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UC Irvine Shout Out On Top Chef Masters!

Categories: Cooking!
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On this week's episode of Top Chef Masters, the chefs went back to school and were blinded with science--edible science! For the elimination challenge, they were paired with scientists from UCLA, Stanford, MIT and our Anteaters. The task: Create a dish that uses a scientific concept, and then present a demonstration at an edible-science fair.

Floyd Cardoz selected Michael Klopfer, an experimental physicist at UC Irvine. Michael's concept was the Maillard reaction. In non-geek speak, this is demonstrated when beef is exposed to high heat. The sugars and proteins in the beef produce browning. Floyd remarks that it would be fitting to win this round since he is competing for the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund at Mount Sinai Medical School. In addition, chef Cardoz already possesses a master's degree in biochemistry, so theoretically, this should make him a shoe-in for the prize.

How well did Floyd and Michael do? Just keep reading.

Going into this challenge, the former executive chef/partner of Tabla (a New Indian establishment in New York City) had quite the friendly rivalry with Mary Sue Millikan of Border Grill. He points out that he's shared the limelight with her on three occasions, but Mary Sue has won all three. Cardoz is determined to outshine the competition, but their egos are not so huge that they get in the way of respect for each other during the trip to Whole Paycheck.

With six minutes on the clock, Mary Sue offered to pay for Floyd's extra two pounds of steak. Hugh Acheson gives his two cents, informing the viewer that chefs need only be in line when time is up for their ingredients to be accounted for. Their team effort, with five seconds to spare, is just enough for checkout. Acheson proclaims, in a medieval tone, "Just in time, the meat has been gotten."

Back in the kitchen, Floyd is psyched about all the Bunsen burners, "Explode! Explode! Explode! Explode! Explode!" he murmurs to the voices in his head. To explain the browning of meat, he settles on beef two ways. His first dish is spice-crusted rib-eye, seared and plated with roasted mushrooms, roasted asparagus and fried potatoes. He cooks this at a temperature above 250 degrees to show the Maillard reaction. Floyd's secondary dish is a shabu-shabu style beef poached at less than 212 degrees to demonstrate how the meat will not caramelize at that temperature. He is at ease amidst Michael and the induction burners.

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At the fair, Floyd has a moment of panic when the burner rapidly begins to reduce his broth, "If the broth over-reduces, it gets pretty intense . . . and can make it salty." Judge James Oseland compliments Cardoz on his "grandmother-inspired" broth, flavored with black pepper and cumin, and considers it a very strong dish overall. In the end, Floyd gets good news and bad. The bad--he's lost to Mary Sue . . . again. The good--a student thanks him for his demonstration. Floyd says they now "know why my steak tastes like shit because I cook it too high!" Ya think?

We won't spoil things and say who goes buh-bye, but we're down to the final four cheftestants. Maybe Floyd's luck will change. One thing's certain: The ladies are pulling ahead!

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