Everything Zen

Everything Zen

Bravotv.com's Senior Editor highlights the gray areas of the teppanyaki challenge.

Hello my little triple axels! What an exciting week on Top Chef Masters. When I wrote at the beginning of the season about how good this season is, I had already watched this episode, and I truly think it is one of the most exciting episodes we've ever aired. Maybe I just get a little too excited about this show, but comment if you agree!

First, the chefs were issued a Quickfire where they had to cook seafood without heat. Well, they were presented with a giant ice block. I was nervous that they might have to chip through the ice like our Top Chef: Texas finalists, but alas, they were safe. I love this challenge. As I've only really started eating raw fish in my adult years, I've had some pretty fantastic cold fish dishes, and I would have been pretty happy with most of the chefs' offerings. Brian Boitano, who actually does have a show on the Cooking Channel, serves as guest judge and is very eloquent about what he's eating. I grew up watching Brian, so I was pretty thrilled to see this. I only wish Kurt Browning wuld have somehow stormed the kitchen, skating around Brian to "Brick House." Oh well -- a girl can dream.

Although Takashi seemed to have an advantage in this challenge as a sushi chef, I also think this could have hurt him. Well, I was wrong. He won the challenge. Frankly, i was relieved. i always like seeing chefs excel at their area of expertise. The only dish I found disappointing in this challenge -- visually at least -- was Art's, which Curtis pointed out to Brian, to which Art replied, "Shut up, Curtis!" I would have preferred a simple "Leading the witness!"

On to the Quickfire! And the teppanyaki! I am a sucker for a hibachi meal. I love fresh-made fried rice, and obviously having shrimp tails flipped at me. Also, punch served in a Buddha-shaped mug. Catching a rice ball in my mouth is one of my greatest achievements. But this week, the chefs had to not only cook on a teppanyaki in groups of three, but they had to cook for their peers. Luckily for them, it was some of their more jovial peers in the form of Susan Feniger, Mary Sue Milliken, Jonathan Waxman, and Rick Moonen. We also welcomed Francis Lam to the Judges' Table. Did I mention Francis is blogging and his blog is highly entertaining? Read it HERE.

Before we get to the actual serving, let's pause for a moment for an inspirational message from Chris Cosentino at Whole Foods. "A lot of great things have happened in the world when people think outside the box." Agreed. Oh, let's also stop for a massage like Thierry did. Man, this competition is stressful -- who can blame him for needing a little rub-down? Apparently Chris can, calling him a "ding dong." Is that an acceptable insult these days? I hope so because it's definitely being worked into my vocabulary.The teppanyaki challenge is all about regulating heat, time management, and putting on a show. Let's see how the teams did, shall we?

First up are Mark, Kerry, and Lorena. Mark's food was simple, but bland. I'm still lost on why he didn't use his butter. Kerry went Korean and brought the drama, but his shrimp was overcooked. And Lorena's fried rice burned a bit. Also, they didn't taste their food. I'm on the fence about whether they were justified in thinking they shouldn't try their food in front of people because it was "indelicate" to do so, to put it in Kerry's terms. Personally, I found Lorena's use of the third person more offensive. I kid. I kid. 

Next up we have Clark, Patricia, and Takashi. Takashi had problems with the consistency of his pancakes, but he has immunity. Rick loves Patricia's lettuce wraps. He loves lettuce wraps. Oh, and they put on a dance routine. The judges and guests seemed ot enojoy this team' dishes much more than the first team's.

On to the final team who decide not to even try to cook Japanese-style. I think this was either incredibly smart or could have backfired on them. But this was't their bigest challenge -- their pesonalities were. Chris and Art always bicker, but it came to a head this week when Chris yelled at Art in front of his peers. A little part of me died inside for Art. Even if Chris was justified, that's just plain embarrassing. Thankfully, Thierry diffused the situation. Also, Chris called himself "daddy." Lorena is now forgiven for speaking in the third person. Despite some burnt crepes, all the dishes were received well, and in the end, they pulled out hte win. If this weren't a teppanyaki challenge, and the chefs bickered in the kitchen, we would never have known.

On a sidenote, I had the pleasure of eating at Kevin Sbraga's restaurant Sbraga in Philly this weekend, and not only was the food out of this world, but it's an open kitchen, and the vibe at the Chef's table was so calm, it was ridiculus. Obviously it's not like that ever night -- every chef has his/her "Damn it, Art!" moment, but I was very impressed nonetheless.On the other hand, although Mark and his teammates worked well together, their food was the weakest, and Mark was eliminated. I was sad to see Mark go home, not only for Clark, but I just loved watching them together. I hope to make it to Maine and eat at their restaurant soon.

Next week's episode takes our chefs to the Grand Canyon! You won't want to miss this one. Until then, Have a Nosh!

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