nullLast night’s “Top Chef Masters” was the prelude to next week’s season finale, and it was one of the most intense and difficult challenges, if not the most difficult, yet. The final four first did their quickfire challenge, where they were blindfolded and had to guess what was being put in their mouths–10 items in all, and among them were peanut butter, hoisin sauce, hummus, pappadum, ketchup, smoked paprika and mango. After looking afraid and not feeling like he did well, Michael Chiarello wound up winning with 7 out of 10 correct. Rick Bayless and Anita Lo had 6 correct and Hubert Keller had 5. So Michael began with 5 stars, Rick and Anita 4 each and Hubert 3.5.

Then came the elimination challenge, and each chef would have to cook a buffet lunch for 200 Hollywood guests, but the catch was that they couldn’t touch the food. Instead, they had to interview and “hire” a staff from among former “Top Chef” contestants. Among them were Fabio and Jamie from last season. They also each had a $2000 budget to work with.

Three of the chefs were respecting the young chefs, except for Michael who was kind of being tough on them. That spurred a squabble with Dale, who kept getting in Michael’s face, and saying, “What are you gonna do about it?” Michael just let it go, as well he should have if he really wanted to win.

Then, just as they were all in a groove and cooking their items, host Kelly Choi hit them with a twist. They had to quit cooking and move everything to the place where they would be having the lunch service–a sun deck at a hotel, and in direct sunlight. That meant some of the items that were cooking at the moment had to stop cooking, and the chefs had to re-think some of their dishes due to the sunlight.

The judges this week were Gael Greene, James Oseland and Jay Rayner. They all loved what Hubert and Rick did…Hubert an 18-course buffet and Rick, as usual, a Mexican themed buffet.
Anita had a raw bar which was a questionable idea with the sunlight, but they liked her Asian style short ribs. Michael, meanwhile, was pretty ambitious too, with a prime rib of swordfish and Italian style buffet items. The judges thought something was odd about the texture of the fish, but other than that didn’t hate his buffet…they just liked Hubert’s and Rick’s more.

At the critic’s table, Rick and Hubert had the high scores and the one with the highest score would win $10K for their charity–and that was Hubert with 18.5, or 22 total points. Rick received 17.5 from the judges, giving him 21.5 total. So it was down to Anita and Michael.
Anita scored 11 points from the judges, giving her 17 total points, and Michael scored 12.5, or 19.5 total, securing him a spot in the finale and sending Anita home.

nullSo now we’re down to the final three, and next Wednesday is the season finale, as Rick, Michael and Hubert will square off to become the first ever Top Chef Master. I think it’s going to be between Rick and Hubert, but I guess if Michael has come this far and since he won last week’s challenge, you can’t rule him out either. It should be an interesting and exciting finale, and then also next week Season 6 of “Top Chef” kicks off. See you all then!