Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Chef 6/11/08--"Finale pt. 2" summary

Previously on Top Chef: The final 4 went to Puerto Rico to cook fritters and also whole pigs. Richard made wonderful dishes and won a car. Stephanie recovered nicely from Dale leaving her pork belly out on a shelf overnight, and she was also in the top. Antonia and Lisa did not do so well, but in what seems to be the theme of the season, Lisa survives to cook in the final. I get that she seems to be lucky, and also that other people screw up at the exact wrong time. I mean, I understand things like getting rid of Dale. That’s fine and all but it doesn’t stop me from not liking her. I’ve found one single blog that defends her. One. And it really just says not to judge her based on what we see on TV. To which I say, reality television has been around long enough that you have to know there’s the chance you will look bad. Also I don’t feel the need to be nice because Lisa’s been quoted in an interview as saying she doesn’t read blogs because she doesn’t care about what people who can’t afford to eat at her restaurant think of her. Also that none of us know anything about food. Who exactly do you think reads blogs? Could it be that some of them might have money and know food? You can dismiss bloggers and claim you don’t read about yourself because it’s upsetting, but it’s probably not a good idea to insult them, especially since they don’t really like you to begin with. In addition I would eat ramen noodles for a month if it meant I could eat at Perilla.
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Also we’re reminded of how Lisa demanded congratulations from Richard and Stephanie after Antonia had left. You can’t be all, “I’m not here to make friends, everyone has a negative attitude” and then whine about how no one likes you.

In the morning the final 3 sit outside to have breakfast. It looks like eggs benedict. Mmm. Also mimosas. Stephanie wants to be the first female Top Chef. Richard wants the money for his family, and he says Lisa has a bad attitude and isn’t a leader, and doesn’t deserve to win. Lisa at least knows she just barely made it by the skin of her teeth, but she feels that even though Richard and Stephanie have won far more challenges than she, she’s about to beat them.

Everyone goes to meet Padma, Tom, and April Bloomfield, Dan Barber, and Eric Ripert. Eric Ripert shouldn’t still be bleaching his hair. Everyone is suitably impressed. Tom announces the final challenge, which shouldn’t be too surprising: 4 course meal, tasting portions, traditional sequence: fish, poultry, meat, dessert. Yes, Tom says, you must do a dessert. Lisa says she doesn’t eat cake. Each of the famous chefs has different proteins in front of them, so I guess when you pick your sous chef you pick your proteins. Padma says the original plan was to have the chef that won the most elimination challenges pick first, but after Richard won this last time there’s a tie between him and Stephanie so the knife block makes one last appearance. Stephanie gets to go first, so she takes Eric. Richard picks Dan, which leaves Lisa with April. They have 3 hours today and 4 hours tomorrow to cook and will serve head to head.

Lisa is going back to Asian, because she is “naturally pretty damn good” at it. April does not cook Asian, but Lisa has a plan so she‘s not concerned. Lisa is thrilled to work with her and says their personalities are really similar. She seems like she’s in a much better mood today. Richard’s concept is his “journey” which means classical training plus molecular gastronomy. He claims he doesn’t know what he’s doing since they just got the challenge, but he should have been thinking of possible dishes ever since he went home. Dan says he has no idea what all Richard has going, but he doesn’t think Richard does either. Stephanie is keeping the balance, and Eric seems to approve. The sous chefs tease each other, since it’s been a while since they’ve followed anyone else’s directions. Stephanie hovers but quickly learns that Eric knows what he’s doing. Much cooking. Richard has brought liquid nitrogen as his “special ingredient”. So he can make Tabasco sauce ice cream for oysters. Or something. Awesome. Lisa says that’s not her, she cooks simple food with minimal ingredients, but I have to say that Asian food can have very long ingredient lists. Eric seems interested and Richard points out, rightly so, that being able to teach Eric Ripert something is f***ing cool. Stephanie notices that Lisa is getting along with April, which she finds odd because Lisa has had serious problems getting along with everyone, “as some people might remember.“ Hee. Lisa says if you’re happy your food tastes better. How have you gotten this far then? Also her tone of voice as she says she gets along with April implies the other two are arguing, which they don’t seem to be doing. At the end of the day, Richard hasn’t finished anything. Stephanie says she’ll just do the best she can, while Lisa says she’s been waiting for this. She sounds more confident than Stephanie, which bodes well if you can believe the editing.

