Top Chef: Masters Episode 3

June 27, 2009 at 7:09 am

Originally posted at Edible TV on June 26, 2009.

Contestants in week three included Cindy Pawlcyn (Mustards Grill, Napa), Wilo Benet (Paya, Puerto Rico), Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre, (LudoBites, LA) and the ever popular Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill, Chicago).  Like other fans of Iron Chef: America I know Lefebvre from Battle: Tuna which he waged with Mario Batali. I am not as familiar with Pawlcyn or Benet (who was recently featured on Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern) but Bayless I know well, at least by reputation.

Rick Bayless is a chef that I admire greatly because of the authenticity he brings to his Mexican cuisine.  Don’t look for cheddar cheese or crunchy tacos at one of Bayless’ restaurants – his cuisine is free of the Americanized foods we have been taught were Mexican by any one of a dozen Gringo-Mex chains.

Once again I joined an unknown number of foodies on Twitter chatting about the show live at #topchef.  Bayless, an avid Twitter patron, was not able to join the group, however Benet did stop by (virtually, anyway, from a bar in Puerta Rico)  The most noticeable thing during the introduction was Lefebvre’s body language – folded arms, standing off from the crowd – did not endere him to many.

Quickfire Challenge: One Color Dish
The first challenge was the least lame Quickfire to date.  Each chef was given a color and then informed that they had to prepare a dish using only that color.  It’s cooler than cooking in a dorm room.  I’m still not over that yet.

Lefebvre’s color was red – steak tartar with a red beet sauce – he forgot the sauce.  It was funny, the judges loved it until they got the late arriving sauce.  Pawlcyn had yellow, Bayless – Green and Benet had orange.  The results?  Ludo 3 stars, Pawlcyn 3.5, Bayless 4 and Benet 4.5.

Elimination Challenge: Offal Street Food
Each chef was given a protein of offal (animal parts most Americans don’t eat).  Benet got cow’s heart, Bayless cow’s tongue, Pawlcyn got beef tripe and Ludo received pig’s ear.  Oh to have been a judge on this one.  But there was a kicker, each chef had to make street food and then convince people on the street to actually eat it.

Really?  Four of the greatest chef’s in the world yelling at passers-by like a sideshow barker?  The offal was a great idea.  Having them make a common street food is cool but why embarrass them by making them “sell” it to visitors to Universal Studios?  Lame.

Wilo did a traditional Puerto Rican street sandwich called Tripleta, Bayless prepared classic tongue tacos (seriously, they rock), Pawlcyn the classic Mexican stew called menudo (yep, that’s where the band got their name) and Ludo did quesadillas.  Quesadillas?!?!?  Seriously, Lefebvre?  You’re French and you’re going to make a quesadilla. . . with Rick Bayless and Wilo Benet going against you?  Good luck.

Lefebvre’s quesadilla failed, several people tried it and then asked him if he had ever made one before – not a good sign.  Pawlcyn’s Manudolacked spice but otherwise was well received, Benet’s Tripleta went over well with only cursory negativity from the judges and Bayless’ tacos were a home run.

The final score: Pawlcyn 15.5 stars, Ludo 16.5 (he actually questioned his score), Benet finished with 19.5 stars and Bayless with the come-from-behind win had a big 22.5 stars.  To wrap up this amazing display of culinary acumen and good will Lefebvre asked Bayless how much he paid the judges for victory.

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NFNS 5: Episode 3 NFNS 5: Episode 4


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Stuart Reb Donald

Stuart is a celebrity chef and award winning food writer. Donald performs live cooking demonstrations and penned the cookbook Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor."

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