Welcome back, my little crunchy shrimp heads!
I considered offering this as my recap this week:
But, well, that seemed a bit lazy.
So, let's start at the very beginning. (Yes, a very good place to start.)
The episode started a bit differently this week, with the Masters invading their sous chefs' Battle of the Sous Chefs. The sous chefs faced their mise en place relay race -- a Top Chef classic. The catch this time is that all the other sous chefs must stop what they're doing once one of them is done, leaving the rest of the prep to their Masters. And so, the Masters are issued their Quickfire Challenge: to complete the mise en place and create a dish using the ingredients. They have 30 minutes. It's important to mention that not only is this the first official Quickfire of the season, but it's also an elimination Quickfire. The pressure is palpable. Since Sang's sous chef, Ted, won the Battle, Sang has immunity. Mazel tov, Ted -- you get to keep your job another week. Meanwhile, anyone else notice the intense knife briefcase Sang carries? That man means biznasssss.
The sous chefs watch their Masters do what they do, and it's all worth it to hear Graeme yell to Bryan, "Chef, make sure everything's seasoned proper." We'll forget the improper adverb suffix for a moment (I am an editor, after all), and focus on The Bryan Voltaggio Laugh, which might be my favorite thing ever. I literally rewound this moment five times. I think this exchange actually said a lot about the relationship between Bryan and his sous. First of all, Graeme was obviously poking fun at the critique Bryan received on Top Chef Season 6 about his lack of salt use. Secondly, Grame felt comfortable enough to tease Bryan, knowing Bryan would find it amusing. And Bryan's response, "Thank you, Chef," really showed the respect Bryan has for Graeme. Or maybe I'm just looking too much into this. Either way, I love Bryan's laugh.
After a lot of pounding -- of lamb, you pervs! Gail joins Curtis to taste the many, many lamb dishes. Gail puts Lynn, Odette, and Richard on the bottom, ultimately sending Richard home. Did you notice the bandanges on both Richard and his sous chefs' hands? Battle wounds. Literally.
On the flip side, Sue's dish wins! Score one for the NOLA team.
On to the Elimination Challenge: to choose a classic American dish and prepare it with an Asian twist. I was a little nervous for this challenge because, y'know, Asia is a big place, and when we've done Asian challenges in the past (on Top Chef), the chefs tend to stick to a small subset of Asian cuisine. But, this is Masters, people. Sang made Burmese slaw for G-d's sake!
Before the chefs actually got cooking, they had to shop. And Franklin Becker went insane. Temporarily, but still. It's still unclear whether his "stolen shopping cart" was stolen or he misplaced... by him. It's funnier if he forgot where he put it, so we'll go with that. Judging from his consoling of his sous, Vinson earlier, during the Quickfire, these two are an intense duo, and I'm eating it up. (Pun intended.)
When the chefs arrive at the Asian market, Jenn Louis' fatal flaw surfaces quickly. Her admission that she refused to alter her bread because she doesn't like to change traditional dishes should have set alarms off in any Top Chef fan's head. She describes the bread as "dense and chewy." That ain't going to change by the time it gets to the critics. Sue had the same bread, but she altered it by hollowing it out and grilling it. They both end up in the bottom with Odette. Honestly, I think this could have gone either way. All three dishes had problems, but the critics said they just couldn't get past that bread, so Jenn went home. I'm excited to try her food in the future.
In the top are Douglas, Sang, and Bryan. Douglas did something I always point to as the sign of a great chef: he made someone -- in this case, James -- like something they didn't think they did. James literally grimaced when he heard what Douglas had made -- a savory dessert. Douglas thought he might be going home for it! And while I hate to admit that most Asian desserts leave me yearning for chocolate cake, James had a revelation. Sang's crunchy fish head may have even found a convert in Kathie Lee Gifford, as well. And although Kathie Lee didn't care for Bryan's soup, Francis Lam and the other critics marveled at his dish's depth of flavor achieved in such a short time. In the end, Sang took the win. Some front-runners are starting to emerge in the competition, so we'll see if they can hold on each week.
Until next week, watch Battle of the Sous Chefs, and, as always, Have a Nosh!
P.S. Remember: COUSCOUS COOKS QUICKLY. (Say that 10 times fast!)