PUTTING other professional chefs through their paces has been a fun and delicious experience for Curtis Stone.
The Aussie chef is the new host of hit US reality series Top Chef Masters, airing on pay-TV channel Arena in Australia.
"It's an exciting season for me obviously," he said.
"We switched up the format quite drastically from past seasons, such as the star rating. We changed all that up. I thought it was a bit boring. Now the critics
and I sit down, taste their food and decide who is the best and the worst."
The Top Chef spin-off pits America's best professional chefs against each other in a series of challenges, testing their skills, creativity and ability to work under pressure.
"These chefs put all of that reputation on the line for the chance of winning some money for one of their charities," Stone said.
"It's really brilliant to watch."
But when the chefs are thrown a curveball, sometimes Stone and the critics are in the firing line as well.
In a recent quickfire challenge the chefs were asked to cook with 'bugs' and Stone was forced to taste and evaluate all of the creepy crawly dishes.
"I take my hat off to the chefs as some of the dishes were actually quite tasty, like Hugh's tempura fried crickets with sunchoke and carrot puree," Stone blogged about the episode.
"I thought I was in for an easy ride with this job. Apparently not."
Stone sees his role on the series as a hybrid of host, judge and conduit between critics Ruth Reichl and James Oseland and the chefs.
"I've spent the last 20 years figuring out how critics make up their minds," he said, referring to his own career as a chef and restaurateur.
"I get to throw in a chef's perspective about why they cooked certain dishes. While I get to have an opinion it's still the critics who decide the fate of the chefs. I can empathise with them and compliment them on their great food."
The third series has featured a slew of celebrity guests including Mad Men star
Christina Hendricks and her husband, actor Geoffry Arend, singer Kelis and the cast of The Biggest Loser.
Next week, pop rockers Maroon 5 stop by in their tour bus to taste and judge a feast fit for a rock star. Stone said many of the A-listers were fans of the show.
"The show has built a bit of a reputation here in America. People really love it," he
"I remember having Christina on and she was geeking out about being on the set of Top Chef. We were all gaga for her and she was gaga for the show."
Stone is currently filming the fourth series of Top Chef Masters in Las Vegas, a
city that has outgrown its all-you-can-eat buffet reputation.
"It's a town of gourmet restaurants these days," he said.
"Andre Rochat has opened some fabulous restaurants.
"There's some crappy buffets as well, don't get me wrong (laughs)."
In this week's episode, the chefs will have to operate a fast food drive-through, from the grill to serving up their best meals and all in less than two minutes.
Top Chef Masters - Arena - Monday at 8.30pm QLD, 9.30pm NSW.
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