Top Chef Master’s: Season Two Finale

Five Random Observations from Last Night’s Top Chef Master’s Finale:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

3 thoughts on “Top Chef Master’s: Season Two Finale

  1. New Zealand Venison is sustainably farmed outside on natural pasture without hormones steroids or antibiotics. And, it’s sea freighted not flown in to the US. Transport contributes just 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. One of the main sources of emissions is the fodder and grain grown to feed animals. So pasture fed an…imals contribute considerably less green house gas to the environment.

  2. Epicurean Food Lover,

    I’ve eaten at some of the best Restaurants in the world The best food that I have ever eaten in my life anywhere would have to be at Susur’s. The man is a Genius. When you have other Top Chef Masters saying what an honor it is just to be around this guy and watch him. “I have learned so much from this man”,Waxman. “The man to beat is
    Susur”,Moonen. I have to agree with some of the other posters, Susur got “screwed,” sorry rooked. The question is Why???? Marcus is a good Chef but not even in the same league as Susur. I think the judges on Top Chef Masters need to find other jobs. The mark of an excellent chef is to create the best tasting food for your target audience. The judges agreed Marcus’s last dish tasted like “shit,” and called him on it. His excuse is he felt he should stick to the integrity and the originality of the dish even if it tastes bad or foreign. The judges need to find new jobs, sorry palettes.The mark of an excellent chef is to create a dish or experience the will WOW your target audience and send them to Nirvana. This is the meal of a lifetime. This is better than love sex,orgasms etc. You cook something that tastes bad and say this is the way we do it back home sorry!! Susur Lee is the real Top Chef Master…. Iron Chef Master etc. If you’ve never had a real orgasm than his food is the next best thing. Shame on you judges and Bravo. I think you done Susur,his fans and your audience a real injustice. I think they should have Susur back and give him, his just rewards. The show was fixed.Marcus wasn’t even in the competition until the last show where he won both challenges for his charity and then suspiciously wins the last challenge and the title Top Chef Master. Something smells bad in TV land. Once you’ve eaten Susur’s food you will go back again and again trust me. Some experiences you will want over and over again.

    1. To be fair, if making great food for a target audience is enough then the Olive Garden would rank much higher than it does. That Marcus did something legitimately out there creates an interesting conundrum. Do you penalize someone because of your own lack of cultural awareness? I don’t know. That a dish tastes “foreign” cannot be conflated with tasting “bad”. Susur made sense as a choice – and his body of work was probably better over the season than Marcus. But it is worth noting that Susur did not even finish 2nd in the final challenge. They only had the one meal to work with – and so Marcus won out.

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