Top Chef Masters Recap: Un-Thaied
Curtis Stone and Dita Von Teese
Curtis Stone is, in the words of Derek Zoolander, "really, really, ridiculously good-looking," so not the type, we'd imagine, to get tongue-tied around the ladies. But leave it to hometown girl Dita Von Teese, L.A.'s (and the world's) queen of burlesque to make TV's reigning pin-up boy blush.
Von Teese served as judge for this week's Quickfire, which required chefs to use all sorts of stereotypical aphrodisiac ingredients to create a "sexy dish." There were oysters, there was chocolate, there were (edible) roses and Champagne, and many were apparently good. Though not as good as the innuendo-laced banter that went back and forth between the judges, with Von Teese calling Patricia Yeo's chawanmushi and spicy salad a "soft caress then a quick smack," and noting that Takashi Yagihashi's oysters "felt good going down my throat."
Cue Stone's nervous laughter.
They must have felt extremely good, because Yagihashi took home the win, and immunity.
Which he didn't need nearly as much as some others, considering he's more comfortable with Asian flavors than, say, Art Smith, who was flabbergasted to hear what the Elimination Challenge would be: "Open a Thai restaurant," Stone told them. Great. Not only can Thai cuisine be intimidating if you're not familiar with cooking it, (which few of the chefs were, except Yeo, who lived in Thailand for two years) opening a restaurant in 24 hours is one of those nearly impossible tasks Top Chef just loves to throw at its contenders. Get ready for piss poor service, because that's what's on the menu.
The chefs were sent to Lotus of Siam, a famous-among-foodies Thai restaurant in Las Vegas, which we commend the show for featuring considering it's off the Strip. They were served one traditional Thai dish after another by chef and owner Saipin Chutima and her daughter, so as to get a feel for what Thai cuisine should really taste like.
The six remaining contestants (man, we're starting to get down to the wire here, aren't we?) then hit Whole Foods, where they walkie-talkie'd back and forth about what Thai ingredients to buy. And may we ask, what Bravo ad genius came up with this Boost Mobile "Where you at?"-esque product placement campaign? The little mobile devices these poor chefs are forced to use while shopping don't work and do nothing but aggravate everyone. Make a shopping list, dammit! Enough.
Anyway, back to the Top Chef Masters kitchen, where the chefs not only had to prepare their dishes but setup this shoestring Thai restaurant as well. Despite having lots of work and little time, Patricia Yeo and Lorena Garcia still managed to get into it. Something about Garcia taking up too many burners. (Is it ever really about the burners?) But somehow in just four hours, all the chefs finished their dishes and were ready to serve.
This week's judges, including Saipin Chutima and her daughter, getting ready to Thai one on.
Some dishes were more Thai than others. The judges liked Garcia's tom kha soup, but didn't understand why she'd poached the chicken on its own, leaving it flavorless. They also liked Chris Cosentino's lamb tartare, but thought he was too restrained on the Thai spices. Though almost every dish received praise, they were more Thai-inspired than Thai, a detail that did not go unnoticed especially with Chutima, who ended up being the harshest critic this week.
In an ending fitting to their feud, Cosentino won for his tartare, but it was Art Smith's undeniably un-Thai cashew-crusted chicken that sent our favorite sassy southern chef packing. Garcia cried to seeing her pal go, but our main concern was for Cosentino. Who's going to be his frenemy now?
Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter @MySo_CalLife. Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to Los Angeles dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.