‘Top Chef’ crowns a new Master
June 16th, 2011
09:54 AM ET

‘Top Chef’ crowns a new Master

One of the appealing things about “Top Chef” is the simplicity of the final challenge: cook the best meal of your life. “Masters” has taken a slight twist on that, challenging the last chefs standing to cook a meal that represents their culinary lives.

But like with so much else this season, the final challenge was changed, too. Luckily, it actually worked to the show’s and the chefs’ benefit.

Mary Sue, Traci and Floyd were tasked with cooking a three-course meal. The first course needed to represent their first food memory; the second course called back to the meal that inspired them to become chefs.

For the third course, the chefs were each assigned a critic, and challenged to cook a dish based on the meal that inspired James Oseland, Ruth Reichl and Gael Greene to become food critics.

Floyd gets to cook rendang, an Indonesian dish, for James. Traci has to work off of a fried duck dish that Gael had in France. Mary Sue has to recreate Ruth’s memories of a lemon soufflé.

Uh oh. For time immemorial, desserts – and soufflés especially – have been bad news for anyone on “Top Chef.” Despite the fact that Mary Sue worked a soufflé station once upon a time, I was wary.

The person I should have been worried about was Floyd. The chefs had eight hours to shop and prep on Day One, and they were allowed to go to any specialty stores they wanted for ingredients. Floyd went to a lot of different stores, and eventually got stuck in traffic. He only had three hours left on the clock when he finally made it back to the kitchen. Not good, since rendang takes quite a while to properly prepare.

The next morning, we get a brief interlude as the finalists are whisked away to a Hollywood home, and the panic starts to set in that they might be cooking in an unfamiliar environment. Nope. Turns out they’re going to Curtis Stone’s place so he can cook for them.

One: I had almost forgotten that Curtis was a chef, since it SHOULD have come up regularly throughout the season but never really did. Two: All I could think about during this segment was whether the delay would impact the prepped food sitting back in the kitchen. (Buzzkill, party of one.)

Back to the challenge. While the chefs go wild trying to get everything ready, the dining room starts filling up. Joining the critics for the meal are Tom Colicchio, along with former “Masters” contestants Susur Lee, Rick Moonen, Jonathan Waxman, Jody Adams and Susan Feniger.

Susan is Mary Sue’s business partner and lifelong friend; not exactly what I’d call an impartial jury, although at least she admits it. Plus, it leads to a great moment before the final course when Susan, who can no longer restrain herself, runs up to give Mary Sue a supportive hug. Floyd and Traci jokingly ask where their hugs are, and Waxman jumps up to play along. (Can someone give him a show already? Tell me you wouldn’t watch 30 minutes a week of Jonathan Waxman.)

The meals from all three finalists get interestingly mixed reviews. Some tables really enjoy a dish, while others find faults with it. What’s crazy is that the dishes that the chefs made to represent the critics’ memories get some of the best reviews. Mary Sue’s soufflé (which everyone jumped in to help plate when she almost ran out of time) was proclaimed by some as the best dish of the night. Floyd’s rendang nearly brings James Oseland to tears. Traci’s duck… well, Gael liked the Béarnaise sauce that was served with it.

When it came time for the winner to be announced, it was fairly clear that Traci was out of the running. I thought for sure Mary Sue, who’s been on a streak lately, would win. But Floyd, who has been beating himself up over constantly coming in second to Mary Sue, came in first when it mattered most.

Floyd Cardoz is the new “Top Chef: Master.” It was a rocky season, and one that, as a whole, wasn’t very satisfying. But the finale cleansed my palate a bit, and I might be willing to try another serving if they bring “Masters” back again.

What did you think about the finale? Did the right person win? Sound off below!

soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. thecelebritycafe

    Hi this is Payam Nassirpour from TheCelebrityCafe.com. We just recently spoke with MasterChef Judge Joe Bastianich about the new season. In it Joe talks about his start in the restaurant business, the difference between MasterChef USA and Italia (which he also judges), and the food he will never dare to eat. I'm sure your readers would love to read what Joe has to say. You can find the entire interview here:


    June 28, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Real Chef

    These shows are all stupid. This is not cooking. It is just raw undercooked art. If you want real food, go to Miami in some nice Cuban restaurants, or go to Spain, or Italy, or a nice BBQ in Texas...etc. This is where you get filled up with nice cooked food. I don't know how Emeril (who must be a total ass behind stage) and others have made it undercooking beef and not even cleaning it. They are lucky cooks who don't know didley about real food. All he does is say BAM and Kick it up a knotch and that is his fame. The food network was better in the past.

    June 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • @Real Chef

      Working at a Chucky Cheese or Applebee's doesn't qualify you as a "real" chef. If you don't understand the behind the scenes processes that go on, then you just need to STFU. BTW, Emeril isn't even on the Food Network anymore and I've eaten at three of his restaurants and the food was amazing at all three.

      June 22, 2011 at 10:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bob Loblah

    I loved the episode where Padma dunked her balls in Eric Ripert's mouth.

