Top Chef Masters - Ketchup! Volume 3

I am tempted to write this Ketchup! Edition with the following words only:
But instead, here's your fully-formed, comprehensive--and hopefully final--Top Chef Masters Ketchup! Edition.
Our chefs:
Jody Adams, Rialto (Cambridge, MA). Partners in Health
Maria Hines, Tilth (Seattle, WA). PCC Farmland Trust
Rick Tramanto, Tru (Chicago, IL). Feed the Children
Debbie Gold, The American (Kansas City, MO). Children's TLC
Susur Lee, Madeline's (Toronto, ON). Andre Agassi Foundation for Education
The Quickfire Challenge asked the other chefs to try and defeat Susur Lee in making a pretty fruit plate for Gail Simmons and food photographer Stephen Hamilton. Kelly annouced that it was a High Stakes Quickfire, and told Susur that once he won, he'd be automatically advanced to the Championship Round. Susur's knife skills were on display almost as soon as his basket of 25 different fruits hit the table. While Susur worked, we were fed a bunch of smarm and ego by Rick Tramanto, who said he wanted his to be like a Monet or a Picasso. Also that he's the born-again son of a convict. Ugh. Susur Lee is much more soft-spoken about his immense talents and personal challenges--of which there are few.
Chef Lee created a pineapple ravioli of sorts, with raspberries and Thai basil. This was certainly enough to defeat any of the other dishes (Jody's fig walnut tart, Debbie's tempura fried stuffed fig, Maria's apple soup with grilled fig, and Rick's pretentious herb and fruit shooters served with a Versace cup and cards with inspirational sayings), but Susur asked the judges to give the victory to Jody's fig tart. Jody seems like a nice gal, and Susur wanted a challenge, so he gave her the automatic pass to the Championship Round. He graciously accepted a low score for the round, 2.5 stars.
For the Elimination Challenge, the producers wanted to show Susur that this wasn't just a venue for pimping other NBC properties, so they tied the "Modernize a classic family dish" challenge in with feeding the cast and crew of ABC's Modern Family. Susur may have been a little miffed, but Debbie Gold was positively off her game: "The first thing I can think of is nothing," she said, and then failed to cook her pork belly properly. On Day 2, Maria advised Debbie to fry her pork bellies to make sure they cooked all the way through, although Susur thought of it first. He also said "ying and yang," just to make the other chefs feel like sometimes he can screw up, too.
The final dishes, with exemplary commentary from perhaps the least food-literate people currently on television, are as follow.
Maria: Sumac-dusted sockeye salmon amandine with paprika potatoes, almond slivers, and almond milk with sumac. "It's some sort of bush."
Susur: Roast chicken with farce curry, polenta and grits, tomato jam, and chili mint chutney. "Some of this is a little exotic for me."
Rick: Truffled white beans with escarole, grilled sausage, and a crouton. "I loved the bread."
Jody: Braised chicken thighs with mushrooms, semolina gnocchi and herb salad. "We were trying to figure out which was the chicken and which was the mushrooms."
Debbie: Glazed pork loin with apple butter and winter squash slaw. [No particularly absurd commentary, but it was undercooked and too sweet.]
Tramanto embarrasses himself in front of the viewers--and most grievously in front of the sock-footed kitchen ninja, Susur Lee--with his left-handed complimenting of the other chefs' dishes as they all taste after the meal; unfortunately for him, the critics inform him that he wussed out on the truffle oil. Gail called Debbie's glaze "cloying" in its sweetness, which is kind of a death knell word, and one that Susur Lee has probably never heard about his food. Maria proved to be a worthy competitor to Susur with her critic-pleasing almond milk (I've actually eaten at Tilth, and it's great), and Jody would actually have moved on to the Championship Round by virtue of her high-quality, if slightly oversalted, chicken thighs alone.
But in a total surprise, the impeccable Susur Lee scored a Top Chef Masters-record 19.5 stars out of 20 for his masterful blending of cultures and cuisines. The only downgrade probably came from the delicate flower from Modern Family who thought that curry was too exotic for him; Susur will be delivering the five point palm exploding heart technique momentarily.
See you in the Championship Round!
Susan Feniger. Tony Mantuano. Carmen Gonzalez. Marcus Samuelsson. Jonathan Waxman. Rick Moonen. Jody Adams. Susur Lee.