Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

Carte Blanche

Best of the Best

Francis Lam: What's on the Menu?

Curtis Stone's Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

Bryan Voltaggio: "I Thought I Won. I Know I Won."

Jennifer Jasinski Was a "Great Miracle"

Lesley Suter's 'Ratatouille' Moment

What it Takes to Be Top Chef Master

The Finale Countdown

Doug and Sang: Bad Romance?

Sang is Back!

David Burke Has Titanium Balls

See Ya, Suckers!

Why Jennifer Jasinski Didn't Go Home

James Oseland's Teacher Tribute

Gail: "I Still Can't Believe Sang was Eliminated"

The Strangest Episode of 'Top Chef Masters' Yet?

Lesley Suter: On Tongue, Flautadillas, and Birthday Cake

What Has Curtis Stone "Spewing"?

A Series of Unfortunate Culinary Events Leaves Blood on the Mat

Gail: "We Couldn't Excuse Neal"

Lesley Suter: Hey, Chefs, Why So Raw?

Pull it Together, Sang!

Francis Lam: I liked Sang's Fish

Curtis Stone in Nacho Libre

Gail Simmons: "Neil Went for Our Bellies"

The Evolution of Sue Zemanick

Curtis Stone: Throwing Curveballs

Ruth Reichl: "I'd Rather Be Training a Nation of Food Warriors"

When Plex Met Toodee

'Top Chef Masters' ' Toughest Critics Yet

Gail Simmons: No "Chef" in Lynn's Dish

Restaurant Wars: 'Getting' Busy

Francis: A New Kind of Locavorism

What Being a Chef Really Means

Ruth Reichl's Perfect Los Angeles Restaurant

Restaurant Wars' Controlled Chaos

Franklin Just Did Too Much

Curtis and Lindsay: A Perfect Pairing

Curtis Stone: This Episode Sends Hearts Racing

Franklin, Can You Hear Me?

Carte Blanche

Kerry and Lorena winning the Quickfire, Patricia going home -- what does it all mean?!

Bienvenue sur mon blog! (Shout-out to Kerry!)

Let's put last week's episode behind us -- as entertaining as it was, Lorena and Patricia's drama left a bad tatse in my mouth, and I'd rather forget that Takashi -- the cutest guy in the world -- went home. So, it's fitting that this week's episode is all white. A blank slate if you will. But before we get to that, let's get in to the Quickfire Challenge. 

Did this week's Quickfire give anyone else a case of the Full Houses? I'm talking of course about this week's challenge where we sort of cruelly split the chefs into groups of two, put a line down the center of the kitchen, and only let one chef near the burners.

Patricia and Chris miraculously select each other, which left Kerry and Lorena as partners. Even though there hasn't been a real rift between these two, it has seemed a bit tense. And if there wasn't a rift before, there very well might be now. See, Chris -- who makes a duck dish -- and Patricia -- who makes one with tuna, work together splendidly. Even Lorena calls their collaboration "like heaven." Well then, we don't want ot know how she'd describe her own, so we'll just call it, um, difficult. Lorena needs to use the burners to make her salmon the same time Kerry needs them for his shrimp, so Kerry cooks Lorena's first, causing her to worry that it will be ruined by the time her dish is judged. Lorena says that she can handle multiple dishes on a burner at the same time, which makes me wonder why she didn't man the burners in the first place. I actually wonder if Kerry would have objected to that. Kerry does say "I'm in it every day for me."The fat on Chris' duck seemed to be the biggest problem for his and Patricia's team, and although he made it seem like Curtis and the guest judge just didn't like duck fat, it really didn't look rendered enough for my liking either. 

Kerry and Lorena nab the win. Sooo, since I learn everything from Top Chef and Top Chef Masters, I'm searching for a lesson in Kerry and Lorena's win. Not listening to your partner gets you a win? Bookies love pasta? Who knows! It was in fact Kerry's dish that won it for their team because when our Eugene Levy doppelganger guest judge announced the win, he literally sid "Kerry and Patricia pasta." Hey, there was salmon there too! To be fair, if Lorena is very particular about her rice, perhaps she shouldn't' have attempted to make it. Kerry is thrilled about his win, somehow channeling an elderly Jewish woman, with the line "Mr. Heffanan, hitting his stride late in the game." Me thinks he's seen Crossing Delancey one too many times. (If you've never seen it, do!)

