Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Top Chef 2/5/14--"Finale" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: everyone went to Hawaii, where we discovered Louis had won Last Chance Kitchen which was awesome. The Quickfire was to cook with Spam, which is fun, and even though Nicholas said he hadn’t prepared and should have, he won. Boo. But he didn’t win immunity. Just money. Didn’t stop him from trying to buy immunity later. The Elimination challenge is revealed as a double elimination. Make a dish with only the crops that Polynesians would have brought with them in canoes. Actually I’m making it sound dumb but I like the concept of this challenge. It’s relevant to the location without being a gimmick. Anyway, Nicholas won that also which is sad, and then Nina was second so that means Louis and Shirley were eliminated. Aww. (click for more)

Nicholas vs. Nina. I am rooting for Nina. They have the clips of the whole season and I wonder if the judges will hold any past actions against them. Specifically Nicholas’s refusal to give up immunity that time. We’ll see.

Oh, we’re doing that horrible thing where we start at the end and talk about how this was the closest decision ever, and then we flashback and have the whole episode. I hate this. We all know the episode will end with Judges’ Table. And we’ve been watching the previews and commercials so we KNOW it’s the “closest finale ever”. I don’t need this gimmicky crap too. And someone tells Padma they’re out of time which is weird because there’s a time limit on judging? I thought they just argued until they were done.

OK. Now we are back to right after the last episode. We’re back to the “take over a restaurant for a night” that we had with Paul and Sarah. 4 courses. The judges will eat at different times (like the last time they did this). Nicholas gets some advantage they’ll tell him about tomorrow.

Nina and Nicholas eat breakfast and we get voiceovers about how Nicholas quit his job to be here. Oh, I guess we’re just going to talk to Nicholas. Padma comes in, in a bikini for some reason like she just got out of the pool. Eliminated contestants are also here. You get 3 people to help you prep; Nick gets to pick his whole team first. Wow. He takes Jason (he’s the pretty one, remember?), Louis, and Brian. Louis and Brian are good, although Louis was just eliminated yesterday so hopefully he’s up for this. I don’t remember Jason being that awesome, especially since he was eliminated so long ago I’ve forgotten about him for the most part. But whatever. Nina takes Shirley, Stephanie, and Travis. Oh, Travis. These are actually both solid teams, to be honest.

The finalists discuss their menus. Nicholas says he’s worked with Jason before (did he? I’ve forgotten) and he’s trying to do French techniques. Basically. I think he is depending on Jason for an entire dish. Nina is putting an Italian spin on local ingredients and dedicating the menu to her dad. Also she’s adding two “surprise, extra courses”. That…is maybe too much.

Shopping. Nina is at a farmer’s market, or a roadside stand, but only for about five seconds before she gets to Whole Foods. She buys eggs and stuff for ice cream. Nicholas is still butthurt about the criticism from that episode when he had immunity but should have gone home. So he’s making more panna cotta.

Travis gets to the kitchen and immediately calls Nina to tell her there is no ice cream machine. Damn. She’s already gone shopping, though. Nicholas has delegated all his dishes; it looks like each person is going to be responsible for a course. He discusses how much he deserves to win. I’m not sure how much time they got. Nina decides to make a zeppole, which is a donut. Now the dessert course is shaky. Either they are showing all the clips of Nicholas talking about the competition and none of Nina’s, or her clips are not as annoying. But all his whining is registering and I couldn’t tell you if Nina’s said anything about wanting to win at all.

Tom Time! And Emeril. He goes to bug Nicholas first. When Nicholas tells them Jason was his first pick, Tom is like, “oh really?” all skeptical. Jason calls him out on it and Tom is all “yeah I said it”. Nina explains how she’s doing her Italian/Caribbean combo and that she’s making dessert. Tom tells her she could have done four savory courses and she replies that he always does this and she won’t let him get in her head. Nicholas is being anal about seasoning. Frantic working. Nina worries about her goat being tender.

So…they packed up, and then Nina and Nicholas wander off to dinner with Tom and Emeril and then family members show up. Spouses and siblings. OK, this is cute. Lots of motivational speeches about fans and following your dreams and the same type of things that always are said at this point.

