'Top Chef Masters,' Episode 2: Just The Tasty Bits

[Photographs: Bravo.com]

Another week, another episode of Top Chef Masters...or as it is quickly becoming known in my household, "a bunch of Lexus ads, with some occasional cooking thrown in for good measure."

Top Chef Masters is a bit different from other reality shows in that it has small groups of people competing against each other for a chance to move on to the champion's round. The competitors this week were David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson, Carmen Gonzalez, Thierry Rautereau, and Monica Pope.

And so, without further ado, let's tackle the eight most interesting moments from this week's snoozefest of an episode!


1. 'This Is What Happens When You Get New Knives.'

For the quickfire challenge, the chefs were asked to cook "extraordinary grilled cheese sandwiches" for host-turned-taste-tester Kelly Choi. A few moments into the challenge, chef Carmen cut her finger, and blamed it on the "new knife" she was using. She was a trooper, though. She expertly crafted her Italian baguette with Manchego and garlic, all while keeping her blood-soaked towel as close to the food as possible. Yum-o! Taste that iron!

2. And the Winner Is...

Monica Pope won the quickfire challenge with her Moroccan-inspired feta and farmer cheese with dates on raisin nut bread. She earned $5,000 for her charity and an advantage in the upcoming elimination challenge.

3. It's Mekhi's Party and He'll Eat if He Wants To (Eat if He Wants To, Eat if He Wants To)

For the elimination challenge, the chefs had to cook a soul food meal for actor Mekhi Phifer's birthday party. Monica won the quickfire, so she got the first—and exclusive—choice of protein while shopping at Whole Foods. She chose shrimp, for a mac and cheese-style shrimp and grits with okra.

4. Foreshadowing, Top Chef-Style

The chefs feverishly completed their prep work and carefully packed up their food for the event the next day. All seemed well until ominous music started playing, and the camera started zooming in on a shot of a lone foil-wrapped tray sitting on a shelf. At first I was a bit alarmed, until I remembered that's just Top Chef's way of saying, "Tee-hee, somebody's totally screwed and they don't even know it yet."

5. 'My Stew Isn't Here! It's the Most Important Element of my Dish!'

Remember that misplaced tray? Well, as it turns out, it was chef Carmen's main dish, an oyster and hot sausage stew. Whoops!

Poor Carmen. Not only did she almost slice her finger off earlier in the week, but now she actually had to go back to the Top Chef kitchen to get her food—on elimination day, to boot. The bad news is, the trip ate up 90 minutes of her 2 hour cooking time. The good news is, judging by the amount of times the Lexus logo was shown over the next 3 minutes, the trip must have earned Bravo another $500 billion dollars in advertising revenue.

Here's my concern, though: THE TRAY DID NOT APPEAR TO BE REFRIGERATED! As it was shown, Carmen left a tray of stew base sitting out at room temperature overnight, and then served it to people, Let's hope it was handled behind the scenes, because that's terrifying.

Meanwhile, back at the Top Chef kitchen, Monica and a few other contestants sacrificed their own time so they could start preparing Carmen's yucca and oysters for her. David Burke, on the other hand, wanted no part of it. His reasoning, and I quote:

That's funny, because I have a favorite from tonight's episode and their name is not David.

6. Look, Ma! The Top Chef Logo Is at the Bottom of the Pool! Did Lexus Pay For That, Too?

7. It's Pork-A-What?

Yes. James Oseland, the clever orator that he is, dubbed chef Thierry's dish "porkalicious." And somewhere in America, Miss Piggy clutched her hand to her chest and collapsed.

8. 'I Bought My Sausage at Whole Foods'

The judges loved David's sweet potato custard with crab, and went crazy for Monica's soulful shrimp. But in the end, chef Carmen was named the winner of the entire birthday challenge. Yes, the same chef Carmen who left her food behind! Yes, the same chef Carmen who admitted she bought the sausage for her stew at Whole Foods! Are you serious, Top Chef judges? Is it really that easy to win? If so, I bought the most amazing frozen pizza that I'd like to heat up and submit for your review.

In other far less controversial news, chef Marcus Samuelsson narrowly beat chef Monica Pope, and will also be moving on to the champion's round. He made a BBQ Chicken with mac and cheese and collard greens in coconut milk that the party-goers absolutely loved.

And that brought this week's episode to and end! What did you think, Serious Eaters? Should Carmen have won? Would you have helped prepare her food while she was gone?