Ah, synergy. The fourth episode of the third season of Top Chef Masters brought together those who can't eat anything with those who can cook anything. Yes, The Biggest Loser contestants were in the house, and the cheftestants were tasked with making a severely reduced calorie version of their favorite foods. But would two of the two most successful shows in the NBC Universal world taste great together?
Quickfire Challenge: Make a masterful cheese dish in 12 minutes. Elimination Challenge
This held all the promise of a delicious start to a fulfilling episode, until host Curtis Stone announced that the cheftestants would have only 12 minutes to make a dish that would be judged by Norbert Wabnig -- the owner of the Cheese Store in Beverly Hills. The time, parameters on reality-cooking shows are getting ridiculous. We don't have to make our quota at the drive-through here. Let's at least give the chefs a chance to cook a protein.
Chef Celina Tio goes straight for the manchego cheese, noting that it's "always in my fridge." She'll pair it with sherry, carrots, figs and golden raisins in a dish that's considered "very good" by Wabnig. Chef Floyd Cardoz's cotija elote (corn on the cob with a dusting of cayenne pepper) gets dinged for being too spicy.
"You're from California, you should know about Mexican food," Cardoz intones at the television screen where the cheftestants are watching Wabnig and Stone eat.
The winner is chef Traci Des Jardins, who makes a prosciutto and colombier carpaccio. A beautifully arranged cheese plate earns $5,000 for her charity and immunity. But with 12 minutes to cook, that seemed a win of strategy as much as flavor.
: Make beautiful food for a calorie-conscious diet. Teams of three will have to produce breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes (including a brownie dessert) that total fewer than 1,500 calories.
The beautiful table of cheese is squirreled away and will not be mentioned again because now Top Chef Masters
is about getting healthy. The Biggest Losers
' trainers, host and contestants walk on set, alongside the full-fat versions of their favorite dishes.
While talking to Hannah about her diet bugaboo, fried chicken, chef Alex Stratta reveals two bombshells -- he's had cancer and he's managed to lose 90 pounds in the past two-and-a-half years. He's safe. Nobody goes home on a reality show the week they revealed that they had cancer. Chef Suvir Saran promises Irene that his veggie-burger version of her bacon cheeseburger will not "look like cat food."
The chefs have 90 minutes to cook and are being monitored by nutritionists with calculators. Chef Naomi Pomeroy is using Stevia to sweeten her french toast; chef Hugh Acheson has taken "shrink ray" to his steak and potatoes dish. The cheftestants are clearly out of their comfort zone.
Chef Celina Tio has a bacon, egg and cheese bagel. She swaps in turkey bacon and egg whites on Ezekial bread with celery root, parsnip and leek hash browns. Stone finds it a "little dry," but The Biggest Losers'
Olivia loves the protein in her bread choice.
Suvir's veggie burger, chef Mary Sue Milliken's poached egg and turkey hash, and Alex's fried chicken and cornbread are the critics' least favorites. Suvir talks about the obesity pandemic and asserts that he wanted to make a statement with his dish. Mary Sue didn't want a runny egg because she was hoping to please her diner, Jay. Alex knew his cornbread was like a "hockey puck."
"I can't take another minute in front of those judges," Mary Sue says. She'll probably have to as Suvir is sent to pack his knives.
And here we have the problem with Top Chef Masters
. We have a collection of chefs who don't take criticism particularly well because they're at a point in their careers where they've achieved success and they're being judged on gimmicks, rather than their best plates of food.
As a result, the kitchen is filled with bristly chefs who are a bit too serious because the challenges are inherently designed to make them present a dish that isn't masterful.
"This is not a Top Chef Masters dish," Grub Street's Alan Sytsma says of Milliken's eggs.
Well, Alan, this wasn't a Top Chef Masters
challenge; it was product placement. When was the last time you were blown away by a 400-calorie restaurant dish?
The show's previous two iterations had chefs producing dishes that were popping off the television screen even without the sensory inputs of taste or smell. Now, entire episodes just have the feeling of a rushed dash to make sure that something is on the plate. At this pace, the show might as well have been named Top Line Cook.
Line of the Night
: "I'm going to eat this as if I was in private," host Curtis Stone on Suvir's veggie burger.