Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Top Chef 12/9/09--"Finale pt. 2" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the final 4 showed up in Napa Valley to cook on the Wine Train and then make dishes with local ingredients. Everyone did some things very well and some things poorly, but in the end no one was shocked to see Jen go home. Michael won the Quickfire and also a car, so hopefully the car curse will not be broken. You see, the “Top Chef” car curse is a little different from the “Survivor” car curse. Not only do you not win, but in the final episode you totally choke. Richard and Carla, people. Also a lot of people were upset and said the producers fixed the outcome, citing the judges’ lack of criticism for Jen’s food and their plentiful criticism of Michael’s food. When I watched the episode it didn’t bother me because in a ranking of the final 4, Jen clearly comes in fourth. So it made sense. Also if you read Tom’s blog, he says her duck was so salty it was inedible. If you want to be mad at the producers, then blame them for leaving that out. Oh, I know, “Michael is the villain of this season so we have to make sure everyone hates him by making it look like he doesn’t deserve to be there.” Whatever. (click for more)

Kevin is super excited about being in the finale and says he has the best win record. However, he knows the brothers will bring it and he respects them. The three boys sit around the table and wonder what Jen is doing. Michael says it sucks that it wasn’t Bryan. Asshat. In interview he brings up that Bryan hasn’t won a Quickfire yet so he needs the money.

Out in the vineyards Tom and Padma greet the finalists to give them their final challenge. As always, it is a meal, 3 courses this time. But! A twist! For the first course, they will each get a box with identical ingredients. They must use each ingredient in this course. Someone’s been watching “Chopped”. The second course can be whatever they feel like. Third course MUST be a dessert. Nice. Naturally they have very important diners that the contestants would kill to impress, and so forth. And naturally they have some help: pretty much every other contestant comes out. All of them this time, not just the last 6. Interesting. Padma says that each finalist will get two sous chefs from this pool. One will help today, and one will help tomorrow. They have to draw knives, and not for who picks first. The knives have names on them. Ooo. Michael says there are some names where he might just slit his throat with the knife. Yeah, whatever, drama queen. Kevin picks Preeti (crap, now I have to look up everyone’s names again) and Ash, Bryan gets Jen (damn) and Ashley, Michael gets Jesse (who?…oh yeah) and Eli. Kevin thinks he is screwed because he doesn’t know his sous chefs that well.

They only get 15 minutes to plan at Cyrus Restaurant. Damn. They open the boxes for the first course to find Dungeness crab, Pacific rockfish, Kabucha squash, Meyer lemons, matsutake mushrooms, and anise hyssop (also called licorice mint, I think). That will be hard. 3 hours of prep begins. I think they’re raiding the restaurant walk-ins for food. Bryan says they’ll also get 3 hours of prep tomorrow. Ashley seems to be really helpful. There’s a lot of flailing, especially about the box. Kevin says there are plenty of pumpkins, and tells Preeti that as long and they have perfect cuts they’re fine. She’s taking FOREVER and only doing a small fraction of the work. He’s getting pissed, which is odd because it seems like it would take a lot for Kevin to get pissed. Bryan says it’s not the time to try new things. True. Michael insists that he does whatever he wants and that’s what makes him awesome. Bryan is not playing it safe, but playing it smart. I’m inclined to agree with Bryan. Kevin might have to change his menu because he doesn’t know if he can rely on his sous chefs.

The morning of the final challenge, Kevin is worried about his lost prep time. Bryan has a list and drawings of his final plates. Michael still has no idea about his first course. Someone knocks at the door, and Michael knows it’s probably Padma with their usual “twist”. Finally someone watches reality TV! Bryan speculates as to the nature of the twist: no sous chefs? Extra course? Less time? Kevin opens the door to find…his mom? Michael is confused, until his and Bryan’s own mom pushes past. Awesome. The brothers’ mom buttons up Bryan’s jacket for him. Hee. She interviews that best case scenario, one of her sons will lose. She futzes with Michael’s sleeves and he protests, and Bryan is like, Mom can fix your sleeves however she wants to, man. Hee. Kevin’s mom gives him a pep talk.

