The quick-fire challenge on this week's episode of Top Chef Masters was one of the most challenging to watch I've ever seen. It was flat-out disgusting as the chefs were asked to cook not only with edible plants and flowers, but bugs as well.
From beetles and scorpions to worms and crickets, they had to choose a creepy crawly something to add to their dish. The bugs were still alive when they brought them in, and kept moving as the chefs sliced and diced them up. These are chefs who have no problem boiling up animal brains or eating fish eyeballs, but even they had trouble cooking the bugs.
Despite their disgust, they did manage to whip up some dishes that didn't sound too bad ... IF the bugs were omitted. They deep-fried, grilled, sauteed, and toasted the critters. Then they served them up to the judges -- Ruth England and Mykel Hawke from Man, Woman, Wild.
There are few people who could have stomached judging such a challenge, but they barely flinched. For example, Suvir Saran rejected cooking the bugs due to his religious beliefs, and instead served a jar of squirming green worms (see picture above) alongside his salad with a blowtorch. Hawke wasted no time ripping the worm in half, torching it, and eating it. Barf, just barf. Curtis Stone took a few bites here and there, and looked like he was going to do just that.
In the end, Hugh Acheson won for his tempura-fried crickets. I suppose if you've got to eat bugs, tempura is the way to go. Still, this is one of the only episodes of Top Chef I've ever watched that didn't make me hungry in any way. In fact, I believe it has killed my appetite indefinitely ... I just can NOT stop thinking about getting the cricket legs stuck between my teeth. *SHUDDER*
The rest of the show was fairly mundane -- to prepare a 10-course meal (each chef was responsible for one dish) with challenges along the way. The challenges -- no water, less time, and no wait staff -- didn't seem all that challenging in the end. There was some drama between Hugh and Naomi Pomeroy as they fought for control of the kitchen, but even that wasn't too intense. I hate to say it (again), but successful chefs playing for charity does not an intense competition make.
In the end, John Currence was sent home for his "just average" risotto. Perhaps if he'd spiced it up with some bugs, it would have been better?
Have you ever eaten bugs? Would you?
Image via bravotv.com