'Top Chef Masters' Finale: Out of Africa

top-chef-masters-finale.jpgFinal Elimination Challenge: Just like last season, create a meal that celebrates their journey to becoming a chef. The first dish should be inspired by their first food memory. The second dish should be inspired by the dish that made them want to become a chef. The third dish should describe them as a chef. The usual critics (minus Gael Greene) are joined by Tom Colicchio and last season's three finalists.

So here's their food:

Marcus: First course is smoked char with sweet horseradish shellfish broth and mashed root vegetables, which are flavors he grew up with. Second course is salt-cured duck with foie gras ganache, sour tomato jam and aged balsamic, based on the time he had to cook Christmas Eve dinner for his family when his grandmother was sick, and everyone loved it. Third course is berbere-flavored hamachi meat balls, porcini couscous, and sea urchin froth, in his effort to bring African cuisine onto the culinary radar.

Rick: First course is hamachi and live sea scallop crudo, glazed kushi oyster, and American sturgeon caviar, because he grew up going clamming with his father on Long Island. Second course is bacon and eggs with gnocchi, parmesan, and white truffles, based on the first time he ever ate mushrooms at a neighbor's house and realized how exotic food could be. Third course is venison with espresso salt, stuffed cipollini onions, Matsutake mushrooms and Brussels sprouts, hoping for the element of surprise since everyone would expect him to do seafood.

Susur: First course is steamed scallop with Cantonese black bean sauce, dim sum shrimp and crab croquette with chili sauce, from his memories of having dim sum with his father. Second course is tuna with wasabi mousse, charred sea bream, and artichoke, asparagus, and daikon salad with ginger flower, based on the first time he had Japanese food and it got him interested in cooking. Third course is lamb Thailandese with chiang mai sausage, green curry and polenta, as a reminder of when he took his children to Thailand so they could learn more about Asian culture.

Halfway through the prep time, the contestants are joined by their sous chefs from their restaurants. As you would expect, all of the food is really great, and the critics have a tough time deciding on a winner. Ultimately, even though his third dish challenged their Western palate, the critics and diners give the win to Marcus Samuelsson. Well, at least it wasn't Susur, although I softened on him a bit when he told the story of how his first wife was killed in a plane crash. So on to Top Chef next week!

Photo Credit: Bravo

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