April 21st, 2011
12:33 PM ET
If you saw any of the previews for this season of “Top Chef: Masters,” you knew this episode was coming. Hopefully you had enough time to prepare yourselves.
Last night’s Quickfire challenge forced the chefs to think organic. They were required to work with raw materials, including some unusual proteins. You could say (and host Curtis Stone does) that they had the opportunity to go back to their roots.
Have I stalled long enough for any weak-stomached readers out there to cover their eyes?
Beetles, worms, crickets, scorpions. The chefs had to use these bugs to make a 5-star dish to be sampled by the stars of “Man, Woman, Wild.” After the requisite amount of pearl clutching (How ever do you expect me to cook with bugs? Gasp!), everyone dives in professionally, if not exactly eagerly.
It prompts some predictable puns. (Hugh: “I haven’t won yet and it’s kinda been bugging me.”) And we get a moment of nostalgic regret from John, who apologizes for having shoved bugs in his brother’s mouth when they were kids.
The most interesting reaction, though, came from Suvir. He was raised in a vegan Indian home, and says he’ll prepare anything as long as it doesn’t require taking a life. So he serves a salad along with a jar of live worms… and a blowtorch, leaving it up to the diners to do his dirty work.
It’s certainly a unique approach, and I respect him for standing by his convictions. Of course, it’s also a violation of the challenge rules, and he ends up on the bottom along with George. Hugh takes the win and immunity. (Guess nothing’s bugging him now, ha ha.)
The Elimination challenge feeds into the reason why all of these chefs are here: to raise money for charity. They’re tasked with creating a 10-course tasting menu, and whichever dish each diner likes best will receive a $100 donation to that chef’s charity.
Curtis warns the contestants to expect some curveballs during their three hours of cooking time, and he’s not playing around. First, there’s no water (ok, mildly annoying; points to Floyd for realizing he can just melt ice).
Then, the chefs are told that the three hour time limit is being cut to two-and-a-half hours (that will affect some dish conceptions). Finally, they learn that there is no wait staff for the dinner; they have to do it all themselves.
That switch-up highlights a larger issue: who’s running this show. Naomi decides to take charge from the jump (and that should be no surprise after what we saw with Restaurant Wars), and her abrasive style rubs quite a few people the wrong way. That includes Hugh, who also offers to help lead in order to keep things running.
If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that Hugh volunteered since, with immunity, he can focus less on his dish without feeling vulnerable. I think Naomi did it because that’s just her personality. Either way, I don’t think I’d have a fun time working in either one of their kitchens.
Almost immediately, the tension between the two of them is uncomfortable, to say the least. Hugh owns up to the fact that it’s because both of them are trying to take control. But I think Traci hits the nail on the head when she says that Naomi is trying to boss around people who are very much not used to being bossed around.
Most of the chefs simply avoid the confrontation as much as possible (I would have hid in the pantry, but to each his own), and the meal ends up pulling together well, with everyone helping everyone else plate and serve.
Naomi admits to having made a simpler dish so that she could focus more on the service, but apparently simple works, because she ends up winning, with Suvir joining her as one of the top dishes.
The least successful dishes came from Mary Sue (a bland ceviche), John (a too-safe risotto) and Celina (a bad texture pudding). I was guessing that Celina was headed home, since Mary Sue and John have both won challenges so far. But apparently trepidation trumps texture, because John is the one who’s eliminated.
Your thoughts on last night’s episode? Know any good worm recipes? Sound off below!
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