Food on Television

Top Chef Masters Recap: Blanc-ing Out

Comments (0)


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 12:22 PM

click to enlarge Picnic by Bravo - VIA BRAVOTV.COM
  • Via bravotv.com
  • Picnic by Bravo
Paging P. Diddy. There was a white party and no one invited you.

OK, it wasn't that kind of white party. Instead, on last night's episode of Top Chef Masters, the final four contestants were charged with catering a Dîner en Blanc, which is kind of like the James Bond of meals, that is, if 007 had a website and multiple Twitter accounts. Still, there's something fun about a "secret" international pop-up picnic, for the attendants at least. Less fun for those stuck worrying if the terrines they made yesterday mushed up by mealtime.

But first, the Quickfire.

With just four chefs left, a paired-up Quickfire was no surprise. They drew knives, putting buddies Patricia Yeo and Chris Cosentino on one team, and Kerry Heffernan and Lorena Garcia on the other. For each team, Yeo and Garcia were on the "pantry" side, fetching ingredients and equipment and doing prep work for their teammates who were on the "hot line," (did anyone else sing the song in their heads for the next hour?) actually making the dishes.

When time was up, Johnny Avello, who runs sports betting at the Wynn, showed up to serve as guest judge. (Sidenote: Apparently the Wynn is the only casino that also offers "entertainment betting," allowing you to bet on the winner of, say, Top Chef Masters. As opposed to sports, is that like ... female gambling? Do they have a female restaurant too?)

After tasting the dishes, Avello said the most refreshing, honest thing we've ever heard a guest judge say on this show -- that he was honored to taste the food of such amazing chefs and had no place complaining about any of it. (Right. On. Finally! Why do these guests judges suddenly act like they're Alan Richman?) But he had a favorite, and that was Heffernan's shrimp farfalle -- a dish that carried the weight of Garcia's seared salmon with rice that didn't make the plate.

No more immunity, though, nor should there be. There shouldn't have been last week either. This is the final four. Time for a high stakes Elimination Challenge, which came in the form of the aforementioned Dîner en Blanc. This was no picnic -- pun intended. Each chef had to design a three-course menu for 75 diners, but the real challenge was coming up with something that could be cooked ahead, refrigerated overnight, then served cold the next day and still taste dynamite.

click to enlarge Kerry Heffernan's menu - VIA BRAVOTV.COM
  • Via bravotv.com
  • Kerry Heffernan's menu

Some chefs fared better at this than others. Namely, Heffernan embraced the chill factor and served a cold cauliflower soup, (though not without name-dropping Hillary Clinton, from whom he got the recipe) a haricot vert and orzo pesto salad and grilled chicken and kielbasa, all of which impressed not only the judges but Aymeric Pasquier and Sandy Safi, decesdants of the Dîner en Blanc founders.

Yeo based her menu on the silk route's Marco Polo, who traveled from Venice to China, which told a lovely culinary story considering the meal was staged at the Venetian hotel. But she didn't think hard enough about how her dishes would taste the next day, and as such, her daikon salad, spiced bison and curried cauliflower just didn't cut it. "I wish I could have served you yesterday," she repeatedly told the judges. Well, that sadly missed the point.

At the judges table, Ruth Reichl, James Oseland, Francis Lim and the ever-dreamy Curtis Stone ooh'ed and aww'ed over Heffernan -- seriously, not one ounce of criticism -- but for reasons not completely known, gave the win to Cosentino and his fabulous pâté. Garcia skated by, perhaps because diners were practically licking each others' faces for one last taste of her jalapeno chocolate mousse, but sadly, Yeo and her side of stale bread were let go.

Soon it will be finale time, with only two contestants making the cut this time around. Who will it be? Predictions? Let us know in the comments.

Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter @MySo_CalLife. Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page.

Related Content

Now Trending


  • The Year in L.A. Food (So Far)
    We've got so many restaurants, you could eat at a different joint every day of the year -- and probably the rest of your life -- and never go to the same place twice. It would be impossible (both physically and financially) to try them all, but luckily, you have us. Check out The Year in L.A. Food (So Far).
  • Ladies Gunboat Society at Flores
    At Ladies Gunboat Society, the new operation out of the restaurant that used to be Flores on Sawtelle Boulevard, the Hoppin’ John is served as an appetizer or a small plate rather than a side, and the price is the stuff of comedy.
  • Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar
    Malibu Pier Restaurant and Bar, with chef Jason Fullilove at the helm, is in the two buildings at the pier’s entrance that used to be Beachcomber Cafe and Ruby’s Diner. Those buildings, which have been overhauled completely, reflect both the pier’s 109-year-old history and the cultural import of Malibu itself.