Top Chef Masters: Generosity Wins

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In episode 1 of Top Chef Masters, chefs were restricted to hot plates, microwaves and less-than-ideal cooking conditions. In this past episode, chefs were limited by their ingredients instead, having to utilize vending machine items in the quickfire and some less-than-traditional ingredients such as wild boar, papaya and exotic fish in the elimination challenge. The episode was inspired by the ABC television series “Lost,” a show about being stranded on an island. And seeing as how the judges chose the dish with the largest quantity of food as the winner – it seems they too were experiencing the hunger from being stranded on a desert island.

And the chef who served up this dish was Suzanne Tracht, owner of Jar and Tracht’s restaurants, both located in California. At first glance, her dish seems like a mish mosh of un-cohesive ingredients – a little pasta, a little risotto, some boar, some prawns, some clams, even a fruit salad! Not only did these ingredients not seem like they would work, everything was sort of piled closely together in one bowl. Even the judges were skeptical but as soon as they started eating, they all worked their way around the plate to finish the whole dish!

The best part is that when I watch Top Chef, I’m used to seeing tiny portions like the one from Wylie Dufresne as you’ll see below. I always thought maybe contestants were being conscientious of the judges having to eat a lot in one sitting, or maybe it’s just that fancy food usually comes in smaller portions. So maybe it was just me, but there was something about seeing the judges devour a big plate of food and enjoying the whole thing that was comforting. They’re human! Finally! They want a decent portion of food! They praised Tracht for having a “generosity of spirit” that came through in her food. No one wants to eat their dinner and leave feeling hungry. So finally, generosity wins.

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That’s not to say that the others didn’t do a good job. Prior to the episode, I was sure that Wylie Dufresne would be a finale contender. And even though he didn’t win the episode, he still proved his skills in the elimination challenge with his dish of roasted chicken with fried egg, beets with dried corn and plantain puree. A play on “Which came first – the chicken or the egg?” judges claimed this was the best piece of chicken they have ever had. He makes chicken inspiring in a world class challenge – there is a lot to be said for that.

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And Graham Elliot Bowles’ dish was just as impressive. Knocked out of the competition just behind the winner, his elimination dish of tuna three ways looked downright awesome to me. Who doesn’t want that piece of seared tuna all the way on the left? Or an amuse bouche of tuna nicoise like pictured in the middle? I thought everything was cohesive, beautifully presented and very appealing, but it’s possible the judges thought Bowles dish looked like three amuse bouches (small bites) put together as one dish. The amuse bouche challenge was the quickfire – now they’re looking for some bigger portions.

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Elizabeth Falkner made boar look tender and tasty but the judges wanted a little more sauce. Again – they wanted MORE of something, rendering generosity the key to winning this episode.

EPISODE 2 RECAP:

Official Episode Title: The Lost Supper

Challenges: Quickfire – Make an amuse bouche out of ingredients from a vending machine.

Elimination – Cook an island feast for the writers and producers of “Lost” using ingredients such as wild boar, fruits, and fish.

Episode Winner: Suzanne Tracht, owner of Jar and Tracht’s.

Chefs Eliminated: Graham Elliot Bowles, Elizabeth Falkner, Wylie Dufresne

Chefs Competing in Finale: Hubert Keller, Suzanne Tracht

For a list of ALL the Top Chef episode recaps on Chew on That blog, click here.

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  • http://www.mangotomato.blogspot.com Olga

    I liked the 2nd episode better than the first, but the original Top Chef is still my favorite!

  • Cathy

    I don’t enjoy Top Chef Masters
    I really enjoy Top Chef and hope they return soon

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