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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Top Chef Masters: Cosentino Watch, Episode 2

Posted By on Thu, Aug 2, 2012 at 10:00 AM

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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 2's title, "You May Now Feed the Bride," offers a clue to what's going to happen even before it begins. The chefs immediately find out there will be no Quickfire Challenge and that they're going straight into an Elimination Challenge.

A young couple who wants to get married have faced horrible obstacles, including the death of the groom's sister/maid of honor and being swindled out of deposit money for a wedding venue, and so it's (as host Curtis Stone says) Top Chef Masters to the rescue. They've got 24 hours to cook a feast for 200 people.

"I'm really excited to try to make this day everything that they thought it'd be," says Cosentino.

He mentions how he and his wife didn't have much money when they got married and that he prepped and cooked a lot of the food -- his wife had to drag him out of the kitchen on the day they got hitched.

The chef teams have 45 minutes and $6000 to shop for supplies at Whole Foods and Ranch 99 Markets. The latter is a surprise since the Asian grocery chain lacks the promotional muscle of a company like Whole Paycheck. Cosentino grumbles about his teammates wasting too much time calling him on the phone while they're shopping, which leaves him racing for pork belly with one minute on the clock. He tosses it toward the cashier and it makes the purchase just in time.

Back in the kitchen, Cosentino is marinating, searing, and wrapping pork. It's not long before Cosentino and Art Smith, who are playing on opposing teams this week, get into scrapping again. Smith bellows when he sees food in his oven, and tells Cosentino to remove it.

"How about be polite and communicate?" asks Cosentino. "Don't give me crap, Art!"

"I hope we have to switch and you have to do what I do, okay?" Smith retorts. He's committed to making the wedding cake; he said he's really good at it and has made birthday cakes for Lady Gaga (he's making a variation on the pineapple upside down cake he crafted for her), Maya Angelou, and Oprah (for whom he was a personal chef).

"Nobody's discounting what you're doing, Art," says Cosentino. "You're taking it to personal right now." Smith has no reply.

As the couple happily ties the knot, the chefs are still in the weeds in the kitchen. "Move like somebody stole your fuckin' wallet," Cosentino advises.

Finally, the appetizers start emerging and the responses are good. However, Cosentino seems to be having oven issues and he's starting to sweat.

It's not going great in cakeland for Smith, either. The cake is leaning to one side as it is moved.

Cosentino's dish, banana leaf-braised pork with bitter greens, aioli, and adobo sauce, comes out. "I feel like I just gave birth," he says.

Voices in the largely Filipino crowd sound suspicious, but they're quickly won over. "This is wonderful!" exclaims guest judge Ruth Reichl.

Back in the kitchen, Smith's cake falls over, which he says never happens. He screams for help.

"Art, I'm coming, buddy!" says Cosentino as he races to the rescue with some repair icing. When it's wheeled out, it's still got an expressionist lean to it, but is edible. The judges aren't impressed, but it's the groom's favorite dish of the meal.

Smith is still mortified by the whole thing, but Cosentino is comforting. "Can you imagine if I tried to make a wedding cake," he asks.

The judges tell Cosentino that he has made one of the three best dishes of the night, but the winner is his former boss Patricia Yeo. As for the bad news, a chef named Debbie Gold is sent home for making a grilled salad.

Our man Cosentino lives to survive another set of challenges. and from the sneak peek of next week, it looks like the rocky bromance between him and Art Smith isn't over.

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