Curtis Stone talks some of the big changes on new season of "Top Chef Masters"
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Curtis Stone talks some of the big changes on new season of "Top Chef Masters"

April 6, 2011 04:48 pm CDT 

Los Angeles, CA, United States (AHN Entertainment) - Just when you thought it was safe to get back into the kitchen following that awesome, nail-biting season of "Top Chef All-Stars," there's already a brand new "Top Chef" season premiering this week: "Top Chef Masters."

This time, "Top Chef Masters" is being changed up for the better: gone are the Tournament-style first rounds which saw four or five chefs pitted up against another until the finalists competed for the title. Instead, like "Top Chef," all the cheftestants are starting out together from the start and battling it out for the title each week.

Also in as host this time is unnecessarily good looking chef and restaurateur Curtis Stone, who's can also be currently seen on NBC's "America's Next Great Restaurant." If you know anything about Curtis Stone, he's likable, affable, but judges as hard as the best of them. Longtime food critic Ruth Reichl joins the judges table, while esteemed critic James Osland is back for a third season.

Stone also believes the new format also ups the pressure on these seasoned chefs, which include James Beard Award winners John Currence and Traci Des Jardins.

"As a chef myself, and knowing what it's like to enter these competitions, the last thing in the world you want to do is become - you know, to see the final curtain fall in episode one," Curtis Stone told reporters. "You know, but I think the real pressure that we saw the chefs under was just immense."

Some of the challenges some of the most difficult seen on any "Top Chef" yet, including one where the chefs have to make a gourmet meal out of bugs and insects. Don't forget. The judges, also, have to eat them. "That was one of the worst days of the best job of life," Stone says.

There's also some big surprises, including celebrity guests like Christina Hendricks of "Mad Men," singer Kelis, and rock band Maroon 5. Even past contestants of "The Biggest Loser" stop by for a calorie-counted culinary experience.

But as host or judge of "Top Chef Masters," whether its crab cakes or creepy crawlers, you gotta eat, and Stone estimates he packed on about five pounds during the show.

"It's the 'Top Chef Masters' 20," co-star James Oseland said. "You were lucky to get away with five Curtis."

"Yes. I might have downgraded that,' Stone said. "It might have been more like twelve."

"Top Chef Masters" premieres on Bravo Wednesday, April 6th at 11pm before moving to its regularly scheduled time slot on Wednesdays at 10 pm.

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