"Top Chef Masters" was a four-way cage match between the wily schmoozer, the ADHD poster boy, the young gun, and the Swedish Chef. No, not that Swedish Chef -- but wouldn't that have been awesome?
* Rick Moonen
Restaurants: Oceana, Molyvos, and RM, New York; Rick RM Seafood, Las Vegas
Rick is a self-proclaimed hyperactive ADD kid who realized that he got all the stimulation he needed in the kitchen. He's Spike grown up.
* Nils Noren
Job: Vice President of Culinary Arts for The French Culinary Institute
Interesting -- he's the first chef on the show without an actual restaurant. Jay says Nils is "very much the Swedish Chef," but I have yet to hear a "Bork bork bork!"
* Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson
Frasca Food and Wine, Boulder, Colorado
He's the young guy, and he's ridiculously accomplished for his age, according to Jay.
* Michael Chiarello
Restaurant: Bottega Restaurant, Napa Valley
Michael left restaurant work for TV cheffery, but now he's back. He's still got that schmooze-for-the-camera charm, though.
The chefs have to make haute junk food. Michael chooses fish sticks, and makes a yummy fried fish ball with sauce, which judges love. Lachlan's meditation on the hotdog involves a delicious soup and a homemade sausage that is nearly raw in the middle. Urg. Nils does fried shrimp, except he doesn't fry it. It's lovely, but you kind of missed the point, Nils. Rick has grand plans to do a fish corndog on a stick -- which would obviously win, because "on a stick" give it inherent superiority. Alas, Rick biffs it -- he's not finished with anything when the time is up. Zero stars for Rick. Lachlan and Nils both get 3 stars, while Michael takes home 4.5 stars.
The chefs panic when they hear they need to make a three-course meal, on their own, for 100 people. Psyche! It's just hors d'oeuvres inspired by an appetizer, an entree and a dessert. Still, cooking and plating that much food is going to be challenging.
Nils decides to represent his homeys in Sweden with lots of fish and lots of smokiness -- because "growing up in Sweden, you do smoke a lot of things." Hey, Nils -- that means something different here. The illicit-type smoke may explain his decision to make a Lapsang souchong cream to put on his chocolate/goat cheese ganache. That speaks to some sort of herbal inspiration.
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