Cake mistake

The derelict dessert on episode two of "Top Chef Masters." (Bravo)

Episode two starts off right to the point -- there will be no quickfire this week, we have no time for such nonsense! Right to the elimination challenge, which, if you watched last week's preview (or saw the title of this episode), is no surprise.  

Curtis introduces the Cheftestants to Jay and Christine, our lovely couple. It's clear that catering their wedding is the challenge, but what's unexpected is their insanely heart-wrenching story: Christine's best friend and maid of honor died unexpectedly and thus they postponed their wedding.

Then, when they had finally gotten over that and replanned, their venue crapped out on them and went out of business. Holy moly, these kids need a break. All the chefs agree.

Curtis drops the challenge bomb: the wedding is tomorrow. There will be 200 guests and the chefs will work as one team to cater the entire affair, from appetizers to wedding cake (24 hours to create a wedding cake? insert nervous tick under my eye here).

The chefs chat with the couple to find out what they'd like. Christine and Jay point out their Filipino heritage and that they want that represented in the cuisine. They also emphasize the importance of the wedding cake. Art Smith points out the many celebrity cakes he's done in the past and volunteers to take on their cake.

The Chefs all head over to the Ravella at Lake Las Vegas to see the reception site and pick out the napkin and charger colors -- really? Huh? We are randomly introduced to the event's "design decor partner" and her on-camera statement is so quick, forced, and scripted that it screams to me like a random vendor who insisted on a plug in order to do the event decor for free. Why on earth are these world-class chefs being asked about linen colors?

Several of the Chefs relay their own wedding memories during the episode's interviews which are nicely coupled with adorable dated photos of them in their skinnier days.

Shopping divides the chefs between Whole Foods and something called Ranch 99, which my keen googling skills reveal to be an Asian supermarket. The chefs being split between two stores results in lots of cell phone calls and yelling. "NO OKRA." "NO PAPAYA." "NO GREEN MANGO."

The chefs seem way more frazzled than usual. Takashi asks if they've picked up the pork belly, which Chris realizes they missed. He runs with Takashi to the butcher who then throws the pork belly, Seattle fish market style, to three chefs, landing it on the conveyer belt with seconds to spare.

Meanwhile Kerry is checking out and realizes he has left behind an entire cart that had several cans of crab which are crucial to his dish. He's so mad he is kicking shopping carts. What I want to know is: Canned crab meat? Really?

The next morning, chefs have four hours to prep. Kerry bites into an ear of raw corn, Iron Chef Chairman style. Chris and Art bicker over ovens. Things get testy. Chris offers, "How about, be polite and communicate?" Art scowls and cracks his eggs.

Curtis comes in with the couple who check in with the Chefs. Art reminds everyone he made Lady Gaga's 25th birthday cake. I love you, Art, but hey look oops, you dropped something. Oh, it was all those names.

Speaking of name dropping, Kerry informs the couple that Tom Collichio was the best man and caterer at his wedding. I guess I should remember that this is "Top Chef Masters" and these guys are used to working with, well, masters ... but it seems to me that that is precisely why they don't need to be reminding everyone of their famous people cred. It's coming off as braggy.

Mark describes his salmon dish and how his charity ties into marriage -- he's playing for Equality Maine which is working towards legalizing marriage for same sex couples in Maine.

Meanwhile, Mark's partner (and hopefully someday husband) Clark shows off the entirely disturbing completely intact whole plucked duck he's going to cook for Christine and Jay, whacking off its head for extra flair.

As prep comes to a close, Clark gets really cranky about Theirry moving his cheese. Quote #1 of the episode, from a visibly perturbed Clark: "He's moving my BEEP around, I've got it all in BEEP in one place. BEEP BEEEP BEEEP and I'll take your head right off." Just like that duck.

Wedding morning! The chefs move to the kitchen in Ravella for final prep, which is tighter than they're comfortable with. Lorena and Art are cramped into the basement.

Art relays the sweet story about his wedding to his husband Jesus and how they ran from Art's restaurant to the Lincoln Memorial for their ceremony. There's an adorable shot of the two of them in front of their wedding cake, which in the interest of full disclosure I must point out was baked and decorated by Charm City Cakes. There, I said it. Who's name dropping now?

We see the ceremony start and finish and chefs move quickly to complete prep. Quote #2 of the episode, from a wedding guest to James Oseland as the judges awkwardly make small talk at the reception: "And he's, like, best friends with uh, the groom's, uh, father."

Our bride Christine looks gorgeous and minces no words as she politely says hello to the judges and then excuses herself to actually enjoy her own wedding, throwing a look of death to the producer off camera. I love it.

Cocktail hour is starting and the dishes are being served. Everything looks and sounds delicious, though Clark's lettuce wraps are really awkward eating for a stand-up cocktail hour.

I pray the bride doesn't end up with barbequed duck on her dress. Kerry's crab crises ends up being a non-issue and everyone loves his panna cotta. Patricia's mackerel coconut ceviche sounds absolutely to die for and seems to please everyone.

The footage from the line shows clearly how much these chefs are helping each other out -- everyone is working to plate every dish. Such a nice departure from original flavor Top Chef where the young up-and-comers are so much more cutthroat. Hooray for team work!

Art is assembling the wedding cake and from the background music being played you know this thing is doomed. The buttercream is soft and it already looks structurally unsound. Eek!

Bride and Groom share their first dance (thankfully not to Etta James' "At Last") and dinner dishes are served, starting with Debbie's grilled napa cabbage salad. It was supposed to have been a papaya mango salad but the lack of both papaya and mango at the store put a crink in her plans. All the judges thinks it's odd. Bride and groom love it.

Clark's salmon is undercooked for the judges, Curtis decides to get up and go ask the bride how hers is cooked. Oh my lord, people! Let these kids enjoy their wedding for Pete's sake! Christine graciously points out her salmon is delicious.  

Quote #3 of the episode, after Chris gets through his service: "I think I just gave birth. Is that what it's like to give birth?" Hey Chris, I'm 100 percent qualified to answer this one: No.

The cake is stacked but starting to fall. All the chefs step in, lots of running. Chris and Patricia get Art more icing and he restacks it. It's rolled out by six chefs and still looks really unsteady. Bride Christine says in her best fake nice voice, "Wow! What do we HAVE?" Art remains cool during the cake cutting but is clearly really unnerved.

During the commercial break we are treated to Cheftestant Lorena Garcia shilling for the new "Cantina Bowl" line at Taco Bell. Huh. The blatant cross-promotion leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Just like Taco Bell. I'll spare everyone my epic Taco Bell food poisoning story. Moving on.

Critics' table calls Takashi, Patricia, and Chris up as the top three, and Patricia's mackerel ceviche takes best dish. James declares it "a revelation, absolute magic." She is so humble and sweet with her win, which brings in $10K for Heifer International.

Mark, Art, and Debbie are called in as the bottom choices (or, as Curtis Stone says, AHT, MAHK, and DIBBY) and Debbie's "odd" salad sends her home. She is a gracious loser and relays to her fellow contestants that she is actually happy and relieved "to be going home to bed."

Also, as she's hugging everyone goodbye it becomes immediately apparent that she is either really short or every other Chef is freakishly tall.

And then there were 10. Next week's preview shows the chefs taking on Japanese "teppan-yaki" style cooking (think Beni Hana). I, for one, sincerely hope there is a flying shrimp incident.

Comments? You can yell at me via Twitter @operatornumber9. See you next week!