The New Top Chef Masters Winner Sounds Off on Skydiving and More
Something old, something new, something borrowed… Was there a wedding on the finale of Top Chef Masters last night?
No, former cheftestant Sang Yoon didn’t swoop back in to woo finalist Doug Keane (it really was just a bromance, guys!). But the wedding rhyme did play into the final challenge on the show—only the last line was “something sous.” Clever, right?
To create a four-course meal, each finalist had to make a dish inspired by his or her early career, a dish inspired by his or her current ambitions, a dish inspired by a chef he or she admires and a re-do of the dessert his or her sous chef made in a prior challenge.
Prize for the cutest plate goes to chef Bryan Voltaggio, whose “something old” was the chicken Chesapeake he cooked his now-wife when they were 18. But when Curtis Stone declared that Keane’s soup maybe made him orgasm, you had to hope that Keane was the winner.
And…he was! His four courses:
1. Billi Bi (cream of mussels) soup with white wine, saffron, fennel puree and uni—a classic dish from Cyrus, his California restaurant that closed last year
2. Soba-wrapped ocean trout with ginger dashi and groats
3. Duck breast with sake roasted daikon, tamarind, golden pea sprouts and dates
4. Black sesame panna cotta with shattered miso custard and green tea matcha—a new version of the panna cotta his right-hand man, Paul, had lost the sous chefs challenge with
So what didn’t we see on camera? “My favorite moment of Top Chef Masters that wasn’t caught on camera was at the Asian night market challenge,” Keane told PEOPLE. “It was toward the end and Sang had come over to try my dessert and I didn’t have another plate to put it on for him, but I had it in one of the foamers, the canisters that I was using. I said, ‘Here, I’ll just kind of squirt a little bit for you out of the foamer right into your mouth,’ and it exploded. It exploded all over him. We must have laughed for about 15 minutes, [we were] just crying. And the producers were so upset because none of them caught it on camera.”
Keane’s win means $100,000 goes to the charity he founded, Green Dog Rescue Project, which trains and rehabs mistreated dogs and helps them find new homes. The chef and his wife, Lael, have their own posse of four-legged friends at home: Indie, Finnegan, Cash and Piglet.
The dogs don’t get table scraps (except 19-year-old Indie; “I figure she’s earned it,” Keane said), but of course he and Leal spend plenty of time cooking. She’s in charge of their pizza oven—Keane claimed his crust is “terrible”—but the new Top Chef Master drops an important tip for any kind of cooking:
“Salt your food,” he said. “It’s the single best cooking tip I’ve ever gotten, and it’s the single best one I’ll ever give. People put all this effort into cooking meals and they forget to just add some salt to it, which is actually the most essential element of food. Food needs to be seasoned. If you don’t do it, you’ve wasted your time.”
Maybe even more thrilling than hearing last night’s outcome was watching Keane go skydiving—an adventure he had refused during the first episode. After winning, he says, he realized he needed to do it to complete the journey.
“Once I was in the plane I knew I was going to do it and it was just about conquering that fear, so it was kind of a really cool feeling,” he said. “Once I got out of the plane it was actually very different than anything I thought it was going to be. I literally felt like I was just kind of sitting there, it didn’t feel like you were falling at all. It was really just getting over the fear of it and I think that was the cool thing.”
Is he hooked?
“I would do it again, no problem,” he said. “It’s nothing I’m dying to go do, but yeah, if someone said, ‘We’ll give $20,000 to your charity to do it,’ game on.”