Bayless slogged through tongue, Southern Italian cuisine and Oaxacan mole to emerge victorious on the competition.
"It's really hard," Bayless tells Slashfood of the experience. "Plain and simple, really really hard."
Now he's offering his advice to winning the competition.
"What I learned going through the first competition is that it's a game," Bayless says. "Yes, you have to be a good cook, but you have to be able to play that game."
So, all you "Top Chef" wannabes, you need to create a strategy.
"You have to choose which path you're going to go down and you never look back. Once you start second-guessing yourself, you really lose your focus, and then you can't do a good job with what you're doing," he says. "A couple of times I chose to do something and then halfway through I'd go 'Wow it would have been so much better if I'd done something else,' I'd say 'No, put that away and make the absolute best out of this thing that you did.'"
Bayless lugged his trusty molcajete stone mortar chiseled with the word "Chicago" as a lucky talisman of sorts.
"It weighs a ton, but it's sort of like a strange kind of security blanket for me," he says.
Bayless won the $100,000 prize for his Frontera Farmer Foundation, which offers grants to local farmers.
"My major goal getting through the whole thing is that I wouldn't make a fool of myself because it's really easy to step in the wrong direction and make a fool of yourself," he says. "When you watch the regular 'Top Chef' show, it doesn't really matter -- nobody knows who those people are, they don't have established careers or anything. They're just trying to get their name out there and get their skills known and, in some cases, they don't really even have that many skills. But in this case, in 'Top Chef Masters' case, we were all very well-known chefs."
Check out New Orleans Chef John Besh talking about the "Top Chef Masters" experience below.