When I was in third grade, my teacher was the dear Mrs. Bryant. She would reward us students with a handmade construction paper cut-out of a smiley face whenever we did something good. Come back from lunch hour and put our heads down on our desks quietly? That would earn us each a smiley. Get an A on a pop quiz? Great job! Mrs.
Bryant would come around and place two smileys onto our desks. At the end of each week, Mrs. Bryant would trade with us ten of our smileys for a Tootsie Pop. We all sure started loving Fridays, and even now, I still fancy those chocolate-flavored candies.
What does any of this have to do with the TC Masters Champions Round? Well, I felt like Mrs. Bryant. Every day! A hundred smileys each for our six master chefs, cuz baby, you did REAL good. And you know what? If anything, I felt perhaps even more like a Mother Hen, because I
found myself feeling very maternal toward Anita, Suzanne, Michael, Rick, Art, and Hubert (I don't have kids yet, but this is what it must feel like to be protective of your babies). My six culinary wizards had made it sooo far, and the level of cookery was getting better and
tastier. Children? I’ve got lots and lots more smileys to give out, so keep those knives busy.
Quickfire day, for me, was overwhelming. When the six-pack walked into the Masters Kitchen, I was utterly in awe of this incredibly diverse crew of cooks who were about to go head to head. And then ... surprise! Tom Colicchio saunters in to help execute the mise en place relay race, which was an absolute trip. I loved looking at the competitors' faces when someone unexpectedly revealed themselves. The only thing that I found striking during the Quickfire, which you didn’t see, was that when each master was chopping onions, shucking oysters, or completing their tasks, the kitchen was verrrry quiet. You probably couldn’t tell because of the music that was edited in, but I thought the team members would be cheering for each other during the relay. Not at all. Hardly a peep from anyone. Wow, I was thinking, how strange. I guess when masters are in da house concentrating, da house is silent.
So then I instructed the chefs to make their Signature Dishes for each other, and while they were all breaking bread and toasting and hanging out, guess where I was? With the critics, in the room next door, feasting on those same dishes! I wonder if even today those masters knew that Jay, Gael, James, and I were relishing their glorious cuisine, too. I will tell you that because these plates of food were the chef’s signatures, they were flat-out delicious and
expertly prepared. Flavors were nuanced, textures were varied, and wine pairings were meaningful. A hundred more smileys each for all of you. I particularly liked Rick’s lamb with pasilla chile sauce and figs. It was so savory and delectable that my fork took on a life
force of its own and began jumping from plate to plate in search of any leftover sauce. Yum! Anita’s sweet scallops, Art’s hearty grouper, Hubert’s delicate lobster cappuccino, and more and more food. Michael’s balsamic quail, and then, Suzanne’s steak and egg. Please keep this parade coming, we critics cried, because their offerings were so mouth-wateringly tantalizing.
As for the Elimination Challenge, our final dinner at that huge roundtable of critics and former Masters challengers was great fun, and also eye-opening. I can assure you that at the end of the day, food is food, and our reactions are as real and as spontaneous to it whether we are a 5-star chef or a 12-yr-old girl scout (first episode). People often comment to me, “Well, I don't know much about food, but I think ....” Don’t underestimate yourselves, I say. We are all critics. You know if you like the taste of something or not, and sometimes, that’s all you need to know. I think this small bit of knowledge has gotta be worth a smiley or two, wouldn't you agree?
P.S. Don’t forget to tweet me @KELLYCHOI and also post your comments here.
P.P.S. I also want to address the many questions regarding my wardrobe last episode, the one where Art Smith wins. My red dress in the Masters Kitchen was a Diane von Furstenburg design. The other top I wore during that show — the one with the circles all over it — I don’t
remember who created it. Bravo assigned a few awesome stylists to help dress the chefs, critics, and I during taping, and I am truly thankful for their good taste. A couple of dresses here and there were my own, but most of the nice threads, unfortunately, were not. Damn!
I am green with envy. To be able to taste all that world class cuisine ... you lucky, lucky girl. TCM is a delight. Top Chef is fun, but to witness these Master Chefs' respect for each other and that fabulous food is pure pleasure. Who needs contrived drama when you have people like this. Just a quick note for next season. I know you are only saying what was scripted for you but chefs of this caliber don't need to be told to "pack their knives". One would think that having to return to the kitchen is humiliating enough. Pass it on for me, would ya.
I love, love, love this show. It should be required viewing for all the Top Chef wannabees on the Other program. Such sweet, lovable GENTLEMEN. Compare it to the snarky, nasty, backbiting twits on Top Chef. I sort of did a marathon last night and, with a few minor exceptions, they could not have been more expert or more collegial. I guess class will tell! Two comments, why do you have such time constraints? One poor fellow could not even get his sauce on all the plates. Also, I don't think "underseasoned" is a valid criticism when applied to salt as some of your judges have done. If I consulted my own taste for salt, my food would be inedible for the many people who like their food undersaltwed in my opinion. That's why God made salt cellers! Love the show!!
OK, let's play "Would You Rather...?" with Kelly Choi!
