There is still a lot of genuine camaraderie among the five surviving Top Chef Masters as they compete to see who has the keenest palate in tonight’s warmup competition. You can see it at the beginning this week And you see it at the end as they comfort each other after hearing our verdicts from the Critics' Table.
But each is already scheming to outwit the pack as they head toward Whole Foods to shop for the elimination challenge – cooking a dish fit for the Greek God fate has granted them.
Rick tries to goad himself with determination to make up for his earlier gaffs and fires himself up to devise a devilish dish for Hades, God of the Underworld. He has that satanic laugh done perfectly.
Marcus as the youngest decides youth is his best advantage cooking for Ares, God of War. He breaks into a dash racing across the market to get first choice at the butcher counter. But he loses that advantage when he wakes up with his back out and can scarcely lift a heavy skillet.
Susan is her usual cheerful self, marketing her Coconut jam toast as a surefire way to win Aphrodite, the God of Love and Sex. She is perhaps a little too hung up on the sex part, like a kitchen-wise Doctor Ruth, focusing on an egg, sweet butter, and ginger infused nectar as Aphrodisiacal foods.
Jonathan is more sure of himself than he was last week cooking scary exotica. He’s like a kid as he confesses to feeling lonely away from his family on his birthday. And like a kid, the surprise birthday cake quickly cheers him up. In a beat, he has decided on scallops as the key to a dish fit for Poseidon God of the Sea. And is it possible?…did the normally laidback Jonathan actually beat the crowd to corner all the scallops? I think he did.
As for Susur, he’s having a cultural meltdown again given Dionysus, god of Wine as his inspiration. Or maybe he’s just trying to seem vulnerable after a few weeks of playing the indomitable chef to beat. He has no sense of Dionysus’ ribald character – his unruly trickster play.
Of course I only know all this after watching the show tonight. And revelations of personality, injuries, faulty thinking or outright mischief outside the actual cocktail party and the Critics' Table can’t affect my vote. For me the truth is on the plate. They are all masters. They have each triumphed earlier to reach this stage of the challenge. Anything can happen.
Susur’s roasted and confit’d Chinese pork loin with orange carrot glaze was delicious; his feta cheese rice croquette a wow. But the dish struck me as too well-bred for the unruly Dionysus. Jonthan’s inferior scallops (whether his fault or the market’s) left him merely treading water. Marcus’s seafood beef with apple broth and oyster foam looked warlike but, I must admit, foam turns me off.
As Susur comments hearing Susan boast that simple is the secret of her dish: “Simple is stupid.” At the very leasy, simple is naïve. I think Susan did get carried away with her orgasmic fantasy. We critics – and I am sure Aphrodite too – were not expecting toast and jam from a Master Chef.
What impressed me most was Rick’s crimson potatoes, the wasabi cream, the fiery pea crunch – both luscious and fitting for Hades the god of the underworld. I even forgave the too cooked swordfish for the imagination of his dish.
You could see from Jonathan’s face that he fully expected to be sent home. Perhaps he was even relieved at the thought. It was close. And so it was that we said goodbye to Susan, the darling of this now all masculine troop. A jelly sandwich was as big an insult to us as it might have been to Aphrodite.