April 28th, 2011
11:03 AM ET
With its new format and new host, this season of “Top Chef: Masters” seems to have carved out its own niche, feeling more like a standard reality show competition than past seasons.
Unfortunately, it’s not the most compelling reality show competition, and last night’s episode continued that trend.
The Quickfire challenge was to make a master cheese dish, and the twist (if you can really call it that) was that the chefs only had 12 minutes to cook. The time constraint would seem to add some pressure, but everyone finished in time. And since the episode devoted almost no time to the Quickfire itself, it just made the whole challenge seem perfunctory.
Naomi had one of the top dishes (she’s showing up in the top a lot lately), but Traci took the win and immunity for a dish that, at first, she was concerned would be too pedestrian. Guess it’s good to be wrong once in a while.
As opposed to last week’s curveball-heavy Elimination challenge, this week’s just seemed challenging, period.
The host, trainers and contestants from “The Biggest Loser” showed up and showed off some of their favorite dishes from before they started their weight loss programs. The chefs, in teams of three, had to recreate a breakfast, lunch and dinner each, along with a dessert.
The key, and you probably could have predicted this, was that the entire day’s meal had to come in under 1,500 calories, dessert included. Not an easy task, given that they were starting with deep dish pizzas, corned beef hash, fried chicken, and other fattening faves.
The teams were Hugh, Celina and Traci; Alex, Mary Sue and Suvir; and Floyd, George and Naomi.
The truly interesting part, and it’s something that a couple chefs brought up, is that they had to please very different types of diners. On one hand, they’re cooking for these “Biggest Loser” contestants and trying to recreate favorite dishes in a way that’s still appealing to them. On the other hand, they’re cooking for critics who are all about taste, something that’s usually not so synonymous with low-fat foods.
Everyone plows through the cooking segment with little to no drama (again, not very compelling). Calorie-counting nutritionists are assigned to watch over the teams like hawks, but that doesn’t seem to yield much in the way of tension either, especially since, in the end, all of the teams come in under the 1,500-calorie limit.
It’s an impressive feat, to be sure, and awesome that they can make these low-fat and low-cal foods that are still tasty (for the most part). But the lack of struggle means a lack of dramatic tension, and while that might make for great cooking, it doesn’t make for great television.
In fact, the only point of tension in the entire episode comes when Suvir, who works with dieters quite often, gives a little diatribe about the horrors of red meat during service… right before Hugh serves a dish with red meat as the main ingredient.
Last week, I commended Suvir for standing by his principles. This time, it just seems like he’s up on his personal soapbox. In fact, one of the critics calls his dish a “lecture on a plate,” which I’m guessing is not what the “Biggest Loser” contestant was looking for when she ordered her bacon cheeseburger. There’s nothing wrong with the points he’s making or with his desire to make them, but I don’t think this is the best forum for that to happen.
Ultimately, the team of Floyd, George and Naomi comes out on top, with Floyd the overall winner. Alex, Mary Sue and Suvir end up on the bottom, and Suvir is the one sent packing. As one of the critics pointed out, he wasn’t cooking for the judges or for the diners; he was just cooking for himself. I’ve enjoyed Suvir’s interview one-liners so far this season, but his self-righteousness last night left a bad taste in my mouth.
Your thoughts on last night’s episode? Sound off below!
About this blog
Our daily cheat-sheet for breaking celebrity news, Hollywood buzz and your pop-culture obsessions.