Food of the Gods

Gael Greene breaks down the competition as they create dishes inspired by Greek gods.

There is still a lot of genuine camaraderie among the five surviving Top Chef Masters as they compete to see who has the keenest palate in tonight’s warmup competition. You can see it at the beginning this week And you see it at the end as they comfort each other after hearing our verdicts from the Critics' Table.

But each is already scheming to outwit the pack as they head toward Whole Foods to shop for the elimination challenge – cooking a dish fit for the Greek God fate has granted them.

Rick tries to goad himself with determination to make up for his earlier gaffs and fires himself up to devise a devilish dish for Hades, God of the Underworld. He has that satanic laugh done perfectly.

Marcus as the youngest decides youth is his best advantage cooking for Ares, God of War. He breaks into a dash racing across the market to get first choice at the butcher counter. But he loses that advantage when he wakes up with his back out and can scarcely lift a heavy skillet. 
Susan is her usual cheerful self, marketing her Coconut jam toast as a surefire way to win Aphrodite, the God of Love and Sex. She is perhaps a little too hung up on the sex part, like a kitchen-wise Doctor Ruth, focusing on an egg, sweet butter, and ginger infused nectar as Aphrodisiacal foods.

Jonathan is more sure of himself than he was last week cooking scary exotica. He’s like a kid as he confesses to feeling lonely away from his family on his birthday. And like a kid, the surprise birthday cake quickly cheers him up. In a beat, he has decided on scallops as the key to a dish fit for Poseidon God of the Sea. And is it possible?…did the normally laidback Jonathan actually beat the crowd to corner all the scallops? I think he did.

As for Susur, he’s having a cultural meltdown again given Dionysus, god of Wine as his inspiration. Or maybe he’s just trying to seem vulnerable after a few weeks of playing the indomitable chef to beat. He has no sense of Dionysus’ ribald character – his unruly trickster play. 

Of course I only know all this after watching the show tonight. And revelations of personality, injuries, faulty thinking or outright mischief outside the actual cocktail party and the Critics' Table can’t affect my vote. For me the truth is on the plate. They are all masters. They have each triumphed earlier to reach this stage of the challenge. Anything can happen.

Susur’s roasted and confit’d Chinese pork loin with orange carrot glaze was delicious; his feta cheese rice croquette a wow. But the dish struck me as too well-bred for the unruly Dionysus. Jonthan’s inferior scallops (whether his fault or the market’s) left him merely treading water.  Marcus’s seafood beef with apple broth and oyster foam looked warlike but, I must admit, foam turns me off.  

As Susur comments hearing Susan boast that simple is the secret of her dish: “Simple is stupid.” At the very leasy, simple is naïve. I think Susan did get carried away with her orgasmic fantasy.  We critics – and I am sure Aphrodite too – were not expecting toast and jam from a Master Chef. 

What impressed me most was Rick’s crimson potatoes, the wasabi cream, the fiery pea crunch – both luscious and fitting for Hades the god of the underworld. I even forgave the too cooked swordfish for the imagination of his dish.

You could see from Jonathan’s face that he fully expected to be sent home. Perhaps he was even relieved at the thought. It was close. And so it was that we said goodbye to Susan, the darling of this now all masculine troop. A jelly sandwich was as big an insult to us as it might have been to Aphrodite.

Gael Greene

You May Also Like...

Recommended by Zergnet

Curtis Stone's Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

Curtis describes cooking for the finalists. Recipe included!

Well done, Doug! He put in a cracking effort this season. Were you happy to see him go all the way to being crowned the Top Chef Masters Season 5 winner? It’s great that he won 100K for his charity, Green Dog Rescue, Inc. Congrats, mate. 

The finale is the most exciting time in the entire competition, and it was a seriously great night for the critics and me. Each dish that was served up to us was absolutely bloody delicious. Jen, Bryan, and Doug should be so proud of themselves. 

