Get SF Weekly Newsletters

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Top Chef Masters, Week 5: Slow Food at the Drive-Through

Posted By on Thu, May 5, 2011 at 10:26 AM

click to enlarge This way to the quinoa fritters. - ROCKIN ROBIN/FLICKR

Last night's Top Chef Masters was called "Would You Like Fries with That?" ― a full-on low-end episode with the Masters touch.

The Quickfire was dollar-menu style, as the cheftestants had to make an appetizer with a price tag for ingredients that couldn't exceed $1, total. Since an onion cost 48 cents, the challenge proved costly and difficult. Brendan Newman and Rico Gagliano from the Dinner Party Download were the guest judges.

"This is like from the fanciest dollar store in the world," Newman said.

The challenge winner was a woman who knew how to shave as much as possible from two spears: Naomi's asparagus and bread salad with cherry tomatoes and lemon vinaigrette clocked in at 90-something cents.

The Elimination Challenge was kept under Saran wraps. All the cheftestants knew was that they were to create a main dish and a side for 100 people at a mystery location and the diners would have no utensils. According to Hugh(nibrow) and his pursed lips, "I'm completely in the dark about what this can be, and that scares the poop out of me."

They arrived at a Farmer Boys to learn that they'd be manning a fast-food restaurant. The chefs, who had already chosen pork loin, salmon, or clams, had to either alter their dish or stay true.

The group broke in two, with the first bunch working the counter and drive-through window while the second bunch cooked. Then, in the middle of the lunch rush, they'd have to switch. Most chefs were super out of their element; others reminisced about their days at fast-food pizza joints, or how they begged a Bennigans manager for a job.

It quickly became clear that the food was coming out of the kitchen anything but fast. "It's like an architect who builds beautiful, tall, awesome buildings but can't even make a house out of Legos," Hugh noted.

Half the critics walked in while the rest did drive-through. Service sucked. Host/chef/judge Curtis honked at the drive-through after dead air greeted him at the order kiosk. The chefs were cut a lot of slack for service, even though they'd all have easily been fired from a real McJob. Really, it all came down to the food, from concept to taste.

The bottom three ― Alex, George, and Celina ― had the most ill-conceived dishes. Alex produced a measly salmon taco that ate more like a mini burrito. George felt the need to ask the question, "You didn't think the clam in the cucumber was easy to eat?" and Celina's wrap was more of an unwrap.

The top three: Mary Sue, our Traci, and Floyd. Traci's chicken verde burrito caused Curtis to fist-pump the table in delight and the critics to agree that it was the easiest of the dishes to eat with one hand on the wheel. But the person taking top prize was normally-at-the-bottom Mary Sue for her skirt steak quesadilla diablo, with a side of quinoa fritters with sweet pepper and garlic mayo.

The worst fast-food adapter, George, was sent home. His food was ugly, and his pork and chorizo skewers with a clam, cucumber, and olive side made zero sense.

We have to say we gained a new appreciation for fast food and its systems. And we're excited about the rock-band tour bus the chefs will be cooking out of next week. SFoodie just can't get enough of Adam Levine on the Voice ― we're ready to see him feed from the hand of the Masters.

Read more from Carina Ost at
Follow SFoodie at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook.

  • Pin It

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About The Author

Carina Ost


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed

Like us on Facebook


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"