Top Chef Masters adds a former Top Chef runner-up, intriguing parallel competition

Top Chef Masters has cast a former Top Chef finalist as one of its 13 contestants, and the masters’ sous chefs will compete in a web series that will impact the competition, giving their boss advantages or disadvantages.

Bryan Voltaggio lost to his brother, Michael, on the show’s sixth season, which the brothers ruined by bickering and being far more talented than anyone else. Bryan’s casting may indicate that the series has run out of master chefs willing to compete (there are two other Masters returnees: David Burke and Sue Zemanick), or it may indicate the level of talent that the regular edition of the competition is able to draw.

Meanwhile, Battle of the Sous Chefs, hosted by Hugh Acheson, “will have a direct effect on” the chefs, as Curtis Stone. Bravo said in a press release that “the winner of each battle earns the Top Chef Master immunity” while “the chefs who perform the worst always earn obstacles for their Top Chef Master.”

The chefs all thought they’d be cooking alongside them, and seem kind of pissed that they’re instead competing separately, and potentially handicapping them. While Last Chance Kitchen was simply a rip off of Redemption Island, this is the most interesting thing Top Chef has done in years. Is it fair to be handicapped as a result of someone else’s failure? Or is it just reflective of the relationship sous chefs have with their bosses, potentially helping or hurting their reputations based on their work in the kitchen?

My only complaint about the series, the first episode of which is below, is that, like Last Chance Kitchen, there is a single judge who knows who cooked what. I trust Hugh Acheson like I trust Tom Colicchio, but Tom’s judging last season was highly suspicious. And now one person determines the advantages and disadvantages for the actual competitors.

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