Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Top Chef 12/2/09--"Finale pt. 1" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: it was a long time ago, wasn’t it? We had our final 5, and they had to make a roulade of 3 proteins for a Quickfire, in honor of the Bocuse D’Or. Michael felt a terrine would work, even though stacking meats is not the same as rolling them up inside each other. Then the Elimination challenge was a mini-Bocuse D’Or, ha, and everyone failed in some fashion. The winner was Kevin, who executed everything perfectly but was very simple in his presentation. Eli failed the most, so he finally went home, so the final 4 is Kevin, Michael, Bryan, and Jen, which you could have called from episode 1. Sigh. I mean, not that I don’t think they deserve it, because they do, but it would have been nice to have some suspense or something. (click for more)

Jen is driven through Napa and talks about how nice it is. She arrives at the train depot. Heh, train. Sorry, I feel like I should warn all of you that I have been at wine club all evening (Kmanpat: “The first rule of wine club is: you don’t talk about wine club“) so…things will be interesting. Michael shows up too and wonders if they’re taking a train. While they’re at the train depot. Kevin wants to win. I love Kevin. Bryan is last and is competing for his son. Aww. Then a train shows up, and it’s the Wine Train. You guys, my sister and I bought tickets on the Napa Valley Wine Train for my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary, and they paid for us so all four of us could go. Basically they serve you a meal as you ride the train through Napa. It was the day before I turned 21. And the waiter offered me a mimosa and my dad was like, “No no, she can’t have any, she’s not old enough.” ONE DAY. Padma is there and pregnant, and she looks better than Heidi does. I’m just saying. She is there with Michael Chiarello, whom I know people disliked on Top Chef Masters but I like him.

For the last Quickfire challenge, they must create a dish with grapes. 30 minutes an
d a full pantry, and then they’ll serve Michael and Padma on the train. Oh, because they’re cooking on the train. Heh. Those kitchens are small. Kevin says he gets motion sickness easily so this should be a grand time. Oh and one more thing: they’re playing for a car. Car curse!

Everyone runs onto the train and it starts up while they rummage through all the varieties of grapes they have there. Everyone cooks in a very small space where they have to dodge each other. Michael claims the one prep table which pisses off his brother. This cooking sequence is nothing new.

Kevin: honey and fromage blanc mousse, glazed grapes, olive oil, and sea salt. And edible flowers. It looks pretty. Michael: grape leaves stuffed with “couscous” with vinegar glazed grape and scallop kabob. I’m not sure what the “couscous” is or why it’s in quotes. Bryan: roasted hen, bacon, Brussels sprouts, concord grapes, ruby quinoa, and arugula. Jen: sautéed chicken livers, clams, cabernet grapes, wild mushrooms and tendrils.

Kevin could have used a little more grape, Michael used a lot of the grapes and vines, Bryan used concord grapes which are not native to Napa, but the bacon came through, and Jen’s dish was so good Michael’s going to steal it. The winner is Michael. Car curse, is what I’m saying. He of course is ignorant of fate and says he’s totally going to win it all.

In the morning, Kevin takes a picture of breakfast and texts it to Jen. She talks about Eric Ripert and how she wants to win. The elimination challenge for today is to cook for the Rutherford Hill Winery’s end of season crush party, for 150 people. This is also supposed to be a celebration of local ingredients, so they will only have local ingredients available to them, except for salt and pepper. Heh. Each of them will make two dishes. One must be vegetarian, and the other must feature a local protein. Kevin is feeling confident. They’ll shop at a farmers’ market and then cook this afternoon.

45 minutes at the farmers’ market and $600. Jen doesn’t know what to do. The boys seem pretty confident. Michael is making egg custard. They are cooking at Brix restaurant, with 5 hours. Michael has a ton to do, and even has a list. Jen is trying to just cook and not think about how this is the end for one of them. Bryan has short ribs that he’s braising. Michael brings up the sibling rivalry, again, some more. Car curse.

Tom time! Kevin is making grass-fed beef brisket with pumpkin polenta and marinated root vegetables. The vegetarian dish is a roasted beet and carrot salad with carrot top puree and San Andreas cheese. That sounds fantastic. Jen is making chevre mousse with honey mushrooms, butter braised radishes and basil. Her protein dish will be grilled duck breast, braised duck legs, squash puree, and foie gras vinaigrette. The mousse sounds interesting. Bryan is working on goat cheese ravioli, delicata squash puree and bronze fennel. His other dish is fig glazed short ribs, celeriac puree, wax beans and wild arugula. Ooo…that sounds better than Kevin’s. Last up is Michael. He is making vegetable pistou, heirloom tomato coulis, 63 degree egg and fennel. Pistou is sort of like pesto without pine nuts. The protein dish is turnip soup with foie gras terrine, poached pear and glazed turnip. That sounds…not like a protein dish. Tom comments on everyone without actually saying anything. Also, where have these vegetarian dishes been all season? These all sound so much more appealing than when they had to cook without meat during the whole rest of the show.