Would you rather a) be allowed to keep any of the dresses/wardrobe you wear on the show for life
b) be cooked the chef's special dishes twice more apiece in the next 12 months?
That's hysterical 'cause my kindergarten teacher did the same thing with the smileys. Only she would take away smileys if we were naughty!!! Oh tragedy of a smiley deletion at that age! hahahaha... Thanks for the memory ;-)
I love Top Chef and wish Bravo would offer more shows like Top Chef and Law & Order Criminal Intent. Please stop the insanity and get rid of all those shows with housewives from yada, yada.
Loved the episode and love your posts just as much! thanks for the creative blog post! my family and i love you on the show and hope to see more of you. i wish this season was longer. please don't tell me we have to wait another year to see you on bravo!go kelly!
I am truly in love with Top Chef Masters. Such expertise and professionalism. I wish these last shows were two hours long so that we could see more scenes with this group. As the competition progresses, at some point I hope they get to cook their best 3 courses for the judges and see the stellar results...
It's going to be difficult to watch Top Chef again with the accompanying silly, immature gameplaying. It would be nice if they would model themselves after TCM and just concentrate on the food. Right now, we're getting to see how it really should be done.
I have fallen in love with this show. The professionalism that has been shown and the respect these chefs have for each other is fantastic. We forget that these men and women are human beings also. They have a job to do,as we all do. They are also lucky enough to find their passion. We should all be so lucky.
Throughout this series I have been soooo impressed with the level of mutual respect shown by the master chefs. I hope some of this rubs off on the Top Chef contestants. High quality stars = a high quality program. I'm really enjoying these masters and learning a lot from them.
It's been said many times, but it is worth repeating. I love the camaraderie and respect displayed by the chefs and the critics. It is a very refreshing change to the other shows that Bravo has been putting out lately (TFS comes to mind). Thanks, Kelly, for your blog!
I think your show is off. You are dealing with top chefs and they have earned their respect. Kelly Choi excuses them without any respect. The show is for a good cause, show some heart and most of all respect. Don't treat these Top Chefs like new recruits. I have stopped watching this show.
love you as the host and love your creative blogs just as much! you're so gorgeous and a pleasure to watch. i wished we could see more of you on the show. please tell me there's a season 2 in store for us in the near future.
Thank God, a show without contrived melodrama, voice overs, etc. A show representing talent, commraderie and true respect for one another. A show that doesn't insult one's intelligence. A show with CLASS. Way to go, Top Chef Masters!!!!!
Love TCM but I really hate those "pop-up" previews (of other Bravo programs) during the show (especially when they are plastered over someone's face when they are talking!) PLEASE ELIMINATE THEM! They are so annoying.
Dear Kelly you're such an inspiration for Korean-American women, by that I don't mean that you don't inspire other people. I can't help but wonder you must have been born to do the show because you seem very natural (I know you must have practiced a lot, though). The secret recipe to being a professional is to make everything look easy, which in fact, must accompany hard work and lots and lots of practice. enjoy watching the show because of you and other master chefs. of course, I cannot leave sharply intelligent critics out. I am already looking forward to the second season of Top Chef Masters.
From a Korean American woman fan in NY
I am really enjoying the show. I've watched Michael and Rick for years. Hubert is new to me, but I'm loving and looking for his show on PBS. I find many cooking shows on "network tv" lacking in technique. PBS shows all these chefs and they show us technique, but "network TV" doesn't. People watch these shows for enjoyment, not to learn. To see "Master Chef's" show on BRAVO with some of my favorite PBS chef's is wonderful. I learned techniques from many of the chef's on your show, over 10 years ago, not to mention Julia Child and Jacque Pepin.
I also enjoy how professional the chefs are with each other and that there isn't a "Catty" segment (which are what make's reality shows popular). But this is truly refeshing to see real chefs behaving and cooking well for a very good cause. Thank you Bravo for this series.
My only criticism, if you are gonna Mention "Michelle Obama" likes Spike's Restarant, mention a republican as well, as that seems to make your network lean towards the Obama Administration when his approval rating has now gone under 49%. Keep it non partisan and both democrats and republicans can enjoy the food.
first of all, i looovveee this show. it shows how these master chefs are professionally, working together as a group but individually as contestants against each other. however, after watching tonight's teaser for next week's episode, i suddenly felt embarrassed as a filipino. my husband and i are beside ourselves after seeing that horrible mess dave tagle. after being on the show, one would think that he has learned a lesson and at least be thankful because filipinos around the globe knew about him through this show. i am not in the position to judge however i know when to follow when i should and i know when to acknowledge that i am but a greenhorn. i'm sorry ms. choi, critics and master chefs but i feel like giving tagle another chance to be in that show is a huge mistake. he does not deserve to be there.
What comes to mind for me is how much more generous of mind and spirit the Top Master Chefs are to each other than the Top Chefs. Take a lesson Top Chef boys and girls, learn from the Masters!!!!!
I think you are doing a fantastic job in hosting the show. I am currently watching the "Miniaturize Me" episode and am intrigued by the gorgeous Black and turquoise dress you are wearing? Who is it by??
P.s. I think you should start a wardrobe blog, everything you wear is inspired!