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Mexican cuisine chef Rick Bayless crowned 'Top Chef Masters' champ


By Christopher Rocchio, 08/20/2009 

Rick Bayless was crowned the winner of Top Chef Masters during last night's finale broadcast of Bravo's Top Chef spinoff.

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"I am just totally elated," Bayless said after his victory was revealed.  "I set myself this personal goal to stick it out and to compete against chefs that have this incredible training that I've never had -- and I did it."

As Top Chef Masters' champion, Bayless -- a Mexican cuisine chef who operates Chicago's Frontera Grill and Topolobampo restaurants -- won $100,000 for the Frontera Farmer Foundation, the charity for which he was competing.

The foundation, which Bayless and his wife Deann founded with the two restaurants' staff in 2003, is a nonprofit organization that promotes small, sustainable farms by providing capital development grants to family farms which serve the Chicago area. 

"In the Midwest, we're losing family farms at an alarming rate," Bayless explained during the finale.  "The Frontera Farmer Foundation provides capital improvement grants to small family-owned farms to buy the right equipment to become profitable."

Bayless defeated Hubert Keller, a French chef who operates Fleur de Lys in San Francisco and Las Vegas, and Michael Chiarello, the chef-owner of Napa Valley's Bottega Restaurant who also hosts Food Network's Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello.

"Rick went home with the gold, and I respect the professor of Mexican cookery," said Chiarello.  "I love that he won."

Despite their defeats, Chiarello and Keller still received $20,000 each for their respective charities.

"That's the greatest thing," said Keller.

During the final challenge Keller was awarded a total of 16 1/2 stars, Chiarello received a total of 17 stars, and Bayless received a total of 18 stars -- making him the champion.

(Photo credit Bravo)


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