Top Chef Masters Recap

By Jason Lee

August 21, 2009

The right man won.

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Watching Season 1 of Top Chef Masters is a bit like volunteering at a kids camp for two weeks during the summer. You get to know people, you make friends and before you know it, everyone's going home. It's only the tenth episode and yet everyone is parting ways. I understand that everyone has families and restaurants and lives at home but still...couldn't Bravo keep them all together for at least a three-part mini-series special? I was just really getting into this show and now it's gone.

Well, not yet. Tonight is the finale of Top Chef Masters and we have the connoisseur of Mexican cuisine in America, Rick Bayless, French culinary expert, Hubert Keller and pompous Italian and all around not-nice-guy, Michael Chiarello.

I am clearly rooting for either Rick or Hubert to take this home. Anyone but Michael. Please.

There is no Quickfire Challenge this time around - the three finalists drive up the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway (I highly recommend it if you're ever in Southern California) to the gorgeous Getty Villa where we find Kelly waiting for our chefs, dressed like a Valentine.

She explains that the final challenge will explore each person's life history as a chef. It will be a series of courses based on their career. The first dish will be inspired by their first food memory. The second will be based on what made them decide to become a chef. The third will be based on the opening of their first restaurant and the fourth will tell us a little something about where they will be headed in the future. In essence, it's their autobiography as a chef using food.

My first reaction to this challenge is awe. This is such an extremely deep, complex challenge. It really requires some real maturity and some significant life experience. This is not a challenge that Tom, Gail and Padma could ever assign to the Top Chef finalists. Only Masters need apply.


Speaking of Tom, Gail and Padma, they will be joining our usual critics (Jay, James and Gael) at the dinner table along with the five Top Chef winners from our past seasons. It strikes me at how competent Top Chef is at creating celebrities - iconic chefs that they honor, crown and celebrate at any given instance.

And I love it every time they do.

The chefs have $1,300 to spend at Whole Foods market and I'm blown away. I can't imagine spending $1,300 at Whole Foods at my hometown store in Los Angeles. That's just so much money. I mean, I could spend it at Trader Joe's easy, but what on earth would I fill my shopping cart with in order to rid myself of that kind of dough?

Too bad our chefs couldn't have used a little part of that budget at the Apple Store. One Mac laptop and boom, they're done.

But no, no, they have a job to do and $1,300 will be just enough to cover it. They get down to business and spend the bulk of their afternoon getting all of the heavy lifting done. They return to the kitchen in the morning to get everything ready for a perfect meal when what does Rick notice by his station but a remote control! I wonder what that could be for...

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