|Wylie Dusfresne at wd-50. Photo: Sara Bonisteel.|
Proving yet again that this particular season might as well be named "Top Chef: Comeuppance," this latest installment saw the "don't call me a molecular gastronomist" proprietor of wd-50 -- as well as Citizen Cake's Elizabeth Falkner -- graded by the same Season 2 hopefuls who were once subject to their withering critiques as "Top Chef" judges.
Dufresne's food may have been Vulcan-like in its futurist logic -- eggs poached in an immersion circulator, oozing toothpaste-consistency yolks; squares of crispy-skinned chicken breast -- but his mouth on Wednesday was closer to William Shatner on a bender.
Starting with an incredulous "Jesus Christ" when presented with his Quickfire Challenge jury, he didn't let up from there: Darting around the kitchen blurting the F-word and the S-word, we began to pity the poor production assistant assigned the daunting task of bleeping him.
His eccentric spark -- not to mention his goofy bromance with "punk rock" Chicago chef Graham Elliot Bowles -- helped give this episode the balance the debut lacked, even if the foursome on display still proved to be nothing less than the chummiest of colleagues. Vacuum-cooking techniques were shared; celebratory chocolate chip cookies were baked; even Bowles' assertion that his runner-up glass of wine "smelled like tears" had the ring of knowing self-parody.
Meanwhile, it was the comically deadpan Suzanne Tracht -- of Los Angeles chophouse Jar -- who ended up pulling the rug out from under her flashier compatriots. She easily won the vending machine amuse-bouche challenge with a pile of Frito-floured fried shallots, topped with a dreamy, pink Dr. Pepper aioli that probably would've had us licking the bowl (as Season 2 veteran Betty Fraser did).
And for the "Lost"-themed entrée face-off -- fashioned out of "island"-specific meats and canned foods -- it was Tracht's "hearty, family-style dinner" of sea urchin risotto and boar loin in oyster-beer sauce that had the judges genuflecting. In fact, the hard-to-please trio had few complaints for all four; neatly summarizing the love-fest vibe of "Top Chef Masters" so far, Falkner quipped, "we were meaner when we were judges."