Luxe Life Blog
Rick Moonen and Marcus Samuelsson reunite today at RM Seafood
It was only a few weeks ago that they stood toe-to-toe as royal rivals for the title on the Season 2 finale of Top Chef Masters. Tonight, they’ll stand toe-to-toe again as friends and re-create a five-course menu that cost one the title and gave the other the victory as Top Chef Master.
There’s been an incredible Internet feud over the results of Season 2 after judge Jay Rayner admitted that he docked our Mandalay Bay celebrity chef Rick Moonen a crucial half-star and gave it to his New York pal and show rival Marcus Samuelsson.
The dispute hasn’t been pretty and includes Rick’s volley back at Jay’s complaints. Bravo removed the judge’s blog, labeling it as “unkind.” Marcus scored 17.5 and Rick, who was hailed as a Top Chef Master by the other judges, was right behind with 17 points in the narrowest voting to date (third finalist Susur Lee also scored 17 points).
It had taken 10 weeks to knock out 17 of the country’s best chefs on the Bravo show. Fellow Mandalay Bay chef Susan Feniger of Border Grill made it to the Final Five and appears on NBC’s Today tomorrow with a cooking demonstration.
Rick has told me: “I don’t take one thing away from Marcus. I have the greatest respect for him. He is a wonderful chef and a great friend and a true genius talent. My fight was never with him, only with the judge who insulted Las Vegas and me over my 30-year campaign for sustainability with food. If he hadn’t done that, we could have won $100,000 for our Three Square food charity where my winning money was going.”
The two star chefs will prove that there are no hard feelings when they join forces today at 5 p.m. in Rick’s RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay for an initial cooking demonstration. Rick will even serve as sous chef to Marcus! Then at 7 p.m., some 175 fortunate folks -- including me -- who have contributed $125 apiece for Three Square will experience the meal the judges critiqued. Each chef will tackle alternate courses to showcase their culinary styles and work together to create a once-in-a-lifetime meal.
Three Square missed out on Rick’s $100,000 because of the judging furor, but tonight the charity will be given all the proceeds of the make-it-up dinner. Marcus, of Aquavit in midtown Manhattan (one of five he owns, including the uptown Red Rooster Harlem restaurant he represented on TCM), donated his $100,000 to the UNICEF Tap Water Project.
I’ve known Marcus and been a longtime fan back in my Food Network days in New York, and he is not only a gem of a guy but also a real super chef. Born in Ethiopia, he was raised after his mother’s tuberculosis epidemic death by adoptive parents in Sweden from age 3.
Named by the James Beard Foundation as Best Chef in New York City, he served as guest chef for President Obama’s first state dinner. Marcus appeared on Iron Chef America and was defeated by Caesars Palace star chef Bobby Flay.
Rick and Marcus will autograph copies of their newest cookbooks, Rick’s Fish Without a Doubt and Marcus’ New American Table, which was nominated for a 2010 James Beard Foundation Award.
We’ll use Twitter for live reports and photos during the kitchen demo and follow up tomorrow with a photo gallery of the chefs , the meal and an interview with both that will end the controversy once and for all.
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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