Top Chef Masters Season Two began last night on Bravo and I couldn’t wait to sink my teeth into it. Sad to say, it was a bit anti-climactic since it was more of a pre-show. They only introduced us to six chefs competing for two spots in the Champions round. I was hoping it would be a good old-fashioned free-for-all like the regular Top Chef and we’d see them all duking it out.
Our six chefs: Susan Feniger, of 2 Hot Tamales and Border Grill fame, Govind Armstrong, of 8 oz. Burger Bar, Jimmy Bradley, chef/owner of The Red Cat in NYC, Ana Sortun, chef/owner of Oleana in Cambridge, MA, Tony Mantuano, President and Mrs. Obama’s favorite chef, and Jerry Traunfeld of Seattle’s Poppy.
They were paired off for the quick fire challenge as well as for the elimination round. For the quick fire they did the always popular gas station shopping trip and served their creations to the up-and-coming band, The Bravery.
I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve seen so many episodes of Top Chef that this challenge is getting too predictable. The teams made: Cheeto mac and cheese with grilled Slim Jims (Govind and Jimmy), Crispy Rice cakes with Clamato sauce (Ana and Jerry), and maple banana bread pudding (Susan and Tony). Nothing seemed mind-blowingly cool or especially inventive; the chefs were clearly in survival mode. The funniest part: watching the chefs, egos blazing, poke fun at the band, most had never heard of, whenever someone criticized their dish.
In the elimination challenge, the same teams had to create duo dishes for a group of 15 couples on first dates. The dishes had to be romantic and they needed to pair well. Surprisingly, the dish that didn’t really mesh very well (in my opinion) was the winner. Susan and Tony made black pepper shrimp and scallops and homemade pasta stuffed with truffles and cheese, respectively. Susan’s dish was Thai inspired and Tony’s, obviously Italian. Despite Susan and the judges thinking the shrimp were overcooked, the team still managed to pull off a victory.
Ana and Jerry’s dish was a mish-mash of elegance paired with sloppy. Judge James Oseland repeatedly joked that it was as if someone dressed in pajamas was on a date with someone dressed in a tuxedo. Govind and Jimmy made a duo of lamb, a carpaccio and a lamb chop. I’d actually hoped they’d win; their dish was well thought out and Govind’s suggestion they should eat their lamb chop with their fingers seemed to elevate the dish to sexy status.
All in all, I was a bit under whelmed with this season’s premiere. I did have a favorte part though: it was the snippet of an interview with Govind where he recalled working for Susan as a teenager and being madly in love with her, with her pink punked hair and long earrings. But, obviously, their love was not meant be.
Next week, Top Chef Masters comes back at their regular time, Wednesdays at 10, and hopefully, they will kick it up a notch (no, Emeril is not a contestant). I’ll meet you back here on Thursday to dish about the episode two.
Did you watch the premire? What did you think?
TOP CHEF MASTERS -- "Episode 201" -- Pictured: (l-r) Tony Mantuano, Susan Feniger -- Photo by: Isabella Vosmikova/Bravo
TOP CHEF: MASTERS -- Pictured: (l-r) Jimmy Bradley, Anna Sortun, Govind Armstrong, Susan Feniger, Tony Mantuano, Jerry Traunfeld -- Bravo Photo: Jaimie Trueblood