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'Top Chef Masters' episode 8 recap, Foodie flash mob

CookingLifestyle and LeisureReviewsRobin LeachTop Chef Masters (tv program)Ruth Reichl

Kerry, Chris, Lorena and Patricia remain. The Quickfire takes advantage of our even number of chefs left -- the kitchen is divided in half by a long line of red gaffer tape.

The chefs are paired off and tasked with creating a dish each, but one must remain on the pantry side, one must stay on the hot line. The guest judge is Johnny Avello, who runs the only sports book in Vegas that holds odds on entertainment -- he's previously held odds on "Top Chef." He wins as the least interesting and most forgettable guest judge of the season. Next week's guest judge unforeseen.

Knives are drawn -- Chris is with Patricia, Kerry is with Lorena. Lorena and Patricia are on the pantry, running around grabbing ingredients and pans, as the boys shout orders at them and are doing the actual cooking. Dear God, I hope Gloria Steinem is not watching this.

Chris and Patricia are without a doubt the more functional team -- Patricia is Chris' former boss and they are relishing this arrangement, calling eachother "love" and "dear."

Lorena and Kerry are not running as smoothly. Kerry informs Lorena he is absolutely not able to sear his shrimp and her salmon at the same time, thus he must sear her salmon with 20 minutes left in the challenge. Hey, Kerry? I'm no Top Chef Master, but I can cook two things at once. Poor Lorena is biting her tongue till it's bleeding. Lorena basically resigns to failure at the end, she knows her dish will not be up to par as it's clear Kerry's only taken any care to prepare his own dishes properly.

After Curtis and Johnny bemoan Lorena's lack of completed dish, there's a great shot of Kerry looking at the floor, totally terrified to catch Lorena's eye. Interestingly, Kerry's pasta and shrimp dish takes the Quickfire, though -- so Lorena splits $5K with him for their charities.

Curtis explains the Elimination Challenge, which is something called the Diner en Blanc. Apparently it's a thing. Quote #1 of the ep, from Chris, "It sounds like a giant art project."

I am glad I am not the only one who didn't know what the hell this was. I had to Google it. It's essentially a flash mob wherein 300 people all dressed in white swarm a specific area and set up a pop-up dinner party.  

From the looks of the website it's basically an invite-only fou-fou fest. Each chef must prepare one dish for 75 of the guests. Lorena is relieved there is no team aspect and is out for Kerry as he basically screwed her in the Quickfire. Dios mio!

The chefs head to Whole Foods and are all concerned about the fact that they're prepping tonight and serving tomorrow "picnic" style -- i.e. nothing that is going to need a lot of cold or hot will work. 

At the checkout line, Patricia loans Chris some money so he can cover all his ingredients. Lots of hugs and "babes" and high fives, with Lorena looking on, scathingly.

Prep commences. Quote #2 of the ep from Lorena: "In Miami, I am always in shorts with no shoes. That's my jam."

Chris' meat tureens came out perfectly, according to him. They kind of look like Underwood canned ham to me, but then, we don't have smell-o-vision. 

The chefs wrap everything up and Chris prays things won't be ugly tomorrow after eight hours of the food sitting in boxes.

The next morning the gang heads to the courtyard of the Venetian for their 15 minutes of prep. It's clear now that the white boxes the chefs had put their dishes in the night before are the actual vehicles they are going to give to the guests. They are pulling them out of white bags -- everything must be white, remember.

The dinner guests (also mostly white) fill in and set their tables. Dinner is served. There are strolling Venetian clowns and, even more frighteningly, Fat Robin Leach. He looks positively dreadful -- unshaven, pasty, and rather Jabba the Hutt-esque. It's seriously disturbing.  

Curtis introduces Sandy Safi and Aymeric Pasquier, the hosts of the event. Aymeric's father started Diner en Blanc a couple decades ago in Paris. 

The chefs distribute their picnic bags, and try to politely dish out serving and dining instructions to the guests. 

Lorena's picnic is a Huancaina-style potato salad with aji amarillo and cilantro; a jerk chicken salad with mango & caramelized pine nuts; and a jalapeno chocolate mousse with raspberries and whipped cream. Dios mio!

Quote #3 from the ep, from a Diner en Blanc guest upon trying Lorena's jalapeno mousse: "It's stupid good!"

Critics are not impressed with her chicken salad; the guests seem to love it. 

Patricia's culinary journey borrows from the Silk Road -- Marco Polo's Venice to Asia. She prepares a daikon, radish & edamame salad with whitebait; Uyghur spiced bison with chili jam; and a sumac dusted flatbread with curried cauliflower & red chief lentils.  

As she leaves the critics she apologizes for having to serve the dishes cold. Bad move --she knew that going in. The critics struggle with the plating of her dishes, they were not clearly instructed what garnish and sauce goes where.  

Chris informs the judges he has recently visited Venice and took his inspiration from there. He serves up a swordfish conserva with green beans, tomatoes & olives; marinated wild mushrooms with toasted pine nuts (insert shuddering groans of want from me here); and pork & chicken liver pate with hazelnuts & truffles.

Okay, now that I have heard him explain the tureen I must admit that while I hate chicken livers with a furor unmatched I almost kind of wanted to try that. Seriously. Sure enough, after tasting, Ruth Reichl declares, "The person who won't eat liver will eat this." Aymeric calmly declares it's the best pate he's ever eaten. And he's FRENCH!

Kerry presents his dishes, and keeps repeatedly trying to say everything in broken French, to everyone's discomfort. He has lined up a chilled cauliflower soup with saffron coulis; hericot vert, orzo & mozzarella with pesto (lord that looked good); grilled chicken & kielbasa with peppers and paprika coulis. 

Quote #4 of the ep, from a really erudite dinner guest: "I thought the cauliflower soup was nice, but I felt like it was just like, a little out of place. Maybe."

Cut to: lots of drinking. Clowns juggling. Robin Leach yanking on Princess Leia's chain and barking at Salacious Crumb. 

Critics' table -- or as Chris calls it, "Top Chef Ulcer." They call all four back. Everyone gushes over Kerry's progression from creamy to powerful. They question the sweetness of Lorena's chicken salad and the texture of her chocolate mousse. She admits she did not taste the chicken salad today, and James Oseland's eyebrows raise higher than any botox could ever hope for.

They gush over Chris' tureen and his distinct, varying dishes. Patricia's jam gets high marks but they agree that her dishes didn't work without any heat. No surprise that Kerry and Chris are named top two. 

Chris takes the prize -- 10K for the Michael J. Fox Foundation -- and hugs and high fives from the other three. Well deserved. 

Lorena and Patricia are up for dismissal. Drama! Chris doesn't want his former boss to leave. Patricia says that she thinks that in this final battle between the two of them that "the better person will stay in the competition." Yikes -- she's taking this to a way deeper level. I thought this was about cuisine, not one's character. 

The critics are clearly tossed up over Lorena and Patricia. Some loved a dish while others didn't. They nitpick each item. As we cut to commercial break there is no knowing who is packing their knives. 

And we're back: Curtis announces Patricia is going home. She nods, Lorena looks genuinely floored and relieved.

In her defense (as I know I've not taken to her), Patricia handles the news calmly and thanks them for the opportunity. She has won a total of $16K for Heifer International. Chris takes the news worse than anyone, he is very upset about her leaving.

Quote #5 of the ep, as he hugs her goodbye: "The student is never supposed to beat the teacher." A genuinely touching moment. 

Next week: The remaining three cook blindly with a mystery team mate (hint: it's the critics); and the finale comes down to the chefs working with young, green culinary students as their sous chefs. Expect the unexpected!

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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