Top Chef Masters Copies Nordic Barista Cup!

I was bitten by the reality TV bug a long time ago, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m still happily infected. But there are only a few shows in the genre I can get Ken to watch with me, and BRAVO’s   Top Chef, and the summer’s new series, Top Chef Masters, are among them. Where the regular Top Chef pits aspiring/somewhat acclaimed chefs against each other in a battle for $100K to launch their culinary vision, Top Chef Masters features the people the regular Top Cheffers aspire to be: James Beard Award-winner Lachlan Patterson; molecular gastronomist extraordinaire Wylie Dufresne; and the inestimable Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lis fame. Since the Masters are already well-established and successful, they’re playing for cash for the charity of their choice.


OK, anyway, so Ken and I were watching the show last week, and the challenge was this: Each chef creates a mystery box for one of the other chefs, drawn at random. And then each chef has to create a dish from his box of seven mystery ingredients. So they could sabotage each other, but given the camaraderie we’ve seen on the show thus far, that probably won’t happen. Unlike on the regular Top Chef, where there would totally be sabotage, ensuing drama, and maybe if we’re lucky, hand to hand combat.


But what about the writers of Top Chef Masters, huh? What about the fact that they totally stole the mystery box idea from the Nordic Barista Cup? Granted, they perhaps weren’t aware of the Nordic Barista Cup ”but they should have been!! The mystery box idea was genius when it debuted at the 2004 Nordic Barista Cup in Iceland!


At the annual Nordic Barista Cup event (which is open to anyone, and takes place this year from September 16 “19 in Iceland), five Nordic Barista Teams ”Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland ”compete against one another in both intellectual and complicated, as well as fun and light-hearted events, such as how to identify a problem with one’s espresso machine and fix it, and how to small batch roast; not to mention how to milk a cow into a steaming pitcher and immediately make a cappuccino with the milk, and how to serve delicious beverages with random, strange Icelandic ingredients you’ve never worked with.


These were some of the challenges at the Nordic Barista Cup (NBC) in 2004 in Iceland (the event moves from one counry to another each year, and this will be its first time back in Iceland since the seminal 2004 event). The host country’s organizing committee had dreamed up more than 200 ingredients for each of the five teams to use in a popular and outrageously fun section of the event, where the teams served three flights or original signature drinks. They were required to use every single one of the ingredients in, um, as creative of ways as possible.


Sound familiar, writers of Top Chef Masters?? Hmmm??? While I doubt it was a blatant rip-off, it was enough to get me even more pumped for the Nordic Barista Cup in Iceland this September. Tons of fun coffee people are going, and tickets are still available! To see the schedule of events, and learn more about this awesome coffee gathering, visit

About Sarah 934 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.