Top Chef Masters: Episode 6


Left to Right: Jonathan Waxman, Michael Cimarusti, Art Smith, Roy Yamaguchi

Well, the producers have been holding out on us all season, but just when it looked like the 6th and final round of TCM was going to be the most civil, respect-fest episode yet to air, we finally, finally get a little competitive dickishness. Thank god.

I have come to realize that shows like Top Chef need the assholes and backstabbers to a limited degree, much like college basketball needs the NCAA Tournament bracket system. You pay attention to the events because you love to subject, but if you don’t have someone to pull for, sometimes you just don’t give a damn how the game plays out. I know I wouldn’t pay attention to half of the NCAA teams (looking at you Sunbelt division) if I didn’t have money on a team on my braket list. With Top Chef, I want to take a side, I want to see my favorite win, and more importantly, I want to see the least favorite suffer brutal defeat.

Now I’m sure the producers helped craft this little drama leaving selective tidbits on the cutting room floor, but last night you had Old Pappa Bear Waxman strategically fuck over his main competitor/protoge Cimarusti. But lets back up to the Quickfire challenge before we get ahead of ourselves.

This week’s quickfire challenge was to use one grocery store aisle to shop for your dish. Only the most basic ingredients would be provided in addition. Art Smith had the Beans & Rice section and made a risotto with crispy rice salad earning a big 4.5 stars. Roy Yamaguchi pulled the Pasta & Olive Oil section, and he made a pasta dish with [gasp!] a fried egg, earning himself a solid 4 starts. Jonny Waxman decides to plate a lentil and pepper salad which was fine, but only earned him 3.5 stars going into the next round. But out of nowhere, the non-pastry cook, Michael Cimarusti, nails a 5-star chocolate parafait, winning the round.

Next round turns into the Mystery Box elimination round. The concept is simple: each chef must shop for 11 ingredients for a fellow competitor and the chef that receives the box must use at least 7 of the ingredients. The diabolical potential here is intriguing, but let’s not get carried away, we are talking about TCM here. Smith and Yamaguchi are nothing but praises for each other. Hugs and handshakes. Cimarusti is a class act: knowing his mentor’s cooking style he gives Waxman some of old timer’s favorite ingredients out of reverence and respect. Waxman, however does not return the favor. “I denied you fish,” Waxman declares, knowing seafood is Cimarusti’s specialty. [Insert double-take here]

OHHHH snap!! Is this it? The young class act being bitch smacked by the old school veteran, refusing to let the up-and-comer outshine his skills?! Is Cimarusti going to take the oversight as a personal insult and challenge Waxman to a duel? Are they going to have a huge fallout that will rock the core of the culinary industry, driving a wedge between two generations of chefs?! Nope, not in the slightest. False alarm.

So Yamaguchi plates a short rib and mahi mahi dish, receiving mixed reviews and admitting he’s not good at thinking on his feet. Gail thinks that is “brave” for some retarded reason. Cimarusti does his best to put this ingredients together into a cohesive lamb dish but doesn’t sauce all his plates and also receives mixed reviews on the overall composition. Waxman hits a home run with his pork sausage and pork chop duo with califlower and shaved truffle, earning him the top position (part of his evil master plan? You decide). But Art Smith comes through to deliver his southern style fried chicken two ways to snatch the title away from Waxman.

So Art Smith takes it, Waxman goes down in flames, Cimarusti walks out with his dignity and a strong distrust for his one-time mentor, and Yamaguchi goes back to traveling the globe and visiting his 37-restuarant empire.

Finals next week. And TC Vegas in a few short weeks. Stay tuned.

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  • David Dust July 23, 2009  
  • Summer July 24, 2009  

    This episode left me really confused about Art Smith. At some points, he seemed like a big teddy bear, but at others he came off as a pompous ass. I’m curious to hear what the DC Simmer crew thinks of him. Is he an obnoxious name-dropping boor, or did he just get Bravo’s patented Bitch Edit?

  • JoeHoya July 27, 2009  

    Is Art Smith really in DC all that often? For some reason I still associate him with Oprah, Chicago and Table Fifty-Two. Between that and Common Threads, I’m not sure how much time he spends in the kitchen at Art & Soul.

    At least he hasn’t been there the few times I’ve visited…

  • ChiCityDame July 29, 2009  

    Art is in fact a Chicago culinary heavy-hitter. Seeing as the episode was a bit *yawn*… I think they bitched him up. His reputation is nothing short of stellar here in the Windy City.

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