First Things First

First Things First

Kelly talks about her favorite dishes from the series premiere.

Wow, what a fun, first Top Chef Masters episode!

OK, so first things first: My hat (not Gael Greene's) goes off to all of our Master chefs for being on the show, cause it sure as hell isn't easy. For these flavor maestros to risk making a fool of themselves on national TV, albeit for charity, takes some serious guts. It is a really big deal that they agreed to cook under whatever situation we presented to them.

Now, to the Quickfire Challenge and our four beautiful Girl Scouts. Just watching this part of the show revealed to me how much of what went down with our four Masters was just as much of a revelation to me as it might've been to you. For one thing, after I tell Michael Schlow, Hubert Keller, Tim Love, and Christopher Lee about their Quickfire Challenge, I'm not allowed to stay and see what our Masters end up making. So when I saw that Michael had run into so much trouble making his dessert for our Scouts, I was wholly surprised. Sitting with the girls during the tasting and asking them questions about what they liked and didn't, I never would've known that Michael's cake hadn't baked properly nor that his ice cream hadn't set up (my only regret is that I wish I could've tasted the dishes too, but since I'm too busy asking questions, I can't join in and eat).

As far as the desserts that were presented, I was particularly impressed with what Hubert had produced for his blind tasters. Not only did it please our young diner's palates, but it was playful and pretty to look at. And I sure would've loved to have tried Michael's dish of chocolate gooeyness even though it may not have looked refined enough for him. The one sure thing about his dish was that the girls didn't mind one bit that it looked like a chocolate lava cake gone wrong.

I think our Masters found that at certain moments, the Scouts were the toughest critics to please — even more than a diner at one of their schmancy restaurants — because the Girl Scouts didn't sugar-coat any of their candid opinions.

When it came time for me to reveal to the Masters their Elimination Challenge, I was totally cracking up inside the entire time. I was scanning the kitchen to watch their reactions and it was hilarious watching Christopher and Tim look at me like I was a three-headed alien. Use what? A hotplate?? A toaster oven and MICROWAVE?? They probably hadn't touched any of these vessels in years, if ever. Yes, my dear viewers, this is how we had to challenge our genius chefs because if you let them cook under normal circumstances, they're undoubtedly going to produce amazing food time and again.

Skipping ahead to the meal at Pomona College, my favorite course from Tim Love was his "Pozole" — it was hearty and tasty, and I still can't believe he made his entire menu from (accidently) frozen ingredients! Ugh, just thinking about how Tim must've felt when he opened up his bags of rock-hard icy ingredients that morning of the Elimination Challenge just makes my heart sink.

Christopher Lee's winning dish, for me, was his risotto. Man, that was a warming and delicious bowl of food. Michael's soup with cabbage was fantastic and satisfying, and Hubert's salmon mi cuit, in all of its creamy fatty glory, was a complete culinary knockout.

In the end, what the Masters pulled off with what tools they had to cook with in an itty bitty dorm room was awe-inspiring. If my college boyfriend had made for me anything close to what these guys did for their students, then I'd be hitched with him today for sure ....

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