Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

Joanie Loves 'Top Chef Masters'

Hugh Acheson returns, Kelis judges a Quickfire, and Mad Men's Christina Hendricks presents a '60s-era challenge to the chefs.

Oh my little Sterlings, Coopers, Drapers, and Prices, welcome back to one of my most highly-anticipated episodes of the season.

Let's start with the Quickfire Challenge where the one-and-only Kelis served as guest judge. I had no idea she was a trained chef, or, frankly, that she ever wore buttoned-down shirts with cardigans, but, man, did she piss off some of the chefs. As the chefs created their take on the meatball, many didn't agree with Kelis' comments. I'm obviously going to choose to because she was the one eating the food. The adorable John Currence won Kelis over with his Vietnamese meatballs. I have to say I didn't really "notice" John in the first episode, but I think he's becoming a new favorite of mine -- he just seems like such a sweetheart!

And, I love a good meatball. The meatball has/is becoming one of those trendy items in NYC, like the cupcake. I have in the past and will continue to recommend heading to Meatball Shop if you get a chance. Specifically, I recommend the pork meatball smash... with a side of mashed potatoes or something... and a root beer. Mmm. Also, obviously, I can't think of meatballs without thinking of Harold Dietere's signature duck meatballs at Perilla, which I still order every single time I eat there (which is more often than I care to divulge.) That broth! The gnocchi! Sigh. Tell me: where are your favorite meatballs?
For the Elimination Challenge the glorious Christina Hendricks and her husband Geoffrey Arend, a fine actor in his own right, issued the chefs with a challenge. Now before I get to the challnege I have to disclose that i am an obsessive Mad Men fan. Not only have i had food-themed premiere parties the past two seasons, but I actually dressed as Joan two Halloweens ago. Look!

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This obviously would be me as Joan as a Top Chef Masters judge:

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OK, now we can talk about things you actually care about, like the challenge. The chefs had to modernize classic '60s dishes, dishes that Hendricks and her husband are somewhat over. Everyone seemed to be familiar with the dishes they were given except for Floyd, who got "ambrosia," which literally means "food of the gods." Anyone taking one look at the sample we provided would know that the gods apparently had horrible palates. (Oh, hubris!) But, Floyd made it work, creating a dish inspired by his wife. The other chef that seemed to be at the greatest handicap was Suvir, who doesn't eat meat, sooo he couldn't taste his dish. I was actually surprised at how seemingly unconcerned by the fact that he never tastes his meat dishes. Maybe I'm ignorant -- perhaps this is normal for a vegetarian chef? I'm assuming any chef with a dietary restriction has had to make something they couldn't taste before. School me, people! Floyd actually almost went home for his veal, though, as it was described by the judges as "mystery meat." But, alas, it was Sue Zemanick's time to fall with her duck a l'orange. She spent so much time helping her fellow contestants in the cramped kitchen that she didn't get all the components on her plates. I'd venture to say though that the judges weren't too pleased with what they did get. Even Christina Hendricks asked what kind of difference the missing cracklin would have made had it been on the plate. At first I thought she meant the dish was so good on its own, but quickly realized that made no sense. I'm sure Sue Zemanick picked up quite a few fans in her shore time on the show, though.

As for the top dishes, Mary Sue Miliken on the other hand redeemed her "meh" premiere cupcake offering with an apparently transformative take on a deviled egg. I really want to try this recipe, so maybe I'll make it! P.S. If you want a good deviled egg, I recommend lowcountry. Their pork chop is amazing too. I can't remember if James was referring to Mary's dish when he said, "It's delightfully unctious in the mouth," but he said that about something and I haven't stopped saying it since! So, mazel to Sue! Also mazel to Hugh Acheson on his return! Although I was sad to see John Rivera Sedlar go, I really enjoyed Hugh in the first episode and was happy to see him back. Meanwhile, if you do miss John, watch him reflect on his time on the show.

Before I bid you adieu this week, I wanted to tell you I'll be covering an event some fabulous Top Chefs put together called Eat, Pray, Heal Japan tomorrow night. You can get all the info (including the secret menu) RIGHT HERE, and maybe I'll see you there!

As always, Have a Nosh