The fourth season of Top Chef Masters was announced on May 24, 2012. Food and travel journalist, Krista Simmons, and features editor of Gilt Taste, Francis Lam, join James Oseland and Ruth Reichl as new additions to the judges' table. The season premiered on July 25, 2012 with 12 award-winning chefs competing in weekly challenges to win $100,000 for their charity and the title of Top Chef Master.
(WINNER) The chef won the season and was crowned Top Chef: Master.
(RUNNER-UP) The chef was a runner-up for the season.
(WIN) The chef won that episode's Elimination Challenge.
(HIGH) The chef was selected as one of the top entries in the Elimination Challenge, but did not win.
(IN) The chef neither won nor lost that week's Elimination Challenge. They also were not up to be eliminated.
(LOW) The chef was selected as one of the bottom entries in the Elimination Challenge, but was not eliminated.
(WD) The chef withdrew from the competition.
(OUT) The chef lost that week's Elimination Challenge and was eliminated.
In each episode, the chefs compete to win money for their charity. The Elimination Round winners are awarded cash donations ($10,000) for their charities. Each episode consists of a Quickfire and an Elimination challenge. The Quickfire is a short, simple challenge that can vary from cooking, tasting or a food-related task (e.g., peeling a certain amount of apples to certain quality standard in a limited amount of time). The winner(s) of the Quickfire Challenge receive $5,000 for their charity. During the initial episodes of the season, the winner is usually guaranteed immunity from being sent home that week. The Elimination Challenge is a more complex challenge which usually requires cooking a meal for many people with certain requirements. Each week, one or more guest judges join the show to evaluate both the Quickfire and Elimination challenges. Each week's elimination is announced in a segment called the "Critics' Table." One or more contestants are eliminated in each episode until the finale where one chef is crowned Top Chef Master. The winning chef receives $100,000 for his or her designated charity.
Episode 1: The Buffet Must Go On
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs split into pairs and must create a dish incorporating the two ingredients assigned to them from randomly drawn cards.
WINNERS: Chris and Patricia (Beefalo de Gato Pescado)
Elimination Challenge: The chefs form two teams to create a world-class Vegas buffet. Part way through prepping, the chefs are given scratchcards, which either award them with immunity or bonus cash for their charities, force them to switch teams, or deduct 30 minutes from their total preparation time. In addition, two gold scratchcards determine the type of food the teams must make for their buffet.
Red Team: Art, Chris, Kerry, Lorena, Missy, Patricia (Mexican Buffet)
Blue Team: Clark, Debbie, Mark, Sue, Takashi, Thierry (Indian Buffet)
WINNING TEAM: Red
WINNER: Chris ("Pork and Beans" with Cured Pork and Chickpeas)
ELIMINATED: Sue (Indian-Spiced Chicken with Lentil Rice Cakes and Tomato Ginger Jam)
WITHDREW: Missy (She severely cut her pinky finger with a mandolin and needed to have surgery to repair the damage)
Guest Judges: Sohik, Lisa, and Bryon (Quickfire Challenge)
Original Airdate: July 25, 2012
Episode 2: You May Now Feed the Bride
Elimination Challenge: The chefs are tasked with catering a wedding.
WINNER: Patricia (Pickled Mackerel with Young Coconut and Chilies)
ELIMINATED: Debbie (Grilled Green Napa Cabbage Salad)
Original Airdate: August 1, 2012
Episode 3: What Would Brian Boitano Eat?
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs showcase their creativity by creating a seafood dish without the use of heat.
Top: Chris, Mark, Takashi
Bottom: Kerry, Thierry
WINNER: Takashi (Aji Sashimi with Sea Urchin, Heirloom Tomatoes, and Daikon Apple Salad)
Elimination Challenge: The chefs work in teams to cook teppanyaki-style dishes.
Green Team: Kerry, Lorena, Mark
Yellow Team: Clark, Patricia, Takashi
White Team: Art, Chris, Thierry
WINNING TEAM: White
WINNER: Art (Griddled Shrimp, Cheese Grits Cakes, and Swamp Greens Salad)
ELIMINATED: Mark (Scallops with Bok Choy, Pickled Mushrooms, and Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce)
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs create a dish using aphrodisiac ingredients.
