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Showing posts with the label Top Chef: Masters

Knife Block: My Thoughts on Tonight's Season Premiere of Top Chef Masters

In watching tonight's season premiere of Top Chef Masters , the haute cuisine culinary competition series that spun out of Top Chef a few seasons back, it's easy to get a sense of what's been lost rather than what's been gained by the format changes. (The latter can be summed up in two words: Ruth Reichl.) Gone is Kelly Choi, she of the perfectly coiffed mane. Gone is the complicated but novel star-based ratings system. Gone are the early heats. What remains is rather like Top Chef . Or exactly like Top Chef , in fact, save for the experience of the master chefs competing here and the fact that their winnings go to the charities of their choice rather than into bankrolling a restaurant. Choi has been replaced by suddenly ubiquitous Aussie chef Curtis Stone, yanked onto the cable channel while still appearing on NBC's America's Next Great Restaurant . He's affable enough but his omnipresence--from here and the NBC show to commercials--is a bit off-putting, i

History on the Plate: The Top Chef Masters Season Finale

I really enjoyed this season of Top Chef Masters , which came to a close last night with a heart-stopping final showdown between three of the strongest chefs in the competition. It was only fitting that the season finale ("Top Chef Master") would ask each of these master chefs to reflect back on their lives and their careers and pull together a final three-course meal for the critics that reflected where they had been and where they were going. Happy childhoods, struggles, and painful memories--as well as creative awakening--were all demonstrated on the plate as Marcus Samuelsson, Susur Lee, and Rick Moonen faced off for the title of Top Chef Master and a substantial donation to the charity they were playing for. So how did they do? And who walked out of the Top Chef Masters kitchen as the ultimate winner? Let's discuss. At this point in the competition, I'm glad that we didn't see a final Quickfire Challenge and instead the time that would have been used focusin

Geoduck and Monkfish Liver, Oh My: Scary Surf and Turf on Top Chef Masters

I know that a lot of people were turned off my this week's Elimination Challenge on Bravo's Top Chef Masters , given its use of some out of the ordinary (okay, extreme) ingredients, such as geoduck, black chicken, duck's tongue, kangaroo, sea cucumber, and monkfish liver. While I haven't eaten a single item that was on offer here, I like to be open-minded. I'm somewhat culinarily adventurous and, if one of these master chefs cooked something, I would eat whatever they put down in front of me, if I had the chance. Even if that was something as unpalatable as the Pacific Northwest's phallic-looking bivalve the geoduck or the sea cucumber, which Susan Feniger described as "a slug." So while it didn't exactly stir my appetite, I was fascinated to see how each of the chefs would adapt and use these ingredients on this week's episode of Top Chef Masters ("Scary Surf and Turf"). Tasked with using two unusual proteins--a land-base

Wedding Wars: Nuptial Nightmares on Top Chef Masters

Kudos to the producers for putting the master chefs through their paces with two of my favorite all-time Top Chef challenges, back-to-back. This week on Top Chef Masters ("Wedding Wars"), the eight semi-finalists gathered back in the Top Chef kitchen to discover that they wouldn't be able to glide through on their earlier wins this week. No, the producers were determined to get these chefs to experience the full pressure and heat of Top Chef by making them participate both in the tag-team cook-off and--shudder--wedding wars. As fans of Top Chef well know, wedding wars is one of the toughest and craziest challenges ever devised on the series as the chefs have limited resources and--even more critically--time to pull together an entire wedding reception (including cake!) on their own. Not only to do they have to get food out fast but it has to taste good, satisfy the 150 guests of the wedding, and make the bride and groom happy. It's worth noting, of cours

Family Affair: Master Chefs and Modern Family on Top Chef Masters

If you've ever been on a working television or film set, you know the mad rush that the lunch call is as the cast and crew head towards a makeshift dining room--usually set amid film equipment and discarded set pieces--to grab a brief respite before heading back into the madness. Caterers specialize in delivering fast, fresh, and tasty grub that's all ready to go when the crew is meant to go on break and it's a brutal business. So that rhythm and pacing would be the perfect challenge for the five new master chefs entering the Top Chef kitchen this week: Rick Tramonto, Maria Hines, Debbie Gold, Joey Adams, and Susur Lee, the latter of whom was named one of Food & Wine 's Ten Chefs of the Millennium. (No small matter, that.) On this week's episode of Top Chef Masters ("Cast and Crew Meal"), the master chefs were tasked with creating a perfectly styled fruit plate and preparing a cast and crew meal for the actors and staffers on ABC's comedy s

