We know there's a rockin' contestant from Santa Cruz still in the running to be the Next American Idol (be sure to overenunciate every word, like Seacrest), but SFoodie is all about the fact that S.F. chef Traci Des Jardins is still in the running to be the Next Top Chef Master. Plus, Idol seems like yesterday's singing-based reality competition show, now that The Voice has proved a more interesting contender. Last night's Top Chef Masters was sweet music to our ears, and eyes, if that's possible. You know what we mean.
The heavenly episode began with a seven-minutes-in-heaven Quickfire. The cheftestants had a spread of the most luxurious and delicious ingredients but only seven minutes to create a dish, beating the existing Quickfire record by more than 60 seconds. Hugh(nibrow) was worried his underpoached tuna belly turned out to be perhaps the most elaborate cat food ever. The others agreed, which was bad because the seven remaining finalists acted as the judges, number-rating each other (and themselves) for everyone to see. Traci and her simple beef tenderloin carpaccio with truffle, maitake mushrooms, and balsamic was everybody's favorite -- another $5,000 for La Cocina, plus immunity for our hometown chef. The only thing that would've been better is if we'd been granted alone time in a dark closet with that raw tenderloin.
Traci's win gave her first pick for building a team and a choice between having more or fewer chefs on her side (she chose more). The Elimination Challenge brought Voice coach Adam Levine and the rest of the Maroon 5 gang. The cheftestants were asked to make a family-style meal for the band, taking into consideration each member's particular likes. We counted, and we get it, there are five band members. Adam likes Japanese food and steak, there's a guy from Nebraska who wanted corn, a vegan who wanted Mexican, a spanakopita guy, and a guy who wanted Thanksgiving on a plate. But that was just the beginning, since each team was also given its own rock-star tourbus to cook in. Suddenly, Traci's decision to have four instead of three chefs on her team was problematic in the cramped quarters. They prepped while the driver took extrawide turns. Somehow, they made it work, with Floyd taking an induction burner into the bathroom to sear off beef. Hell, that beats Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick.
The Red Team (Floyd, Alex, and Celina) featured dishes cooked almost entirely by Alex, and in a cafeteria-style kind of way. His tapioca with what were described as "grape contacts" caused the night's first bit of judging controversy. Adam loved it, James Oseland didn't, snidely adding, "Taste is subjective." Adam countered with, "I'm gonna stab you with this fork!"
Mary Sue of Traci's Black Team covered the bed in tostadas, a fetish Hugh said he'd never heard of. The completed vegan tostadas were said to look like "poop rolled in birdseed," a fetish we're pretty sure does exist.
Later, James recovered major Maroon cred when he called a dish "flaccid."
The Black Team won the challenge, and Traci's dish was once again the rock star of the competition (another $10,000 for La Cocina). She gave Adam exactly what he wanted by combining his two favorite foods: Japanese-style steak with a miso-braised daikon, cucumber, and pea shoot salad.
The person packing his knives? Alex, the guy with too many dishes in the air and on the table, with the taste of stress oozing from each one. Last night's episode was titled "I'm with the Band." We can now firmly say that we're with this show.