Five Random Observations from Last Night’s Top Chef Master’s Finale:
- The three finalists were all outstanding all season. Coming in Marcus Samuelsson and maybe Jonathan Waxman were the most famous. Marcus was the one I knew the best. Susur Lee and Rick Moonen though were also interesting. All three seemed like good dudes to quaff an adult beverage with. Susur Lee’s intense stares at judges table – the combination of confidence and distance (like he is thinking about some woman’s legs he saw an hour ago) – are a memorable image from the season.
- The challenge – same as Season 1. A three course meal with course one being the first taste memory, course two being about when you decided to be a chef and course three being about where you are now. Susur’s Dim Sum taste memory was touching – and the dish seemed spectacularly wonderful.
- What a judging panel! The judges all season, Tom Collichio, Rick Bayless, Michael Chiarello and Hubert Keller. For all these chefs have accomplished, this must be still intimidating. For what it’s worth, I think Rick Bayless would have defended his title if this were a King of the Hill style competition.
- Gail Simmons’, er … um … eyes. As striking as ever, though with the shiny gold dress she fashioned, one would be forgiven for thinking it was a magic eye painting. Her wardrobe is not as ghastly as Sarah Jessica Parker’s Sex and the City monstrosities, but they do not always do her proud. Kelly Choi, as angular as ever, still makes one yearn for Padma. One more week grasshopper.
- Kudos to Marcus Samuelsson putting out the kitfo at the end. Kitfo is African meat tartare basically. It is not a classic Western style, but Marcus said his story has taken him to needing to share his African roots and the food with the Western audience. It was gutsy for him to NOT pander to the critics and instead live up to his mission and put it out there. Similarly it was gutsy of Rick Moonen to go with venison and to loudly proclaim his versatility and not just being a fish guy. The British critic’s question about him not going with a sustainable meat was interesting I suppose, but probably unfair given the context of the competition. At the end of the day, Marcus Samuelsson being crowned Top Chef Master seemed like a worthy choice.