On to the Elimination Challenge, where the chefs would participate in a Diner en Blanc. I'd actually never heard of the tradition before, but after a bit of research, I learned it's quite popular and seems like fun! So basically, it's a high-end picnic, sans sandwiches. Joey Tribbiani would not be into a Diner en Blanc. The chefs are psyched -- Chris is ready for whatever "art project" this is, and Lorena Garcia thinks she's the one to beat. Just ask her. She said it. On the third person. Lorena, we've talked bout this. (Also, does :orena kinda look like Celine Dion? I just noticed that this week, but can't tell if I'm crazy or not. I'm sure you'll let me know in the Comments below.)

The biggest hurdle in this challenge, besides the large number of people they have to cook for, is that the food must stay overnight in takeaway boxes. I say "takeaway" and not "doggy bag" or "leftover," because I miss London and that's what they call leftovers there. If you've ever refrigerated your food leftovers for a night and looked at them again in the morning, then you have some understanding of what the chefs are dealing with. But even with these limitations, the chefs rise to the challenge. Antoher thing to remember is that it is effing hot out there -- Las Vegas in summer hot -- and the meal is being served outside, so there's that. I probably would've put some Coronas in a box and called it a day. But that's just me.Before they serve, Patricia gets in one more jab at Lorena, saying she has a "bigger depth of knowledge and a bigger range in which to choose from." Eek! But then again maybe Patricia's just cranky -- since she'd apparently rather be ziplining, which you can watch her do HERE! We see the entire event get set up, all the diners brining their own tables, chairs, etc. Seems like a lot of work to me, but then again, I'm lazy. We meet the two founders of these dinners, and I might have a little crush on the Aymeric Pasquier. He's so perfectly groomed! But then again, i'm super-lazy. Lorena serves first with her chicken salad, potatoes, and jalapeno chocolate mousse. She wanted to mix it up by having a sweet main and a spicy dessert. I just bought a boatload of Jacquest Torres' wicked hot chocolate mix, so I'm all about a little spice in my chocolate. Ruth thinks maybe Lorena's dish was a little too sweet. Her potatoes were great, but the mousse's consistency changed overnight. Aymeric suggests adding cheese to it and Curtis gives him Curtis' kind of side-eye, where he's not really, but I imagine that in his head he's just thinking "Bitch, please."

Next we have Patricia, who came up with a pretty interesting inspiration for her dish -- Marco Polo's Silk Road route. Apparently the concept was great -- it was! -- but it wasn't executed well enough. Patricia bemoans the time difference between creation and serving, but everyone had the same time constraints. If your food would taste better hot, than make something else!

Now let's take out a moment to comment on the jester attacking all he women in sight. No means no, dude!

Chris' dishes were met with a warm reception, especially his pate. He was worried about it drying out, but it was perfect. Finally, we had Kerry's dish. Poor Kerry couldn't get any of the diners to respond to his Frenchifying everything -- until he got to the judges. Kerry starts with a cold soup which I would say was definitely a risk. He followed that up with an orzo salad -- I love an orzo salad. If you're looking for something quick, Whole Foods has a good one in their prepared food section. Even Robin Leach says his food was "primo for a picnic," which makes him a winner in my book.

And so we come to Critics' Table. We find out that Lorena didn't taste her food today. Yikes! Kerry says Chris and Patricia have been amazing helping him. Burn! Chris and Kerry end up on top, and Chris eventually gets the win. And as the chefs await their fate, Patricia says "I think of it as the better person will stay in the competition." Well, Lorena stayed. So what does that mean?! Probably nothing. Patricia will be just fine. And now Lorena has made it to the final three against Kery and Chris. Mazel tov, Lorena! I, for one, can't wait to see who makes it to the finale.

Until next week, Have a Nosh! We'll be off drinking with that random Diner en Blance dad whose son said "My dad really liked the wine… as usual."

 

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!

Cheers,

Curtis

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

Ingredients

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 

 

Method

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.