Parting Words

Best of the Best

Francis Lam: What's on the Menu?

Curtis Stone's Lemon Creams with Poached Cherries

Bryan Voltaggio: "I Thought I Won. I Know I Won."

Jennifer Jasinski Was a "Great Miracle"

Lesley Suter's 'Ratatouille' Moment

What it Takes to Be Top Chef Master

The Finale Countdown

Doug and Sang: Bad Romance?

Sang is Back!

David Burke Has Titanium Balls

See Ya, Suckers!

Why Jennifer Jasinski Didn't Go Home

James Oseland's Teacher Tribute

Gail: "I Still Can't Believe Sang was Eliminated"

The Strangest Episode of 'Top Chef Masters' Yet?

Lesley Suter: On Tongue, Flautadillas, and Birthday Cake

What Has Curtis Stone "Spewing"?

A Series of Unfortunate Culinary Events Leaves Blood on the Mat

Gail: "We Couldn't Excuse Neal"

Lesley Suter: Hey, Chefs, Why So Raw?

Pull it Together, Sang!

Francis Lam: I liked Sang's Fish

Curtis Stone in Nacho Libre

Gail Simmons: "Neil Went for Our Bellies"

The Evolution of Sue Zemanick

Curtis Stone: Throwing Curveballs

Ruth Reichl: "I'd Rather Be Training a Nation of Food Warriors"

When Plex Met Toodee

'Top Chef Masters' ' Toughest Critics Yet

Gail Simmons: No "Chef" in Lynn's Dish

Restaurant Wars: 'Getting' Busy

Francis: A New Kind of Locavorism

What Being a Chef Really Means

Ruth Reichl's Perfect Los Angeles Restaurant

Restaurant Wars' Controlled Chaos

Franklin Just Did Too Much

Curtis and Lindsay: A Perfect Pairing

Curtis Stone: This Episode Sends Hearts Racing

Franklin, Can You Hear Me?

Parting Words

No, it's not James Oseland's last blog, but he does want to say a few things to the chefs before it all ends.

I don’t know about you, but watching Episode Nine of Top Chef Masters (“Masters of Disaster”) put me on edge. Maybe it was those left-hook, increasingly baroque Elimination Challenges that were thrown at the chefs (e.g., “Now, guys, you have to lose one of your sous-chefs!”). Maybe it was all the cranky exchanges between the former Top Chef contestants and Anita, Rick, Michael, and Hubert (I promise to divulge more about my feelings on that topic in next week’s blog). Or maybe it was merely the fact that, with only one more episode to go, we’re all nearly at the end of our journey together.

As I was contemplating what to blog about this week—hmmm, should I write about what chef X could have done differently or how chef Y stumbled?—I kept wanting to slow down and take a breath.

So I did. And some feelings bubbled up to the surface, feelings I’d like to share with all 24 contestants who have appeared on the entire run of the series, from Michael Schlow to Rick Bayless. Here goes:

I don’t blame you if you think I’m a jerk. I mean, I sit there all pursed-lipped in my suit and tie, quibbling about foods that you’ve slaved over and poured your hearts into for hours while meeting seemingly insurmountable obstacles—including, for starters, working in an unfamiliar kitchen without your usual staff. I complain about the too-briny shrimp. I criticize the plating of the dish that you had to get to the table at a speed that would make a hummingbird collapse. I make frowny faces at your food.

But here’s the thing: though I have tasted some foods during the past episodes that were less than life-changing, all in all every single dish I encountered exhibited in some big or small way why each and every one of you was brought on this show in the first place: you really are master chefs.

As critics on the show, Gael, Jay, and I were so often caught up in chronicling the itty-bitty, mosquito-in-the-room mistakes that we rarely had the opportunity to acknowledge the vastness of the challenges you rose to, episode after episode. There was also too little time to celebrate how each of you channeled your unique approach to food into your dishes. What you do, and what you accomplished for us on Top Chef Masters, is nothing short of astonishing. Your knowledge of ingredients, your innate skill with those ingredients, your generosity under pressure: all of those things are testaments to how gifted you are as chefs—or, perhaps more important, as cooks. To Douglas Rodriguez: I’d like you know that I think you’re a brilliant composer of dishes, a real maestro when it comes to bold flavor pairings. (And I loved the Gilligan’s Island wackiness of your flaming coconuts.) To Michael Chiarello: Few cooks I know understand the byways of Mediterranean herbs more intimately. To John Besh: I’d love to cook with you; your creative energy gave rise to some of the dishes I’ll remember the most fondly.
Wait a minute; I’d better stop. I wanted to keep this blog post short!

In parting, I’ll just say this: I once read that to understand someone, you must first sit down and have a meal with the person. With all of you, I would love nothing more than to do just that. And next time, I’m cooking.