After two seasons hosting Top Chef Masters, I recognize this moment in the competition. The chefs are tired. They still have their competitive edge—that’s hard-wired into them, after all—but the strain starts to bubble up to the surface. The stress can look different for different chefs. Some start making bad choices. Others just get crabby.
It’s pretty easy to see how this is playing out for Patricia, who has grown increasingly frustrated (and vocal) about Lorena. For Chris, it probably contributed to his loss in the Quickfire Challenge. It’s not easy to portion meat to an exact weight, in this case between 7.5 and 8.5 ounces. But with a little extra time and a bit more caution, I suspect Chris would have nailed it. It was great to see Kerry win a challenge. He’s been due for sure and what a great week for immunity.
It was fantastic having Sugar Ray Leonard as our guest judge this week. An amazing fighter in the ring, he was super insightful about what it means to be a competitor in any profession.
In the first round of the Elimination Challenge, we had two very different match-ups. Chris and Takashi, both amazing chefs, were still able to approach the battle with mutual respect. Chris needed an egg? Takashi gave him his. Takashi misfired the bacon count -- Chris handed over his extra piece. Anyone who thinks nice guys finish last should take note. Chris’ generosity didn’t handicap him. He won, purely on the merit of his beautifully rustic Cal-Mex Bacon and Eggs.Watching Patricia and Lorena was an entirely different show. First, the two work so differently. Lorena’s flare and flourish was so markedly different than Patricia’s cool-headed precision. Both ended up creating amazing food that reflected their style so clearly. Lorena’s winning Potato and Bacon Soup with Corn and Bacon Sofrito was luscious and sensual while Patricia’s Bacon, Leek and Tomato Salad was balanced and restrained.
In the Championship Round, Lorena’s fire, speed, and risk-taking proved that she’s the dark horse in this competition. It took serious guts to bake a flourless chocolate cake in 20 minutes and even more never-say-die passion to make Caramelized Pineapple and Dulce de Leche Sauce as a backup. Chris’ Zabaione and Summer Fruit was exactly what a zabaione should be, a light and frothy custard that played perfectly with the sweetness of ripe fruit. But Lorena’s two beautifully rich desserts won out.
The Elimination Round was heartbreaking. However the votes fell, a truly talented chef was leaving the competition. Best of luck Takashi! I can’t wait to eat more of your Michelin-starred food the next time I’m in Chicago.