Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

We've Got a Screamer

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?

We've Got a Screamer

Krista Simmons comments on Chris Cosentino's behavior towards Art Smith.

Talk about a polar episode of Masters. The day was more varied than Ramona Singer's mood swings! The scene started out with a cold, stove-free Quickfire, then the pendulum swayed all the way over to a heated teppanyaki battle, where the chefs were meant to master a theatrical Japanese style of flat top cooking that takes months, if not years, to learn. 

The Masters were metaphorically hog tied by the challenge, which eliminated crucial details they have control over in their own kitchens: steady heat sources, the ability to taste and season, and a level of anonymity lent by the shroud of a single swinging silver door.  

Not only were the Masters expected to cook in front of their diners, but there was an added anxiety of showmanship and style points. And quite frankly, it seemed like some cracked under pressure. 

Just watching Chris' outburst over Art moving his mandolin made me uncomfortable. There is nothing more awkward than dining in a restaurant with an open kitchen that's run by a chef that's a “screamer,” as they're called in the industry. Customers don't want to see your beef unless it's medium rare and served with a side of mashed potatoes. We all deal with enough of that drama in our daily lives, and there's no need to put it on display in such closed quarters like Chris did. Dining out is supposed to be an indulgent, relaxing experience. And trust me, being on the receiving end of a chef's rant is no fun. I've been there. So whenever I'm in a restaurant with one of these “screamer” chefs that tee off on their line, my instinct is to run over and  give them all a big hug.

I was so impressed by Art, who showed the utmost grace under fire. Even while his grit cakes fell apart under the flame and he was being barked at by Chris, he stayed cool as a julep. And he managed to bring that Southern belle flare to the teppan, which was just plain fun to watch. I wish I could have been on this episode to see and taste it in real time, and without actually trying the dishes it's impossible to comment on the flavors. What I can say is this: seasoning is everything. You could have the most fabulous dish on the planet, but without salt to coax out the subtle flavors, it could simply fall flat. Conversely, if something is grossly over seasoned, all you can taste is a mouthful of seawater. The only way to definitively balance between those two is to taste. Always taste. It's one of the fundamentals really, and one of the first things you learn in culinary training. 

Now, as a modern etiquette columnist for New York mag, I agree with Kerry. The chefs  shouldn't have just shoved a bunch of food in their mouth in front of the guests. That would indeed be indelicate. But in a competition like this, they could have easily dished up a small portion, turned away from their diners -- heck, even used each other as a block in a discreet way -- and taken a taste for seasoning. 

Would that have saved Mark? I can't say. Again, I wasn't there. But from what the judges said, it seemed the real issue was that the simplicity of the dish fell flat. There's a trend in the culinary world right now to get really heady with food, deconstructing dishes, waving a magic wand, and turning them into a billowing cloud of wizard smoke, but the fact of the matter is that the simplest of dishes are the easiest to screw up. A Neapolitan pizza or a carne asada taco are so deceivingly straight forward, but if just one element is askew or a singular ingredient isn't perfect, you're done-zo. Sadly that's where Mark screwed up. But he was honest to himself as chef throughout the whole process, and I'm sure he will be Clark's number one fan moving on. I can't wait to get out to Arrows to see what the dynamic duo does on their home turf.

 

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.