Top Chef Masters: Offal Street Food
What do a Midwesterner, a Californian, a French guy and a Puerto Rican have in common? They all competed in Episode 3 of Top Chef Masters! In the colorful quickfire, Frenchman Ludo Lefebvre disappointed tasters while Puerto Rican Wilo Benet wowed them. But the game changed when these master chefs had to serve up some awful offal ingredients. Beef heart? Tongue? Pig Ear? No thanks! But Master Chefs like these can make anything seem appealing…
Of course, the winner of this episode was the one and only Rick Bayless (of Chicago! Woohoo!) who owns two upscale Mexican restaurants in the city of Chicago. And not surprisingly, he went the Mexican route when he had to cook up and serve some offal tongue to a hungry crowd. While I was somewhat disappointed to not see Bayless stretch outside his comfort zone, he was following the advice of his fellow chefs back home and “sticking to what he knows.” Chances are, the Masters challenge at the end of the season will restrict him from making all Mexican somehow.
Pictured here: Bayless’ Tongue Taco, Original Plate of Tongue
But I will agree that Bayless knows Mexican food well. While I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Topolobampo or Frontera, I have visited one of his Frontera Fresco locations. I like to call the experience “love at first bite” – I tried a steak torta sandwich and the combination of flavors and textures, paired with a raspberry limeade made for one of the best Mexican dishes I’ve ever had. His admitted love affair with Mexico has served us Chicagoans well.
Cindy Pawlcyn’s Menudo
While Cindy Pawlcyn fell short with her tripe menudo (pictured above), I appreciated her dish because she brought back personal memories of my visit to San Antonio. While there, we visited a restaurant called Mi Tierra where a local traditional dish was on the menu: tripe menudo. Intrigued by the traditional aspect, I asked for a taste. One taste (if that) was all I needed to decide I couldn’t handle anymore. The rubberiness of the stomach lining just didn’t sit well with my own stomach. I couldn’t handle taking more than one bite.
So with that said, I give Cindy credit for two things: One, for keeping tripe in one of the most traditional forms it is served. And two, making a much more appetizing-looking menudo than the one I tried. Granted, I didn’t get to taste her menudo but with presentation, I’d at least be a lot more willing to.
I didn’t care for Ludo Lefebvre’s attitude, frankly. Every chef wants to win but he was just plain snooty about everything that I just didn’t want him to win. Not to mention, I certainly don’t want to go to his restaurant now either. Each of these chefs has to remember that this show is publicity for them – try and make it good publicity, not bad.
Wilo Benet’s Salmon Tartar
Wilo Benet on the other hand was the biggest contender for Rick Bayless. Taking the lead in the quickfire with his orange salmon tartar dish, he had a lot of promise for the elimination challenge. And with a beef heart, ham and chicken tripletta (Puerto Rican sandwich), he put up a decent fight all the having a great attitude. Wilo Benet, while I had heard of him, gave himself some good publicity and made me want to visit Puerto Rico just to try his food.
But yay for a Chicagoan headed to the finale!
EPISODE 3 RECAP:
Official Episode Title: Offal Tasty
Challenges: Quickfire - Create a dish in 30 minutes inspired by a color.
Elimination – Create a street food dish with an offal as the main ingredient (beef heart, tripe, pig ear or tongue)
Episode Winner: Rick Bayless (assigned tongue)
Chefs Eliminated: Wilo Benet, Ludo Lufebvre, Cindy Pawlcyn
Chefs Competing in Finale: Hubert Keller, Suzanne Tracht, Rick Bayless
For a list of ALL the Top Chef episode recaps on Chew on That blog, click here.
Next episode airs Wednesday, July 8th!