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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Top Chef Masters: Cosentino Watch, Episode 8

Posted By on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge Chris Cosentino scores another victory. - BRAVO TV
  • Bravo TV
  • Chris Cosentino scores another victory.

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.

Episode 8 is called "Foodie Flash Mob" which conjures images of our fair chefs shuffling through the Thriller dance for their dinner. But before we can learn the meat of this week's show, the Final Four must go through a Quickfire Challenge.

The chefs are shown a line dividing the kitchen space between the hot line and the pantry area. Host Curtis Stone explains that they'll divide into teams of two in order to prepare two dishes -- but the chefs will have to decide who stays on which side of the line on the ground. Chris Cosentino and mentor Patricia Yeo are thrilled to draw matching knives and work together, while Lorena Garcia groans at the possibility of having to work with Kerry Heffernan again; they have been a terrible, un-teamlike team in the past.

Cosentino chooses the hot line and Yeo the pantry, and the two get moving efficiently. Cosentino explains in an interview that he and Yeo are still very close and when they worked together in the past, they developed their own language in the kitchen. It's cool to watch them finish each other's sentences.

"I'm going to give you some soba noodles," Yeo says.

"Want me to blanch them?" Cosentino asks.


Cool, calm, and collected, their exchanges makes us yearn for a cooking partner with that kind of culinary telepathy.

click to enlarge Cosentino's pork and chicken liver pâté for Diner en Blanc. - BRAVO TV
  • Bravo TV
  • Cosentino's pork and chicken liver pâté for Diner en Blanc.

Las Vegas oddsmaker Johnny Avello comes in to judge the Quickfire dishes, which is admittedly a big letdown from previous Quickfire judges like Sugar Ray Leonard, the B-52s, and Dita Von Teese, but perhaps the producers were running out of celebrity contacts.

Avello doesn't like the fattiness of Cosentino's berber-style duck with dates, mint, and pine nuts. "Maybe the presentation with the fat on top is not what we'd like to see," Avello says, "but the non-fatty meat is very good."

"They don't like fat on their duck," Cosentino says later. "So we learn." Do people generally like fat on their duck?

The fat gets in the way of a Quickfire victory, which ends up going to a frozen dinner-looking farfalle from Heffernan. So we learn that the oddsmaker likes Lean Cuisine.

Now, we learn what the Foodie Flash Mob is about for the Elimination Challenge: Diner en Blanc, a spontaneous and sometimes illegal white dinner party that was created 23 years ago in France (and actually makes the concept a proto-flash mob, really). The chefs are told they need to create three dishes for a picnic, with the rub being that they'll have to box the food up and refrigerate it for eight hours until the next day, when they'll serve it all to the guests -- cold.

Back at Whole Foods to shop for supplies, Cosentino heads straight for the meat counter and asks for the offal -- chicken livers, to be specific. He decides he's going to make a chicken liver and pork pâté as one of his dishes, but once he's back in the kitchen he's second-guessing himself. If there's any trouble with the ovens, the dish could be really risky.

Luckily, the dish has actually improved with the time to set and chill, which he discovers the next day. Others have not fared so well; they peer sadly into their boxes.

An army of upscale diners in white practically march in formation onto a patio at the Venetian. White tables, tablecloths, flowers, and assorted flair are constructed in what looks like seconds.

"God, I hope this food tastes as good as it looks," judge Ruth Reichl says as she looks at Cosentino's offerings. She takes a bite. "You know, this is a terrine that has all the parts of the pig in it, but the person who won't eat liver would eat this."

Robin Leach, the erstwhile host of '80s TV series Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is randomly there, asking for more wine.

At the judges' table, Yeo and Garcia are being savaged for their meals, which didn't hold up to being served cold, but Cosentino and Heffernan are told by Stone that they both did "an unbelievable job." Cosentino wins the Elimination Challenge, earning another $10,000 for his charity of choice, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

The victory is bittersweet, though, because his close friend Yeo is ultimately sent packing. While sad, it at least will remove the anxiety that could arise if the student had to go head to head with the teacher. Garcia and Heffernan are no match for our hero, and while it's still too early to call victory, the chances are looking great.

Next week: The chefs are given young culinary students to curse out and manipulate. This is getting good.

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Tamara Palmer


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