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Kid Class

Ruth Reichl judges the final three on their teaching ability.

By Ruth Reichl

How to Watch

Catch up on Top Chef Masters on Peacock or the Bravo App.

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. 

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