By Ken Tucker
Updated June 11, 2009 at 07:30 AM EDT

Having recently logged TV-critic-time gazing at the hideous I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, watching Top Chef Masters seems like a delightful palate-cleanser after eating way too much bad junk food. The show is charming because most of the personalities themselves are charming. Two dozen well-established chefs are competing against each other. They take the competitions seriously, they make a few mistakes. When one chef’s cakes failed to rise, the others chuckled: Hey, dude, it happens, was the implied agreement. When chef Tim Love accidentally put his ingredients in a freezer instead of a refrigerator, it just made him seem more human. And who couldn’t love that competition in which these culinary big shots had to cook with the humble implements in a college dorm room?

Granted, it’s not like good old regular Top Chef, where the players are young and hungry, so to speak. It’s not as though any of these top chefs will be out of work and scrounging if they lose. But watching Top Chef Masters sure beats feeling like a lamb being brought to the slaughter of I’m a Celebrity. And Masters works on its own, as good summer fare, in the months before the crispy original Top Chef begins.

Did you watch Top Chef Masters? What did you think?