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TOP CHEF MASTERS SEASON 3, EPISODE 1 - SPOILERS

I'm not doing a summary, just some random thoughts. I couldn't find a new thread for this season, so just starting things off.

I thought it was very interesting how quickly (some of) the Masters found out how tough a TC challenge can be - for three of these very well experienced and highly-regarded chefs to not finish their first dish!

I'm not familiar with any of the chefs, save Mary Sue Milliken (Two Hot Tamales, Border Grill).

I'm struck by how polite and civil these chefs all are to each other - such a contrast with the regular TC, and even TC All Stars shows.

Other impressions, comments?

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  1. Maria, I don't think Grant Achatz was on that show. Not sure who you are referring to.

    I know several of those chefs. Mary Sue and John Sedlar are definitely the "old timers" of this group. Traci des Jardins was on TCM last season. She's also quite a veteran, but not nearly as long as Mary Sue and John. George Mendes is one of the top "new" chefs in New York. His restaurant, Aldea (Portuguese) is REALLY hot these days. I put "new" in quotes because he's been cooking in New York for a good 10 years. He was chef de cuisine at Tocqueville (one of my favorite restaurants.

    And I love Naomi Pomeroy. Got to eat her food (Beast, Portland, OR) last spring at the IACP conference in PDX.

    5 Replies
    1. re: ChefJune

      oh god, how embarrassing! i thought Hugh Acheson was Achatz! sorry, my mistake. I just missed the editing timelimit to take out the Achatz reference. I edited it out of the original post.

      Oh, and of course I did know des Jardins, living in San Francisco!

      1. re: mariacarmen

        I knew Acheson was going home once I heard his food was inedible (no second bite), and it made me really sad because he was so witty...

      2. re: ChefJune

        Did someone do an edit? I don't see any reference ot Achatz OR Acheson in the OP.

        I found it a bit dull but I am sure it will pick up. As for being more civil than regular TC - so was the last TCM, I think.
        On the plus side, I thought Curtis Stone did a decent job as host. Not that he has to do much but at least he was not offensive, and at least one chef verbalized respect for him.

        1. re: LJNew

          I did. i mistook Acheson for Achatz (just name similarity) and ChefJune corrected me, ever so gently. I edited to avoid confusion, but i see i may not have achieved that....

      3. I think I enjoy Masters more than regular Top Chef. There's a lot less angst and bickering amongst the contestants. Or maybe I'm just all "Top Chef-ed" out.

        I'm pulling for Tio.

        7 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit

          I'm with you. I like the drama to be generated by the challenges, not by obnoxious personality clashes. Love the polite, cooperative Masters!

          And Tio is my choice, too! I love Julian. And she seems like such a nice person.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            It might not make me look good, but I would rather watch regular TC rather than Masters. It seems these chefs don't have as much to prove and don't care as much about winning as they do on TC so it's a little boring to me.

            I'm not a big viewer of reality TV in general, I watch Top Chef and Top Shot on the History Channel so I guess I'm not as shallow as it would seem for my stated preference. I have seen the NBC restaurant show and Marcel's SCIFI show but find neither particularly compelling.

            1. re: John E.

              It might not make me look good, but I would rather watch regular TC rather than Masters. It seems these chefs don't have as much to prove and don't care as much about winning as they do on TC so it's a little boring to me.
              _______________

              There's nothing wrong with that.

              Some people really enjoy the back scene angst and schadenfreude that are the hallmarks of most reality TV shows, Top Chef included.

              I just think after (what?) 3 straight seasons of TC and TCJD, it's nice to have one where the bickering doesn't push the cooking into the background.

              1. re: John E.

                The Masters contestants have all had success to some level and more comfortable in their own skin, therefore more professional. I think they all care about winning because they're sacrificing their time away from family/restaurant/business but they respect the process and the ingredients more; it's not about gamesmanship or trying to make another contestant look bad. You don't get the drama you get in the regular TC shows, but there's something compelling to me about watching chefs of this (Master-level) caliber cooking and producing incredible food.

