Top Chef Masters is back for a third season, and the show's recipe has been tweaked a bit. Instead of being judged on a scale, elimination-style challenges are on the menu, which clearly turned up the heat for the competitors. Host Curtis Stone adds an additional level of hotness (swoon).
Right off the bat it was a head-to-head challenge of the most amusing, and ultimately impressive, sort. The seasoned chefs each had to pick a box containing a mystery ingredient, then they had to incorporate that and the ingredient of their opponent into a dish. There were all sorts of fun combos -- from marshmallows and corned beef to sardines and dragon fruit. The resulting dishes were remarkably edible.
A few were flops, of course, and two contestants didn't even complete their dishes. John Currence forgot an entire ingredient, but no one seemed to notice, which was kind of weird.
Traci Des Jardins took the first award of the season for her salads that used peanut butter and licorice. Strange as they sound, they actually looked really good, and I like her a lot. My initial vote would put Jardins and Suvir Saran as early favorites, based mainly on personality, my vibe, and the respect they're given by the other contestants. Early I know, but that's my hunch at this point.
After the head-to-head challenge, winners and losers were pitted against one another for the restaurant challenge. Each team was tasked with running their own restaurant for a night. The winners from the quick-fire challenge were put on the red team; they named their restaurant Mosaic. The losers were placed on the blue team and opened Leela.
It was apparent from the get-go that the winners were winners for a reason. They had things together, staggered diners to ensure no back-up in the kitchen, and ran a smooth operation. Leela, on the other hand, floundered a bit -- primarily because the team (or rather Naomi Pomeroy) chose to serve everyone at once -- to the point of the judges having to complain about their missing food. Things weren't looking good ...
But it was the restaurant patrons whose votes counted, and they chose the losers for the win. Score one for Leela who really locked the win with their desserts.
It was the judges, however, who chose the two least successful dishes of the night. Up for elimination went Mary Sue Milliken and Hugh Acheson.
Mary Sue was under fire for her non-ambitious, dry chocolate cupcakes, while Hugh was accused of extremely salty scallops. I thought Hugh would eek it out for creativity and risk taking, but in the end, he was sent home, once again proving that salt can be a killer.
Are you watching this season of Top Chef Masters? If so, who are your early favorites?
Image via Bravotv.com