    June 17, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  4. queeniesquarters

    I wanted ANYBODY but Mary Sue to win. She should have been gone weeks ago. I'm really still disgusted Naomi was sent home, but Floyd was deserving imho. Tracy too, for that matter.

    June 17, 2011 at 4:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Duane

    I would have enjoyed the show a lot more if they hadn't given away the winner with editing. How many times in the past few episodes can they show clips of Floyd talking about always finishing 2nd to Mary Sue? I got the point, long ago, that Floyd was going to be finishing first in a most dramatic fashion, in the finale.

    I do think we had a lot of talented chefs this season and lots of them with very good hearts. I'm hoping to one day be able to eat some of Traci's food!

    June 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm | Report abuse |

    Foyd finally beat Mary Sue!!! Woo hoo!!! Peaked at just the right time!

    June 16, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. foppagal

    I found this season incredibly boring. There was no tension and the judges had zero charisma. I won't tune in for another Masters.

    June 16, 2011 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Josh

    Naomi Pomeroy got flucked over in the final 4

    June 16, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. JustMe

    I kinda wanted Traci to win, but I found her comments about duck to be rather telling. Gael wanted fried duck with bearnaise sauce. At first, Traci said her training in classic french food would help her with this. Later, she says duck with bearnaise sauce is unusual. I see that she decided not to do it. Hmmm?? I started realizing that Traci isn't as experienced as she thinks she is. Even worse, while waiting on the judges to decide the victor, she says, "Nobody makes fried duck anyway." Um........ YOU don't Traci. You don't fry duck AND you don't eat it with bearnaise sauce. Sounds like you had no clue what Gael wanted. Sounds like they picked right.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  10. liz landoll

    Surprise, another man wins Top Chef. Is it Tom C? The women were kicking ass up until the finale.

    Boring season, but I can't wait until the regular Top Chef comes back. I like when they don't handle them all with kid gloves.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  11. mel

    Do women ever win these things?

    June 16, 2011 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patty O'Furniture

      Nope. I'm not sure why women even bother to compete. I do hope we've heard the last of critic Danyelle, who managed to find fault with absolutely every dish put in front her. I'd rather listen to the dentist's drill than to her nasal twang spewing nitpicky 'observations' in the name of constructive criticism. What a joyless drone.

      June 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mary

    I love these types of realty shows where people who have a real talent compete and are judged by professionals not a popularity contest. Project Runway and all the Top Chefs (desserts is a little boring). I think the problem this season was the contestants were too nice no big egos so it was not a real fight each week and I think Curtis Stone was a bad host. Oh three things I thought a lot of the challenges were crazy these people should be in top kitchens making wonderful meals not on some leaky boat or fast food place.

    That being said I am so happy that Floyd won. What a wonderful person he is. I loved as previously mentioned his family stories and he is a man who really appreciates what he has earned the great life he has and his wonderful ability to cook. Also because his charity had such apersonal meaning to him. Glad the nice guy won. I did like the other two finalists too but I thought Floyd was just a great human being and I just like the challenges when they have to cook for large crowd s or restaurant wars or wedding receptions but other stuff is silly.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Riptide

    Decent season, but I feel like there's more creativity, excellence, and finese in the past few seasons of Top Chef than of the TC Masters.

    June 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm | Report abuse |
  14. CV

    I'm happy for Floyd & enjoyed the chefs this year. However I really, really disliked the judges this season. While I've enjoyed Curtis on other shows...in this particular role of host-judge he seemed cold & uncomfortable. I REALLY hated James....imperious, holier-than-thou, rude, know-it-all...the list could go on and on. I hope to never see him again. Ever. Didn't particularly like Ruth...and many of the guest judges just seemed to worship at James' feet. Blech...

    How about bringing back some of our favorite former chefs to be judges? I'd love a season of Sam, Fabio, Carla, the Voltaggio's for example. Try it please Bravo...

    June 16, 2011 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Brady

    I love the Top Chef contests and hope Bravo hangs on to all of them, including the dessert one. The Housewives thing is so passe, not to mention, really bad tv. Now if Bravo could get back Project Runway, I'd watch their channel more often!

    June 16, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Lee

    The Top Chef series is still on? I thought Bravo had become the 24-hour Real Housewives channel...

    June 16, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Laura

    I liked the season and will watch another season of Top Chefs Masters if there is one. The chefs this season were not as well known as the chefs on the first season of Top Chef Masters. So I am starting to wonder the difference between Top Chef and Top Chef Masters.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  18. Nadia

    I thought the series were a bit boring, and it lacked more talent when compared with the previous ones. Curtis is a bit stiff; although, I love him in other things. And, I am glad Floyd won. Although, no women master chefs were awarded yet, bummer!

    June 16, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
  19. Cathy

    I did not like this season of masters at all. Last season was much better. I don't care to see these top chefs work out of a fast food restaurant. I want to see them cook! I want to see their dishes, their creativity and their resourcefulness.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      Amen to that. I don't want to see them cooking out of a bus; making scientific food and all the other 'crap' that they tried to make them do this time. I want to see them make their food and/or make traditional dishes (with their personal updates) that they all get judged on. I thought that the producers got too cute with the gimicks. I do not at all like Curtis Stone as a host. Additionally, when they made the 'service men meals', I could have punched out the judges for their comments.

