Top Chef Masters, Season 5: Episode 7

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Episode 7 - Nachos

Reprinted with permission from

Last week, Jennifer and Sue were both sort of eliminated and sent to battle it out Sous Chef-style. Jennifer prevailed and returns to continue the competition with the Real Chefs. Their Quickfire Challenge is guest-judged by Ali Larter, actress and book writer.  With only thirty minutes on the clock, it’s a Top Chef Masters’ take on nachos, which is confusing and—let’s be honest—pointless. As an added nacho bonus, immunity is up for grabs.

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Episode 7 - Ali Larter

There’s peppers, orange cheeses, onions, and for some reason Sang is making corn cake, Neal is smoking pork rinds, and David is using squid ink. Neal made a flauta with tomatillo salsa, David prepared calamari and fried mango with squid ink, Douglas did a deconstructed thing with shrimp, powdered nacho chips, and salsa consume, Jennifer cooked skirt steak with tomatillo salsa verde, Sang concocted a masa corn griddle cake with chorizo hash, and Bryan made avocado wrapped crab salad. Ali’s least favorite dishes were from David, who basically tossed melted cheese and chips on a plate, and Sang’s powdered cheese reminded her of boxed mac and cheese. Her favorites were Douglas’s deconstructed nacho, and Bryan’s avocado wrapped crab salad.  Douglas wins the challenge, and he has immunity from the next round.

Fishing! The Elimination Challenge will be in teams of two: Bryan/Sang; David/Neal; Jennifer/Douglas. The chefs must prepare one hot and one cold seafood dish from the catch of the day, and will serve sixty guests at a Malibu restaurants. And, they won’t know what protein they will have to work with until the truck drops it off in the morning.

The truck pulls up and it’s filled with a knife block to decide who picks first. Douglas goes first and takes the John Dory, David takes the sea bass, and Bryan and Sang are stuck with the sable.

The sable takes a while to filet because it has very tiny bones, so Sang and Bryan have a time suck. Sang used the fish to prepare a cold dashi cured sablefish with charred cucumber and Bryan cooked BBQ sable fish win pine nuts and cornbread. Sang’s dish made the judges’ faces squinch up, and I think some of them said, “eew!” Neal made local sea bass crudo with citrus tomato pepper vinaigrette, and David prepared Mediterranean glazed sea bass with tomato couscous and curry oil. The presentation is a mess, and Curtis’s raw fish looks butchered. Also, the couscous is greasy. Douglas and Jennifer worked together on both components of their dish which is John Dory two ways, kimchi cured and crispy with cucumbers. It’s called a “wonderful juxtaposition,” and a beautiful presentation.

Top Chef Masters Season 5 Episode 7 - Fish Challenge

The team with the critics’ favorite dishes were from Douglas and Jennifer. Flavor, texture, complexity…perfection. There’s criticism for the remaining four chefs, with words like “tough,” “chewy,” “damp,” and “disintegrated in the most unpleasant way” being thrown around. It’s Neal going home, for various muddy reasons. Well, at least he got to meet Yo Gabba Gabba.

Next week, I have no idea what’s going on. Seriously. What is this? Chef wrestling?

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