Cramped quarters on ‘Top Chef: Masters’
May 12th, 2011
12:12 PM ET

Cramped quarters on ‘Top Chef: Masters’

Another week, another challenge that forces the “Top Chef: Masters” contestants to work in a difficult environment. At least this one wasn’t the out-and-out failure of last week’s fast food restaurant.

But before we get to that, we’re going to play a little “7 minutes in heaven.” (I swear I said that joke before host Curtis Stone did on the episode. Stop stealing my material, Stone!)

Working off the All-Stars episode where Tom Colicchio made a dish in record time, our Master chefs are given 7 minutes to make a “heavenly” dish with top-shelf ingredients. If that’s not enough pressure, the judges for this Quickfire are the chefs themselves.

It makes things more than a little awkward, and I got the feeling that led to some of the over-praising we saw for a lot of the dishes. The chefs have to rank everyone’s food from 1-7; best overall score wins the challenge.

In a classy move, no one votes for themselves as No. 1. Hugh DOES vote himself as No. 7, but he also compared his dish to cat food. So did Floyd, for that matter. (Maybe it’s because I tried it when I was 6, but I don’t remember cat food being that bad. Little salty, though.)

Traci takes the win, earning some cash for her charity. She also gets to pick her team for the Elimination challenge, and since there are seven chefs left, that means she can decide whether she wants a team of three or four.

She goes with four, choosing Hugh, Naomi and Mary Sue (the Black Team), which means Alex, Floyd and Celina are their opposites (the Red Team). More teammates means more hands in the kitchen, which could be an advantage. But it could also be a challenge, since the kitchens that the teams will be working in are tour buses. (I bet that cramped kitchen from the Christina Hendricks party seems like a dream, now.)

The challenge is to cook a family-style meal for Maroon 5 based on the band’s favorite foods. The teams start their prep work on the tour buses as they’re in motion, and this looked like it might be an impossible task. But the buses park at the venue two hours before service, so the contestants are still cooking in confined spaces, but at least they’re not moving. (That felt like a let-down; why bother with the twist if you’re not going to let it last?)

Interestingly, the teams end up cooking almost the exact same meals. It makes it easier for us viewers to compare the dishes. By the same token, it makes it easier for the critics to compare the dishes.

Speaking of, Gail Simmons is on hand as a critic this week, but she’s introduced as host of “Top Chef: Just Desserts.” I’m pretty sure that’s not her only job, producers. But I’ll play along. From now on, our "Masters" host will be referred to as "Curtis Stone, He Was On 'Top Chef' That One Time."

Anyway, the Black Team comes out on top, with Traci taking the overall win. I’m guessing once they figured out how to maneuver on the bus, having more chefs proved to be a distinct advantage, as everyone could focus on just a few dishes.

The Red Team seemed to have the opposite problem, with Alex taking on four dishes, while Celina and Floyd did just a couple each. Unfortunately, Alex spread himself too thin, and ends up being eliminated. He is incredibly gracious about it, but I think he got a raw deal. Sure, some of his food was lacking, but he should get points for taking on so much. Celina, meanwhile, seems like she’s barely survived the last two weeks.

Sound off below with your thoughts on Alex’s elimination, Traci’s challenge sweep or Hugh’s unibrow. (He acknowledged it. That means I can too, right?)


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