This week’s Quickfire showed off some of the best and worst parts of being a chef. On the one hand, we gave them tons of amazing food to work with — from foie gras to beef tenderloin to caviar and truffles, every chef loves working with these indulgent ingredients. On the other hand, we put our poor chefs seriously under the gun by giving them just seven minutes to turn those ingredients into a fantastic dish. Now, let me tell you, that would have been a big enough challenge for a Quickfire, but to then have to be judged by your fellow chefs is really tough. While they all understood the pressure of making a great dish really quickly, they also have amazing palates, years of experience, awards and accolades, and they know what the food should taste like. I have no idea how Naomi pulled off her seared foie gras with chanterelle mushrooms and fried lady apples in that amount of time, but it was amazing. She was tough competition for Traci’s winning tenderloin beef carpaccio with truffle and maitake. Alex gave his own dish low marks, but his prawn ceviche with cumquat, hot chili and celery in blood orange vinaigrette was full of flavor.
I’ve got to tell you as a chef, I wouldn’t want this week’s Elimination Challenge. We threw our chefs the almost impossible challenge of creating a family style meal for five rock stars on a tour bus. There was no space, no time, and each musician wanted something completely different. The guys in Maroon 5 were fantastic guest judges, but they sure didn’t make it easy on our chefs, asking for everything from Mexican food to spanakopita to Thanksgiving dinner. When chefs plan a dinner menu, they take the time to make sure that all the dishes work off each other. No chance of that here. Time was tight and chefs know how to work with that. But cooking in an RV with only three weak burners and no counter space, if you don’t count the bed, was definitely a curveball. I’m a big guy and I’m pretty sure cooking alone in a bus would be impossible. It’s amazing that our chefs created such amazing food under those conditions.
Team Black almost seemed to laugh off the stress by kicking off their meal well with a strong margarita and Mary Sue’s diablo salsa and chips. And you would have thought Hugh had a full-service kitchen and days to prepare his tasty fennel, parmesan, and spinach spanakopita. Team Red unfortunately caved to the pressure. Celina made a fabulous farm-fresh corn soup and Alex’s enchilada with onion and seitan was surprisingly satisfying without any cheese, but overall, you could taste the duress these chefs were under.
It’s difficult to say goodbye to Alex. He deserves a huge round of applause for stepping up as a leader and serving four of his team’s dishes. But by taking on so much, he ended up sacrificing his own food. Throughout the competition, Alex has shown how creative and talented he is and I’ll definitely be stopping by Stratta the next time I’m in Vegas.
Top Chef has been one of my favorite shows on television since it premiered years ago, but the quality of challenges has gone so downhill this season that it is practically unwatchable. These are world class chefs. We, as the viewer, want to see them stretch their cooking muscles by creating complex dishes that show off their skills. It's one thing to have one or two challenges a season that seem silly, but this season has been constant challenges that put these chefs in ridiculous situations that make it impossible for them to cook. I'm tired of them having to "adapt" to make drive thru food, or to cook on a bus. Honestly, that comes off as kitschy and really makes this show seem less like a legitimate cooking competition and more like an episode of Road Rules. Even the production value seems to have gone down. This show is now among the rest of the reality TV garbage that it usually rose above. The reason people tune in to see chefs like Hubert Keller and Rick Bayless cook is because they are amazing at what they do. It would be amusing to see Hubert Keller cooking on a bus, but an entire season of that? No, thank you. It saddens me to see a show that I loved so much turn into something so mediocre.
Either the episodes are poorly edited or the judges have already decided the season's end. (My money is on the top three or four winners coming from last night's black team -the other's being just fodder. It seems unfair.) I leave each episode feeling no matter how stalwart the contestant or how hard he works at the tasks, the judges seem relentless in their indifference towards some contestants. I mention editing because the viewers certainly can't taste the food, we can only see what the show presents and we walk away with a sense of the chefs. Then "KAPOW!!" It's off with their heads. For the viewers, this sort of bait and switch doesn't add drama or interest, it adds frustration. And who dreampt up the tour bus challenge? A workman is only as good as his tools and you gave them all substandard tools. An easy-bake oven to cook steak and a turkey dinner? Terrible challenge.
