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The Masterclass Returns: Top Chef Masters Premieres Tonight on Bravo

Get your knives ready: Top Chef Masters returns tonight with a brand-new season of culinary competition, extreme criticism, and put-upon expressions as another batch of 22 master chefs (including some familiar faces, six in number, who get another shot) return to the Top Chef kitchen to compete for charity.

Be sure to stay up for tonight's fantastic season premiere of Top Chef Masters ("First Date Dinners"), airing at 11 pm ET/PT (don't worry: the series relocates to 10 pm next week), in which six master chefs--Ana Sortun, Govind Armstrong, Jerry Traunfeld, Jimmy Bradley, Susan Feniger, and Tony Mantuano--are put through their paces with a Quickfire and Elimination Challenge that will test their conceptual, execution, and time management skills while putting a charitable donation--and the ability to advance to the next round--on the line.

The competition has always been fierce on Top Chef--the forebear of this series which instead features up-and-coming chefs looking for restaurant seed money--but, given the high-profile that these master chefs have, there's even more pressure to prove themselves.

I don't want to say too much about tonight's episode, other than the fact that it's the perfect introduction to the series if you missed the first season of Top Chef Masters while also offering the requisite level of skill and drama that we've come to know and love, as well as astute--if sometimes biting--criticisms from the table of critics assembled here, including James Oseland, Gael Greene, Gail Simmons, and Jay Rayner. (Simmons isn't in tonight's episode, which I previewed, but I imagine that she'll appear in the rotation at some point down the line.)

While the six chefs entering this first round include some very well-known chefs--including Los Angeles' Susan Feniger (of Street) and Govind Armstrong (of 8 oz. Burger and formerly Table 8)--they find themselves thrown into the deep end just as much as the junior competitors on the regular Top Chef series, as they are forced to recreate one of the trickiest Quickfire Challenges (where all of the ingredients must come from a gas station convenience store) and prepare a dish for couples on their first date.

There is a catch and it's a big one: these masters are paired off at random in tonight's episode and will win or fail as a single unit, with two of them advancing to the next round. Given that these are giants of the culinary world, it's pretty big task to have them work together and have to succeed as a team rather than individuals. On the one hand, I admire the series' producers for forcing them into even more uncomfortable waters but I also can't help but wonder just how each of them would have performed solo with these tasks, given their skill sets and experience levels.

Still, that's the only complaint I have about a season premiere that's completely captivating and engaging. One chef makes a blunder of a comment about having to work with another chef and is forced to eat his words later when he sees what a great collaborator she is, making him perhaps question his earlier snap judgment. It's moments like that that allow Top Chef Masters to not place these culinary gods on pedestals but instead force them to get their hands dirty with the rest of the mortals. And if they learn something about themselves and their fellow chefs, so much the better.

Me, I just can't wait to see what they cook up next as I'll be making a reservation for this delicious culinary competition series each week.

Top Chef Masters premieres tonight at 11 pm ET/PT before moving into its regular timeslot of 10 pm next week.


Shelby said…
Hmm... I wonder if they'll be working in pairs every episode or just in tonight's? Could be interesting but I like to see what each chef does on their own as well.
Tillie said…
I cannot wait to see it tonight!!

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