Top Chef Masters turns into a sausage fest
Anita Lo, who looked like a real contender throughout the season, flailed in the last two episodes and is down for the count. Now, three chefs with former television careers remain (Rick Bayless with Mexico, One Plate at a Time, Hubert Keller with Secrets of a Chef and Michael Chiarello with Easy Entertaining).
None of the contestants were happy with the blind tasting quickfire challenge, which would have thrilled the finicky palates of an oenophile, but the lack of visual stimulus didn't have them jumping for joy. Chiarello came out on top, in spite of his stated trepidation for anything outside Italian ingredients. Keller was in the bottom rung for this challenge -- perhaps his sense of taste is dwindling with his old age. Clearly his libido isn't fading though, as he admitted enjoying Kelly Choi placing the blindfold on him in his on-camera interview.
Keller's years served him well during the elimination challenge; his sage-like composure and willingness to learn from others worked to his advantage. And while chilling with the other chefs after presentation, he admits that he got the idea for putting nutmeg in the dressing for his beets when he had a smoke the night before. Gotta love the silver fox!
Chiarello is the exact opposite of the huggable Keller, though. During the elimination challenge, he's caught constantly barking at his sous chefs. He and Dale even had a minor altercation, but no punches were thrown. (Fiddlesticks!) Amidthe drama, Bayless switches on his OCD mode and gets to organizing the fridge, and Keller strategies his buffet spread, which has 17 separate dishes. Perhaps Chiarello should have spent less time fighting and more time considering his swordfish, which the judges agreed was lamentable.
The chefs seemed pretty adaptable when the 200-person buffet's location was changed to the sun scorched terrace at the SLS Hotel, where they were also asked to chop one of their sous chefs. Bayless listened to former cheffer Richard Blais, famous for his molecular creations. Together they made a nitrogen frozen avocado ice cream, whose on-the-spot freezing suited the sunlight just fine. Lo was concerned about her crudo bar, but at that point had already prepared sauces and wasn't about to start over. She didn't seem too preoccupied with cutting out former co-worker Jamie, who moved too slow on seafood shucking for Lo's liking.
Anyhow, in the end Chiarello's '80s-style buffet beat out Lo's sun-beaten seafood. Bayless and Keller end up in the top 2, which is my guess for where they'll stay next week. Get ready for the final round...
Photo of Anita Lo courtesy of Bravo TV