Kelly Choi

Kelly Choi breaks down the buffet challenge.

on Aug 13, 20090

I absolutely loved this episode.

In fact, it’s my favorite of the entire season. For so many reasons, some of which include that through these challenges and the many twists I presented to the Masters, I was able to get to know each chef much more intimately. And I’m confident that you did, too. Pour yourself a generous glass of wine (or a fresh cup of coffee if you’re at the office) and get ready to relish the three-course menu of what I’m about to tell.

The First Course: The Blindfold Taste Test
This was soooo much fun. For one thing, it was physically the closest that I had been to Michael, Hubert, Rick, or Anita at any given moment in the entire competition, and being face-to-face with someone reveals a lot. Only a table with 20 small cups of ingredients, a plate of lemon wedges, and some bread and water separated us. Here we were, stadium spotlights blaring and the clock started ticking. The cameras seemed to descend into darkness, and the entire situation made me feel like something really big was about to happen. I think I can speak for each chef when I say that in that moment, we felt very exposed.

At least for me, though, I wasn’t the one who had to risk being made to look like a fool. Think of the pressure! Here you are, a culinary savant, a Master Chef, being put through the paces of having to test your palate on national TV. It must’ve very intense for each of them because how else do you explain that the highest number of correct answers out of 20 items was only seven? Weren’t you thinking the whole time, "I wanna try it to see how many ingredients I could guess right?"

So Michael was up first. I secured his blindfold and handed him the first cup. He took it, whiffed it deeply, then stuck his index finger into it. Then he tasted. It was silent in the kitchen, yet it
was almost as though you could hear his brain synapses firing back and forth. Michael’s technique continued like that, methodically and analytically as he sniffed first, touched next, and then finally, ate the condiment. Seven correct guesses for Michael.

Then it was Hubert’s turn. Blindfold on, he lept out of the gate. Hubert’s pacing was faster. He tasted each ingredient without necessarily smelling first, and it surprised me, especially after
Michael. Hubert’s approach scored him a five.

Now, Rick. Wow, if I thought Hubert’s method was quicker, Rick’s was 10 times more so. As soon as I handed Rick a cup, he dumped the food into his mouth! Did you hear that one time when he clanked his front tooth on the glass cup of mango? Rick didn’t bother with
smelling the ingredient first. He was a completely trusting and wide-eyed child. It was as if I had told this sweet child that I had something yummy for him to taste, and he lapped it up straight away. Six correct answers for Rick.

And finally, it was Anita’s turn. Anita’s tactic was similar to Michael’s in that she, too, smelled the food before she ate it. Her strategy, though, was to eat as much of each ingredient as possible in the hopes that tasting a lot of the food would make it obvious as to
what it was. A few minutes and many sips of water later, Anita guessed six right.

35 comments
Viewer
Viewer

Kelly, This is a wonderful show, and I am so glad to have been able to see all the episodes. I hope it will come back for Season 2, 3, and so on. I enjoy it more than Top Chefs because of the level of play - the quality of the dishes, the incisive questioning of the judges, and the professionalism of the chefs. This last feels very important to me. So I will add that episode 9 was very uncomfortable for me to watch, and I felt unhappy to see what seemed to be a manipulative campaign against Chef Chiarello. I was stunned to see airtime given to Dale's outburst! This just seemed like TCM stooping to tabloid TV. The TC contestants who appeared in this episode may think themselves "chefs", but most of them were ELIMINATED on TC. They have not made it to the level that the TCM’s have, and won’t because they clearly cannot handle the pressure. Michael’s use of the term “young man” was condescending, but Dale's response was unprofessional and unseemly, as was the “support” offered by some of the other young assistants. I was dismayed. When these young people achieve what ANY of the Top Chefs have accomplished in their careers, THEN they can say what they want. In the mean time, I think they need to shut their mouths and open their ears. They may learn something in the process.

May
May

Hi Kelly!

I enjoyed this season so much, and I'm so sad that it's over, it was great to see such masterful chefs working under Top Chef conditions and still making such delicious creations. I thought you made a wonderful host, with really insightful comments...which they definitely should've aired more of. And the dress you wore this episode with the flower-like cutouts was gorgeous, do you know who made it! I hope that you'll be back next year to host more TCM!! Best!

Liane
Liane

I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed Top Chef Masters. What I enjoyed the most was the wonderful, professional respect the chefs had for each other. No back-stabbing or undermining. I came away simply really liking each of the chefs and feeling like I learned something about food and something about each chef. Now I wish I could go to each of their restaurants some day.

Viewer
Viewer

Hi Kelly!

I could not find a blog for Rick Bayless......Could you please let him know fans in CA send him tons of love and congratulations!! He really deserved this win! Great judging!