Top: Kerry, Takashi
Bottom: Art, Lorena
WINNER: Takashi (Chilled Oyster and Sea Urchin with Yuzu-Truffle Vinaigrette)
Elimination Challenge: The chefs launch their own Thai restaurant and put their own spin on classic Thai dishes.
WINNER: Chris (Sirloin Steak Larb Tartare)
ELIMINATED: Art (Cashew-Crusted Chicken, Crispy Rice Salad with Lemongrass-Lime Vinaigrette)
Guest Judges: Dita Von Teese (Quickfire Challenge); Saipin Chutima, Penny Chutima, Alan Sytsma (Elimination Challenge)
Original Airdate: August 29, 2012
Episode 7: Culinary Knock Out
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs race to complete three tasks: separate 18 eggs, grate a block of parmesan cheese, and cut a beef tenderloin into four filets, weighing between 7.5 and 8.5 ounces each without using a scale. The top two contestants then prepare a dish using the three ingredients in 15 minutes.
Top: Kerry, Takashi
Bottom: Chris, Lorena, Patricia
WINNER: Kerry (Parmesan Crusted Beef Fillet)
Elimination Challenge: Each chef competes in a boxing ring against another chef, preparing a dish in 20 minutes using a secret ingredient.
WINNER: Lorena (Chocolate Flourless Cake, Caramelized Pineapple, and Dulce de Leche Sauce)
ELIMINATED: Takashi (Chicken Liver with Prosciutto and Pickled Red Cabbage)
Quickfire Challenge: Paired up in teams of two, the chefs create dishes using limited kitchen space. Each team member is either assigned to the hot line or the pantry, and is not allowed to cross the taped line that divides the kitchen in half.
WINNER: Kerry and Lorena (Shrimp Farfalle with Herbs and Yellow Tomato Beurre Fondue; Seared Salmon Filet Over Salsa Verde and Arugula-Celery Salad)
Elimination Challenge: Each chef prepares a three-course packable meal for Dîner en Blanc Las Vegas.
Swordfish Conserva with Green Beans, Tomatoes, and Olives
Marinated Wild Mushrooms with Toasted Pine Nuts
Pork and Chicken Liver Pâté with Hazelnuts and Truffles
Chilled Cauliflower Soup with Saffron Coulis
Haricot Vert, Orzo, and Mozzarella with Pesto
Grilled Chicken and Kielbasa with Peppers and Paprika Coulis
Huancaina-Style Potato Salad with Aji Amarillo and Cilantro
Jerk Chicken Salad with Mango and Caramelized Pine Nuts
Jalapeño Chocolate Mousse with Berries and Whipped Cream
Daikon, Edamame, and Radish Salad with Whitebait
Uyghur Spiced Bison with Chili Jam
Sumac Dusted Flatbread with Curried Cauliflower and Red Chief Lentils
Quickfire Challenge: The chefs are challenged to cook identical dishes alongside a mystery teammate while separated by a screen, unaware that their partners were the critics. The dishes are judged on how similar the dishes look and taste.
WINNER: Chris (Prawns with Sautéed Celery, Thyme, Pine Nuts, and Chili Threads)
Elimination Challenge: Each chef is tasked with guiding two culinary students from Las Vegas' Southwest Career and Technical Academy. The chefs are only allowed to instruct, while the students cook and serve the dishes to the critics.
WINNER: Kerry (Florentine-Inspired Chicken with Orzo and Asparagus Ragout)
ELIMINATED: Lorena (Three Meat Lasagna and Arugula Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette)
Guest Judges: Felicia Nemcek, Linda Burns, Allen Asch (Elimination Challenge)
Original Airdate: September 19, 2012
Episode 10: Finale
Elimination Challenge: The finalists prepare four courses based on four letters: a love letter, an apology letter, a thank you letter, and a letter to themselves.
Beef Heart Tartare, Foie Gras, and Puffed Beef Tendon
Scallop, Pancetta Piana, and Sea Urchin
Blood Sausage, Poached Oysters, and Egg
Scallop and Spot Prawn "Korean Jjigae"
Flan of Sugar Snap Peas with Prosciutto, Morels, and Chervil
Branzino with Clam Ragout and Mustard Greens
Dry Aged "Côte de Boeuf," Short Ribs with Swiss Chard and Fennel Gratin
Guest Judges: Alan Sytsma, John Curtas, Karen Brooks, Alan Richman, Jane Goldman, Lesley Bargar Suter