When you have no horse in the race, Top Chef Masters—a spinoff of Bravo culinary challenge juggernaut Top Chef—can be a bit of a snooze. Featuring toques who have often already reached the top of their game, the show lacks the competitive tension and winner-take-all excitement of the original series or All-Stars, in which former contestants get a second chance at glory. Most of the Masters are way too mature—too life-weary, even—to steal each others’ pea purée or muster up a ratings-worthy, Josie-level meltdown.
But when season five debuts on Wednesday, July 24, Washingtonians will have good reason to tune in. Frederick native Bryan Voltaggio—who recently opened Range in Chevy Chase and plans to bring sandwich shop Lunchbox there soon—will return to the small screen, taking on the likes of David Burke and Richard Sandoval (a partner himself in four Washington-area restaurants) for the chance to win $100,000 for a cause célèbre. Voltaggio chose local organization Share Our Strength, which aims to eradicate childhood hunger.
For fans of Top Chef, it is also a chance to see one of the show's fiercest competitors back in action. Voltaggio narrowly lost out to his brother, Michael, in season six—among the most exciting seasons due to a talented and charismatic cast. He is the first Top Chef alum to join a Masters cast, and could provide some much-needed edge. It will be interesting to see if well-known workaholic Voltaggio, whose wife recently gave birth to the couple's third child, shines as brightly as he did during his first stint.
This season will also feature a face-off of sous chefs—the mohawk-sporting Graeme Richie, chef de cuisine from Volt, will take on other number-twos from kitchens around the country. If you are in the Frederick area and would like to watch Wednesday’s premiere with the Volt guys, head to the restaurant patio between 9 and 11 for drink specials and complimentary snacks. Details about watch parties at Sandoval’s restaurants can be found over at After Hours.