A big hug also to Hubert who is a real CULINARY GOD and a true gentleman!!!!!Hugs to him from a fellow Frenchie!!!!

Take care Kelly!

TasteMatters
TasteMatters

Well, all I can say is , if it comes down to the most accomplished and innovative chef, then it has to be Hubert Keller. However, I'm rooting for Rick because he seems to be such a sincerely kind human being, so rarely seen these days. Rick is a great chef also, don't get me wrong. I always watch his show, "Mexico, one plate at a time" and love it, though I don't necessarily love Mexican cuisine.

I tape all of Hubert Keller's shows and have learned a lot from them. I also watch Michael's shows and love them also. So end the end, it really is a toss up for me. I love all three of them. I think it will come down to just what the challenge is and how well they accomplish same.

Love this show. I hope that BRAVO continues the "Top Chef Masters". This is the absolute best of all series.

Viewer
Viewer

What a bad idea to have the banquet under searing sun. Did the producers not recognize that raw seafood would probably be served? A reckless idea, the specter of food poisoning was right there. Because Anita had a raw bar, she really didn't have chance due to this horrible idea. Hope you can do better next time without endangering guests.

Viewer
Viewer

I really think hubert owns this show, i hope he wins. i love his lovely french accent. he is the nicest french person on tv for sure (excluding les jacques: jacques torres and jacques pepin)! but rick and michael are surely both good chefs... though i really root for hubert.

Ann
Ann

I have enjoyed watching TCM, and I am torn between Hubert and Rick. Hopefully they do a TCM2.

Looking forward to the next TC with Padma.

Viewer
Viewer

I am really disappointed that TCM would validate Ilan by bringing him back for two episodes. I almost stopped watching Top Chef altogether because the show wasn't stopped immediately when the contestants, seemingly led by Ilan, assaulted the less popular Marcel. It is shameful that he is being included.

Viewer
Viewer

Kelly - I agree with the comments that YOU are 100% better as a host because you help us focus on the food and not on fashion! As far as this last ep goes - lest we remember one thing: This is about TC MASTERS! If former contestants sign-up KNOWING that they're going in as SOUS-CHEFS, they should be &%$#@! grateful to be working with giants in the food industry. You shut your mouth and do the job that the TCM wants you to do. You sign the contract to be on the show, you take the grunt work that goes w/it. It shocks me that these young people don't realize that all it takes is one bad "letter" from any of these TCM and their career could be in the toilet. The disrespct of Dale and Spike was shocking to say the least. Blais even shocked me and I wanted him to win S4. I just feel privileged watching from home. Here's to a spectacular finale!

Pete
Pete

So-so episode, at least the final three are all strong and I'm rooting for any one of them to win it all. As for what everyone is saying about Michael Chiarello, it's just a certain way a lot of chefs conduct their kitchens, just look at Marco Pierre White, Gordon Ramsay, and many other French chefs. I don't see it as a problem of wanting to be called Chef, I think they have thin skins and the show just blew it out of proportion to grab ratings. Hope you host a second season.

ueser
ueser

Hi Kelly,

Can you please include in your blog next week where your dress from last week's episode (Masters of Disaster elimination challenge) came from? Love the color!

K

jacob
jacob

Loved the taste test! I couldn't believe they couldn't even get half the ingredients right. i guess peanut butter can be tricky... I honestly thought Michael should've gone. but Anita seemed ok w/ leaving. i think she didn't get any sleep b/c she wasn't as creative and spot on as she was during her first 2 challenges. Rick will win but i like Hubert.

DREADING THE THOUGHT OF NO MORE TOP CHEF MASTERS. i don't know if i'll be able to watch the VEGAS TOP CHEF w/ the same enthusiasm for the TC chefs'dishes as i had for TCM.

Leslie Stavrowsky
Leslie Stavrowsky

I enjoyed this episode, but I wish I could have seen more of the chefs preparing their food, and less of the drama. We get plenty of drama in the regular Top Chef episodes, and I'm really tired of all the drama. The show should have been edited more to show viewers exactly what the chefs prepared this week. We barely got a glimpse of the final dishes.

Kelly is great, but she should not replace Padma for good. Padma is awesome, very nice, fun, classy, and really knows her food. Padma is also gorgeous.

Viewer
Viewer

I wish you would replace Padma for good!!!!!!!! You are so much more swtched on then she is.

Rachel
Rachel

Kelly- great job hosting, and good blogs too. This was like the best of the best possible shows! Famous and talented chefs, tough and respected critics, a charming host, and really fascinating food! Can't wait till next year!

