Time and time again over the course of both seasons of Top Chef Masters, I’ve been wowed by how the chefs on the show have responded to the unexpected. In fact, the ability to cook creatively and gracefully under pressure—and even in the face of disaster—is what separates a master chef from just a talented cook. When you think about it, improvising is what this show is all about, and in this last episode that point came into sharp focus. Now that we’ve narrowed the contestants down to a mere four, the quality of improvisational cooking is incredibly high, and the challenges have intensified accordingly, testing the very outer limits of the chefs’ skills, techniques, and understanding of the ingredients—even their very confidence and creativity.
During the Quickfire Challenge that I judged, I found it fascinating to see how each chef reacted to having to suddenly recast a competing chef’s dish as a soup. Marcus’s interpretation of Jonathan Waxman’s crispy chicken was beyond creative, and also downright delicious. I was hooked the moment I beheld the tangle of tortilla strips that he dramatically stacked atop the soup, but he truly won me over with the broth, which was seasoned just so, with the perfect amount of garlic and lime. I was equally blown away by Rick’s Asian-style cioppino, the Italian fish soup. The dish ran the risk of veering into fusion fussiness, but instead Rick kept it simple and elegant: just beautifully cooked fish in an aromatic, herb-laced broth—I just wish there’d been more of it. Susur’s take on Rick’s Tunisian-spiced fish dish was similarly masterful: he knew that at the heart of every good soup is a strong foundation of flavor, and I could sense the intelligence underlying that fresh-tasting, briny broth, which tasted like a pure distillation of the sea. As for Jonathan’s soup (a transformation of Marcus’ Thai green curry dish), it was a smart save, though the wan flavor made it totally un-curry-ish.
But the final challenge, which called for creating a dish that evoked a group of words, was even more revealing of each chef’s improvisational skills. I agree with Gail: I loved the fact that Susur, who has been so serious through much of the season, was willing to create something outside his comfort zone. Susur is not a pastry chef. And his food isn’t particularly whimsical. But this dish had “lust” written all over it; in fact, the buttery tuile pastry was about as pornographic as a dessert can be. His use of what he called “feminine” ingredients—the coriander and raspberry—gave the dish a complexity that showed just how thoughtfully he had conceived of the dish under pressure.
I love love love Marcus. His dishes do need some editing sometimes, but I love what he does in the kitchen.
Say what you will, I don't consider underdone pork "masterful" in any way, shape or form. You guys screwed the pooch this time.
I get the feeling that Jonathon has been ready to go for a while. Rick, on the other hand, is a fierce competitor and I have no doubt that he will come back with guns a blazing for the finale! I'm happy with the final 3 and look forward to any one of them winning.
I think you whine too much.
Rick's pork was undercooked, yes, but his dish was not the unimaginative blah you thought it was. (Just as I thought you did not know what crispy NY/Neapolitan pizza is)
Jonathan's dish was a worthwhile take on the ridiculous set of "terms" he was stuck with. Comforting food is not bad at all, and although it may be a discussion point that food at this point in the contest should be remarkable Jonathan's dish did not deserve the antagonistic hand-flapping dismissal you gave it.
Mr. Oseland, Despite of what you say, I don't think you like Jonathan's cooking, and find your critiques of his cuisine extremely harsh, irritating, and sometimes totally out of touch. I certainly wouldn't miss you if your are not invited back to judge next season. Yikes!
I love ALL of the chefs in this competition. I love that the hardest thing about this episode to them was having to say goodbye to Jonathan, and that each chef has said that their favorite thing about this competition has been the opportunity to work together.
TRUE Master chefs, with true passion for what they do and with grace under fire. What a great show.
I so enjoyed watching these 4 guys battling it out. I had wished that we could have Obiwan vs. Ninja at the end, but Obiwan really seemed to be physically tired and emotionally drained from all the challenges. So, now we have 3 chefs from 3 completely different cultures cooking with each of his own unique style.
Wow! Can't wait for the finale!
I agree that it appeared Chef Jonathan was ready to go but who knows with all of the editing what his real feelings were. I haven't found this season to be as compelling as the first year. It seems to me that the final cuts are including much more sniping at and about each other than the first year. I had thought (silly me) that the Masters were more mature than the regular contestants who are there for a totally different reason. I still love the show and am just happy I have TIVO when I'm out of town on Wednesday nights.
