'Top Chef Masters' week 2: Gay Texan represents

Posted on 15 Apr 2010 at 10:00am

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.

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