Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Things I'm Excited About: "Top Chef Masters"

So, without weekly recaps of the happenings at Bravo's "Top Chef," there's very little for me to write about on AbS these days, since I haven't been on any exciting adventures recently, or cooked anything extraordinary recently. I promise I will soon - I'm headed to DC over Memorial Day weekend Boston the weekend after that, so I'm sure I'll have some fascinating things for the two people who follow my blog to read! Hopefully dinner at Jaleo and a trip to the National Portrait Gallery are in store for DC, and we're definitely headed to Fenway for a game in Boston, which I am incredibly excited about, having never been to a game at Fenway (I have been to Fenway before, though, which is a whole different story, one involving Bernie Williams and a very flammable VW Jetta). Luckily, mostly for you guys, Bravo knew I had a dearth of things to rant about and developed a fantastic show about which I will subject you to weekly musings: "Top Chef Masters." It premiers Wednesday, June 10 at 10 pm on Bravo and will clearly be the fourth best thing to watch over the summer (behind 1. "Burn Notice," 2. "Psych," and 3. "Leverage") and probably the best thing on Wednesday nights (aside from Yankees games).

The show is basically "Top Chef," but with already established, arguably very famous, chefs. One difference, I'm assuming due to the logistics of using chefs with restaurants and other obligations, is that the competition is set up in stages, with six sets of four chefs competing, each group on one day for six weeks. The six winners will then compete over the remaining four weeks, I assume with one chef eliminated over the first three weeks, then a three-way finale showdown. This is clearly necessary with this group of people, but it seems some chefs could be really screwed over, based on the group in which they are placed. We'll see.

The format otherwise is the same, with the exception of the Quickfire challenge being judged BLINDLY (interesting) and focusing on testing the basic skills of these master chefs. I like the blind judgment, honestly, so the judges will not be influenced by whose food they're tasting, since, with this group of chefs, bias is a huge factor. I'm also a huge, huge fan of testing the basic skills of the chefs, as many of them have probably not shopped an onion in a restaurant for YEARS, yet how can you be a great chef if you're missing, or have lost, that basic skill set? A test of these skills is a great way to see which chefs are both fundamentally sound and also creatively gifted, which are, in my opinion, the two most important qualities in a master chef. As far as the Elimination Challenge goes, it seems to be similar to regular Top Chef, per the Bravo website:

The second challenge is a more involved elimination challenge designed to test the versatility and invention of the chefs as they take on unique culinary trials such as working with unusual and exotic foods or catering for demanding clients.

Right? That's basically old school Top Chef. I cannot wait to see what these guys come up with - I imagine we'll be in for a treat, getting to see what all these great chefs come up with on the fly. Additionally, they're each competing for a charity of their choosing, which is fantastic, but, clearly, the drama with that many egos in one room will be the star of the show.

Speaking of the chefs, who are they? Well, the list is here, but I'll give you a few highlights:

Anita Lo - Her restaurant, Annisa, is on my list of places to go in NYC and any recipes I've seen of hers have been amazing. Oh, and also, Rickshaw Dumpling Bar. How can that be bad?

Wylie Dufresne - arguably the most well known Top Chef Masters contestant, with the increased interest on molecular gastronomy over the past few years, Wylie and his restaurant, WD-50 have become more popular. I'm kind of torn about actually visiting his restaurant (another long story, one not involving Bernie Williams or a flammable Jetta), but I'm leaning more towards going for the experience. I do, however, really like Wylie, and his previous work as a judge on "Top Chef" has led me to regard him as thoughtful and fair, plus, I'm so interested to see what kind of stuff he comes up with for the challenges, more so than any other chef.

Rick Bayless - yes, there was some drama surrounding Rick Bayless involving the sponsorship of a certain Burger King sandwich. Yes, that made him lose some of his foodie street cred. Did it make a worse chef? No. Is his restaurant, Frontera Grill, awesome? Oh, yes it is. I ate there in Chicago a few years ago and it was fantastic. Also fantastic? The fact that I saw Rick Bayless, in the kitchen and in the dining room, wearing chef whites. Was he actually cooking? I don't know, but he was in his restaurant, which is more than I can say for most chefs the general public is familiar with.

Michael Chiarello - maybe he's the most well known chef, because of his show on Food Network a few years ago? I like Michael Chiarello a lot. I liked his show on FN and his style of cooking. It's very similar to mine, simple, good ingredients, lots of wine. I'm probably going to root for him to win, although maybe seeing him on TV will change my mind, we'll see. Regardless, I'm very interested to see what he makes when the producers make the chefs cook a four star meal from a vending machine (come in, you KNOW that's going to be one of the first challenges!).

As far as the judges go, I don't know what to say. I haven't heard of any of them, except Gael Greene, of whom I'm not a fan. There's also this guy (Jay Rayner):

who, as BW put it, kind of looks like a pirate, which should make blogging about him interesting (be prepared for a lot of "arrrrrrrs" thrown in after any quotes by him.

There are some videos posted on Bravo's website, if you want to get to know the chefs before the show starts, you know, while you're bored at work or whatever. Also, expect witty and biting commentary from me, every Thursday after the show airs. Or you know, a recap with me drooling over the food.

"Top Chef Masters" Wednesday nights at 10 pm on Bravo, starting June 10.


OfficeSupplyGeek said...

Wylie Dufresne? It reminds me of a quote....

"Yeah, but what happened to the Dufranes? No one seems to give a shit. Who can eat at a time like this - people are missing."

iko said...

Strong Mitch Hedberg reference, OSG!

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