Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

Leave the Gun. Take the Cannoli.

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?

Leave the Gun. Take the Cannoli.

Hugh Acheson explains why the mentor challenge was so important.

The end is nigh for our three remaining competitors. Chris is the odds-on favorite, at least in this bookie’s opinion. He’s just been solid through the whole season and has a breadth of skill that suits the competition well. Lorena can prevail once in a while, but is limited in scope. Kerry is the dark horse here and could upset but he’s been a team-of-one for a long time and that not been a consistent prevailing wind, more like a gusty, brief storm mixed with stillness. 

Naomi Pomeroy was famous in the last season for screaming incessantly at her dad. This challenge brings that kind of frantic fun. The anonymous culinary  partners are our trio of judges, and I am giving Francis the up-front advantage on this one. He just seems a little more gastronomically able as opposed to merely gifted with words, but I could be wrong. It could be that Chris and Mr. Sweater have the edge here, or that Ruth and Kerry have made a chicken-winning extravaganza. It’s going to come down to who the better explainer is. 

Chris and James are judged first and kudos to them both because the dishes look pretty identical. Chris was smart to do a dish that had symmetry and simplicity in it’s heart; a dish that was easily explainable through a partitioned wall. Curtis can’t decide whose is whose and which is better. Good omen. Chris and James have created conjoined identical twins named Akbar & Jeff (to the Google!)Lorena and Francis have made similar dishes of swiss chard and chicken and cream that are deemed good, but both are inherently sauces more than dishes. When the pasta water don’t boil there will be no pasta. Though Curtis likes the duo of dishes, it’s not a concept that will end up as a Savory Mexican Smoothie© flavor at Taco Bell. Essentially, Lorena and Francis have created identical twins that wear different colored sweaters, like Ronde and Tiki Barber.

Let’s remember that Kerry is not the greatest communicator. And Ruth is a good talker but probably not the best listener (in her defense, I am also kind of like that… working on listening). Can I haz sautéed chicken with chard… again? The plates look very different, and though they taste pretty spot-on, they are not going to win this thing with the real variance. Curtis thinks that Ruth’s chicken is better. Kerry laughs his “I am so angry” laugh. This is about getting the plates as close to identical as possible, and Kerry and Ruth have created fraternal twins, one of whom is a professional chef while the other is a frustrated beat poet with a penchant for cookery.  

Winner winner prawn dinner. Cash to the Fox Foundation. My inner bookie is thinking that unless Chris falls down on his head, he will emerge victorious in this whole season.

Cooking school challenge? I like it. Being a chef is so much more than just cooking. I put it like this: our job is to inspire people to love the work, love the repetition, love the menial task, love the endless learning. Cooking is rarely about the limelight and the accolades; you need to love to cook to be in this business. Inspiring, teaching, demanding, lauding and challenging people is the hallmark of a great chef. Hey Elves: I love this challenge. It’s awesome. It shows truly what Masters should be able to do. More of this. 

In the car we learn that Kerry is old and the kids know it. Godfather 1 is not on their radar. Shopping has also tired him and he slurs the words, “Leave the gun. Take the cannoli,” before nodding off. Kids these days -- whadda they know?

Shop is what it is and we see the difference in leadership styles. 

Cook time is more dramatic. Kerry is a squadron leader of the dark side. Chris is a teacher of a different mold, kind of like that math teacher who made you love math until you learned to hate it again the following year. He is careful and caring. Lorena is a little frantic with her peeps, JoJo and Jhane, but is showing some good traits in her syllabus. JoJo is diabetic and is fighting to eat well in life. Hear that, America? Wake up and learn from JoJo. We should not fight the malaise of diabetes with meds, rather we need to strike back with truly nourishing our communities.

Emilio from Chris’ team can come and work for me when he’s ready. I love kids who refuse to give in to the limitations of their upbringing and just strive to advance all the time. Those are the chefs of the future. 

Ruth, Jimmy, and Francis are the judges with some of the culinary staff from the local college. Tasting time is off to the races. First up Chris’ team, Lacey and Emilio. The pork is a loin which is a challenging cut because it is so lean. Though the pork may be perfectly cooked we are shown James Oseland chewing a lot. Emilio’s mother is verklempt with pride. So sweet. This is like a feel good after-four special, but even I can’t seem to make much fun of it. 

Second up is Lorena’s lasagna team of Jhane and JoJo. Three meat lasagna with a nice salad. The tasting panel really seems to like it. Love the proud parents really behind those kids. Kerry is up next and the plate looks good. Maybe the Kerry’s School of Hard Knocks will pan out. This chicken and spinach rocks… much better than the chicken and chard from this morning. 

One taster says it best: “They’re (all) winners.” True. Now let’s viciously let one of these three chefs pack their knives and go. 

It’s interesting to see whether the judges will have any harsh words for the chefs. Curtis is wondering whether Lorena would serve the lasagna in a high-end restaurant… sometimes I wonder what Curtis means when he says high-end restaurant. For most of America, Olive Garden is a special occasion. There are many different types of high-end restaurants. I think that lasagna would be great to serve in a fancy little place, shared with three friends and a great bottle of Riserva Chianti. Nothing wrong with that. 

