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Top Chef Masters: Mantuano's pizza not up to tailgating snuff

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Well, could that have been a crabbier episode of Top Chef Masters?

No pun intended. Some crab was cooked, but we're mainly talking pissy chefs and judges on Wednesday's episode, not to mention that Tony Mantuano -- Chicago's only hope to take home the crown -- was booted off a shade too soon, which just makes us crabbier.

The quickfire challenge: make a dish out of legs (frog, crab, octopus, etc). The judges: a moody Jay Rayner and Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak because, as host Kelly Choi was forced to point out, he knows how to use his legs. Huh? Think it's time for some fresh blood on Bravo's creative team?

In a sign of things to come, Susur Lee hogs table space in the kitchen, while Mantuano tries to stay zen. "You're my lucky charm," Lee singsongs back to a visibly annoyed Mantuano.

To the judges, Mantuano presents a lovely looking warm potato and crab salad with coriander. But Rayner gets a bite of cartilage and dismisses the salad as underdressed, prompting the first expletive from Mantuano. In a rare bright spot, sunny Susan Feniger takes the challenge with an ugly but tasty dish of roast chicken with quinoa pilaf.

The elimination challenge: a tailgate party for 100 USC football fans, using a charcoal grill. Right up our Chicagoan's alley right?

But the dark cloud still hovers while the chefs shop for groceries, with Marcus Samuelsson greedily buying all the boneless chicken thights and Mantuano uttering a second expletive after Lee again refers to him as his lucky charm. "Susur annoys me at times," Mantuano says to the camera, after Lee suggest Mantuano would be perfect as a chef on "The Sopranos."

Mantuano's mood improves as he gets rolling; the dough for his pizza is exactly how he wants it to be. The judges, however, feel differently, calling it tough and dry. In the end, Feniger's skirt steak tacos were tailgate-friendliest, while Mantuano garnered the lowest score of the night.

"I can't believe it's over," he said. Us either. Boo.

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on May 20, 2010 10:20 AM.

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