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Top Chef Masters Finals, Last Chef Standing

Top Chef Masters finals was a conflict of styles. The classically trained seafood guru Ric Moonen who brings experience as a Top Chef contestant and judge taking on the young upstart Marcus Samuelsson who has shown a flair for the international during the competition and Suser Lee-a Chinese immigrant who admits he did not know the rules when he started the competition.

The finalists met at a downtown train station for a pre-game breakfast to reminisce about the completion, and contemplate their final dishes. Hostess Kelly Choi outlined the rules: each will present a three course meal.

First course is their first food memory. Second course is why they became a chef and the final course will be autobiographical-why did they become a chef.

Chef Samuelsson's first course is a Smoked Char with Sweet Horseradish and Shelfish Broth and a side of Mashed Root Vegetables. For a second course, Samuelsson recalls a family meal that sealed his fate as a chef and offers Salt Cured Duct with Foie Gras Gnache and Sour Tomato Jam and Aged Balsamic. For his self-descriptive dish, Samuelsson offers to infuse Africa into the US with an offering of Berbere Flavored Hamachi Meat Balls, Porcini Couscous with Sea Urchin Froth.

For Chef Moonen, his first course will be a Hamachi and Live Sea Scallop Crudities, Glazed Kushi Oyster and America Sturgeon Caviar. Remembering an omelet a friend the mother of a friend in Flushing, Queens made, Moonen offers a Bacon and Eggs Omelet of his own with Gnocchi, Parmesan and White Truffle. Moonen who has tried to be surprising during the competition will break away from his typical seafood comfort zone for the third course and offer Venison with Espresso Salt, Stuffed Cipollini Onions and Matsuake Mushrooms and Brussels Sprouts.

Chef Lee remembering a meal with his father will offer a first course of Steamed Scallop with Cantonese Black Bean Sauce and Dim Sum Shrimp and Crab Croquette with Chili Sauce. Recalling a meal with his first wife that converted him from cook to chef, Lee offers a Tuna with Wasabi Mouse, Charred Sea Bream with Artichoke, Asparagus and Daikon Salad with Ginger Flower. For his autobiographical course, Lee goes to his Asian roots and offers Lamb Thailandaise with Chiang Mai Sausage, Green Curry and Polenta.
On the judging panel is Chef Tom Colicchio, the head judge from Top Chef and the three finalists from Top Chef Masters, Season One.

The judges universally liked the dishes offered by all the chefs in the first and third courses. So it comes down to the second course that will differentiate the competition. They found the pork slightly underdone in Moonen's omelet and Lee's offering "not up to standard." For Samuelsson though, there was a lot of buzz about his Foie Gras Gnache, described as explosive with taste.

Final voting: Lee 17 stars; Samuelsson 17.5 stars; 17 stars. Making Marcus Samuelsson the Top Chef Master.

In a bit of a spoiler, Tom Colicchio congratulated Samuelsson on Twitter just after 11 ET-two hours before the show was broadcast on the west coast.

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