Welcome to Cosentino Watch, where we recap the moves of San Francisco chef Chris Cosentino as he competes in Top Chef Masters. Warning: Spoilers ahead.
As the curtain rises on season four, the cheftestants gather in Las Vegas, which sculpted soap opera host Curtis Stone is quick to call Sin City. He announces the first Quickfire Challenge and asks everyone to choose a partner to work together and create one dish using ingredients they select in a card game. Cosentino joins up with Patricia Yeo, who owns restaurants in Massachusetts; he says she was once his boss and has an extensive knowledge of food.
Their cards reveal their ingredients to be a bone-in rib eye and a catfish, which Cosentino laments is whole and needs to be treated properly.
The pair cook up a combo called "beefalo de gato pescado," and while there's some giggling over the name, the taste reigns supreme and Cosentino and Yeo win the Quickfire and $10,000 to divide between their charities (Cosentino's is the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research).
Next up is the first Elimination Challenge: Create a Las Vegas-style buffet. The competitors are divided into two groups -- Cosentino is on the Red Team with Art Smith, Kerry Heffernan, Lorena Garcia, Takashi Yagahashi, and Yeo. Cosentino takes the lead and immediately gets into a squabble with Smith over portion sizes, who says in a later interview, "Chris is here for himself. You know, he's a youngster, he's all full of vim and vigor." Rawr.
When they're grocery shopping, Cosentino yells, "Art Smith, get in line!"
"I am getting in line! What is your problem?" We sense the start of a tempestuous chef romance here.
The teams think they have five hours to prepare and get going in the kitchen, until Stone comes in and hands out scratch-off cards that give some chefs some additional money for their charity, some less time to cook, and force some to switch teams. Smith gets immunity from elimination. Cosentino scratches off another $1,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Two more cards are handed out to the teams; the Red Team is directed to turn its buffet into a Mexican-themed buffet, while the Blue Team must make Indian food. Cosentino is stoked, but remember, all their ingredients have already been purchased. Smith is sent out with the remaining funds to gather some additional ingredients, but Cosentino grows increasingly frustrated by the time Smith takes to shop. Missy Robbins, who switched to the Red Team, cuts the hell out of her finger and the paramedic shows up.
Smith bops back in with a bunch of grocery bags, declaring that he practically had to drive to Mexico; Cosentino isn't amused, and the two start in on each other again.
"What am I supposed to do, sacrifice my own life?" asks Cosentino.
"Sometimes you do that," replies Smith.
"Yeah, you do that when you have immunity," is the retort.
"Honey, please," Smith snarks in a later interview. "That dish has got to be on the buffet for Missy [Robbins]. It's for Missy."
Cosentino gives Smith a count of five to retrieve some ingredients or forever be assed-out. Smith grabs them and gives Cosentino a smooch on the side of his head.
"I'm really concerned," Cosentino admits in a later interview. "How are we going to put up all this food?"
The Red Team's buffet looks scrumptious though, and when Cosentino is shown, he's created a diminutive dish of pork and beans with cured pork and chickpeas. It was a smart move, as the judges love it. "Of all the dishes I've eaten," says Saveur's James Oseland, "Chris' really stands out. It's so smooth and so well-flavored."
A red-feathered Vegas showgirl disagrees -- she thinks the broth is "bland" -- but Cosentino still wins the challenge, banking another $10,000 for his charity and surviving another week on the show. Missy Robbins, the injured chef, chooses to pack up her knives and go. The Blue Team's Sue Torres is eliminated.
The season-wide preview includes a guest appearance from Bay Area figure skating champion-turned-TV-chef Brian Boitano and Cosentino's already well-worn soundbite that has shown up on the commercials: "This competition is about to ignite!"
As long as Cosentino remains in the competition, he says he'll tweet a trivia question after each episode for followers to get a chance to win a pair of Tenderloins, the comfy kitchen shoe he developed with footwear company MOZO.