Top Chef Masters Episode 3: Soap DishBy Graham Kates
August 8, 2013
Our heroes are greeted at the Top Chef Masters kitchen with the news that they must each make a Quickfire Challenge dish using the scrap meat left from the dishes their sous chefs have just cooked.
The chefs have to pull out some tricks to extract flavor from such meager offerings. In David Burke’s case, he literally extracts flavor from leftover prawn parts using a very rarely seen kitchen tool - the duck press.
Ultimately, guest judges Amelia Posada and Erika Nakamura, owners of Lindy & Grundy's butcher shop in Los Angeles, favor cheftestant Sang Yoon’s Thai pork larb.
After Yoon’s victory, Neal Fraser feeds into what has become a growing sense that he does not handle losing well. Last week, we saw him complaining about his sous chef. This week, he offers his take on Yoon, the judge’s early darling.
“Sang is a great chef and he’s already won a couple of challenges. But he’s a perfectionist and you know that’s his downfall,” Fraser says. “It’s like, ‘I can’t figure out how to make this dish without this one kind of peanut and it only grows on this tree in Madagascar so I’m f***ed.’ That’s what I’m waiting for.”
During the elimination challenge, Fraser’s assessment would prove prescient. The chefs are told they’ll be creating dishes to celebrate the 12,000th episode of Days of our Lives. They’re each assigned one of three soap opera “cornerstone” themes: sex, greed and murder.
But, before they can get cooking, let’s first take a moment to acknowledge Top Chef Masters weekly product placement coup.
Via Franklin Becker: “I punch in the numbers onto the GPS in my Lexus RS and we drive off to Whole Foods.”
Back on the set, the kitchen is set up with some classic soap opera cliche set pieces and an organ player playing old-timey soap music.
During prep, we get our second edition of “Fraser Says Weird Things.” He notes that he’s known Jennifer Jasinski for a long time.
“She’ll always be an ally,” he says. “If we’re both lying in a ditch, she’s not going to lean over and slit my throat when I’m sleeping. Nor would I do the same to her.”
Eh, watch out, other cheftestants. He’s not promising not to slit your throats, just Jasinski’s.
During prep, the cheftestants whose sous chefs lost their challenges are “punished” with soap opera cliches. Bryan Voltaggio is sentenced to “prison” for thirty minutes. Becker spends 30 minutes in a “coma.” The other chefs joke that he even that can’t get him to be quiet.
“I hope he gets a bedsore,” mutters Sue Zemanick.
But the harshest penalty is for Yoon, “murdered” with the loss of 30 minutes at a crucial point in the cooking process.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Fraser’s prediction comes to fruition. Yoon doesn’t finish his “dismembered chicken” dish, leaving out the twice-cooked chicken foot and “bloody” sauce.
“I’m sort of a perfectionist and I will not compromise my dish,” Yoon says as explanation.
The dishes are served to Days of our Lives stars and the top three are Zemanick (Alaskan king crab leg and Dungeness crab with caviar in a coconut lime sauce), Jasinski (seared duck breast and citrus-chile duck sausage) and Becker (four-play of salmon, crab with yuzu and green apple, scallop with fennel, and tuna and avocado).
Jasinkski pulls down the win and $10,000 for the charity Work Options for Women.
The bottom three are Crawford, Odette Fada and Douglas Keane.
Poor Fada, the judges' description of how the Days of Our Lives folks responded to her dish - her signature soft egg yolk raviolo with mushrooms - was basically: “These soap opera actors weren’t cultured enough to appreciate it.”
Still, her oozing egg yolk, inspired by infamous Italian poisoner Lucrezia Borgia, was unpopular enough with the crowd, that they had little choice but to tell her to pack her knives and go.
She left the judges with one important statement: “I promise you I will never put poisoning in your food.”