Pub Grub: The Master Chefs Have to Remake Homey Classics on Top Chef Masters

Ah, pub food. For all of its humble origins, British pub food is exactly what I crave on a long, cold night, conjuring up an image of a roaring fireplace and a nice pint of lager. It's earthy, homey, stick-to-your ribs sort of food and it's just as often terrible when it's made without care or love. But in the right hands and in the right kitchen, it's just the thing to banish the mid-winter blues. On this week's episode of Top Chef Masters ("Pub Food"), six master chefs from Season One--Jonathan Waxman, Ludo Lefebvre, Mark Peel, Rick Moonen, Wylie Dufresne, and Graham Elliot Bowles--returned with a second shot at glory as they reunited in the Top Chef kitchen to compete for charity, a spot in the next round of competition, and a chance to redeem themselves. But in order to do so they'd not only have to craft a dish best paired with a specific Stoli-based cocktail (and serve it to--of all people--cast members from Bravo's Real Housewives of Orang

Soul Food Celebration: Grilled Cheese and Poolside Stew on Top Chef Masters

If you're participating in a reality competition series, should you help out a competitor if they find themselves in the weeds? And does the answer to that question change if you're competing for charity? This week's episode of Top Chef Masters ("It's My Party"), the season's second, welcomed five new master chefs to the Top Chef kitchen--Carmen Gonzalez, David Burke, Marcus Samuelsson, Monica Pope, and Thierry Rautureau--as they made their way through a Quickfire Challenged designed to tie into National Grilled Cheese Month (yum!) and catered a soul food-themed birthday party atop the Thompson Hotel in Beverly Hills (about a block away from where I live) for actor Mekhi Phifer ( ER ). But one chef found themselves in a bit of a bind when they realized they had left a crucial element of their dish back at the the Top Chef kitchen and had to return to collect it while the timer continued to tick down. Which is where the above question really came

Smoke and Mirrors Gourmet: First Dates on Top Chef Masters

It's good to have an iteration of Top Chef back on television, a breath of fresh air--or the enticing aroma of cooking, at least, wafting through my TiVo. Last night's season premiere ("First Date Dinners") found the first week's six master chefs--Ana Sortun, Govind Armstrong, Jerry Traunfeld, Jimmy Bradley, Susan Feniger, and Tony Mantuano--competing for a shot at the next round and a sizable donation to the charity of their choice when they were forced to contend with a flashback Quickfire Challenge from the very first season of Top Chef and an Elimination Challenge that tested not only their skills in the kitchen but also how well they could work with their teammate to conceptualize a duo-plated dish. What's that you say? Teammate? Yes, these masters were paired together throughout the entire episode, making it even more essential that they stopped thinking of themselves as the chief and more as partner chefs if they had any hope of coming out on top. It

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 chef

The Daily Beast: "15 Reasons to Watch TV This Spring"

Looking for something to watch this spring? Head over to The Daily Beast, where you can read my latest piece, "15 Reasons to Watch TV This Spring," where I round up fifteen new and returning series airing this spring--from Doctor Who , V, Nurse Jackie , and Fringe to Treme, Peep Show, and Top Chef Masters , among others--as well as some major events like the end of ABC's Lost in May. What are you most looking forward to this spring and what's caught your fancy as your latest television obsession? Head to the comments section to discuss.

Channel Surfing: Justin Kirk Gets "Modern Family," "Top Chef Masters," Leslie Hope Returns to "The Mentalist," and More

Welcome to your Wednesday television briefing. TV Guide Magazine 's Will Keck is reporting that Weeds ' Justin Kirk has landed a guest starring role on ABC's Modern Family but says that there is potential that he could recur later this season or next. Kirk will play Lee Keizler, the "gung-ho and athletic boss" of Jesse Tyler Ferguson's Mitchell, who quits his stressful law job to become legal counsel for clothing line owned by Kirk's Lee. ( TV Guide Magazine ) Bravo has unveiled the 22 master chefs who will be competing for the top prize on Season Two of Top Chef Masters , which is set to premiere on Wednesday, April 7th. Those chefs include: Jody Adams, Govind Armstrong, Graham Elliot Bowles, Jimmy Bradley, David Burkey, Wylie Dufresne, Susan Feniger, Debbie Gold, Carmen Gonzalez, Maria Hines, Susur Lee, Ludo Lefebvre, Tony Mantuano, Rick Moonen, Mark Peel, Monica Pope, Thierry Rautureau, Marcus Samuelsson, Ana Sortun, Rick Tramonto, Jerry Traunfeld, an

Autobiography in Four Courses: Past, Present, and Future on the Season Finale of "Top Chef Masters"

Our lives can best be described as the sum of all of our experiences leading up to this specific point in time. The same was true for the three master chefs--Hubert Keller, Rick Bayless, and Michael Chiarello--facing down the gauntlet on last night's season finale of Top Chef Masters ("Top Chef Master"), in which the trio squared off against one another in a perfectly fitting final challenge. This series is after all called Top Chef Masters , so I wanted to see what these incomparable master chefs could do when the gloves were off and there were no vending machines, microwaves, or mise-en-place relays to get through. In other words, I wanted to see what they could do with larger budgets, limitless imagination, and unfettered ambition to draw upon. Their challenge: to prepare a four-course meal that best represented their entire careers thus far (and into the future), with each of the courses representing a specific crucial turning point in their lives. For these masters,