                1. re: Bunson

                  Except that we really don't get to see that much food preparation. There also seems to be a much higher rate of not finishing quickfire dishes. I think I wasb't really clear when I indicated the TC masters didn't care about winning. They just don't seem as competitive and so far, I don't necessarily find their food to be any better or worse than say the top ten of any season of regular top chef.

              2. re: ipsedixit

                I *finally* got to see Episode 1 last night prior to Ep. 2. I don't have anyone I'm pulling for yet, but was sorry to see Acheson leave. I thought it might be Miliken. And like LJNew, I thought Curtis Stone did a very good job as host. Seems like the TCMers respected the fact that he is a chef so he knows (or should know) where they're coming from.

                I was floored that three of them didn't finish plating their QF dishes. They say they've watched the show, but I guess until you're in the midst of the competition, you don't know how hard it actually is.

                And I do enjoy how genuinely happy the TCmers are when another wins a challenge. Lots of smiles, pats on the back and hugs.

                Haven't read the rest of the thread, but are any of the recipes up on Bravo? (haven't looked there yet either). Some of these dishes look incredibly good!

                1. re: LindaWhit

                  I'm sure there's a learning curve re QF, but this one had to be a tough way to start, with (in some cases) very tough ingredient matches, and only 20 minutes to get something on the plate!

              3. I didn't watch this last night, and want to catch up. So far I've tried the my on demand tv site, Bravotv.com's site and hulu.com, as well as a lot of bogus sites that come up when you google TC3. Does anyone know where I can watch this episode? They gotta stop premiering shows at 11PM. Andy, do you hear me?

                5 Replies
                1. re: roxlet

                  It will be rerun a few times this weekend.

                  1. re: roxlet

                    i missed the premier, so set my dvr and for some reason only got the second hour of the premier episode! the only part of the episode on demand is the second hour that I caught with my dvr, and according to my "schedule a recording" search there aren't full reruns on this weekend?

                    i'm so confused. ;)

                    1. re: jujuthomas

                      the "second" hour? it was only a one-hour show...

                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        told you I was confused! :)
                        the episode I saw was started in the midst of a restaurant wars type competition. they spoke of one chef having immunity from the quickfire. Usually you see the chefs arriving, etc. this started with them setting up their restaurants for service.

                        1. re: jujuthomas

                          it must have started at an odd time...or maybe it was an extended 75-min episode like they sometimes do, and i just didn't notice. but it definitely wasn't 2 hours!

                          i just checked my listings and here in LA Time Warner is airing it on BravoHD at 4am on Weds. of course the other option is to just wait until Weds evening when they re-air it immediately before the new episode.

                  2. A big part of the civility and generousness has to do with their ages, mostly older than the TC contestants, and where they are in their lives: mostly successful and having achieved a lot of their ambitions.

                    I think you won't find the kind of thing that Elia or Jamie type of junk here. Or Mikes body issues.

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: Phaedrus

                      unless we're talking about Michael Chiarello.... ( :

                      1. re: Phaedrus

                        Actually, I think alot of the civility stems from the fact they are competing for charities.

                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          I'm also guessing they aren't all living in the same house with cameras on them 24/7 to further manufacture drama.

                          1. re: ipsedixit

                            I think it's the fact that their careers are made. While pride is on the line, their futures and the money they need to create them aren't.

                        2. clearly my inner food geek is showing, because i knew every one of these chefs - by name and restaurant - except Currence!

                          i, too, found it interesting that 3 of them didn't finish plating for the QF - that's never happened before!

                          i don't mind Curtis Stone so far, but anyone's better than Kelly Choi. and i LOVE having Ruth Reichl on board...i just wish they'd gotten rid of Oseland instead of Jay Raynor.

                          i think i'm experiencing TC fatigue - i just couldn't sit still through the entire episode and ended up doing some computer & house work while it was on. i need to re-watch over the weekend and give it my full attention.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                            i agree about Choi - good riddance - and Ruth - LOVE HER!