Day of service. Nicholas’s restaurant is “Chris”, named after his wife. He tells the waiters he will tell them exactly what to do. The first thing Nina does is check the goat, which is not tender. She thinks she can pull it off and has time today. Nina’s waiters get to taste some things and we find out one of her extra courses is a bread service. Nicholas brings out a dish only to find two of his servers are not there. Were they there before? Are they late? Anyway, he gets bitchy about it and then demotes the absent waiters. Actually I don’t disagree with that. Nina’s restaurant is “Canouan” which is the island her dad is from.

People start arriving, including judges. Gail is here. Padma is wearing a really unflattering thick choker. It’s like 4 inches tall. Hugh! Nina starts out with an amuse bouche: breadfruit with whipped foie gras butter and curry salt. Wow. Sounds great. First course: tuna and escolar tartar with tomato water and jalapeno. The judges love it.

Nicholas goes out into his restaurant and counts tables. There are 16 people in the restaurant but nothing is happening. He’s got an expediter who is also not doing anything. I think the servers are not giving tickets to the kitchen? Why does Nicholas always have a giant problem with tickets? During Restaurant Wars I read a lot of people firmly on his side about making sure there’s always a paper ticket. But then this is the second time he’s had a problem with tickets so is he really doing things properly and he just can’t get anyone else to do what he tells them? Anyway, they fire like 16 dishes at once and he says to make sure the judges get theirs first. Then he follows them out there to correct the servers in front of the judges because they were not putting the plates down so the fish was on the left. That just seems tacky. Oo, Morimoto is here. First course: hamachi and tuna crudo with green apple wasabi, celery and Maui-Meyer lemon. STILL underseasoned. Second course: sweet shrimp bisque, poured tableside, scallop and daikon noodles with Thai basil. They seem…iffy? Not 100% thrilled.

Nina’s second course: roasted goat sugo with orecchiette, cherry tomato confit and goat cheese. Yum. They all love it. Third course: spice rubbed swordfish with squash puree, braised kale and smoked onion jus. Tom says it maybe doesn’t work, the swordfish and the kale together.

Back to Nicholas. He’s cooking some duck to medium instead of medium-rare so it won’t be tough. This is his third course: kombu cured duck breast with kabocha squash, hijiki and ginger. OK, Bravo, I had to PHYSICALLY GET UP and walk closer to the TV to read this thing. Make your chyrons larger. Hijiki is a “sea vegetable” which basically means it’s some type of seaweed. Emeril’s duck is chewy. The flavors are good, all agree. The servers bring out his last course but no spoons so he’s like, can I get the spoons I asked for five minutes ago? At least when Hugh asks him how his servers are he says “they’re…lovely” and doesn’t bitch about them. Fourth course: caramelized white chocolate panna cotta with almond cocoa crumble and tropical fruit. It tastes good but is not set properly.

Nina’s intermezzo: compressed dragon fruit frozen papaya skewer. Also there is ginger simple syrup. I think they are amused? Fourth course: chocolate zeppole with macadamia nuts and passion fruit anglaise. It’s totally fine, although someone says it ends the meal with a whisper and not a bang.

Well now we know what all the dishes are, so the judges are going to switch restaurants and we’ll see what they think and also how well service is going for the regular folk who aren’t famous. Nicholas’s dishes are going to the wrong tables apparently.

Commercial interlude: Shirley wants Nina to win. Her kitchen is full of jokes about bananas. Brian thinks Nicholas will win because they are homies. Jason maybe has a crush. I will say the clips they found here are a stark contrast to what a hardass he’s being with the servers. I can’t tell if he’s a jerk or if they really are incompetent.

Oh good, Andy Cohen is going to announce Fan Favorite right after this show which means, no reunion. Probably. Still not watching your horrible show, Andy Cohen. However, this is two seasons now where they had the finalists there, and one was smiling and one was sullen, and it was the sullen one who won.

