It was not chef Art Smith's best day, to say the least. What, you ask, could have happened to cause him such shame — worthy of a melting forehead slap? Last night on Top Chef Masters, it was a case of letting his mouth write a check his baking skills couldn't cash, so to speak. More on that in a moment.
The episode kicked off with a curveball: there was no Quickfire. (What? That's our favorite part! Blasphemy!) The reason, it seemed, was that before the chefs even learned what their elimination challenge was, they were already behind.
In walked Jay and Christine, a lovely betrothed couple who let it be known that they were getting married the next day, and that the crew was responsible for the entire wedding menu. Now, Top Chef has had their contestants cater large events with hundreds of people before, but usually that entails a few hors d'oeuvres and small plates. A well-catered wedding includes real entrees as part of several courses, and one big honkin' cake, so this was no easy task.
Jay and Christine haven't had an easy road to wedded bliss. Just before their original date, they suffered the tragic death of Christine's maid of honor and best friend. They delayed the wedding, finally settling on a new venue, only to have their deposit stolen. Sad as this story was, it knocked the chefs right off of their “I don't cater weddings” high horse and instantly motivated them to give this pair the wonderful wedding day they deserved.
Immediately Art Smith raised is hand to make the cake. Why? Because he's apparently the cake man in Hollywood. What, you didn't know that? Don't worry, he'll tell you. “I did Lady Gaga's 25th birthday cake, Maya Angelou's anniversary cake, Oprah's parties…” he told cameras. Big cake talk.
The team of chefs headed to Whole Foods, where they were apparently made to communicate via Boost Mobile the whole time. What was going on there? They were screaming into their phones walkie-talkie-like about there being no green papaya or green mango or okra, even though okra was right there on the shelf. Siri, where is the fucking okra?
And chef Kerry Hefferman apparently hasn't watched enough Supermarket Sweep because his cart full of canned crab didn't make it to the checkout line in time — hence it wasn't able to be purchased. He kicked the check stand in frustration while we were left wondering why he was buying canned crab in the first place. (Spoiler alert: he used only fresh crab in his dish, and it turned out awesome.)
After some serious whirlwind cooking, it was finally wedding time. The judges attended the ceremony while the chefs put the finishing touches on their dishes. The plates started rolling out — and lot of them looked pretty good. Judges seemed to enjoy Thierry Rautureau's Grandma's Blood Soup, despite its unfortunate name, Patricia Yeo's pickled mackerel and presumed frontrunner Chris Cosentino's banana leaf braised pork, among others.
But then it was cake time. Time for Art Smith to prove why Oprah's BFFs had paid him muchos buckos to bake for them. However just before serving time, the over-hyped pineapple upside down cake nearly ended up … upside down. It began with a lean no number of dowels could fix and ended with a full avalanche slide-off. Art saved the top and screamed for help: “I'm gonna save this cake!!!”
To their credit, the other chefs immediately pitched in. Even Smith's semi-nemesis Cosentino ran to get more icing in the hopes of patching the cake back together. In the end, Smith wheeled out a pretty sloppy presentation — albeit at least in one piece. Still, the gaffe was enough to land him in the bottom three at judges table.
We thought that was it for our mouthy friend, but alas, Debbie Gold's underwhelming Napa cabbage salad sent her packing.
Cosentino ended up on the top again, and we thought perhaps he would walk out three for three, but Yeo's pickled mackerel won out.
So Smith scraped by. Will he redeem himself next week? Probably. Will he be quiet about it? Probably not. Until then.
Follow Ali Trachta on Twitter @MySo_CalLife. Follow Squid Ink at @LAWeeklyFood and check out our Facebook page.
Advertising disclosure: We may receive compensation for some of the links in our stories. Thank you for supporting LA Weekly and our advertisers.