The contestants get into the restaurant and are stopped by Tom. Bryan is like, HERE’S the twist. Tom lets them know that in honor of their mothers there will be an extra course on the menu. This course (the new first course) will be dedicated to their mothers and be inspired by a childhood memory. Nice. They still have 3 hours. Bryan says his mom brought them up themselves, and there is a totally adorable picture of Michael and Bryan when they were little. Bryan’s first course is “tuna noodle casserole”: sardine, German butterball potato, panko bread crumbs, fennel cucumber linguini. Interesting. Actually that sounds good. Michael’s first course is “broccoli reinvented”: cream of dehydrated broccoli, spot prawn, and fried broccoli. I’m not sure what spot prawns have to do with anything, and “cream of dehydrated broccoli” sounds nasty, but I like plain broccoli so what do I know? He’s trying to reinvent foods he didn’t like as a kid. Kevin reminds us he got into MIT and went to chef’s school instead. Oh, those pictures. He looks much better with the beard. His first course is “chicken and fixings”: fried chicken skin, tomatoes, liquid squash casserole.

Everyone moves on to explaining their second course. Bryan is making sous vide rockfish, diced matsutake, and Meyer lemon jam. Michael is poaching the fish in butter, then a tomato-kombu sauce to cook the crab in, and sweet & sour salad. Kevin is cooking the fish in duck fat, roasted matsutake, and roasted crab broth. The mushrooms are kind of tough. Ash has a ton of things to do but he’s getting everything done.

Third course! Chef’s choice! Michael: fennel-scented squab, pistachio cassoulet, textures of mushrooms. I don’t know what “textures” of mushrooms are. He thinks it won’t look like what he usually does. Right. Kevin: slow cooked pork belly, roasted broccoli and Brussels sprouts, caramelized ham jus. Kevin says “pork is my jam.” Bryan: venison saddle, Brussels sprouts, sunchokes, maple-glazed carrots.

Fourth course! Dessert! Destroyer of dreams! Michael: chocolate caramel coulant, with butternut squash ice cream. A coulant looks like a soufflé, or possibly molten chocolate cake. Kevin: roasted banana chocolate bacon mousse with peanut bacon brittle. Hee. Bryan: sheep’s milk and white chocolate dulce de leche cheesecake, dry caramel, fig sorbet, poached pear. He’s pouring liquid nitrogen over the cheesecake. Everyone frantically plates the first course and feels confident.

The moms get to have dinner with everyone, and Padma begs forgiveness for the criticism. The brothers’ mom says she lives in Vegas and knows where to find Tom. Hee. When the finalists come out to introduce the first course, Bryan says it’s not fair. Kevin knows his mom won’t hesitate to speak her mind, and embarrass him. Padma introduces everyone, and it’s the usual assortment of bigwigs. The one name that amuses me is Donatella Arpaia, who often judges Iron Chef and was just a judge on “Next Iron Chef” so she is fully used to reality show cookery. The other restaurateurs are all men who own multiple restaurants and would be very important in gaining jobs or restaurants of their own. Everyone’s dishes look very small, but it is the first course. They look good but Michael’s fried broccoli looks brown and sad. Maybe fried broccoli looks like that all the time. Tom says Kevin’s squash is like wine, and has more flavors each time you taste it. It reminds someone of the south. His mom says it’s very much like the dish he described. Bryan’s dish was the least seasoned, but they seem to like it. Some of Michael’s shrimp are undercooked, and his mom says he didn’t just hate broccoli, he hated everything, which explains a lot. Then Padma tries to make the brothers’ mom pick her favorite. Lame. Then the mothers have to leave, which is super lame. They interview about how proud they are, and Kevin’s mom says she is excited Kevin can show the world what a Southern boy can do, and she does the finger/head snap which I have only seen on divas and gay men. Then she says he takes simple food and turns it into something FABulous. I love her.

The second course comes out. Everyone used fish as the centerpiece, but only Michael explained where the crab was. Kevin’s broth was fantastic, but the mushroom was tough. Bryan’s seasoning is still lacking. Gail thinks it’s the safest, uninspiring. Michael’s combo of squash and lemon was fantastic.

