Raw fish and Brian Boitano. What’s the connection? We’re not entirely sure, either, but that was what was served up in the third Quickfire challenge presented to the remaining contestants on Top Chef Masters.
The chefs each chose a different seafood and quickly got to work, with Art Smith in particular feeling the pressure to redeem himself after the previous week’s wedding cake fiasco. (But seriously, pineapple upside-down cake? For a wedding?)
The dishes were offered up as sushi-like sacrifices to celebrity judge Boitano, who impressed Patricia Yeo with his culinary critiquing capabilities, though the rest of the chefs looked like they were giving him the evil eye. As was to be expected, the lovable Takashi Yagihashi took the challenge with his sashimi aji with daikon and apple, granting him immunity and $5,000 for his cause — American Red Cross Disaster Relief for Japan.
Host Curtis Stone then announced that this week’s elimination challenge would require the chefs to prepare their meals on the Teppanyaki, otherwise known as the tableside grills you find at Benihana restaurants. Judging them will be the usual trio of persnickety fussbudgets — Stone, Saveur magazine editor James Oseland and former New York Times food critic Ruth Reichl — as well as three former contestants.
The chefs split into teams of three. A harried shopping trip at Whole Foods is interrupted by the delightful image of Thierry Rautureau being massaged by a muscular bearded man in the middle of the store — a sight which sets off hotheaded teammate Chris Cosentino. (But really, everything sets him off.)
Each team is given 30 minutes to prepare their dishes, giving each chef just 10 minutes to cook for the panel. The first team — Mark Gaier, Kerry Heffernan and Lorena Garcia — neglect to taste their food, as a gesture of respect to their diners. That backfires: The judges want tasty food, not manners.
Team Two — Patricia, Takashi and Clark Frasier, Mark’s life partner — go for Asian themes, to varying success.
But it’s Team Three that really gets the judges excited with their totally non-Asian menu. Art does a Southern dish of grits and shrimp marinated in Old Bay seasoning, then delights the crowd by setting them aflame with the help of a little Jack Daniels. Chris then does a lot of complicated things in order to create “clam chowder” on the grill, and people seem impressed.
Finally, Thierry makes a crepe dessert that, despite a too-hot grill, is very satisfying. Team Three wins, and Art takes the top prize — as much for the food as for the touching tale of his upbringing that accompanied it — rendering him teary-eyed. “Cake-gate” is a distant memory.
It’s the first team that find themselves in last place, and, sadly, Mark is dismissed for his minimalist scallop and bok choy offering. When they return to the stew room to deliver the news, Clark is unsurprisingly crushed. But before the two part ways, Mark points at his lover and implores him to “kick ass.”
And that’s what Brian Boitano would do.