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'Top Chef Masters': raw lobster and over-cooked eggs

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The best moments of this week’s Top Chef Masters — the beginning of the series’ “Champions Round” — occurred during the Quickfire Challenge, when we got to see some cham-peen oyster shucking and some blinding-fast onion-chopping. This was a highlight distinction between regular Top Chef and the Masters edition. We’re used to watching budding young chefs get flustered, flail and curse their way through competitions. This time around, the pleasure was in watching pros slice ‘n’ dice with phenomenal speed and accuracy. (Even after re-playing it, I still don’t know Hubert Keller’s onion-slicing style, but to me it was even more impressive than Art Smith’s winning method.) (Oh yeah: spoiler alert.)

Smith, with his out-size personality, his jokey joie de vivre, is clearly an audience and judge favorite; I suspect it was these qualities that ultimately pushed him a half-star higher than the charmingly earnest Suzanne Tracht. Because really, if her food had just been warmed up a bit (the judges’ main complaint), her grouper would have defeated Smith’s lump of meat with that hard hard-boiled egg, don’t you think?

As for this week’s winner, Anita Lo — well, what’s not to like about a person who went to France to study French literature and stuck around to fall in love with food? Bravo to Bravo for having the guts to show Lo dismembering a live lobster on-camera; more squeamish networks would have cut away. Those few seconds ended up emphasizing a key detail of her finished dish, which included raw lobster. Have to say, it didn’t sound all that delicious to me, but any TV that rewards intellectualization, as the judges characterized Lo’s method, gets five stars from me.

Did you watch? Did you agree that the right chef won this round?