In the morning none of the sous chefs are around, but everyone seems to just start working anyway. Tom comes by to tell them that the sous chefs are not coming, and that the judges want to make sure they “live and die by [their] own hand”. That…seems to be unnecessarily evil. I mean, would it be so much worse if they told them up front that the sous chefs would only be there one day? They all are used to chefs not showing up to work, although Richard implies that he’d fire a chef that did that. Lisa’s personality is in your face spicy and bold. Right. The most interesting thing on her menu is black Thai rice pudding. Richard is making bacon ice cream. And his banana scallops. Again. Also, bacon ice cream’s been done. He’s telling a story, although without the oysters and Tabasco ice cream he was talking about yesterday. Stephanie has ricotta pound cake which sounds really good. Given the choice she’d rather not have dessert.

Tom tries to ask Richard about what’s going on, and not only does Richard make it clear that he’s super busy right now, but he won’t give Tom any solid answers. Stephanie has only tried her pound cake once before but it was very good. Lisa is calm. Tom thinks Richard might be doing too much, Lisa’s attitude could help her, Stephanie should have known she’d need a dessert and should have worked it more than once. Richard tells us that if you use liquid nitrogen to make ice cream, it doesn’t make ice crystals so it’s super good. Actually, that makes sense. He insists it’s not just about the show. Stephanie says her cake sucks. Lisa tells her that she’s said that before and won, so shut up. Lisa then interviews that Stephanie is too hard on herself. It just feels…fake. Like, I get that when people say they suck, and then win things, that’s really annoying. But saying that you’re annoyed because she sells herself short and actually is awesome, rather than that her modesty is annoying to you? Richard makes a comment about how tense it is, Stephanie agrees, and Lisa is like, tense? I’m not tense! And Richard is like, whatever. She says she just wondered why no one was talking and Richard rolls his eyes. Richard plates with giant tweezers and says he’s the best here. Lisa wants to be the first female Top Chef. Stephanie is not as concerned about the money as the title.

The sous chefs are at dinner, talking about following other peoples’ directions for once. The three finalists come out to meet all of the diners: the sous chefs, Alfredo Ayala, Tim Zagat (!), Gail, Ted, Tom. Richard goes first to explain himself: he’s named all the courses. Of course. This meal is about his journey. Lisa has Vietnamese and Thai. Somehow it will shock people. Stephanie likes mixing up proteins and flavors. Also she likes fruit. (Kmanpat: “Yay fruit!”)

Fish course: grilled prawns with chili basil sauce and crab, and homemade potato chips from Lisa; seared red snapper over truffled clam and asparagus broth, with asparagus salad from Stephanie; scallop with mango and pineapple vinegar from Richard (which is titled “You Are Here“). Dan says he doesn’t even recognize Richard’s dish. Zagat wants it simpler. Lisa’s texture is good, but the sauce is really strong. Stephanie’s is elegant and has a delicate flavor. It seems to be the best.

Poultry course: tom kha gai (coconut soup with chicken) and dumplings from Lisa; seared quail breast over lobster ravioli, mango lobster sauce, and quail egg from Stephanie. “Which Came First?” from Richard, which is guinea hen, sous vide chicken egg, and foie gras. Richard’s ingredients kind of blend together, although it‘s complex. Lisa’s soup was delicious and everyone seems to want more. Stephanie seasoned her food well, but the leeks are undercooked and irrelevant.

Meat course: Lisa has Wagyu beef marinated in coriander oyster sauce, chayote and cucumber salad, hot sauce and garlic chips. Stephanie: lamb and maitake mushrooms, braised pistachios, blackberry and olive tapenade. Pickled radishes, mirin broth, and pork belly from Richard, titled “Be the Bacon“. Richard’s food isn’t seasoned, and his pickled radish is the most flavorful thing. It’s not crispy. Yeah, shouldn’t pork belly be crispy? Lisa’s beef isn’t tender and the sauce is really sweet, in that it’s the prawn sauce, just sweeter. Stephanie’s dish is surprising. Everyone wanted to hate the olives but they all love it. Eric points out that they’re using the word “love”. Stephanie wins this round.