Kerry is in with a win. Evidently leadership can take many forms. Somebody has been taking notes while reading Who Moved my Cheese? He pushed those kids to the limits and maybe that anti-coddling was good for them. They are crying in the corner right now after being yelled out for hours by Kerry, but hell Kerry won so who cares. JUST KIDDING… Good job, Kerry! 

This is a hard one. Though Chris’ dish looks pretty good and his team had great chemistry, it was plated too soon and was not his best showing. Francis loved it and James did not. Lorena on the other hand led her team pretty well and the dish was just maybe too simple, yet her salad gets described as a “quilt of flavor” by James. James quits because he likes both chefs. But he’s kidding, he ain’t quitting this gig! He loves this job!Lorena is packing those knives. She really rocked it out this season, made a friend in Art, and somehow managed to sign a contract in fast food that would make most people very jealous. She leaves having raised a great amount of money for a great charity and she also leaves with a big smile and a ton of class. No matter my banter, that chef is a Venezuelan tornado of goodness. May she continue to succeed.

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

Bryan compares his Top Chef Masters finale to his Top Chef Season 6 finale.

Bravotv.com: How are you feeling going into the finale? Tired? Reinvigorated?
Bryan Voltaggio: Certainly not tired. This is something we do every day, day in and day out, cooking. Going into the finale, I am feeling excited and nervous -- I want to do a great job and win.

Bravotv.com: What went through your mind when you found out Graeme won the last Battle of the Sous Chefs?
BV: I was very excited for Graeme because he finally had an opportunity to shine and he brought it all to the table. I felt a great sense of redemption for him because he got to win a challenge when it counted the most. I strongly believe that Graeme helped us get all the way tothe end-- he clinched it to get us to the finale.

Bravotv.com: Can you elaborate on your menu planning? How did you decide which dish will go for which course?
BV: When it comes to the menu, and what I learned the first go round on Top Chef, you need to cook what you know. There are time limitations, surprises (planned and unplanned), so you need to do what you can to troubleshoot and get good results on the plate. You can't bring anything to the challenge that you've never done before. I go back to dishes we've created at VOLT, things that Graeme and I both know, things that I don't even have to speak to Graeme about.

Bravotv.com: You had a little over 20 minutes less than you thought you would have to prep because of traffic. How nervous were you that you wouldn't get it done?
BV: Traffic was a big factor, but I knew the food, I knew the menu, and I knew I could get it all done. It was worth going to get the extra ingredients (the proteins), and it was worth it in the end.

Bravotv.com: How do you feel each dish turned out? Was there anything you would have done differently?
BV: I was very proud of every plate I put forward. I thought that every dish was done flawlessly, and I achieved every goal I set out for.

Bravotv.com: What made you include an element from Michael's repertoire in your dish (the seaweed mashed potatoes)?
BV: I wanted to put out some sort of element that represented Michael because he's not only family, but I also respect him very much as a chef.

Bravotv.com: As the judges critiqued your food at Critics' Table, what did you think?
BV: I thought that I had nothing but positive comments -- there wasn't anything glaring that made me feel like I misstepped. I felt really good after Critics' Table.Bravotv.com: After the heavy comment about your beef dish? Did you think you won?
BV: Yes, I thought I won. I know I won.

Bravotv.com: What went through your mind once the critics told Doug he won? How did it differ from when Michael won?
BV: I thought for sure they were going to call my name because I felt confident about my food. Maybe they saw something in Doug's dishes that put it over the top. Compared to when Michael won, it wasn't a proud moment for me because I wasn't playing and rooting for both myself and my brother. I really wanted to win the money for my charity and it was an opportunity for redemption. If anything, I owed it to Michael to win because I wanted to compete again and go for the win.

Bravotv.com: You are on a roll in our Viewers' Choice. Anything you'd like to say to your fans?
BV: I appreciate all the support, and the fans need to know that their efforts will go to feed many hungry children across the country. I encourage everyone to continue to reach out and support Share Our Strength.

Bravotv.com: How's your relationship now with the other contestants?
BV: My relationship with everyone is great. We all got along, and I felt respected amongst the group. At first, they were nervous when I came in because I had competed before. That just goes to show that it was a tough competition, and we're all good at what we do. I still communicate with everyone from the group -- mostly David Burke.

Bravotv.com: What was your favorite overall challenge?
BV: Favorite challenge was the last one. It is always best to cook the food you want to cook- that's where I've always put my best food forward.

Bravotv.com: What was the hardest part of the competition for you?
BV: Being away. There are always two sides to it -- one of the greatest things when you are in a competition, all your focus is on that and not on outside influences. It's a break from the day-to-day restaurant life, but the other reality is that you want to be back home with your family and at your restaurant.

Bravotv.com: Did anything funny happen behind the scenes that you can share?
BV: I had a lot of fun with the Face Juggler app behind the scenes. We were acting like children a lot of the times behind the scenes which kept the grueling schedule and challenges bearable.

Bravotv.com: Anything else you'd like to add?
BV: I want to thank Graeme for everything and helping me along this journey. He is a big player in how we got all the way to the end, and I appreciate all his hard work day in and day out at VOLT.