Rick Moonen falls victim to a corndog on Top Chef Masters

Rick Moonen of RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay juices a grapefruit on his losing appearance on Top Chef Masters.
Photo: Kelsey McNeal / Bravo TV

Sustainable seafood is chef Rick Moonen’s strength; corndogs are not.

Last night’s installment of Top Chef Masters demonstrated this in prime time fashion and, unfortunately for RM Seafood’s namesake chef, the corndogs proved to be the death of his tenure on the Bravo spin-off series.

Rather than his opakapaka ceviche, brandade of scallop and shrimp with fennel salad and truffle vinaigrette, or preserved lemon custard panna cotta, it was the corndogs that proved to be too much for Moonen.

The Mandalay Bay-based chef failed to finish his gourmet take on the popular carnival snack during the show’s initial “quickfire challenge” and forfeited any possible points in the first half of competition.

Without a dish to rate, the judges had no points to award Moonen, which left him at a severe disadvantage.

His competitors, Michael Chiarello of Bottega Restaurant in Napa, Calif.; Nils Norén of Aquavit in New York; and Lachlan Mackinnon Patterson of Frasca Food and Wine in Boulder, Co., emerged from the first round with a 3-to-4 1/2 point advantage.

The gap proved too much for Moonen to overcome, despite a strong showing in the final, main stage of the contest.

He and his fellow competitors were tasked to created a miniature three-course meal for 100 people.

Moonen’s ceviche-brandade-panna cotta combination was well received and was awarded 17 stars by the judges and guests. It was enough to defeat Patterson and tie with Norén, but left him a few points shy of Chiarello, who will move on to the semifinals.

The Northern Californian added 15 points to the 4 1/2 stars he secured with his top-spot finish in the quickfire round, and finished with a final score of 19.5 stars.

With Moonen out of contention, just one Las Vegas chef, Hubert Keller, will represent our city in the final rounds of competition.

Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar is one of 24 elite chefs competing on Bravo's <em>Top Chef Masters</em>.

Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar is one of 24 elite chefs competing on Bravo's Top Chef Masters.

Keller secured his spot as a finalist last month during the first episode of the Top Chef spin-off series. The power behind Mandalay Bay eateries Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar cooked up an impressive meal – including a popular, gourmet version of mac and cheese – during the inaugural episode.

His culinary skills were put to the test and he passed with flying colors by producing a three-course meal from the confines of a college dorm room using little more than a toaster oven, microwave and hot plate.

The resourceful chef also used the dorm’s shower to cool the noodles and prevent them from overcooking, which further impressed both the judges and his fellow competitors. (He pre-cooked the noodles ahead of time and reheated them prior to service, which is standard practice in most restaurants. Though common, the practice is often frowned upon by noodle purists.)

The final and sixth Top Chef Masters finalist will be decided at the end of next week’s episode. After that, Keller and his fellow winning chefs will reconvene on the Bravo small screen on July 29 for the first of three semifinal episodes.

The series will name its winner, the season one “Top Chef Master,” on the series finale on Aug. 19. The winning chef will be awarded $100,000 for the charity of his or her choice.

After that, local foodies and Top Chef fans won’t have to wait for their Top Chef fix: The upcoming season of the hit series, which was shot in and around Las Vegas, will premiere the week after the Top Chef Masters finale, on Aug. 26 at 9 p.m.


Melissa Arseniuk

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