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 5 is called "Holly Madison's Pool Party" so we know that there are going to be some pretty girls (Madison was once Hugh Hefner's longtime gal-pal) in this hour. But first, the Quickfire Challenge: Masters have 45 minutes to create a meat dish and a vegetarian version of the dish to serve to recording artists the Indigo Girls. Amy Ray is a vegetarian, while her partner Emily Saliers is an omnivore.
Cosentino dives for the portabellas, explaining that the fungus has been an amazing meat substitute since he started cooking. His finished work is a beef Bordelaise and a portabella Bordelaise, each served with mashed potatoes and spinach, and it's a hit. Ray is "digging" the shroom, which she says isn't used enough in cooking in general, while Saliers finds the meat "nice and rich." It's a big difference from last week, when the B-52s weren't really feeling Cosentino's food.
Despite the praise, Cosentino's offering is not one of the Indigo Girls' three favorites and the victor in this round is Chicago chef Takashi Yagihashi, who wins immunity for the episode and a $5000 donation to his charity of choice, the American Red Cross.
"Former Playmate and Las Vegas showgirl" Holly Madison then appears to ask the Masters to create brunch-inspired comfort food canapés for a poolside birthday party for her and 150 of her closest scantily clad friends.
"There's two things I don't like: Garlic and onions," Madison advises. Is she a vampire?
"What do Playboy bunnies eat?" asks Cosentino in an interview. "You hear the stories: Coffee and a cigarette for breakfast, a slice of cucumber for lunch!"
He decides to create a dish with watermelon, tomato, chiles, and mint and to "mimic bacon with tuna." He's got two hours in the kitchen to make it happen. Art Smith starts whirring garlic cloves and onion in a blender, explaining that you can't really taste them after they're cooked -- now, that's ballsy.
Host Curtis Stone checks in on the progress, laughing as Cosentino describes his elaborate tuna bacon making as "keeping it simple." It seems simple to the chef because all he's going to do is cold smoke it, sear it tataki style, and serve with compressed watermelon. Oh, that's all. Stone seems worried for Cosentino that it might not be the best pool party fare, but Cosentino is confident that he's making the right bite for the occasion.
Cosentino tries to help his playful adversary Smith pack his food up, but Smith thinks he's yelling at him.
"Don't yell at me!"
"I'm not yelling at you, Art, I'm trying to help you!"
Ah, young love.
Smith calls Cosentino "El Toro" in a later interview and says he's trying to be Zen about it and just go along with whatever Cosentino says. "Aye aye, sir!"
When Cosentino's watermelon and tuna bacon with golden tomatoes and pistachios is brought out, the judges love the way it looks -- "It looks like him!" someone exclaims.
"I love the look of it, I almost don't want to eat it!" Madison explains. But after she does, she is wearing a slight scowl. "There is something really peppery in it that just kind of took over so it kind of ruined it for me," she says apologetically.
The chefs with the four best dishes are called in -- Cosentino is not among them. He then appears before the judges in the bottom three with mentor Patricia Yeo and Thierry Rautureau. Stone tells Cosentino that his dish was one of Madison's least favorites because of the pepperiness, and judge Francis Lam tells him that he wishes the watermelon flavor didn't dissolve so quickly in the mix.
More private judging ensues, and it's looking awfully grim for our man Cosentino as they deride his lack of crunch. But, in the end, Rautureau is sent home and Cosentino lives to cook for another episode. Whew.
Next time on Top Chef Masters: The contestants cook for burlesque queen Dita Von Teese and a catfight brews -- but, for once, it's not between Chris Cosentino and Art Smith.