These chefs are truly at the top of their culinary game, which makes it even more exciting and daunting for me to cook for them. Chefs love cooking for other chefs, but it’s also pretty nerve-wracking. We cook for critics, customers, and celebrities all the time, and that’s par for the course, but no one can break your food down like another chef. We only got to see the spot prawns and lemon cream on tonight’s episode, but I also got busy in the kitchen and hand-made some beautiful ravioli and chilled soup too. (My lemon cream recipe can be found below). I’ve put these three chefs through the ringer for 10 weeks, thrown a bunch of crazy challenges at them, and have said some not-so-great things once or twice while critiquing their meals, so it’s safe to say I was a little nervous awaiting their reactions. They seemed to enjoy the dishes a lot, and it was great to just sit down, reflect, and celebrate their accomplishments.  

Bryan is a total superstar and has elevated his career more than anyone could have imagined going from Top Chef finalist to Top Chef Masters finalist. It’s just unbelievable. It’s kind of like going from playing local football to suddenly being in the premier league. 

It was also amazing to watch Jen come back fighting like a champion in this competition. She really fought hard and deserved a place in the final after going from being eliminated to winning her way back in, and then winning a handful of challenges. 

I think Doug had that winning edge in the end due to a number of key factors. He’s an accomplished chef with years of experience and has a vast amount of knowledge to draw on from his travels and training. Doug’s spent a lot of time behind the stoves and has never turned his back on them (well, only when he is working and playing with his beloved dogs). He’s got an admirable roll-up-the-sleeves, resilient attitude and gave each challenge a good crack. And we can talk about him facing his fears of skydiving? A lot can change in 10 weeks, huh? I had a ball filming this season, and it was a pleasure to work with such a talented group of chefs, critics, celebrities and the crew. I’m already thinking about next year and the chefs on my wish list to lure into the Top Chef Masters kitchen. I’d love to see April Bloomfield from NYC’s The Spotted Pig, husband and wife team Karen and Quinn Hatfield from Hatfield’s Restaurant and The Sycamore Kitchen, Josef Centeno from Bäco Mercat, Christopher Elbow from Kansas City (his chocolates look insane), and I’d also love to see Missy Robbins come back to us. 

Thanks for a great season, everyone!



Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

This dessert is a bit of a calorie killer, but hey, what the hell. It’s dead easy, but you’ll need a thermometer. Use two lemons if you like a subtle lemon flavor, or three for more of a zing. I like using frozen sour cherries to cook with -- fresh cherries should be eaten fresh. 

Serves: 6
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes


Lemon creams:

3 1/2 cups 35% whipping cream
Finely grated rind and juice of 2-3 lemons
6 oz instant dissolving sugar

Poached cherries:

Finely grated rind of 1/2 orange

7 fl oz red wine (Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon)

1/2 cinnamon stick

1 whole clove

1 tsp instant dissolving sugar plus extra, if needed

7 oz frozen sour black cherries, defrosted 



To prepare the lemon creams: 

In a saucepan, heat the cream to 160°F. Remove from the heat and cool to 150°F.

Add the lemon rind, juice and sugar to the cream mixture, and mix well. Allow to cool, then pour into six 6-inch dariole moulds (cups, ramekins, or glasses will do if you don’t have molds*). Place on a tray and put in the refrigerator to set, about fur hours.

To poach the cherries:

Place the rind, wine, cinnamon, clove and sugar in a saucepan, and bring to a simmer. Add the cherries, bring to the boil, and taste for sweetness. If necessary, add a little more sugar to neutralize the tannin of the wine, while retaining some zing. Simmer for five minutes, then cool.

When ready to serve, carefully up-end the moulds over serving plates and give them a shake; the creams should just slip out. If this proves difficult, run a small knife around the edge of the mould to release the cream and try again. 

Serve each lemon cream accompanied by 5-6 cherries. Drizzle a little of the syrup over each one. 

*You can also make molds from 3-inch diameter PVC pipe from a hardware store cut to depths of 1 1/4-inches. Sand the edges and then seal the bottoms with plastic wrap.   




You May Also Like...

Recommended by Zergnet