The judges at Nicholas’s restaurant agree the first course is underseasoned, but Tom thinks the second course is the best he’s had all year. Really? Jeez Tom. Nina’s food is going over really well. Emeril keeps asking for more. Some random server goes into Nicholas’s kitchen and says a table didn’t get their first course, and he yells GODDAMMIT and bangs the table. And everyone hears him. Not like that editing trick where someone shouts and then you show people looking around like they always do in “Hell’s Kitchen”. I mean there is a shot of people out in the dining room and you can hear him on that audio. And the judges comment on how awkward it is. Now he thinks he just lost. Why? The other random people have no vote. If anything you might have lost because everyone heard you screaming just now. Nicholas’s panna cotta has too much gelatin, that’s what’s wrong with it. He peaked at the right time. Nina’s swordfish is too much of everything. And they are underwhelmed with the dessert.

Judges’ Table. Nicholas admits service was tough, and won’t give details even when Gail calls him out on yelling. The starter was underseasoned. The dish was great, but Padma didn’t get any scallop flavor so when Tom raves about it she rolls her eyes which is hilarious. Duck flavors were great but Emeril’s was chewy. Again, Tom thinks it’s great when another judge does not. Interesting. They know the panna cotta was not set right but they agree flavors were good.

Tom starts by asking Nina if they should consider her extra courses since she was only supposed to do four. She says yes, because it was supposed to be a progression. Then they skip the breadfruit. Or they don’t air the discussion. So what was that question about? They love the crudo, and the pasta. They can’t rave enough about the goat and pasta. The swordfish dish didn’t work all together. The donuts felt like “a little bite” and not a complete dessert. It wasn’t enough, maybe.

They get back to the kitchen and the first thing Nicholas says is that he had to be perfect to beat Nina and he wasn’t. Oh God he’s going to win, isn’t he. All his negative bitching about whatever and one table didn’t get their first course so I’ve lost and it’s all bullshit. Christ.

Judge arguing. Nina wins the crudo, because no salt from Nicholas as usual. Tom argues for Nicholas’s shrimp noodles but he is overruled because more people like the goat so he makes a pissy face. Emeril thinks the third course was a tie, but Tom would give it to Nicholas. Everyone agrees Nicholas had a better dessert, so now it’s a tie. Hugh says what now because we’re out of time. A chyron says it’s 11:30pm. Oh please, they’ve stayed up so late you could hear birds chirping. Gail says they could talk about this for hours and not agree. Who had the better experience? Where would you go back? Hugh points out that his group of judges actually witnessed Nicholas yelling at the servers. Padma agrees they should consider service, in that tone of voice that suggests doing so will make her case and she’ll get her way. After a cut it’s now 12:20am and Tom is saying Nicholas was more consistent and Nina shouldn’t have done extra courses and Padma and Hugh make faces. Padma points out the other courses were amazing, but Gail does have a point when she says that Nina could have taken that energy and effort and made a real dessert. Yeah…I can see that argument. Still. 1:00am. Hugh says the worst course for him was the zeppole and Tom says it was the swordfish and Emeril reminds them he could eat all his swordfish but could not finish his duck. This is getting old. For some reason Gail and Tom have decided Nicholas should win, and Padma wants Nina to win, and it feels like the producers have told people who to argue for. Nothing specific, but it feels like all those “Project Runway” arguments where someone insists on a win or a loss but with no background. It just feels producer-encouraged and not real, is all. Padma says this is the closest finale she’s experienced.

OK, finally we’re going to pick someone. It was close. Everyone is a good chef. Etc. Nicholas wins. Motherfucker. Wow, I haven’t been angry at a winner for a long time. Everyone says all the things they always say and I just want to smack something. They told you all season you don’t use enough salt and you are STILL not using enough salt. Also aren’t they supposed to consider the whole season? The season where you should have been eliminated several times? It just smacks of interference. Interesting to see that on Facebook, in all the comments I read there are maybe two people who thought Nicholas should win. There are far, far more people saying Tom gets his way because he’s a producer, so then his favorite gets to win no matter what. So it’s not just me this time! Which is reassuring because sometimes I hate people for no reason. Anyway, ugh.

Thanks everyone for reading! Hopefully next season will be better. Less rage inducing.

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