James, Love, love love you! You are witty, amusing, smart, cutting, honest. You are the best critic Top Chef Masters has, keep up the great work! Jonathan will be sorely missed for his great abilities as a chef as well as his charm, wit and love of the game. What he said about being physically ready was so telling of how hard they work in that kitchen. Love you!
I agree with MaggieSC1. Undercooked pork?? That doesn't even sound safe. I felt bad for Jonathan especially with the three words he was given. I also agree with Kathyo too, Jonathan was ready to go but I don't think this was the challenge that did him in. I love Rick but I think he should have packed his knives.
I have been a fan of Top Chef and Top chef Masters since the very first season. As a matter of fact, I just ate at Tiffany Faisons new dining location in Boston. ( Lovely meal). That being said I am tempted to stop watching Top Chef Masters because James Oseland is the worst critic/judge. He is way too prissy,and plays favorites. The worst part is that he seemed to have it out for Jonathon Waxman, since Jonathon spoke back to him a few episodes ago. 2.5 stars ??? Shame on you. Grow a backbone, sir. With all the talented writers, critics, and chefs in the world, why must we be forced to endure him !!
Thank you Obiwan "Jonathan Waxman" for training "Rick Moonen" Skywalker in his early chef days. I hope that Luke "Rick Moonen" Skywalker can now take out the evil Darth "Marcus Samuelsson" Vader who in my opinion is full of himself, (especaially after he won the qickfire challange, he only mentioned it a number of times)while Obiwan and Luke lend him money for shopping (any thanks). When Rick or Jonathan won they were humble Rick even shed a tear. As for Susur has anyone forgotten how he took over the tables a few weeks ago and took Tony's bacon which may have contributed to his elemination. GO RICK!!!
I am confused. You can potentially be named Top Chef Master and be in the finals after serving undercooked pork that some of the diners refused to eat?
Once again your score and criticism for Jonathan was the lowest of all of the judges. I don't believe you even factored in to the equation that Jonathan got stuck with the word "depression" in his meal description. You appear to be vindictive, carrying a grudge from when Jonathan dared to challenge you on the tailgate show. I hope that you will be removed judging any food shows in the future. Having you judge completely ruins my Top Chef Masters experience.
Considering a trip to Susur's restaurant in Toronto to have the pleasure of tasting his creations. Both Marcus and Rick also appear to be fine chefs. A great season. Agree that pseudo bickering ought to be left out of the show. The show attracts foodies and people interested in the culinary arts.
I am so appalled, and disappointed, but not surprised, that in a country of 330 Million people not ONE WOMAN is qualified to be a Top Chef. It isn't the only show on wich this has occurred but I am still so over any show onBravo that pretends to know what is "best" or "top" in any industry; since, obviously, only men are qualified. Is it because the majority of judges are GAY MALES.
Well, at least the Osland bias is out of play for the finale and wasn't completely responsible for one chef's loss. 2.5 is pretty rude, though, considering there was no technical fault with Chef Waxman's dish. I also find it surprising that no consideration was given, other than lip service, to the difficulty of the draw.
What does dismay me, however, is the change from the Top Chef mantra of what really matters is 'cooking good food.' Gail Green has said as much in previous blogs, and comments to that effect were rife throughout this episode and this blog posting. I just don't see Tom Colicchio giving a pass to undercooked pork over a dish that just didn't 'wow.' One only has to look at this episode's TC predecessor, when the contestants (Lisa and somebody else, as I recall) received a pass after presenting a dish that didn't exactly match their given criteria, to see that things have changed.
And y'know, that's fine. One show doesn't have to be the other, despite sharing a similar name and tradition. It would just be nice to know up front and beforehand.
Personally, I'm glad Rick's still in it, since he seems to really want to win while Johnathan seemed quite content to finish where he did. Still, no way in hell I would've eaten the rest of a dish if I thought the pork was raw.
Wow, James, some are very critical of you, I am surprised. I always look forward to your comments, I only wish I could have been there to taste the dishes. Glad you are back.