Please keep the wack hijinks confined to the quickfire, let the masters really shine in the Elimination challenges.
I agree! The elimination challenges are childish for these caliber of chefs. I like the new format (same as the regular Top Chef), but come on guys, you're dealing with very experienced Chefs and you have them cooking on busses, slicing and dicing in a fast food joint.... Pleasssssse! Let them cook and you'll probably taste good food all the time. What's the next elimination challange, cook a 5 course meal while standing on their heads??? OH, and perhaps using only one hand as well. Give he chef worthy elimination challanges and I'll like the show better, along with a lot of other people that I know that watch it.
Totally agree. I wish them luck attracting the same caliber of chef next season after these ridiculous challenges. Also agree that production and editing are not what they used to be. I am also tired of this season's unqualified judges - Oseland's boy blogger intern and Danielle whoever she is have not the credentials to be scolding the likes of Floyd Cardoz, Traci desJardins and Suvir Saran. Bring Ruth and Gael Greene back. Please!
I absolutely love Curtis Stone as host. He is knowledgeable, respectful and fun! Please keep him on as host. I have had concerns of the new way Top Chef Masters has run but I have to say it's growing on me.
The reason it has is how gracious, hardworking and good sports the chef's are and how respectful and informative James and Curtis are in their critiques.
Really great job Curtis!
What a loss for everyone under this new format! I so enjoyed the chance to see true Masters at work, the laughs, and the friendships developing among them. Now you're pitting one against the other on a very personal basis that will only create hard feelings (often quite deliberately as w/ voting for each other in the QF). What other greats will invest so much time away from their businesses, only to have their talents become a poor second to the creation of unnecessary drama in childish challenges? We all lose.
I do not understand Curtis Stone's remark that couscous is the "easiest thing on the planet to cook." A properly executed couscous requires a sequence of three steamings over about an hour and a half. It's a process that requires a good deal of care.
I have been a Top Chef Masters' fan since the beginning and loved seeing true "masters" of the food world. This season has been such a disappointment! I enjoy Curtis as the new host; however, these ridiculous elimination challenges are not worthy of these world-class chefs! I watch because I want to see them put forth their best, not survive under duress.
I think you all are right on the money here. Top Chef is just that...Top! The challenges should be really top notch and not cooking bugs and fast food...that's kind of a slap in the face when you take a chef out their element and say "Now downgrade your ability." Make the challenges tough and at their level of cooking...that would be great! Give them exotic and unusual fish and meat and odd produce they haven't worked with and let them create. This should be an over the top canvas for these people to really show what they can do. I love this show but they have been making it a bit silly and I would love to see the edge come back. xo
As a fan of everything Top Chef, this season is a terrible disappointment for all the reasons mentioned except that Curtis is a great addition. It also appears as if james has opinions that differ fromn the other judges and that, ultimately, it's james' opinion that rules.
Thank goodness almost everyone here feels the same way I do.Can't be good for ratings tho!! Very dull competition and the show itself is just boring. These chef's are very talented but I'm having a very hard time rooting for anyone. With these challenges it's impossible for them to be passionate about the food and what they're doing. This reminds me of the season on the Apprentice where Trump made the losers sleep outside in tents if they didn't win. Educated, smart people and he almost lost the show. Bring back Tom and bring back the edge but most of all, bring back the good challenges which showcase the contestants skills. I think Bravo is kinda gettin' full of themselves. Pregnant in Heels? Top Chef Drive Thru's?
I have to say Curtis is a great host and very enjoyable to lIsten to (and look at).
I also think Maroon 5 was an excellent choice as they are popular, funny, and brought a wide variety of dishes to the table. I especially liked the vegan one since I'm vegetarian. (Miss the veg Indian guy contestant).
Probably one of my fav episodes- Loved the whole idea of bringing the band and having a large group of friends eat a nice family meal together and just enjoy life, laugh over good food.