Kid Class

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?

Kid Class

Ruth Reichl judges the final three on their teaching ability.

The judges never find out what went on behind the scenes until the show actually airs. It makes the judging fairer -- we’re judging food, not charm -- but there have been times this season when I’ve watched the show and regretted the outcome. This wasn’t one of them. 

It was fascinating to watch the chefs working with the students. Kerry was the most chef-like, pushing the kids really hard and giving them a fairly authentic experience of what it’s like to work in a restaurant kitchen. He was tough, but the results made it worthwhile. When he said that he would have served that chicken in his restaurant, he was telling the truth. Given a pedestrian dish, he showed his students how to elevate it into something restaurant-worthy.

And the also-rans? It was interesting to watch Chris slip into such a calm, professorial tone.  He seemed genuinely interested in sending his students away with more than just a better dish; he really wanted to impart his vision of food, wanted them to think about why you serve certain foods on the same plate. And he was the only chef who took the time to demonstrate techniques. If I could have chosen one of the chefs for my kid to work with, it would have been Chris; I think they’ll be better cooks because of what they learned. The biggest lesson that he taught them -- that restaurant food doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be good -- is one that every chef needs to know.Lorena, as usual, was a charming cheerleader. Her students probably had the most fun, but I’d guess that they learned the least. What they found out was how to tweak a lasagna and a salad with some showy touches, but they didn’t come away with any fundamentals.

But these kids are all winners, and if you’d been at the table with us you would have met two extraordinary teachers and a principal with heart. They know the kids, they know the parents, and they really care. Every child in America should have teachers as dedicated and talented as the ones at Las Vegas’ Southwest Career and Technical Academy. 

And a little note about the Quickfire. It was fun -- and revelatory. We all started out determined to use fake accents so the chefs wouldn’t know who we were. Watch carefully, and you’ll see us all lose those accents as time slips away. Cooking against the clock is harder than it looks.