Kevin’s pork belly is a big fat slab. Oh, it looks good. It’s like the size of a graham cracker. Bryan finally seasoned his dish and they love it. The “textures of mushrooms” apparently means he pureed mushrooms and then remolded them in mushroom shapes. Donatella calls him on the gimmick and says they don’t need gimmicks at this level. Kevin’s pork belly had a great sauce but it might not have been cooked long enough.

Michael realizes that Eli overfilled his molds for his dessert, but also he overcooked them. Oops. They look like little disks of cake, on their sides, but with no sauce on them. No one’s desserts look super fantastic. Someone says they don’t like pork in their dessert. The banana wasn’t enough. Michael’s cake did turn out dry. Tom knows that you have to serve those cakes immediately. Bryan’s cheesecake was pleasant and his dessert took skill. Everyone sounds pretty confident, except for Michael, who realizes his worst dish was the last one he served.

Commercial interlude: the finalists talk about how they feel confident, except for Michael. This is what we just watched! Is this just so you can rub it in when Michael wins and defeats the car curse? Because I can tell he didn’t choke, not as bad as previous car winners.

Toby tells Bryan that his fish didn’t have enough conflicting textures. Also he thinks his dishes show restraint and aren’t particularly bold. Bryan doesn’t find this a fault. They loved his venison. Time for Kevin. Padma loved his first dish. Actually they all loved his first dish, especially the squash. Toby was disappointed by his pork belly, mainly because he was expecting more from someone with a pig tattoo. Michael nailed the matsutake mushrooms, and took some risks. His second course had a lot of layers. They call him on his cake, which he admits wasn’t that great. Padma then makes each one beg for the win. Bryan expressed his cuisine, that’s what’s the most important to him. Michael starts by saying he just doesn’t want Bryan to win. Asshat. He eventually says this is all he’s ever done and it’s his whole life. Kevin loves food and hopes he’s cooked food that’s soulful and expresses who he is.

Back in the winery’s Stew Room, Kevin forlornly says he thinks Michael might have won. Aww, Kevin! Meanwhile the judges go course by course. For the first course, Kevin obviously beat out Bryan’s under seasoned dish and Michael’s poor choice of spot prawns. I mean, Toby claims to like Bryan’s but I don’t think anyone agrees with him. Second course: Michael used his ingredients best. Gail didn’t like the tomato, but didn’t hate it as much as Kevin’s mushrooms. Toby thought the broth compensated, but Tom insists it wasn’t used properly. Bryan’s dish was one-note. Third course: Bryan’s dish was flawless. Toby, contrary as always, thinks it wasn’t as memorable as Michael’s squab. Gail thinks the mushrooms and the pistachios failed. She also thinks Kevin is capable of more. Fourth course: Michael screwed up his cake, but the flavors were bold. Kevin was disappointing again, but Bryan’s dish is one that Gail and Tom would like to eat again. Knowing that last week Jen’s duck was so salty, and they never once even hinted at it, makes me leery to guess.

MAN. There’s a reunion show. With Andy Cohen. Just what I wanted!

Tom and Padma drag out this thing FOREVER until finally Padma says Kevin’s name and I get super excited but he didn’t win. L He says it sucks that he had a bad day and it kept him from winning. Don’t go around complaining about producer conspiracy because they clearly showed that he made mistakes. He’ll be fine. Kevin, I want to come to your restaurant. And eat pork in every course. And then Michael wins. MAN. You make me doubt the car curse! He’s almost as bad as Ilan! Asshat! Jeez. Well…I’d say the track record for this show is pretty good, in terms of the winner being the person I have been rooting for. Just not this time.

Next week: Andy Cohen will make me angry and Eli probably still hates Robin.

1 comment:

fablady said...

Gee I so disagree with u,thought Michael was and is the top chef,and like it or not,he can cook,and he does have soul,u people, have done nothing but pick on him,made him the villian,and no way is he anything like Ilan. So get over urselves and maybe reason u never pick a winner,is cause u go on personality instead of their cooking ability!!!