Sherri
Sherri

Hello. I very much enjoy Top Chef Masters. I have enjoyed the season as I was able to find new places to try. I have visited Topolobampo and loved it. I am now anxious to try the other chefs restaurants. I had no trouble with Chef Chiarello's dictatorial style and had I been one of the sous chefs I would have been honored to simply been allowed to clean up. I have enjoyed seeing the willingness to help each other, choosing to let the food stand on it's own rather than winning by sabotage. So refreshing to see. I also like the respect the master chef's exhibit for each other. Perhaps a few of the sous chefs last night should try a slice of humble pie. I love the money going to charities and I hope the show continues next season.

Charlie
Charlie

Kelly, I wish I could say this was my favorite TCM episode, but really, it was the most tiring one aired. While the food may have been scrumptious, this was the first time that TCM seemed to focus more on drama than chef-output. Sad really, as I was enjoying the show before Dale, Blais, and Spike decided to reappear and make themselves the stars of the show.

Shelly
Shelly

Kelly, I'm sorry to say this is my least favorite episode yet, for two reason, though both are concerned with editing.

One, while you lovingly describe the food you ate, we as viewers experienced little of that. I didn't get to see most of the food being prepared, served, or eaten. I have no idea what all the dishes were, and that really ruined the show for me. When master chefs cook a buffet, I want to know what the food is with something other than a 3 second still shot.

Two, there would have been more time for this if the camera hadn't played up the Michael hate. Instead of wasting time interviewing Blais and focusing on a tiff with Dale that came to nothing, or on things like shellfish taking forever to be cleaned for that matter, it would have been nice to see what people like Antonia or CJ were doing. We didn't even get to see most of the sous-chefs at work.

So between those two things, this episode was a major disappointment.

Rafi
Rafi

I was flabbergasted by Hubert's output! He is amazing! I like all the remaining chefs, but I'm really rooting for Rick and Hubert. They are class acts. The way they handle their staff and conduct themselves with others is commendable.

Kelly, you are easy on the eyes AND the brain. What a great choice by Bravo to choose you as host. I sure hope they bring back TCM for a 2nd season! Good luck!

Quincy
Quincy

I'm still stunned about Anita...she was OWNING this whole competition. I think she didn't crash and burn too badly, it just didn't work out with the raw bar idea, unfortunately.

Hubert is a madman. 18 items?! How did they do all that? And all 18 seemed to be primo. I thought the whole "pasta in the dorm shower" thing was genius. That was like a two-minute egg compared to this. BRILLIANT!

Michael Chiarello really came off poorly in this episode. Granted, these were going to be "sous chefs", but he treated them all like they knew nothing about cooking. I'm not a fan of Spike and never was, but he was the one guy who got it right in that whole interview process. I'm not a fan of Dale either and never was, but while he may have overreacted, I was glad to see at least someone amongst the 12 guests stand up for the group as a whole and throw Michael's ego back at him. I was really disappointed in Michael tonight. Chefs have egos, granted. But in this environment and in that fashion, he just came off terribly.

With that said though, there are three massively and incredibly talented finalists going at it next week. And look at the group they're cooking for! Gael! Kelly! Jay! James! Tom! Padma! Gail! Hosea! Stephanie! Hung! Enough exclamation points!!

But it doesn't air until 10:15 next week? Seems like an odd time period for what is a series finale...

lydia
lydia

Regarding Richard Blais's making ice cream using liquid nitrogen...this has been done in elementary and high schools since the early 1990's as an example of "cooling". I, unfortunately, see nothing revolutionary here. Also, why didn't Top Masters Chef show, or at least list, all 20 food items to be identified?

Lynda S
Lynda S

Kelly,

Thank you for this great blog. Your insider's guide is most appreciated. I didn't think the QF was very exciting. The ingredients tested were not as difficult as S-1 of TC.

The plethora of TC alums on hand for the elim were basically losers with a few decent cooks sprinkled in. Spike was never a work horse. He was just a deceitful slacker and didn't deserve camera time again. Blais really shocked me with his "I was the runner up but should have been the winner" speech. No, Richard, you came in third because you muffed it, plain and simple. As for Dale's hissy fit: that should have sent him off the line. There is no place for misplaced ego for no good reason. Being called "young man" is not an acceptable excuse to have a tantrum.

I have to say that Hubert's feast looked extraordinary. Rick's offerings looked fun and flavorful. Michael's dishes seemed to tick off the judges more than Anita's. It seemed as though they didn't like one thing from Michael. Therefore, I was very surprised that she got dismissed. However, I am very excited about the finale. I like all 3 contenders. But, I have a special fondness for the French Master Chef: H.K. That said, any one of these 3 masters would make a fine Champion. Bon Appetit!

Viewer
Viewer

Kelly,

First of all, thanks for doing a good job at hosting.

