With the verve and vigor of a kid in a candy store, Rick Bayless, the yoga-centric master of Mexican cuisine, did Chicago proud on last night's installment of Top Chef Masters, advancing to the next round by sticking with what he knows best: tacos.
But first, the quickfire challenge: Create a dish based around one color. Bayless gets the color green. He loves green!! He is beside himself and it shows in his artful dish of veggies roasted in banana leaf, mole verde, green chiles and pumpkin seeds.
It's Puerto Rican cheftestant Wilo Benet, however, who gets the early lead with his salmon tartare (despite the rather duh move of leaving ring molds on each dish). Bayless -- the gentle Jedi of this group that also includes the laidback Cindy Pawlcyn of Mustards Grill in Napa and tres annoying Frenchman Ludo Lefebvre of L.A.'s Ludo Bites -- looks shocked.
Then, the elimination challenge: Cook street food using offal for a Universal Studios crowd.
Bayless draws tongue. Bayless loves tongue!! "I actually love to eat tongue," he gushes. Benet gets heart; Pawlcyn gets tripe and Pepe Le Pew, er, we mean Lefebvre gets pigs' ears.
Bayless' tongue tacos look out of sight -- and with chorizo, bacon, tomatillo guacomole and a sprinkling of cotija cheese, apparently they taste that way, too.
"C'mon Rick Bayless, slip me some tongue," says a young guy in sunglasses waiting in line.
"Once Rick Bayless slips you some tongue, you'll never forget it," Bayless says, rather uncomfortably.
Saveur editor and judge James Oseland declares Bayless' tacos "melt in your mouth tender."
And we declare a moratorium on all future tongue references.