Gay chef rules latest 'Top Chef Masters'

Houston's Monica Pope, shown above, got the boot.
Houston’s Monica Pope, shown above, bowed out in a preliminary round.

Last week, one of only two female chefs in the finals for Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” got the boot, leaving only lesbian Tex-Mex chef Susan Feniger representing for the women … and the gay community.

And boy did she.

Feniger won both the “quickfire” preliminary challenge and won the week’s elimination challenge with her delish tailgate food, besting those snobby French-trained, port-wine-reduction making men. (The two foreign-born male chefs had to be told what a tailgating party was … and didn’t really get it even once they got there. Boy, the straight guys cook and don’t get sports — what a reversal of the stereotype.) She also became, to this point in the series, the contestant who had won the most money for her charity.

Kudos to Feniger, but I am still bummed Houston’s Monica Pope got booted during a preliminary round. I ate at Pope’s T’Afia restaurant recently, and she’s a stunningly inventive cook.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

'Top Chef Masters' week 2: Gay Texan represents

Monica PopeLast week, two gay chefs — Seattle’s Jerry Traunfeld and Vegas/L.A.’s Susan Feniger — competed, with Susan emerging as co-winner. This week, we got one out contestant, but she’s from Texas, so it counts double.

Monica Pope, German-born chef-owner of Houston’s T’Afia restaurant (and who was in my office bringing me food of hers about a month ago), won the “quickfire challenge” right out of the gate, scoring $5,000 for her charity. For the elimination challenge, she cooked a very typical Southern (especially Louisiana-style) soul dish for Mekhi Phifer’s birthday: shrimp and cheese grits. She acted fairly confident going in, although the British judge Jay Raynor sniffed, “Her grits are an acquired taste I haven’t quite acquired yet.”

Unfortunately, she came in third in the final round, falling to her nemesis on the episode, Marcus Samuelson, whose parting words to her were she should have looked out for herself. (Monica assisted another chef who had forgotten a key ingredient while Marcus refused to lift a finger for her.) He was in it for himself, and it paid off. Of course, for me, it makes me less inclined to go back to Aquavit the next time I’m in NYC. But I’ll be calling on Monica next month.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones