Top Chef Masters
Top Chef Masters Finale
Original Air Date: Jun 15, 2011
Ryan O – Two Cents Senior Reviewer
This is it! The finale! (By the way, isn’t that a pretty ridiculous episode title? “Top Chef Masters Finale”? As if we didn’t know what show we were watching?) Three chefs remain – Mary Sue, Traci, and Floyd. I think each of them has an equal shot at winning. They’ve all made great food and but each of them has stumbled a little on occasion.
Curtis is in the kitchen with James Oseland, Ruth Riechl, and Gael Greene. It’s time for the final challenge. The chefs must create a three-course meal. The first course must be inspired by the chef’s first food memory. The second must be inspired by what inspired the chef to become a chef. For the third, they pull knives with the names of the critics. They must make a dish based on their favorite food memory. James asks Floyd to make rendang, an Indonesian dish where beef is cooked in coconut milk and spices. Ruth asks Mary Sue to make a lemon souffle. Gael asks Traci to make fried duck.
They’ll also the get the help of their top chefs from their restaurants.
They have eight hours to shop and prepare and they can go shopping wherever they want. Knowing that rain in LA means really bad traffic, Mary Sue goes to just Whole Foods. Traci goes to a meat market for their duck and then to Whole Foods. Floyd goes to several places. Mary Sue gets back with 4:15 left. Traci is back with 4:00 left to cook. Floyd makes it back to the kitchen with 3:00 left to cook. He’s feeling behind since he wanted closer to four hours to braise the beef. Then, he finds the fish he bought still needs to be cleaned and descaled. He’s feeling as if it’s not his day. He decides he has to finish braising the meat the next day.
The next day, they’re driven up into the Hollywood Hills. They go up to a house and are greeted by Curtis, who has made them lunch. The chefs get to relax for a while.
Back at the kitchen, they have two hours left before it’s time to serve.
Mary Sue is making lemon ice cream but it’s not freezing, so she has to use liquid nitrogen, which she’s never done before.
Also eating this final meal are Danyelle Freeman, a frequent critic this season; Tom Colicchio, head just over at the Top Chef mothership; Joey Adams, who finished seventh last season on Top Chef Masters; Jonathan Waxman, who finished fourth last season; Susan Feinger, who finished fifth last season; Rick Moonen, who finished third last season, and Susur Lee, who finished second.
Here’s what the chefs made.
Floyd: Wild mushroom upma polenta with kokum (an Indian fruit) and coconut milk
Mary Sue: Asia steak tartare
Traci: Shrimp creole
Everyone loves the shrimp creole. Someone mentions that it’s deconstructed but then built back up again. Ruth really likes Floyd’s dish. Gael thinks it’s too simple, especially for a finale. She says if she were on the finale, she’d try to blow you away with every single dish. Tom agrees. Tom thinks Mary Sue’s Asian steak tartare is a good idea but isn’t sure Mary Sue goes far enough with the idea and thinks it needs more soy and sesame.
Floyd: Rice-flaked snapper and tomato-fennel broth with carrots
Mary Sue: Shrimp and chervil mousse stuffed rigatoni; Crab and shrimp salpicon (which is when you dice or mince an ingredient and then bind it with a sauce)
Traci: Roasted quail salad with sweetbreads, mushrooms, and panacetta
Ruth and Curtis really like Floyd’s fish. Curtis likes that it’s just a little spicy. Gael thinks the fish is overcooked. James likes that Mary Sue stayed true to the aesthetic of the dish. Yeah, I don’t know really what he’s talking about. Danyelle likes the dish and the sauce but thought she could’ve drizzled it over the dish instead. Gael seems to like Traci’s sweetbreads. Susan likes them.
Mary Sue kind of jumps the gun on the souffles and gets the batter ready to early and she has to do it again in a hurry. She’s not sure she has enough time. In a nice show of collegial nature of this show versus the more cutthroat atmosphere on other cooking shows, Traci and Floyd help Mary Sue plate her souffles as they come out of the oven at the very close to the last possible moment. It’s nice to see.
Floyd: Rendang two ways: Oxtail and short ribs, tapioce pilaf with diced potato and peanuts
Mary Sue: Lemon souffle with rhubard compote, lemon hazelnut mergingue and ice cream
Traci: Duo of duck: Crisp duck bearnaise and braised duck leg salad
Gael loves one piece of duck and the bearnaise sauce while the other piece of duck is dry. She says this dish wouldn’t have made her become a food writer. Tom likes Floyd’s oxtail. James thinks that Floyd has taken a very simple dish but really elevated it. Tom calls Mary Sue’s souffle the best thing he had all night, light, full of flavor, rich ice cream. Susur says she really captured the lemon flavor without capturing any bitterness. Ruth says if she’d had this dish all those years ago, she’d have an even greater love affair with lemon.
Ruth loved the texture of the tartare. James thought the pairing of the shrimp dishes was a bit odd and they didn’t really seem to go. Ruth thanks Mary Sue for the lemon souffle.
James thought the crust on Floyd’s snapper was a bit hard. He did, however, love the rendang.
Gael loved the shrimp cake but wasn’t sure the long-cooked creole flavor was there. Traci says creole is a dish that varies by family and this was the way her family did it. Curtis says she really nailed the sweetbreads. Gael says one type of duck was fantastic but the other wasn’t. She loved the bearnaise.
The trio goes back to wait.
The critics rehash their previous comments. At this point, I think Mary Sue’s won.
The chefs come back out.
No complaints here about Floyd winning. He almost always seemed to make great and interesting food. He was also a gracious competitor (as was most everyone else on the show) and that doesn’t hurt.
What did you think of the winner? Did you think someone else should’ve won? Give us your Two Cents below!