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              Not a fan of either Reichl or Oseland. Really really missing Jay Raynor, a lot.

                              Especially his vivid and descriptive language, witness: his take on the perfect panna cotta.

                              1. re: Phaedrus

                                I really didn't love the dynamic between Curtis Stone and the 2 judges...there was no humor or wit or energy. When they were sitting eating and critiquing it was just very boring. And I thought Curtis Stone seemed very uncomfortable when he was speaking to the chefs...very stilted and robotic.
                                I hope they settle into their roles and it gets a little more interesting to watch! And I also am rooting for Chef Tio...loved her on the Next Iron Chef...

                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                  Raynor needed to go over to whichever Bravo show has hairstylists and get a makeover. Can he not afford to get a decent haircut?

                                2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  "i think i'm experiencing TC fatigue "

                                  Me too! I was multi-tasking while watching the show and started concentrating on other things. I didn't even know how got booted until I read this thread. Luckily I've DVRd it.

                                3. okay, i just watched it again with minimal distraction...though i almost turned it off when i saw that Danyelle Freeman was the guest judge. UGH!

                                  i got a real kick out of Suvir - he's definitely the Yoda of the group :)

                                  did anyone else think Sue Z seemed a bit frenzied & overwhelmed? there was one shot of her in the kitchen during service that made it look like she was about to have a meltdown.

                                  Traci Des Jardins always looks angry to me - she has that permanent scowl thing going on (reminds me of Michelle Bernstein). i know she's not a mean person, but i was concerned that she wasn't the best choice for FOH ...fortunately she seems to have done just fine with it.

                                  i was sorry to see Hugh go - my ATL friends have raved about his restaurants. quickie exit interview w/him here: http://www.realitywanted.com/newsitem...

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    TDJ definitely does not "look" like a nice person.

                                    Miliken sort of has a goofy look about her.

                                    I miss the old star rating system.

                                    I miss Kelly Choi too.

                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                      Mary Sue Milliken is actually pretty sharp. i had the pleasure of hearing her speak on a panel at a conference for female entrepreneurs, and she was very eloquent and interesting.

                                      i didn't even think about the old star system until you mentioned it - i don't mind the regular TC format because it allows us to see each of the chefs cook more frequently (well, the ones that last anyway)...but i guess it was nice to have a system that set the Masters apart from the regular TC contestants.

                                      re: Kelly Choi, i'm going to chalk that up to your Y chromosome and hope you only miss her when she didn't speak.

                                      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                        I am a big Mary Sue fan. I was happy she made it thru. She and Susan Feniger were my first celeb chef crush, and The Border Grill was the first celeb restaurant I ever visited. So I always root for them on these things....

                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                        Re: Miliken - "wide-eyed wonder" is what I kept thinking watching this episode....her eyebrows always seem raised in surprise. :-)

                                    2. I finally got to watch this, which is why I haven't chimed in until now. The nurses here are huge fans and DVR it and they let me watch it very late last night in the family lounge. (Kiddo in the hospital; me=sitting parent.)

                                      The first thing that struck me was, "Oh gawd not Curtis Stone" even though I already knew he was in the offing. I think he's trying to develop a new persona, his "Judge persona." Either that or he's a pod-person, because he seems to have undergone a complete personality transplant. Everything is irritating these days, but him especially so, IMO. Reichl's fine w/ me as long as she stays away from talking like she writes (especially taste-descriptions, e.g., 'it tasted as if 97 miillion cows died for this bouillion.") She does know her food. And I like James Oseland, even though he irritates me too sometimes - he's very egalitarian; more so than I find James Raynor to be.

