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Pho Real

Hugh Acheson surveys the pool party scene.

By Hugh Acheson

This season of Top Chef Masters is being very supportive of the music scene in Georgia. First the B-52s handled a Quickfire and now we have the Indigo Girls. Happenstance? I think not. This has all the markings of Art Smith picking all the talent. 

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We are pretty much at the halfway point in the competition with our brigade consisting of Lorena, Takashi, Art, Chris, Patriceo, Kerry, and Thierry.  

The Quickfire is to create a meaty classic with a vegetarian faux iteration as well. The 45 minutes they are given is pretty paltry. Patriceo takes the idea to the stoves and is making pho. She even pronounces it correctly (fuh), confusing America. Also confusing to America is the name of one local pho place in Athens: Just Pho & More.  

At this point in the competition none of them are straying far from their skill set. Takashi is making something Japanese; Chris is making something meaty; Art is making something Southern, messy, but tasty; Kerry is making something fancy-looking; Lorena is making a South American delight. Thierry is doing something French and talking about how much he loves Takashi. All is very consistent in Las Vegas. 

Art’s pot pies look like a trainwreck, but true to form, they taste great. Emily from the Indigo Girls is an investor in Watershed in Atlanta, a restaurant where Southern food has made a sizeable and very important impact. About five years ago the chef there, Scott Peacock, won a James Beard award for his thoughtful and precise food. Scott has moved back to his home state of Alabama and is making movies and writing books, but Watershed is still excelling in the Southern food department, in a new location in Buckhead with a skilled Louisiana native, Joe Truex, at the stoves. Emily knows Southern food. So Art has made a classic chicken pot pie and then a version with mushroom and arugula, that may or not be vegetarian. They love it. Patriceo has failed to complete. Pho real. Chris is killing it with a steak plate and then the Portobello steak as well. Very 1992, but he gets it done. If you ever buy one of those glasses/mustache combos at Spencer gifts at the mall also buy a striped woman’s apron at Williams Sonoma, and then you too can be Chris Cosentino for Halloween. Kerry makes chicken and mock chicken flan. they love it and it looks all pretty. Thierry makes some French wedding banquet food. Takashi makes Agedashi with meat stuff and then some veggie stuff. Nails it. Lorena makes an Arepa with Queso Fresco and then a chicken salad one as well. Looked awesome. I tried to order it at the Taco Bell drive thru at 3 a.m. last night, but they claimed not to have it. Next time. 

Takashi wins and the Red Cross gets some monies for disaster relief aid. He also gets immunity, which is always good to have. 


Holy Hotness Holly Madison pool party. 150 guests of varying degrees of brilliance, but all with the common denominator of being physically perfect. If you have ever been to a Vegas pool party you are in for the intellectual equivalent of open-mike night at Hooters. This is a brunch canapé party and the revelers will be hungover and wearing thongs. 

So off to shopping we go! They each have $450 bucks. I never tested the waters with this theory but what happens if a chef spends half of their funds on organic chia pets, natural face cream, and issues of Holistic Cat Healer? Is that allowed? 

Kerry is making something with corn and crab, and I am having déjà vu. I think he has cooked with both of those ingredients a couple of times this season. Branch out, young Jedi. Chris is trying to figure out what Playboy bunnies eat for breakfast and figures its coffee and a cigarette. The logical extension of this appears in Chris’ mind and this is his dish: watermelon, tomato, tuna bacon. That’s quite a divergent thought pattern. 

Patriceo is making a pulled pork sandwich in pressure cookers, terrifying to all BBQ purists and making them switch the channel back to Duck Dynasty. Art is making a turkey burger with tons of garlic and onions, the two things that the Bunny has said she hates. Should you read up on the preponderance of food borne illness in our meat supply, you will find that ground turkey is to bad bacteria as the Caymans is to shady corporate monies. Make sure you know where that meat is coming from.  

Chris is using a smoke gun to baconate his tuna. I wonder if people smoke pot with those things.

Kerry is not a safe blender operator. He is quoted as saying he has never done this before as the blender is about to put hot liquids in a 20-foot blast radius. 

Art and Chris should never pack up together. 

They eat at Blue Ribbon Sushi. I love that place in NYC and in Las Vegas. Great food. Everyone relaxes, and then the war stories come out. 

It’s pool party time with our judges Francis Lam, Krista, James, Curtis, and Holly helping out. James is getting all excited and trying to undress every male in anyone’s entourage. It’s a very entourage place. The last time I was at that pool I was with my entourage (just me), and I dropped my phone in the shallow end. Fun fun. As food comes out James is still fixated on the shirtless men. There is a push-up contest and other titillating pool rituals. Oh, and they all taste the vittles. 

Art makes a scene by ripping off his trainer chef pants revealing a small speedo. He goes for a swim to get more people to stare at him. He cooked Obama’s birthday cake you know. If you don’t, he’ll tell you.

Kerry, Art, Lorena, and Takashi. Lorena wins. If this continues, she is going to be more famous than Jared, the Subway guy. All jokes aside, her food always looks awesome. She really is gaining confidence and poise. 

Bottoms are Thierry, Patriceo, and Chris. The judging panel is in a strange sun-stroked state. James is still dreaming of beefy hot dogs poolside and Curtis’ hair is getting lighter with the bright Vegas soleil. Frances is still erudite with his comments. Krista is still finding her voice, but when she does find it she used the term “textural violation”? 

Aww well, the chef in the hat goes home for his mis-named Croque. Without that egg on top, that missus is a mister. The burned-up bread didn’t help matters either, add the topping of gravy gruel, and we have the culprit.

Follow me on Twitter @hughacheson


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