I was quite disappointed to see Michael Chiarello stay. I don't understand why Jay gave him a 4 especially after Gael and James gave him less than 3. Jay even said that "personnel management" is a major factor in the scoring.

Michael obviously wants to win the contest for his charity, and so do Rick, Hubert, and Anita. Even though they're in the show to make great food and not to get along with people, nobody needs to disrespect other people (let alone subordinates) to win it. Scoring should not only factor in the results, but how each contestant attained those results. For example, are you going to reward the sales person who raked in the most sales because they threatened their customers, or the salesperson who got the second highest sales results but stayed respectful and ethical?

The problem with most TV shows is that it promotes the wrong values. I would hate for people to think that it's all about winning, regardless of how you get there. That's simply wrong, and I hope you can use your show to prove that.

Either Hubert Keller or Rick Bayless should win. They are admirable and exemplary. I love your show.

Eileen C.
Eileen C.

Kelly...ok girl you did it!! Hosted a show that makes me sit there and grin from ear to ear. Whoever is responsible for editing should win and Emmy along with you. Pleeeeeze bring this show back next season (whenever that is)ofcourse I prefer this season, LOL... These 3 amigos are at the top of their game and I for one applaud Bravo for bringing such enjoyment into my home. BRAVO is the BOMB!!!!!!! Oh, and thank you too judges, you were as tough as you should be! I for one can't wait until next week and then I will cry!!!

jim
jim

Kelly, for the quickfire scoring you said it would be 5 stars for first, then 4 for second, 3.5 for third and 3 for fourth. Hubert took fourth (the other three all had higher scores) and still got 3.5 stars. That extra 0.5 gift star let him beat Rick for the money..... What's up with that?? Did no one else complain about that?

Esther
Esther

Thanks for your lovely hosting and these great blog posts!

Is there any chance that we'll get to see a full list of Keller's creations in this episode? It wasn't in the episode or on the website. (I daren't even hope for all 18 recipes!) As you say, OMFG. It looked truly stunning.

Olivia
Olivia

I'd just like to say that I am LOVING Rick Bayless for showcasing mexican cuisine! Finally americans will realize that mexican food is NOT about burritos, hard shell tacos and spicy food. It is so much more intricate and complex and I'm eternally thankful to Rick for doing such a good job on Masters! Hubert will win the whole thing for sure, and that's OK. He is a humble french man (not like Lido!) and he is superb in his technique. LOVE TOP CHEF! And Kelly, you are doing a great job too! So it's not all about Padma!

Jess
Jess

lol! OMFG- Who cares. Loving kelly even more. and hubert's 18dishes were OMFG. great post as usual. I'm liking Michael a lot less after this ep. i realize different chefs have different ways of working w/ sous chefs. but it seemed like he was being disrespectful to the help. He just seems way to into himself winning and being called TOP CHEF MASTER. It's really unattractive.

Viewer
Viewer

Mar - RELAX! Kelly - I have really enjoyed to on TCM and hope that Bravo will bring it back for another season! I have grown to absolutely ADORE Hubert and Rick!

Viewer
Viewer

Loved the episode! I can't believe next week is the FINALE! Please say it'll be a two parter. I'm loving Masters more than the regular Top Chef. Hope it's being renewed. and let Kelly host Top Chef too. she's very natural and comfortable to watch.

another note, i'm so sad and surprised to see anita leave. i thought michael's dishes got more criticism. but i think she was burnt out and almost relieved to go. i say, go rick or hubert!

Mar
Mar

Kelly - I have enjoyed watching you host this program. OMFG - Kelly what were you thnking? Why the vulgarity? It is so inappropiate! And unladylike!!

bailey
bailey

i have to agree w/ you. it's been the best ep so far. i so want to try the taste test too! maybe i will w/ some friends. hahaha. omg, Hubert is a genious and i'm so rooting for him now. 18 dishes! great colorful post, kelly. please don't tell me we have to wait another year for TOP CHEF MASTERS 2.

Ruthie
Ruthie

Hey Kelly, As I've tweeted earlier to you, this episode was incredible. So many emotions surfaced. I found myself captivated, exasperated, angry and jubilent throughout the show. It was the BEST! It just goes to show how different each chef reacts under so much pressure. I can't imagine how you were feeling each time you entered the kitchen with yet, another twist. I bet you had to dodge alot of evil glares!

Hubert totally deserve to win. I do find it interesting that the judges all gave him 5 stars and yet the diners, only 3-1/2. Rick was 4-1/2 (I think) across the board. Still, the right chef won this round. And what a class act both Rick and Hubert are.

While I don't agree with Michael's method of interviewing or his dictatorial style, I thought it was wrong of Dale to be so confrontational. Just wrong.

I'm sad there's only one episode left. Please, BRAVO, bring back TCM next year. And, Kelly, Great job!