Have you taken a look at your face & heard the sniper-ish sound of your voice when you gave Jonathan a "2 & a half stars"?? Your dislike of him was so obvious. I don't believe that in this case you were judging the food.
I too get the feeling your scores for Jonathan were personal - perhaps there is still a bitter taste in your mouth from your confrontation with him - but whatever it is, it seems pretty evident that something is just off between the two of you. It seems to have affected your scoring and critiques. And that is disappointing.
Aside from this, you've been one of my favorite judges this season.
I agree with "Tooty" - 2-1/2 stars for Jonathan?? Really??It looks like you are still mad because Jonathan had the "nerve" to disagree with you about the tailgate challenge. I rewatched that episode and I don't think Jonathan was overly upset with you -- he was just defending his plate. If you are going to be vindictive to the chefs everytime they disagree with you then maybe you should find another job. I'm not liking this show as last season. It appears to me that the judging is not fair and based on personal feelings instead of the food.
Although we must be content with the visuals and the editing, it is obvious the Master's are the chefs......none of the 'judges' are masters.....at delivering criticisms that are worthwhile as well as delivering meals. Most of the 'judges' are tolerable but Oseland is deplorable and vindictive!! Waxman is called Obi-wan by his peers for a reason! Oseland seems too petulant and will not be watched by this viewer again! Bring on regular Top Chef and if Masters returns with Oseland for another season, count me OUT!
It appears that the chefs have the same problems each week: 1. Rick doesn't have good time management skills. He always complains that he did not have enough time. He said he needed another half hour for the pork. That dish must have been really raw! We could "hear" Tom C. reaming him for that one. 2. Marcus does not know how to edit and is always faulted for putting too many elements on the plate. Coco Chanel advised women to put on all the accessories they thought they should wear and then take one off. This advice would be a good guide for Marcus. 3. Susur is completely unaware of American pop culture. Fortunately for him, he is a fast learner and always seems to create a fabulous dish.
Sir, I have to say you came off very vindictive to Jonathan. You should watch and rewind to watch again how you looked when you announced "2 and a half stars". I may not be a professional critic but I recognize spite when I see it!
For two seasons now, James Osland has whined and actually smirks when he says to a chef: "Two and a half stars!" I find him to be biased, cannot stand his voice, and it was apparant that he did not care for Jonathan at all. This chef did not deserve to be eliminated. Please do not invite James to be a judge next season.
I love "Top Chef Masters". It's a joy to see really creative, talented visionary chefs throw their entire beings into the competition for charities they are dedicated to. The critics? Meh. Not so much. Other than Gael, who's been around since Eve picked the apple off the first tree, what do these guys have to show for themselves? Nada. If I were depressed, I'd love nothing more than a great roasted chicken and guacamole. It was you, Mr. Oseland, who lost sight of the competition. Not Jonathan. When can I eat at your restaurant? Oh yeah. Never. You don't have one. Let's see, I WORK for a living. You eat. Poor baby! How abused! Next year I vote all the critics must cook and the chefs must judge YOUR dishes. Start lining up your charities now...
Thank you for taking the time to explain the episode. Unfortunately, it doesn't jive with what was shown. First off: Marcus' shrimp were said to be terrible. Next: Conversely, Susur's dessert was said to be completely great and fitting the challenge perfectly. Next: Rick's pork was undercooked to the point of raw. THAT was his main ingredient, right? Next: Jonathan's main ingredient was said to satisfy and was cooked perfectly. Therefore, how could Susur NOT win? How could Rick slip through the crack again. He's prepared overcook fish (his supposed specialty) and now, undercooked pork. Gross. Is it better to take a chance and fail or to do something very well and succeed? Just askin'...
i don't want to watch with the three remaining chefs. there's no point without jonathan, who was clearly the best but got voted out.
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Last year it was Michael Chiarello, this year it was Jonathan Waxman. James shows bias when it comes to chefs that he doesn't like. My husband and I watched him give his two and a half stars to Jonathan more than once and found it so unproffessional and really upsetting. He delivered it with such glee and happiness almost saying "Ha ha, I get to screw you over now". Next year we are out if James is in.
