Sang is Back!

Curtis describes the eliminated chef's judging style.

“We’ve got the best of the best cooking against each other.” 

Sang is back! Gosh, we send Sang packing last week and bring him back to judge this week. There’s never a dull moment in the Top Chef Masters competition. Quite honestly, I think he enjoyed coming over to the "dark side" to judge. Whenever we bring chefs back to judge, they’re usually so empathetic to the other chefs because they know exactly what it’s like to sweat it out in the challenges. They’re usually super sweet and complimentary with one another, but Sang was a bit of a hard-nosed judge. He was quite critical of his fellow contenders’ work. Jennifer’s burger was awesome but I was a bit surprised it was Sang’s favorite simply because of the side of ketchup -- we all know how Sang feels about ketchup.

However, Sang was really the best judge for the burger challenge. He has this incredible restaurant, Father’s Office, in L.A. that serves a bloody great burger. It was an opportune time for him to leave the competition last week, just in time to come back and judge the final Quickfire Challenge. 

I thought it was great that the chefs served up a variety of burgers with both traditional beef and fish fillings. I don’t eat a lot of burgers, but when I do, I indulge all the way. I love a good beef burger so I probably would have created a beef burger with "the lot" for this challenge. As an Aussie, I’m pretty proud of our burgers, even though we are not well-known for them internationally. I love burgers that have a bit of bacon, a fried egg, and a slice of beetroot on top, along with all your other standard fillings like tomato, lettuce, and cheese. In Oz, I think the burgers that come out of fish and chips shops are top-notch. 

How special was the Elimination Challenge? I think as a new dad, you consider even further the impact that teachers have on the next generation. It was really good fun to meet some of these amazing teachers. It definitely got me reflecting on the teachers that I had as a kid and how they helped shape my thoughts and worldview. They have such a big influence on your childhood and help influence what you end up doing for a career. Teaching is often a trade that doesn’t get a whole lot of credit so it was really rad that we were able to shine a spotlight on them for the night, and give our thanks. 

Moving on to the dishes that were served to these amazing teachers by the chefs. I described Doug’s salmon dish as "rich on rich on rich." I think Doug is a really interesting cook; he creates dishes that are so versatile. Heck, he did an eggplant jelly a couple of weeks ago, it was super creative and out of the box yet other times I feel he relies on ingredients to do the trick for him. I think this was the case with this dish. I actually really enjoyed it, but he’s made better dishes throughout the competition, which have highlighted his skills a little bit more.

Bryan’s calamari Bolognese really showed off his progressive style. I don’t think I’ve put anything in my mouth made by Bryan that hasn’t made me think, which is amazing. He continues to push the envelope and do new things, and I love him for that.

There was a lot of talk this episode regarding the doneness of Jenn’s lamb. For me, lamb needs to be that perfect pink, brought up to room temperature before it’s cooked, and well-rested. I think it was probably verging on being ever so slightly underdone. The particular piece I had was actually fine, but I did see other pieces around the table that there a little less done. The consistency wasn’t quite where Jenn would have wanted it to be. 

I agree with Doug -- David has balls of steel to make 60 soufflés for some of the most revered critics in the country along with 55 other people. David’s a risktaker, and he’s been putting food on a plate for a very long time. Whether it’s his cheesecake pops that he’s been serving for many years right through to his 60 soufflés, it’s no wonder David’s been a key player in the American culinary industry for a long time. Sometimes his risks have paid off, and sometimes they haven’t, but he’ll be able to sit back and watch this episode, and the whole series for that matter, and be really proud of his efforts. He should be chuffed by the fact that in this point in his career, he’s still mixing it up with the best in the industry and he made it to the final four. 

In saying that, we did send David packing this week. I’ve really loved the humor he’s brought to the kitchen. A kitchen should be a fun and energetic place that has no boundaries, creativity should be encouraged and David certainly brings laughter to the kitchen. It’s a real joy to eat his food and I look forward to eating his dishes again the next time I’m in New York. 

And then there were three -- the final three! May the best chef win. 


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