By Laura Hertzfeld
Updated September 18, 2013 at 12:00 PM EDT
Isabella Vosmikova/Bravo

Top Chef Masters

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And then there were four. Who better to strike fear in the hearts of our competitors than a bunch of teachers? Okay, so they were like, the most inspiring, amazing teachers ever. But still. Everyone has math class nightmares, right? It’s not just me?

Spoilers ahead!

Bryan Voltaggio won immunity and is through to the finale thanks to his sous chef, Graham – does this make him the first ever to advance this far without winning a single challenge?


Doug’s smarminess was running amuck during the Quickfire, this time boasting about the 900 burgers he turns out every day at his restaurant, Healdsburg Bar and Grill in Napa Valley, Calif. Apparently it’s one of the top 25 burgers in the country, according to Food & Wine. Thanks for sharing, Doug, but that experience didn’t seem to help in this Quickfire — even he admitted by the end of the challenge that his shrimp burger was more like an “eggy rubber shrimp puck.” Ick.

Highlights: Jenn’s sriracha ketchup hit the spot (“this sh*t’s delicious!”) — even judge and known ketchup hater Sang Yoon admitted it was good. David took responsibility for the great nacho debacle of 2013 while making a tasty lobster-burrata burger. Poor Bryan can’t seem to win a Quickfire – his classic bacon cheeseburger was criticized by Sang as looking like “drive thru” and tasting like meatloaf. And Sang’s snarky side was back as he got to judge his frenemy Doug — ah, sweet revenge. The best moment, though? Sang mimicking Curtis and announcing the winner’s earnings in his best Aussie drawl.

Winner: Jennifer


It’s impossible not to be in awe of the teachers Top Chef Masters chose to honor in tonight’s episode: A special ed teacher who literally saved a child’s life, a science teacher who pushes his middle school kids to do high school-level work (and is easy on the eyes to boot), an award-winning history and civics teacher, and a 30-year veteran teacher in an underprivileged South LA elementary school. Certainly, they were more than deserving of the incredible meal the chefs put together. But that doesn’t mean the evening was entirely smooth sailing.

There was not a dry eye in the house after this elimination challenge. But old school pictures of Jenn and Gail lightened the mood (of course Jenn had amazing punk rock hair! Rock star!)

Seeing special ed teacher Emily and hearing about her work with disabled student Camille was heartbreaking. That said, was I the only one who thought Doug’s dozen roses for her bordered on creepy and over the top? His dish — a rich combination of smoked salmon and caviar, however, looked divine and just over the top enough. Political aside: Perhaps LAUSD will boost teachers’ salaries so this doesn’t look SO much like “a teacher could never afford to eat caviar.”

And Bryan’s hours of cleaning squid also paid off — the judges loved his calamari Bolognese as did science teacher Carlos. Curtis finally said what we all were thinking about how Carlos gets his students to perform: “It’s because you’re so handsome!”

David’s “titanium balls” for making soufflé for 60 — but especially for history teacher Jeffrey — made him the envy of the other chefs, but not the judges who put him in the bottom two for the simple dessert.

Jenn’s too-rare lamb may have landed her in the bottom two, but it made teacher Stacey Joy cry with, well, joy. She told the judges she hadn’t had lamb since her mother, who always used to make the dish, died in 2010. Somebody get this woman a Seamless account! Also up for discussion: Is Jenn a mindreader?

WINNER: BRYAN (even though he had immunity!)


We’ll miss his semi-inappropriate quips (tonight’s: “It’s official, Dave Burke’s a foamer!”) and mentor-like status among the group.


Next week: The Top Chef Masters finale has finally arrived. Will Doug win it all for the dogs? Or will Jenn and Bryan duke it out for the top spot? Fortunately, Top Chef‘s 11th season, in New Orleans, is only a few weeks away from its premiere, so you won’t be Top Chef-less for too long.

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Top Chef Masters

Kelly Choi hosts some of the world’s best chefs as they compete for bragging rights — and philanthropic donations
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