Top Chef Masters: Finale Round 3

top chef masters

I had such a nice intro planned about how TC fans and food aficionados may disagree on a lot of things, but we can all agree on who’s a tool. The preview for this week’s Top Chef Masters seemed to indicate Dale of TC Season 4 would be causing all sorts of havoc. But in reality, Dale didn’t end up having nearly as much of an impact as we were lead to believe. Turns out TCM had multiple tools acting up this week.

All in all, this was a tough round for the competitors. A few curve balls and a lot of personalities filled this week’s episode. Lo, Bayless, Keller and Chiarello are the last ones standing, each with very different culinary perspectives and each very, very close to winning the grand prize.

Quickfire challenge this week was a good one: Blind taste test. A good challenge, but is it just me or did they dumb this season’s down a bit? Peanut butter? Ketchup?! Corn?! What the fuck ever happened to the completely obscure plum they referenced from Season 1? Bravo really needs to put a list up of the 20 things the chefs tasted. Chiarello takes the win down naming 7 ingredients correctly, Keller falls behind at 5, while Lo and Bayless tie at 6. A pretty easy start to the day.

Elimination challenge turns out to be a buffet lunch for 200 people and each of the Masters had to choose their three person team made up of the old Top Chef contestants. This is shaping up nicely. Old faces, new faces and a room full of egos equals tons of potential for drama.

Gold star for the producers for adding the interview process and not making this a random knife drawing. A few gem moments came out of this. For instance, it turns out Jaime from Season 5 and Anito Lo had been in the trenches together before, and I thought it was pretty cool to actually see master and apprentice reunite. Awww, hugs.

Also, we got to see DC’s very own Spike refuse to take orders from a surprisingly disgruntled and abrasive Mike “What’s My Name” Chiarello. Credit where credit is due, I respect the irreverence, I truly do, but the irony of Spike being difficult with a guy he thinks is full of himself and then later saying he’s not surprised he was picked last because he’d “outshine” the Masters is… well…  bullshit asinine laughable. I could be wrong Spike, maybe Keller and Bayless are just intimidated and it has nothing to do with the ass hat at all.

Now for some fun: MC’s interview process. There’s a lot I want to say here but I’ll try to keep this short and sweet. I get it Chiarello, you’re a chef, you expect obedience, and you want to make sure no one is messing with your dishes or bugging you with unwanted advice, but did you really ask everyone what your name is? Dude. Mike. That is your name right? Seriously, you’ve been a class act so far, where is this shit coming from?

I would have just chalked this up to producers and editors chopping up the footage showing him being a dick until Richard Blais noted how obnoxious he thought it was. I have to trust Blais a little on this one; he’s an old favorite and you could see the other TC assistants getting annoyed. I’m just gonna say MC had a midlife crisis, felt old as hell and needed to shit on someone to make him feel better about himself and leave it at that. Now on to Dale.

Oh Dale. It’s a bit too easy isn’t it? Your apology statement about what happened the other night just amused the hell out of me, as did the reader comments. So I say bygones be bygones, lets just remember the good old times. Like, hey Dale, remember that time you punched the locker and screamed “F%&K!” after the relay race? Oh man, you showed that locker who’s boss! Stupid metal box. High five!

Or, oh man, that time you were all like “whatchoogonnadoboutit?!” and stepping to MC. He doesn’t know you! Not like we do Dale! Dale, hey Dale, you’re the man Dale. Yeah!! Dale!!! DALE!!!!!

Or hey, remember that time you left out Stephanie’s pork belly all night and almost cost her the competition and she didn’t yell or scream at you, but she still pulled off an amazing meal despite your huge fuck up? Yeah, me too. It’s not every day you see a grown man crying on national television about something like that. Keep coming back on the show Dale. Just keep coming back.

Seriously though, I know the biz is full of egos and short fuses but give me a break. As someone who’s worked in the industry, I know that no one wants to work with that kind of bullshit. It’s something people tolerate because they have to. Spare me your excuses and shut the fuck up next time.

So back to the rest of the show.

I have to say I was really intrigued by how the chefs managed their teams. MC obviously had issues and I honestly think his food suffered for it. Anita was in the same boat (couldn’t believe she cut her girl Jaime), but it’s tough to really tell through the rigorous editing process.

Keller and Bayless prove to be level headed, smart and seemed to get the most out of their people by letting them shine while keeping them close to their style. Keller locks down the win with a perfect 5 stars from each judge for his perfect 18 item buffet. Bayless isn’t far behind and shows some grace by giving full credit to Blais for the avocado ice cream. It’s definitely a double edged sword for a chef to let his sous take the lead on a dish in a major competition, but in both the case of Bayless and Keller, they seemed to know how much control to pass over and how much to keep for themselves.

I really wish they had shown more of those interactions. It feels like we do miss a lot of quality footage that could reveal a lot about the chefs we’re getting to know.

Anito Lo isn’t able to hold on with a crucial raw bar misstep and we are now going into the final finale round next week with three solid competitors. The final battle between Bayless and Keller should truly be epic.

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  • Summer August 14, 2009  

    It’s all about Rick and Hubert, isn’t it? Michael, poor fool, really doesn’t stand a chance against them.

    Here’s what I find interesting — if you look back to the original massive pool of Masters, Rick Bayless and Hubert Keller were clearly the most famous chefs in the bunch. When Hubert crushed his competitors in the first episode, I wondered how much of his score was influenced by the fact that the diners and critics KNEW they were eating a Keller creation. I would have wondered the same thing about Rick, but there was absolutely no question that he outshone the other chefs in his round. But now that we’ve had a chance to see them play Top Chef for a few weeks, it definitely looks like Hubert and Rick have risen to the top not because of their fame, but because they genuinely kick ass in the kitchen.

    I’d like to see Rick take the win — his calm intelligence appeals to me — but I would put my betting money on Hubert. Unless he makes some huge blunder (which is possible), Hubert’s food is just so PRETTY and FANCY that I think the judges will prefer that to Rick’s impeccable peasant cuisine.

  • JoeHoya August 14, 2009  

    So next week we get the Top Chef Season 6 premiere at 9 PM and the Top Chef Masters finale at 10:15?

    Is Endless Simmer really ready for 2:15 worth of liveblogging?

  • gansie August 14, 2009  

    wow, reading this write up makes me wish i was actually watching TCM. oops! and wow, Chiarello, i’m slightly shocked by the arrogance.

  • Emilie August 14, 2009  

    When I was in culinary school, friends of mine volunteered at the Aspen Food and Wine festival where Chiarello was cooking/demonstrating. He acted very unprofessionally and called them all “rat fuckers.” Nothing he can or will do on TCM will surprise me when it comes to him.

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