I think that you are the most biased judge on the show. You seem to be more focused on boring us to death with your winded comments and holding personal grudges than the food itself. Lame!
I have 2 questions for you: 1. How could raw, undercooked pork trump perfectly executed chicken? 2. How could a flawed dish that included terrible shrimp win over perfectly made mousse?
Let's face it, Rick has been given pass after pass for overcooked fish (from a self ascribed fish expert) and raw pork (which would be inedible). Just because he whines louder how much he wants to win, doesn't make him more worthy. It makes him seem desperate. Susur's dishes are always perfectly prepared and interesting. YET, you seem to hold the scores unusually low for the chefs you dislike. Yes, your biases show on your face! Jonathan's dish may not have been spicy, but it seemed comforting. That's just the right thing to eat when one is depressed. Haven't you ever heard the term "comfort food"? You altered the win last season with you personal scoring system. This season, your tactics are more obvious. For shame that as a judge, you lack impartiality. You disappoint me greatly.
Time for James to go. 1/2 stars at best. Worst of the judges when it comes to matching the food to the challenge althought he whole show is weak here.
James, You have made Top Chef Masters unenjoyable to watch because of your obvious hatred of Jonathan and your consistently unfair judgment of his food (and others throughout the season)!! Being a bit naive, I thought judges were supposed to be "impartial," but you, apparently, cannot rise to the occasion. At what point in your life did you become so narrow minded and vindictive that you can no longer be fair?? And please, cut the attitude!! It's annoying!!
The contestants shouldn't be judged on how much they seem to want to win!! This isn't Survivor! That said, it seemed punitive to grant 2.5 stars for a dish well executed. I thought a basic tenet of Top Chef was that the competition was not cumulative, so when James said that at "this stage" in the game, they should have been more creative, he was being contradictory. I believe that the smirk is congenital and not spiteful, but the judging is flawed, certainly.
This being my first post EVER......... I just wanted to say how much I love Top Chef Masters. Not crazy about some of judges though. The real reason I am writing is to say how much I loved that all of the chefs were so helpful to each other. It seemed to me, that I was watching a "real" cooking show" without the fights and drama. In my opinion, it takes away from the actual show. Which is to have top chefs cook for their favorite charity. It is a show that fascinates me. Gimmicks make me turn the show off. Not being a chef, or a food reviewer, makes me glad to see Top Chefs in action.
I love this show and the respect these chefs have for each other makes then all top chefs, even Susur who I think is mellowing as the show goes on.I was sorry to see Jonathan go.His food is less complicated than some , but looks delicious and he stays true to himself.And James, 2 1/2 stars was a no no !
Ninja Susur all the way. His dishes always look well done and accomplished.
Rick and Marcus never seem to have done a well organized dish. Rick is always over/undercooked and Marcus is always in excess. Susur is the only one under control.
How the heck can Rick serve raw pork and continue on? He has not cooked a protein properly in the whole series and over half the time it has been fish which is suppposedly his area of expertise. No way he can be a "Top" chef. If I went to Jonathan's restaurant and got a perfectly roasted chicken I would enjoy it. If I went to Rick's and got raw pork or over cooked swordfish I would send it back and refuse to pay... not very top chef-ish. This series is losing it's focus, as someone early suggested. first judging criteria, if it would be sent back by half of the diners in a regular restaurant then it doesn't even get judged... 0 stars.
Marcus' caviar sauce would not have been possible if he had spent what he was given. Using the $$$ from the other competitors (although lovely of them to be so gracious)should have eliminated Marcus. That was cheating. Fair is fair, no chef should have a financial advantage.
First and long. I concur with a lot of viewers here. I would not post to a message board unless I was confused about something or extremely happy about something. Unfortunately, this falls in the former scenario and not the latter. I've had raw chicken in Japan and I'd probably have raw pork if I knew it were safe; however with red, anger, and bacon raw pork is not something that fits unless it's to make me angry that it's not cooked. I understand the dish had more to it than that, but it just didn't fit as well as Jonathan's.
However, I can understand the episode as others have pointed out in that Rick brings more passion to the show than Jonathan seems to. It's unfortunate that it has to be that way. From a food perspective, the episode just didn't hit and it's kinda sad since that does seem to reflect more on the judging.