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Top Chef Masters: A taste of victory

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If you were salivating over Rick Bayless' four-course meal that catapulted him to victory on last night's finale of "Top Chef Masters," listen up: It is now being offered -- plus one course, a peach tart to end -- at his restaurant, Topolobampo, for $90.

You'll get to taste the black mole that took the chef 20 years to perfect, as well as arroz a la timbada, the seafood, chorizo and black rice stew that was his only weak spot on the show due mostly to overcooked seafood.

The tasting menu will only be around for four weeks through the third week of October, however -- so if you already have a reservation, consider yourself extremely lucky. (And, well, the first available table for a Friday or Saturday night is in November, a reservationist told us.)

About that fourth course flub (if you can call it a flub), Bayless says he and his chef de cuisine, Brian Enyart, "both felt really bad."

"There was more wrong with that dish than just the seafood being overcooked," he says. "Brian came in and although I was very relieved to have an extra set of hands, I felt like at that I point, I knew how to play the game. I knew where everything was in the kitchen. Brian came in and he didn't realize how fast time flies ... He threw me out of my groove some."

Regardless, what's on the menu now at Topolo is the dish perfected, Bayless promises.

Last night, Bayless had closed the bar for a viewing party of about 100 of his friends and family, and when they announced he'd won, it was too loud to him to hear a thing. So, this morning, he watched the entire show again -- and was brought to tears.

"I didn't remember having said all that stuff at the end about my dad, and I found myself sitting there, sobbing," he said. "He was a barbecue pitmaster. He died when I was 20. And all of a sudden, I'm seeing pictures of me with him right before he died."

Bayless said it also was jarring to see how much of the "hard parts" were edited out.

"They don't show you all of that, when you need a pan and it's dirty and it's you scrubbing it. It's intense work and it was really hot in that kitchen," he says.

A longtime yoga practitioner, Bayless credits his calm, collected manner throughout the show partly to early morning meditative yoga. He says he would get up 45 minutes early on the days they were shooting to do "very simple yoga stuff, yin yoga."

But, he said, it is also not in his nature to get too ruffled. "The more stressed out I get, the calmer I get. When everything starts to fall apart, if you as the leader just stay real calm, then everyone on your team will be calm."

The 55-year-old chef said he'd dropped 10 pounds lighter by the end of the whole experience.

No rest for the weary. The opening of Bayless' newest takeout venture, Xoco, is headed for a Sept. 1 (or thereabouts).

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Janet Rausa Fuller

Sun-Times Food editor Janet Rausa Fuller is always thinking about her next meal.

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This page contains a single entry by Janet Rausa Fuller published on August 20, 2009 2:46 PM.

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