                                      I admit though; what really, REALLY threw me was how out-of-touch I was with the chefs themselves! Like a lot of you, I could recognize only two or three: Definitely TDJ and MSM, def. Chef Tio and the very handsome Hugh Acheson (losing!). On the first season, again like a lot of you, instant recognition and usually by sight alone because they were the chefs of my (our) generation; the mavericks who set the evolutionary new food standard. And it finally came to me: The first TCM's were the old guard; this series highlights the next generation; and I'd bet the farm that the next one is all about the mavericks. No doubt we'll be seeing a heavily molecular component next time.

                                      I have always enjoyed the level of courtesy and respect that these gentlefolk show to one another. I think a lot of it is that they're settled in their careers and have made names for themselves; their success isn't contingent on what happens in the show. Some of it's just the maturity of age/wisdom vs. youth/bravado. These chefs really don't have much to prove; it's already been proven, unlike the younger ones who are battling it out for their financial start. I think the fact that they're playing for charity probably influences the zeal with which they pursue their challenges - but I'd bet that they'd treat one another respectfully whether or not the money was going into their coffers or not. The shift of the editing would change, were that the scenario; the aggressive/snarky/funny/competitive angle would definitely be played up; less-so their camaraderie. And as someone said above, they also haven't been jammed into a too-small house to live with each other for a long period of time, so their personal habits and foibles don't really enter into the equation.

                                      I'm exhausted and i need a lot of coffee, but it's what I got right now.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: mamachef

                                        Hope the kiddo is getting better.

                                        1. re: mamachef

                                          I didn't know most chefs either, or even the restaurants except City Grocery cuz I'm researching a trip down south. That chef seems like a cool guy. Not sure I'd consider Hugh and his unibrow handsome but he too seemed cool and I wish he'd stayed. It almost sounded like they preferred the pistachio cake over the chocolate one during discussion but maybe I heard it wrong. Overall I don't feel like it's too exciting a group of personalities and wish they'd kept the points system. I'm not on the TC Dessert bandwagon so hopefully there's a good break before another "regular" TC season starts.

                                          Good luck w/ the kid.

                                          1. re: Joanie

                                            Thank you for good wishes, Gaffk and Joanie.
                                            Marci

                                        2. I also found the civilness of the contestants so refreshing. They are all true "grownups" and it's a nice change after the TC All Stars season. I really thought Mary Sue deserved to go for a so-so cupcake.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: DGresh

                                            Yes, but they said that Hugh's scallop was inedible, which is pretty much the kiss of death on TC.

                                            1. re: dmjordan

                                              Yes, always. Once you can't take a second bite, that's the dish sending its chef home.

                                            2. re: DGresh

                                              I thought it was pretty apparent that Hugh was going to go--they said they couldn't take a second bite, vs something being pretty plebian but good.

                                            3. I thought it was interesting that this was one of those TC circumstances where things trip up on the parameters of a challenge, in this case the fact that the winning team would be determined by majority vote of diners, while of course the winner and loser would be chosen by the judges, who were constrained by the diners' choice. And apparently, the judges preferred the food at Mosaic far, far over that of Leela (per blogs). I have no doubt that had Leela lost, the guy with the raw lamb and apple-label salad would've gone home, but he waasn't in the running. Granted, there's always this split in Restaurant Wars, but usually it's the judges determining the winning and losing team.

                                              1. I went to the bravotv site to pull the recipe for Naomi's cake, which got such an intense reception. But strangely, they posted Mary-Sue's cupcake fail, but not Naomi's successful cake.

                                                1. For me, TCM vs. TC is a bit like watching NBA playoffs vs. NCAA march madness. Different beasts-- the pros have already "made it" to some degree, and the other up-and-comers are fighting harder to get there. Although I enjoy watching the expertise of TCM contestants, there seem to be more inexperience-related cooking misfires and way out-there "shots" taken in dishes in TC, and I admit I enjoy the drama of that part of it.

                                                  1. piece in today's LAT featuring Mary Sue Milliken & John Sedlar. i personally thought that a comment by one of the chefs toward the end of the article could be interpreted as a potential spoiler, so read at your own peril!

                                                    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/...