Jen says the grill is dying out so instead of feeding it she puts her duck breast in a pan to cook it. Kevin makes a comment about how his beef is going on the table even if it’s not tender. Bryan and Michael both talk about how they kind of want their brother to make it to the finale but then again not really.

Everyone sets up for the party. Michael is relieved that his eggs are done properly. Kevin says his food is well-seasoned. No one seems ready.

Padma…is wearing knee high red patent leather boots, and a black dress with a mock turtleneck and a giant keyhole cutout. Bryan’s up first, with his ravioli and short ribs. His food needs a little salt. Michael claims that having to cook with fresh ingredients will change his cooking. His turnip soup is green, with a black lump of turnip and a Rolo-shaped lump of foie gras. Tom thinks the egg in the vegetarian dish overwhelms everything else, and Padma is not excited about the egg, as she likes her eggs firmer. Gail is not please either, but as you recall, it’s hard to please Gail with eggs. They do love the turnip soup and foie gras, though. Kevin interviews that he wants to cook for the people and not just the judges. His dishes look great. His vegetarian dish has bright green and red and white. They love the polenta but the brisket is labeled “ropy”. Jen is last. She’s thrilled with her duck confit. She promises her duck is good for Padma’s baby. The goat cheese is very salty, although Tom likes the idea of the dish. They love the duck. Michael is cocky, while Kevin just thinks someone talented will be going home.

There is a wine tasting? With Terlato wines? I think this is a commercial interlude. Yes. That was pointless.

Everyone has to come to Judges’ table, which is in the cellars. Kevin’s vegetarian dish was perfect and stunning in simplicity. Tom says he knows some of Kevin’s competitors *cough*MICHAEL*cough* may have thought it was too simple but it was wonderful. Cut to a shot of Michael looking uncomfortable. Heh. Sadly Kevin’s brisket was not as tender as it should have been. He says he doesn’t know if he’d do things differently, given more time, because he wanted a contrast to the soft polenta. Hmm, good point. Bryan’s vegetarian dish was complex, but lacking seasoning, according to Padma. He got his meat tender (unlike Kevin, I guess) but the fig glaze didn’t taste figgy. That’s what Gail said. Michael cut up his vegetables very fine, and Gail tells him he might have left them bigger and rustic. Padma didn’t think her egg was done enough, and he says something about not shaking it enough? I guess he peeled all the eggs, and then put them in a spoon and tried to shake off the uncooked egg white. Tom wonders why he didn’t bother to be extra careful with the judges’ plates. They praise the foie gras a lot, except for Gail thought the turnip soup as bitter. Apparently if you ate it with the foie gras it was great, but there wasn’t enough foie gras so eventually you were left with just the soup by itself. And Michael had 5 more terrines of foie gras that he didn’t use because he thought he might run out. Jen’s goat cheese mousse had a lot of salt, and she used a type of salt that doesn’t taste salty right away, so she put too much in. She also admits that she had to cook her duck in a pan because the grill ran out of fuel.

Jen’s chevre mousse was great but just salty. Her duck dish might have been great if she had grilled it like she planned. Michael was very creative but didn’t have the right proportion of soup to foie gras. His eggs weren’t separated, and he was sloppy with that, and there was too much egg. Gail fell in love with Bryan’s ravioli, which needed seasoning. The figs got lost in his short ribs but they turned out very well. Kevin’s beets and carrots were wonderful. Tom says it’s great that Kevin was able to defend his brisket but bottom line, it needed more time to cook.

The winner this week is Bryan. Cool. Tom says for the three of them left, their dishes were very good, but they were each just missing something. Jen is sent home. I kind of thought that would happen, just because although Michael is an asshat the judges love his food, and Kevin is good. But it’s sort of sad. She made some friends and she didn’t have time to fix anything. The boys all hug each other while Jen packs up and cries in interview and then leaves the Top Chef kitchen even though they’re in Napa Valley and not Vegas.

Next week: the judges are bitches. Seriously. And someone wins.


Lisa said...

I was sooo hoping Michael was the losing chef as you mentioned 'car curse' a few times. Maybe that'll happen in the finale : P

Anonymous said...

Dear Author !
And, what here ridiculous?