'Top Chef Masters' recap, Episode 7, Culinary knock-out
Lorena raises her hands in victory. Or is it victory? Read on to find out. (Bravo)
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This week the Quickfire challenge is all about prep (my favorite kind!). Each chef must separate 18 eggs, grate two pounds of parmesan, and butcher a beef tenderloin into five filets. The first two chefs to finish and pass have to use their properly prepped ingredients in a dish.
The remaining three chefs will judge. I love this challenge. I love all prep challenges. With these Masters, it's especially entertaining, as these guys probably haven't had to do mise en place in a long, long time.
Chris finishes first and calls check. The beef filets must weigh between 7.5 and 8.5 ounces and there was no scale -- they had to eyeball it. Admit it: that is pretty badass. Kerry smartly pointed out that it would behoove them all to cut their filets a little big as it's easy to trim one down, but if one comes up short you can't add more meat on.
Chris' first steak weighs 7.6 ounces. His second filet comes in short at 7.0 -- and he has no more filet left to prep another one, so just like that, he's out.
Patricia is next, and three of her steaks come in under (by less than half an ounce, ouch!), she's out. Takashi calls check and passes -- it's down to Kerry and Lorena. Lorena looks flustered and irate grating the living hell out of her cheese. She's too slow, though, and Takashi and Kerry move on to the 15-minute cooking challenge, while the other three depart the kitchen.
Takashi throws together sauteed beef tenderloin with a sunny side egg and provencal vegetable hash. They are all impressed that he managed to cook potatoes in 15 minutes.
Kerry plates a beef filet with parmesan crust and wilted arugula. Curtis pronounces arugula like there's a hairball caught in his throat -- arooogalaack.
Kerry takes the Quickfire, taking $5K for his charity, City Harvest, and immunity for the elimination challenge.
Curtis introduces the elimination challenge by reminding everyone how Las Vegas is the boxing capital of the world, and announces a special guest. Sugar Ray Leonard walks in and the chefs seriously freak out.
Lorena's face when she sees him is priceless, like she's being electrocuted. The chefs are going head to head in a ringside cooking challenge. Kerry is told he will sit this entire challenge out and be among the judges during the competition. So not only does he have immunity, he gets to relax for the next several hours. "Good win, Kerry," hisses Patricia. She seems a bit peeved.
The other four chefs draw knives to find out who their sparring partner will be. Our match ups are Takashi vs. Chris and Patricia vs. Lorena. Patricia puts up her paws and shrieks "meow!" when she realizes she's up against the other she-cat.
Lorena laughs fakely. These ladies are out for blood. Curtis explains that the chefs will not know what their ingredients are until they get into the cooking ring. They will have to immediately start cooking -- very "Iron Chef" style, which is fine by me. This is the kind of challenge that makes these shows great: A chef showing true ingenuity and creativity in a real-world way.
The challenge takes place tomorrow, but in the meantime the chefs take in lunch at Milos, a very high-end Greek restaurant.
Patricia wastes no time during her interview in bashing Lorena, declaring that she's glad she's going up against her because she has a "broader field of culinary experience" and that Lorena "has a smaller palate." She is getting cattier by the minute. It seems the genteel camaraderie of earlier episodes has faded away.
The next day, a live studio audience is roaring with applause as the critics and chefs enter Kitchen Stadium -- er, the boxing arena. Curtis grabs the mic center ring and attempts to do his best Michael Buffer impression, but it comes out more Michael Buble.
Takashi and Chris take the stage. Takashi is eating up the attention, mugging for the crowd and striking fighter poses. At least he's still having fun. Take notes, bitter old Patricia.
Jane Goldman of Chow.com has joined the critics with Sugar Ray for judgement of this challenge.
Curtis reveals the first secret ingredient: Bacon. Wait, really? The challenge is to make a great dish out of bacon? A better challenge would be how to make something NOT taste great with bacon. Ah well.