      June 16, 2011 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
  20. Pearlz

    I rather like the new Top Chief format, and I was happy for the winner, Floyd.

    June 16, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  21. john

    Top Chef RULES for sure but the only thing worse than Top Chef Masters is that God awful Top Chef-Just Desserts.

    The spinoffs just don't work!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    June 16, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • RKG

      I agree, especially with all of the glitter , fairy dust and rooty- tooty-booty creations on that show! Drama Queens!

      June 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Retired3

    not the best show I ever watched

    June 16, 2011 at 11:49 am | Report abuse |
  23. Sarah

    I really enjoyed all 3 of them but I love Mary Sue and was really pulling for her and her charity! But Floyd is a great guy and I am happy for him!

    June 16, 2011 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  24. Sue

    I really liked this season. The chefs were all very classy and fun. Maybe not as flamboyant as past Top Chef Master contestants, but I still would be interested in eating at any other restaurants to see their point of view. So happy that Floyd won! The guy kept plugging even when he was consistently getting second place. And I have to say that I do like Curtis Stone as the show host. I didn't think that I would, but he did a good job. Well done!

    June 16, 2011 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  25. Timothy R. Yee

    I am biased, being from San Francisco. I was truly hoping Traci would pull it off. I have eaten at her places in San Francisco and enjoyed the meals. I cheer for the home team but it was not to be.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
  26. Boof

    A few seasons back, there was this disgustingly sweaty guy name Howie that dripped sweat on all his food. Ever since then, I can't watch cooking shows on TV. It's because of him, I have a hard time eating out anymore. Thanks Top Chef, thanks for ruining the dining experience for me.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • huh

      Wasn't that Hell's Kitchen...where anyone is allowed to touch and sweat in the food

      June 16, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boof

      Nope, it was Top Chef. I've never watched Hells Kitchen simply because Gordon Ramsey is a terrible human being.

      June 16, 2011 at 12:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • OverEd

      He's a terrible human being? Why? – because he yells and curses? LOL – obviously you've never worked a line. He demands the best. His restaurants show it and his people put out for him. Do some research and find out what his staff actually think of him.
      You want nicey nice? stick to "Little house..." reruns.

      And yes...I worked the line for many chefs like him. 10 of the most grueling and fondly memorable years of my young adult life.

      June 16, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boof

      Thanks for that tidbit of info but I'll just stick to not paying my hard earned money for his food or wasting my time watching his programs. I've been supervising people for over 30 years and have never found it necessary to yell and scream at my subordinates.

      June 16, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • OverEdq

      Don't get me wrong Boof – I would never treat my subordinates like that either – though I've seen other Partners treat Associates like that. The context/environment makes a big difference.
      The way the Hell's Kitchen show is produced is intentionally over the top anyway. I respect your decision but, man, Ramsey's restaurants put out some amazing food. And remember, he won't be in the kitchen anyway.

      June 16, 2011 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boof

      Thanks OverEd...

      June 17, 2011 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  27. MS

    I enjoyed this season and in the process, really became a fan of Floyd's. In addition to being a great chef, he really touched me with his stories, his life and his appreciation of where he is in his life.
    Although I liked all three, I was thrilled that Floyd won! Congrats!

    June 16, 2011 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Lvit2Bieber

      Yah Floyd!! I too was worried about his time issues and was very plesantly surprised when he won, It hought for sure it was mary Sue. Didn't like the format at all this year but di love Curtis Stone, for the Masters they SHOULD have a true chef as a host. Hopefully next season of TCM the will go back to the previous 4×4 elimation; so that us foodies can enjoy watching 4 chefs cook at a time, you don"t get chance to see as much of the food when there is 10 people cooking at a time!

      June 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Kevin

    Bit boring to say the least, that was one of the more flawed finales in the entirety of top chef (think season 5 and 7 of top chef). The dishes were overall good, but nothing that really jumped out on the plate. Mary Sue did very literal interpretations of the dishes she needed to be inspired by and you could tell Colicchio was a bit indifferent to the meal (least till Mary Sue's souffle). The production company is really going to have think hard to improve season 4 and tone down the challenges a bit or just drop the series all together (everyone loses if guys like stratta and mendes do not make it to the finale). I think the realization settled in when the food at Rocco's Dinner Party looked better than the Masters finale.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  29. Swedish chef

    Bork bork bork!

    June 16, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
    • pattyjfig

      I didn't like the judges on this contest. I miss Tom C. and Padma. Perhaps they should host/judge Masters also.
      I am so happy that Floyd won. He deserved it. The judges on this masters were pretentious and they come off as unknowledgeable.

      June 16, 2011 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Calling James Oseland, Gael Greene, and Ruth Reichl unknowledgeable, is, well, unknowledgeable!

      June 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |

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