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Oh, television. No matter how many seasons I’ve appeared on Top Chef Masters (this is my third go-around), I confess that I’m always slightly less than thrilled to watch myself on the small screen. All my nitpicky internal voices go into overdrive when I watch the show: Was that really a good choice, that gray sweater vest? Why, why, why can’t I keep my hands still in front of me like a normal human being?
Nevertheless, I was completely beside myself to check in this season, to revisit time spent with the Top Chef Masters family, and to marvel yet again at the producers’ ability to edit long hours of shooting into one tight, nail-biter of an episode. This season the show is significantly different than seasons past, and I was dying to see how the final product turned out. There’s the incredible new cast, of course -- hugely talented chefs, really perhaps the strongest group we’ve ever seen on this series. Traci Des Jardins! George Mendes! Hugh Acheson! And on and on. These are some heavy hitters, chefs who are at the forefront of high-end dining. And there are newcomers on the other side of the table, as well: the formidable Ruth Reichl as my co-judge, and Curtis Stone, a man who truly knows how to keep his shirt unbuttoned, as the show’s host.
But the biggest change this season is the format. The show dropped the tournament-style setup of Seasons 1 and 2, where chefs progressed through brackets, in favor of an everybody-in-at-once style cribbed from Top Chef (non-Masters), in which all the chefs compete together and a contestant is eliminated each week. The new style means that participating in the show is a radically different experience for the cheftestants than it has been in previous seasons: They’re getting the opportunity to cook more, to familiarize us judges with their strengths, and to grow and learn both as a collective and as individuals.
So glad to see you back judging this season. Viewers are not paying as much attention to your wardrobe as they are to the food so no worries. Although I like your red sneakers in your bio pic! The outcome was confusing to me given that it seemed clear that mosaic was the better team. Why leave it up to the random diners ever and where were they selected from? Yelp? Zagat? Still, it seems that the best decision was made. Excited about this season of top chef masters and looking forward to reading more blogs from both you and Ruth!
i agree that the diners should not have held all the cards for that vote. in past seasons on Top Chef, the diners held a percentage of votes. that would have been more fair. for instance, if there are 3 judges, each judge plus the collective vote of diners would each weigh 25% of the vote.
Loved your first blog. Your voice is so clear, your writing excellent, and your expertise, explanation, and insight strong but not overbearing. I look forward to more.
Interesting season premier. I'm not sure I like the new format but I'll give it a chance. The cheftestants - don't see many "personable" characters like past years. So far, ho hum. And, I'm really sorry to have to say this but I actually prefer Kelly over Curtis. But it was the premier - I'll give him a chance, too.
I have seen you judge before and am really happy to see you back again. I like your style and thought your feedback to the chefs that didn't do well was really worded very nicely. I think the diners should of had a percentage versus the majority of the vote (this isn't American Idol!). I loved this show and can't wait to get to know the chefs better. As far as Curtis Stone I have become a recent fan of his from the Next Great Restaurant and was excited to learn he is the host of this show (sigh).
Please don't let anonymous diners decide any more contests. The Olympics don't have the audience vote on who wins the ice skating competitions--they know the best results come from trained judges. We viewers watch so we can learn from the trained and experienced judges' responses. . .it helps educate us. Letting the anonymous and random diners decide the results cheapens your entire show. . .is it some desperate attempt on your producers' part to woo the American Idol crowd? We viewers watch Top Chef to see top quality (which we didn't get from the way you let the first contest be decided).