TV is the answer

Beth Carpenter

Usually when one thinks about reality television, the words “friendly, well-mannered and classy” would not immediately come to mind. However, when it comes to “Top Chef: Masters,” not thinking about those words would be a mistake.
Using the usual format of “Top Chef,” Bravo has organized a spin-off competition that brings in famous chefs from all over the country to compete in similar challenges to those that the up-and-coming chefs on its predecessor faced.
The first season of “Top Chef: Masters” aired this past summer and featured personalities such as Hubert Keller, Rick Bayless and Wylie Dufresne. Perhaps those names only mean something to me because of my extensive love for the Food Network and the regular “Top Chef,” but I was actually surprised by the caliber of the chefs that Bravo was able to wrangle for their show.
Perhaps one of the best things about the show is that the chefs are all kind to each other, with the notable exception of Ludovic “Ludo” Lefebvre, who is known sometimes as “Pepe Le Pew” by fellow competitors. The chefs are already established in their field and see no reason to backstab or sass each other, and sometimes, they even help each other in the kitchen, a feat rarely seen on any reality TV show.
Ludo is an exception to the rule, but he added a certain je ne sais quoi to the competition. For one thing, his French accent was so thick that Bravo decided to add closed-captioning for everything that came out of his mouth.
In addition to a whole new crew of chefs this second season, there has been a round of previous “Top Chef: Masters” contestants who didn’t win their rounds and wanted a second chance at the title. This provided past contestants Rick Moonen and Jonathan Waxman with the opportunity they wanted.
The format also changed between the two seasons: In the first season, there were six rounds of competition between four chefs, with each round sending a winner to the champion’s round. For the champion’s round, the top six chefs competed and were eliminated one by one, until only Rick Bayless, the season one champion, remained.
This season, there are only three initial rounds, and each round sends two chefs onto the champion’s round. It makes for a shorter season, but it’s not short on talent or entertainment value. There’s a level of friendly rivalry between the chefs that is uncommon to witness and a joy to watch.
There’s a whole lot to love about “Top Chef: Masters.” It’s a different sort of reality TV competition, organized solely around the skills of the chefs involved, and not focused on what soundbites can be squeezed from the contestants’ mouths. You see people doing what they do best, and possibly doing something new that hasn’t be seen in a kitchen before. If cooking is the sort of thing you like to watch, then “Top Chef: Masters” is about the best food competition show that you could spend your time on.

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