'Top Chef Masters' Recap: The Difference Between Yucca and Yuca

Top Chef Grand - P2012

Top Chef Grand - P2012

We’ve barely had time to recover from last week’s heartwrenching elimination -- Mark was sent packing, plunging a (figurative) knife through the heart of his partner, Clark -- when we’re back for another Quickfire Challenge. The remaining chefs are presented with a salad bar full of ingredients, and instructed by host Curtis Stone to use them in a salad. One catch: they only have eight minutes. Art finds time to blend a watermelon soup, and Lorena manages to grill some cauliflower.

Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider, members of The B-52s, appear to sample the hastily thrown together dishes. Lorena’s risk pays off, and she takes the challenge for her smoky Grilled Cauliflower Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette, earning her $5,000 for her cause and immunity from the later challenge. Art says his favorite songs by the band are "Love Shack" and "Rock Lobster," "because they came out when I came out." (The songs were released 11 years apart.)

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The chairwoman of the Hualapai Tribe Council then comes out to present the chefs with a “bounty” of their traditional culinary ingredients. Chefs are split into teams of two, and told to prepare dishes using the ingredients, which they’ll present to tribe members on the edge of the Grand Canyon. They will travel there via helicopter -- rendering Takashi less than thrilled, seeing as he suffers from a fear of heights.

Thierry is surprised to learn that yucca is not yuca -- the former of which is an ornamental cactus fruit, the latter, the starchy vegetable associated with Latin cuisine. He’s been given banana yucca, not yuca, to work with, leaving him somewhat baffled as to what to do with it. But he pushes through, deep frying the unusual fruit to produce an exotic garnish.

A line of Hualapai tribe members in native garb appears, along with James, Ruth and Francis, the judges. Art and Lorena deliver a long-winded introduction to their dish, rendering Patricia hot under the collar over her quickly cooling food. Finally, the meal is served. James declares it the “grandest location I have ever eaten a meal.”

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Ruth finds Art and Lorena’s barbecued quail overcooked, but says she “could drink the sauce by the gallon.” Takashi’s venison excites Francis, and Ruth finds the yucca bitter -- which an elder says is due to its skin being left on it. Kerry and Clark’s beef and corn divide the judges. And Chris and Patricia’s rabbit dish is perfectly cooked, Francis says.

Thierry and Takashi and Chris and Patricia are called to the judges’ table, and are told they are the challenge favorites. Thierry and Takashi win the challenge with their Grilled Venison and Banana Yucca Cake with Braised Figs, delighting the old friends. The other two teams are therefore the bottom two, despite all four dishes being well-received.

Ultimately, Clark is sent packing for his corn accompaniment to Terry's beef dish.