Top Chef Masters gets off to a somber start as host Curtis Stone informs the cheftestants that chef John Rivera Sedlar had to drop out of the competition because of an emergency. But the mood is immediately lifted when -- surprise -- previously eliminated Hugh Acheson returns to the kitchen.
He dryly pledges that he has brought a smaller salt shaker -- an overly salted scallop was his undoing on the show's premiere last week -- and we jump right into the cooking.
Quickfire Challenge: Make a meatball dish with a hand grinder in 30 minutes.
"How fun ..." Tio says sarcastically, "who doesn't like meatballs?"
The cheftestants are then off to grab meat and attempt to hand-crank it through a manual metal grinder that attaches to the prep table via a clamp. Most chefs can't get the clamp on, and the resulting meatballs are decidely more appetizer-sized than entree portions.
The guest judge for this quickfire will be Kelis, who in addition to creating the "Milkshake" song is also a classically trained chef and "loves meatballs." Does that make her a quadruple threat?
The chefs are playful, until she starts slamming their food.
"We were taught that everything on the plate should be edible," Kelis says of chef Alex Stratta's dish, which has multiple garnishes.
"Well, I don't like your songs," Stratta replies to the television monitor where the chefs have gathered to watch Kelis' comments.
"Sounds like sour lentils to me," chef John Currence quips.
Currence is named the winner for his Vietnamese chicken meatballs. He snags $5,000 for Share Our Strength and immunity. Tio's dish looked like an open-faced meatball sandwich, but the audience never got a chance to see Kelis and host Curtis Stone try it.
Elimination Challenge: Make a classic and modern version of a '60s dish for Mad Men's Christina Hendricks and her husband Geoffrey Arend's cocktail party. Behind the couple are 11 metal plate covers, each with a dish that was popular 40 years ago.
"I'm not a big fan of suprises," Tio says. "I'm just waiting to see what's under those bad boys."
Tio lucks out with coq au vin. She talks about American Classics night at Julian, and the camera cuts to a quick shot of her standing in front of the restaurant in Kansas City. Meanwhile chef Floyd Cardoz appears to be rightly stymied by his dish, ambrosia.
"Everyone tells me it's a really crappy dish from the '60s," Cardoz says.
The chefs are given fours hours to prep over two days before they're shoehorned into the kitchen at Jar in Los Angeles. There's little room for plates and not enough burners, which leads Saran to choose to deep-fry his veal. His generosity might be his undoing.
Saran and chef Sue Zemanick help others plate while worrying about whether they'll have time to finish. Unsurprisingly, they're part of the bottom three. Saran makes "shoe leather" tough veal that critic James Oseland calls "mystery meat." Zemanick fails to plate half her dishes, and her duck a l'orange gets panned.
"F*ck, I'm going home," says Zemanick. Yes, you are.
Tio earns praise for her chicken fricasse salad with pickled shallots, carrots and a bacon vinaigrette. But it's not enough to put her among the top dishes. The best belong to the first two to leave the chaotic kitchen. Chef Mary Sue Milliken, respendlent in chef greens, earns the victory for her Japanese take on deviled eggs (Stone makes her promise to give him the recipe), despite the judges' genuine love for Currence's oysters Rockefeller (topped with collard greens and bacon) that Oseland calls "the benchmark for oysters Rockefeller."
Line of the Night: I could have eaten them. And in fact, I did. --- James Oseland on Sue Zemanick's two duck dishes.
The third season of Top Chef Masters is airing Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Bravo.