By the way, a couple of days ago, Anita’s restaurant in New York, Annisa, caught fire. No one was hurt, thankfully, and she is now starting renovations. Anita, good luck with all of that! Ugh!!
Wish I knew a magic spell to make that all go away ….

Eat deliciously, everyone! And thank yoooooooo!!