Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

Mentors: The Chef-Makers!

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?

Mentors: The Chef-Makers!

In defense of Kerry Heffernan's teaching style.

Hello my little students! Let's dive right in, shall we? This week's episode was truly all about communication. First, in the Quickfire Challenge, the chefs were greeted with a challenge they've seen before: they have to instruct a mystery partner -- standing on the opposite side of makeshift wall -- how to cook their dish. This time, the twist was that the partners were the judges! And this time, they pretended to have accents. Really, really horrible accents. If i'm not mistaken, the only judge without actual cooking experience is James -- I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong -- so I was actually fairly shocked when he ended up on the winning team. But it just goes to show how well Chris communicated across the wall. There's  actually a really amusing exclusive video of James' full reaction to the win. Watch it here:

After the win, the chefs are presented with their Elimination Challenge -- to teach students how to upgrade their fairly classic dishes. They were all "Partner, partner, let me upgrade you." Can you imagine if Beyonce were the guest judge for this challenge? Sorry -- I just got really excited at the prospect. The three chefs would be judged on the dishes created by their pupils, so basically their fate was in the kids' tiny hands. Actually they weren't that tiny -- these weren't toddlers for G-d's sake!The three chefs took very different approaches to teaching their students. First, there was Chris, who, I think, has a future in DJing smooth radio. He really wanted his students to learn techniques, and you could tell that being a chef in his kitchen is truly a learning experience. He knows that being a chef is more than cooking or telling people what to do -- it's making sure that when you're out of the kitchen, your vision can be executed. This is an important lesson for all managers in fact. Unfortunately, his students were so efficient that they plated early and his dish suffered, and he didn't get the win.

Next, we'll discuss Lorena, who as you can imagine, was very supportive. And although her slightly revamped lasagna was apparently delicious, it just wasn't different enough from the original. Ruth also made it very clear at the Critics' Table that it wasn't restaurant caliber. While i don't know if I agree with that, I would say her dish did seem to be the least original of the three offered. Ruth was sort of hilarious at Judges' Table, as was James' reaction to Ruth. He might as well have said "Why, Ms. Reichl, I do declare!" Apparently the spirit of his Quickfire accent never left him.Then there was Kerry. As I"ve mentioned before, I think Kerry is a natural teacher. I saw this in just one visit to our office where he not only brought us food from his own backyard, but made sure he explained exactly what he was doing and taught us how to shuck oysters -- he certainly didn't have to do that. While it may have looked like Kerry was just demanding things of his students, his style probably most closely mirrored what it's like to be in a real kitchen, and frankly, his method is how I would've learned best. While it's important to be patient, these were high school kids, and can withstand a little pressure. And in the end, it paid off because Kerry and his kids won. So, he's moving on to the finale against Chris.

Sorry, Lorena! Although you're going home, please take solace in the facts that you earned a lot of money and this season wouldn't have been the same without you!

So, what do you all think of the final two? Until next week, HAVE A NOSH!

 

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.