Cast Blog: #TCMASTERS

Lesley Suter: Hey, Chefs, Why So Raw?

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"

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?

James Oseland Fights for Franklin

Lesley Suter: Hey, Chefs, Why So Raw?

Lesley makes the case for not making crudo.

HLike my fellow Top Chef Masters critics, I have a job aside from evaluating the work of master-level chefs on television. Simultaneously while filming this season, I was also working on a particularly large article for Los Angeles magazine dedicated to L.A.’s sushi scene, which had me feeling very in tune with all things seafood. I visited local wholesale fish markets, chatted with marine biologists about sustainability issues, interviewed local fishermen, including a guy who free dives off the coats of Santa Barbara for fresh sea urchin—I even took Ruth Reichl, Francis Lam, and Gail Simmons to dinner at Kiwami by Katsuya a few nights before the chefs visited. (A complete coincidence, by the way!) So, I was thrilled to see that this week’s episode was giving a nod to the region’s underwater bounty.

Of course, if having the finest ingredients at your fingertips were all it took to be a master chef, every toque in town would be competing this season. As this episode showed, just having access to pristine seafood isn’t always enough to make a winning dish. What struck me most while watching the chefs struggle with their chilled presentations was that every one of the contestants interpreted “not hot” as “crudo.” As anyone who has enjoyed a slab of poached salmon on their salad knows, there is more than one way to serve cold fish. Some tougher seafood can even be braised and then chilled to miraculous effect. If only Neal and Sang had thought of that while struggling with the texture of their raw fish, we might have seen a very different bottom three—and perhaps a different chef going home.