'Top Chef Masters,' Ep. 5: Junk Food, a Big Dinner, a New Way of Looking at Panna Cotta

Guess who said it: "A good panna cotta, if it's set right, is meant to wobble like a woman's breasts."


The Contestants (above, from left)

Michael Chiarello: Bottega; playing for Clinic Ole
Rick Moonen: RM Seafood; Cape Cod Commercial Hook Fishermen's Association
Nils Norén: French Culinary Institute; Friends of FCI
Lachlan Patterson: Frasca Food & Wine; The Children's Hospital

Quickfire Challenge: Remake Junk Food

Ah, very Fancy Fast Food. How accidentally of the moment. As a Bravo tie-in, the cast and crew of Flipping Out—who often eat junk food on the show—will be judging. (You know, this doesn't really make me want to watch Flipping Out. Also: Really? We go from Doogie Howser to these clowns?)

Oh, wait. They're not using actual junk food to make something? They're just doing haute junk food? Eh. Not as challenging or as interesting. The whole high-brow low-end thing is nothing new.

Chiarello chooses to remake fish sticks; Moonen, corn dogs; Norén, fried shrimp; and Patterson, hot dogs.



And Chiarello wins with his fish sticks. Moonen fails to finish his dish.

Elimination Challenge: Three-Course Meal for 100

The chefs each have to cook a three-course meal for 100 of "Top Chef's biggest fans. Oh, wow, Sweet P from Season 4 of Project Runway and Jerell Scott from PR Season 5 are in attendance. Weird that Bravo is giving that show a nod now that it's moved to Lifetime. It also makes me wonder if they couldn't round up 100 people for this party without resorting to the Bravo network's Rolodex.

A couple of women mention how they talk about Top Chef first thing Thursday mornings. Didn't the Lost producers say the same thing? Are they giving these people talking points?

The judges really like Patterson's salad. What a reaction. I actually want to try it now. Guess you can make friends with salad.

Judge Gael Greene, funny: "I don't like lawn cuttings in my dessert." In reference to Chiarello's balsamic-marinated strawberries with basil gelato.


Jay Rayner, panna cotta man.

Judge Jay Rayner, slightly inappropriate? "A good panna cotta, if it's set right, is meant to wobble like a woman's breasts. I share this with you in the interest of general knowledge."

"Is that true?" Kelly Choi asks.

Judge James Oseland confirms.

Gael Greene simply gives a knowing look.

With his heavy brow, Van Dyke beard, and unruly curly hair, Rayner has always reminded me of a faun or a satyr, so I'm not at all suprised to hear this come out of his mouth. An amusing observation, to be sure, but one that Rayner has used before—and not necessarily of his own invention.

We Have a Winner

You know, I think this every time I watch the show, but at 40 minutes into the thing, they're judging. Does it really take 20 minutes to discuss and render a verdict? Despite the knowledgeable and personable judges, I'm finding the process and chatting a little boring in this ep—you? Though I do agree with @lundregan when she says, "I would LOVE, LOVE it if Jay Rayner was a judge on #topchef instead of Toby Young. Come on #bravo, Jay is soo much better than Toby IMHO."

Let's fast-forward, shall we? The winner is Michael Chiarello. He joins Hubert Keller, Suzanne Tracht, Rick Bayless, Anita Lo, and next week's winner for the final four episodes of the Champions' Round.

There's been some speculation that the love affair with TCM has gone south among TV-watching food-lovers. What do you think? Are you still watching? If so, what did you think of Episode 5? And would you like to see Rayner replace Toby Young on the original Top Chef?