Dessert course: black Thai rice pudding with lime and mango cream, crispy taro sticks, and caramelized coconut from Lisa; ricotta pound cake with tropical fruit and banana cream from Stephanie; Richard’s “You Are Still Here” is a banana scallop (again) and bacon ice cream. OK, points for tying the two “scallops” together. Everyone seems tired of the chips from Lisa, but it kind of works. Richard’s dessert works also. Eric enigmatically comments that you can be playful only after you have your flavors down. Stephanie’s dessert was OK but not exciting. They welcome the finalists out to thank them and give applause. Tom talks about their journeys and whatnot.

At Judges’ Table Tom says the finalists delivered exactly what they expected. And also there were some missteps. The loser gong greets all three. Richard is up first. He says the first course should wake up your palate, but everyone thought it was under seasoned. Lisa had a very assertive hot dish. Tom wants to know her intention, was that on purpose, and she says it was. Stephanie had a beautiful presentation and everyone loves it. You’ll notice that even now Lisa has her arms crossed and is scowling, even though she just got praise. Richard’s second dish got muddled, and he agrees that he could have left out the foie gras. Lisa’s soup was wonderful. Tom wanted to know what the leeks were doing in Stephanie’s dish and they were undercooked. She looks horrified. Richard says if he had seared his pork belly it would have fallen apart and that wasn’t worth it. Tom says Lisa should have cooked her steak more, because Wagyu beef has such wonderful marbling it’s nasty when not cooked. And Lisa undercooked it on purpose. Stephanie’s dish was super creative and everyone was surprised. Richard’s ice cream was great, as was Lisa’s rice pudding. Stephanie liked her flavors of her dessert, but Tom says her banana cream wasn’t flavored enough. Padma asks for last words. Stephanie says Dale told her not to second guess herself but she did on her dessert. Lisa is confident they’ll give her the win. I see. Very loud loser gong. Richard is like, OK, I’ll say it, I think I choked. Woah. He feels like he overthought and it’s not his best performance. Where did that come from? It’s not false modesty, he’s about to cry.

After Padma sends them all off, Gail says she’s shocked by what Richard said. Tom says he agrees, because he did make some mistakes like the pork belly. Richard wanted to them to know that he could do better. Tom wants to go course by course. Fish course: Stephanie seems to take it. They mention Lisa’s dish, but not as positively. Poultry dish: who knows, but probably Lisa’s soup that everyone loved. Red meat dish: Stephanie’s dish with the braised pistachios. Richard’s idea was original, but not executed. They think that’s what he meant by choking. Dessert: Lisa’s dessert was her best dish of the night. Stephanie’s dessert wasn’t great, but the rest of her dishes were great. Ted demands bacon ice cream to become commercially available. Well that was a bust. They didn’t really say anything new. Lisa tells Stephanie she nailed the first and third courses, and Lisa nailed two and four. Stephanie immediately looks at Richard who looks miserable. The judges seem to have a choice, as you can hear birds chirping in the background.

Tom heaps praise on everyone. He says the decision is based on which meal they’d like to go back and have again. And the winner is…Stephanie!! WOO!! Lisa really thought she could win, but she’s proud of herself. Richard is disappointed, and about to cry. Everyone who had come to Puerto Rico is there hanging out. Stephanie is doing a little dance. Ah…so satisfying.

Next week: reunion show. Notice there aren’t any clips. Very interesting. Let’s see if Lisa can piss off the rest of the viewers.


David Dust said...

I got something BETTER than bacon ice cream - TRANNY ICE CREAM!!!

CLICK HERE for DavidDust's Top Chef Chicago recap!


Anonymous said...

I only found your blog a little bit ago from another TC blog site.

I just wanted to say thanks... there were a couple episodes I missed, and I counted on your site for the fill in. The added bonus was that you seemed to have a similar point of view to the whole thing, and a similar wit!

So thank you, dear host. I'll have you in my favorites from now on.

Good job.