Top Chef Masters Episode 2: You, Me and Kathie Lee

By Graham Kates  |  August 1, 2013
Credit: Bravo

What was it that made episode two of Top Chef Masters season five so uncomfortable? Was it the strange tête-à-tête between Kathie Lee Gifford and judge James Oseland? Perhaps it was the animorphism used by cheftestant Sue Zemanick to describe her sous chef.

No, neither. It was the use of the phrase “PoW Chic.”

But, we’ll get to that later. First ….

The episode begins with the master cheftestants walking in on their sous chefs midway through a challenge – a mise en place race.

Whoever’s sous chef is the fastest at prepping celery root, pomegranate, squid and lamb will get immunity during a quickfire elimination test.

A QUICKFIRE ELIMINATION!? Whoa. Even worse, after the first sous chef finishes, the 30 minute quickfire begins, which means all the other chefs have to lose precious time getting their mise en place finished before they can cook.

Sang Yoon’s sous chef Ted Hopson wins and the two men demonstrate an awkward bro-hug/pat on the back.

After we see two different styles of employee mentorship from cheftestants whose sous chefs did not do well.

Friendly: Franklin Becker is basically like “Don’t worry about it. I got this.”

Petulant: Neal Fraser took to confessional to sound his grievance, saying, “My sous chef Jason put me a little bit behind. Uh, thank you, thank you Jason. I’m going to punch you in the face.”

For this quickfire, it’s up to Gail Simmons to decide the chefs’ fates. She’s not impressed with Richard Sandoval’s lamb tartare with yuzu broth — the result of a desperate attempt to make his dish in just 10 minutes — and Sandoval is sent packing.

Before they can truly mourn Sandoval’s departure, the remaining chefs already have to get ready for their next elimination challenge.

They have 45 minutes to shop for an Asian dish that’s inspired by an American classic, and their creations will be served from stands at an Asian-themed night market.

The short shopping trip may be too much pressure for some. Douglas Keane is seen running back and forth past his shopping cart yelling “Where’s my cart!?”

Swearing someone stole it, he doesn’t even notice the children he’s next to when he yells “How f***** up is that?”

But that’s not as awkward as the joint confessional with Zemanick and her sous chef Nick Lama.

“I’m just grateful to have my little show puppy Nick here,” Zemanick said as Lama sat, looking queasy, next to her. “When you take a thoroughbred on the road — that would be me — you bring a little pony or goat to keep it company and make sure that it feels safe. And that’s what my little pony over here is all about.”

Show puppy be damned, ultimately this thoroughbred’s Asian market creation would land her in the bottom three.

The market is in a warehouse that could easily be the basis for the classic Nintendo game ‘Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker.’

But Simmons saw something different.

“I would call the atmosphere PoW chic,” she said.

Let’s break that down a bit.

Atmosphere: The ambience or environment
PoW: Prisoner of War
Chic: Elegant or stylish

You can put that all together yourself.

Joining Simmons and Host Curtis Stone are judges Francis Lam and Oseland. And also, who’s that schmoozing in the background? Kathie Lee Gifford herself.

And it turns out she and Oseland do not like each other. Consider this one exchange as they tried his crispy chicken and dumplings.

Oseland: "I love this dish."
Gifford: "I didn’t like it at all."
Oseland: "You don’t like it at all? Get away! Get out of here!"
Gifford: "Snob! I sense a snob!"
Oseland: "Come inside my body. Come inside my palate and experience this dish."
Gifford: "That would be a first."
Oseland: "It would. Really."

It’s important to note how genuine their animosity seemed.  Later, Oseland seemed to take glee at the prospect of Gifford having to eat a shrimp head (courtesy of Yoon).

But Gifford always gets the last word (just ask Hoda Kotb). As she said goodbye to our judges, she turned to Oseland and said, “And you, see a shrink, it’ll be alright.”

Damn. That’s a stone-cold jab.

With Gifford out of the picture. The judges are cleared to bring Voltaggio into the top three, along with Sang and Keane.

Sang’s shrimp and slaw wins the day!

But someone’s gotta go. And today the judges couldn’t get past the thick bread Jenn Louis used for her banh mi.

The rest of the cheftestants are still stuck on Top Chef Masters like PoWs in a chic Bravo prison.