I've been consistently slagging this season of Top Chef Masters as an Antiques Roadshow-grade snooze-a-thon, but this episode picked up the pace. There was action! Errors! Minor villainy! Quips! Justice! All in all, some real progress.
The cheftestants were tasked with making an appetizer for $1 or less in ingredient costs. While it's not entirely clear how the ingredients were priced (is 48 cents really the cheapest you can get an onion for?) the restriction on cost seemed to push the chefs into creating bright, clever, and ultimately tasty dishes.
All except for the pissy, perpetually put-upon George, who ground out a boring and underflavored calamari dish and then said: "You're never going to make a dish for under $1; I laughed it off. It is what it is." Way to build the suspense of the series, George. "I laughed it off," indeed—you just wait and see. Perhaps someone else—perhaps the judges!—will laugh you off. Off the show, that is! (Insert dramatic DUHN DUHN DUUUUHN musical sting.)
Naomi, my pick as the going-the-distance powerhouse, won with a flavorful and balanced asparagus-bread salad.
The episode's challenge was a good one. The chefs were tasked with prepping a meal for 100 people. Location: unknown. Restriction: All food had to be good for eating with your hands—no utensils.
The chefs shopped, and then were transported to their location ... a burger joint called Farmer Boys. The fast-food setting proved to be the undoing of just about everyone on the show. Hilarity ensued as fancy-pants haute cuisine wizards and sorceresses floundered with the drive-through window, struggled to expedite, and generally got totally flustered by demands regularly met by surly underpaid teenagers.
George threw his insufferableness into overdrive, dropping thoughts like these:
"It's safe to say that this is the first time clams have touched the Farmer Boys kitchen."
"We're some of the best chefs in the country and we're working in a fast-food environment and most of us aren't used to that."
"I'm not enjoying being in this fast-food environment where you have to make things really fast and plate them on plastic."
Well lah-di-dah, George.
Mary Sue's quesadilla-fritter combo won the day, and Celina, Alex, and George found themselves on the chopping block.
James Oseland's best bon mot was directed at Celina's crêpe wrap thing: "It's having an existential crisis—it's a pancake with some stuff on it. She should serve maple syrup with it." But George wound up going home for his perplexing "pork and more pork" skewers and lousy attitude.
First Suvir, now George—whom are we supposed to root against around here when the villains keep making lousy food and getting axed for it? Still: sweet, juicy justice.