Top Chef: Masters

The second season of Top Chef: Masters is taking some flack for the seeming lack of “Masters” in the competition. Tonight’s episode “It’s My Party” is no exception. Of the five contestants I am only familiar with one, the remarkably talented Marcus Samuelsson.  That is not to say that the other contestants are not great chefs.  There are any number of talented chefs who fly under the radar because they do not live in a large media market or have avoided the limelight.

The other four Carmen Gonzalez, David Burke, Monica Pope and Thierry Tautureau I needed to learn more about. Here’s what I found:

Carmen Gonzalez is the owner of Carmen the Restaurant in Miami. A native of Puerto Rico, she opened her namesake restaurant in 2003 and has received a notable amount of fanfare including Wine Spectator’s Award of Excellence from 2004-2006; AAA’s coveted 4 Diamond Award in 2004 and 2005; a 2006 mention in Zagat’s America’s Top Restaurants.

David Burke owns David Burke Townhouse, David Burke at Bloomingdales, Fishtail by David Burke, Burke in the Box, David Burke Prime, David Burke’s Primehouse, David Burke Las Vegas, and Fromagerie, Burke.  With as many restaurants as he has with his name in the title it is a wonder I have never heard of the guy.  He was named the first ever recipient of France’s Meilleurs Ouvriers de France Diplome d’Honneur for excellence in American cuisine.  He has also been inducted into the 2009 James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America.

Monica Pope, that name sounds familiar, is the owner of t’afia in Houston, TX.  Pope was the 2009 Best Chef at the Houston Culinary Awards and a James Beard Award Nominee.  She is a sustainable foods advocate and hosts a local food talk show on Houston’s 1560 AM.

Thierry Rautureau is a native of France and is known as the “The Chef in the Hat.”  He is the owner of Rover’s Restaurant in Seattle and the only chef on tonight other than Samuelsson to actually win a James Beard Award in a any category in Rautureau’s case for Best Chef in The Pacific Northwest.  His French pedigree is stout.

Which brings us to Marcus Samuelsson.  Truly one of the most talented young chefs in America, Marcus was born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden and trained in Europe.  He is the youngest chef to ever receive two three-star ratings from The New York Times and he is a two-time James Beard Award winner.  He is a food activist, TV show host and best selling author.  His restaurant, Aquavit is consistently one of the most popular in the uber-competitive NYC market.

Tonight the chefs throw a birthday party for actor Mehki Phifer.  Please, Bravo, enough with the stupid “challenges.”  Just put a bunch of talented chefs in a well stocked kitchen and let them cook.

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Stuart in 80 Words or Less
Stuart is a celebrity chef, food activist and award-winning food writer. He penned the cookbooks Third Coast Cuisine: Recipes of the Gulf of Mexico, No Sides Needed: 34 Recipes To Simplify Life and Amigeauxs - Mexican/Creole Fusion Cuisine. He hosts two Internet cooking shows "Everyday Gourmet" and "Little Grill Big Flavor." His recipes have been featured in Current, Lagniappe, Southern Tailgater, The Kitchen Hotline and on the Cooking Channel.

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Stuart’s Honors & Awards
2015 1st Place Luck of the Irish Cook-off
2015 4th Place Downtown Cajun Cook-off
2015 2nd Place Fins' Wings & Chili Cook-off
2014 2015 4th Place LA Gumbo Cook-off
2012 Taste Award nominee for best chef (web)
2012 Finalist in the Safeway Next Chef Contest
2011 Taste Award Nominee for Little Grill Big Flavor
2011, 12 Member: Council of Media Tastemakers
2011 Judge: 29th Chef's of the Coast Cook-off
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Wing Cook-off
2011 Cooking Channel Perfect 3 Recipe Finalist
2011 Judge: Dauphin Island Gumbo Cook-off
2011 Culinary Hall of Fame Member
2010 Tasty Awards Judge
2010 Judge: Bayou La Batre Gumbo Cook-off
2010 Gourmand World Cookbook Award Nominee
2010 Chef2Chef Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2010 Denay's Top 10 Best Food Blogs
2009 2nd Place Bay Area Food Bank Chef Challenge
2008 Tava: Discovery Contest Runner-up
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