Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Top Chef 2/11/15--"Mano a Mano" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the Quickfire had the three finalists running around a farm and making both a savory and a sweet dish with chocolate. Doug had no idea what to do with his dessert and just melted some chocolate and put it in a bowl. Sigh. Gregory won with sweet carrots, and got the advantage to pick his sous chef first for the Elimination challenge. It’s a weird prize since it’s pretty unlikely there would be a fight about sous chefs. The Elimination challenge involved Mexican “delicacies” such as avocado and corn smut. Doug just stood around and didn’t get it together in time, leaving him with queso and ant eggs. Oops. Gregory made wonderful dishes with guava and poblano, so he is in the finale. Mei made a great dish out of corn fungus but then made guacamole. It seemed bleak, especially since Doug made decent dishes out of his weird stuff, but then he was sent home so Mei could make the finale. I hate that this show is suddenly showing all the signs of producer-chosen outcomes. NOT a spoiler, but I feel like Mei is going to win since they’ve shown so many interviews with her talking about how there should be another female winner. (click for more)

There’s a weird flashback to remind us of everyone who has been eliminated. This way we can remind everyone of Mei and Gregory and their journey and stuff. Mei didn’t think she would make it. This is what they’ve been fighting for. Mei and Gregory head out super early in the morning to find a hot air balloon. They float over the city and talk about the future. This part of the finale is always boring. They land in a field where Tom and Padma are waiting for them. Elimination challenge is back to “cook the meal of your lives”. Four courses, Tom does not say one has to be a dessert. Two sous chefs each. Gregory takes Doug and George (…sure); Mei takes Melissa (duh) and Rebecca. Who? Whatever. Mei wants a dessert and she knows Rebecca can help her with that. One hour to shop, and 5 hours to cook tomorrow. Mei serves first. I think they’re in different restaurants.

Mei and Gregory talk about their menus. The girls seem more engaged than Doug and George. Apparently Gregory has moved away from Asian food, unlike when he was SUPPOSED to be innovative and was not. Shopping is not exciting. Mei has spent some time being a pastry chef so she feels prepared. Back at the villa Mei and Gregory actually hang out and discuss their menus. Weird, I didn’t expect such comradery. Mei acts worried, so I am assuming that’s a fake-out.

The final day! Mei has a list for organization purposes. She’s going with bold flavors, because she says all her criticism from the judges was about being too subtle. First course is some octopus which sounds great. Second course is congee with egg. I guess she’s going for Mexican ingredients instead of Mexican dishes. Next is duck with huitlacoche and kimchi. More corn smut, huh? Sure. Dessert involves liquid nitrogen and I think yogurt. She seems to be on top of everything.

Tom time! Mei lets us know that Gregory is also doing octopus. I think she says the first two courses are head-to-head, so is Gregory making custard?

Gregory starts his day and he also has a list for everyone to follow. He puts George on it, which seems dumb since George got eliminated on octopus. But he’s going to finish it himself. There are some creative dishes here. Lots of ingredients. Finally Gregory isn’t doing half measures and only Asian ingredients so we’ll see. Tom appears to bug him about how difficult it is to do a brand new menu.

Almost service time. Hugh! Blais says some stuff about stuff. Red team worries about the octopus. I think Mei’s fine. First course: octopus with fish sauce vinaigrette, avocado coconut puree and herbs. Gail says it’s one of the most beautiful plates she’s seen. It’s full of flavor and the judges really like it, but it’s a little bit chewy. Second course: congee with carnitas, scallion puree, hot sauce, peanuts, and egg yolk. Perfect. It does sound really good.

So everyone is just cooking, so there are no tickets and orders and whatever. Duck braised lettuce, kimchi jicama, and huitlacoche. There are some discussions about flavors and balance. Everyone is super impressed. At the very last minute, Mei tastes her yogurt and finds out it’s sweetened. Why didn’t she taste that before? As she fixes it Padma makes a totally not-prompted comment that if Mei’s dessert isn’t awesome, it will count against her since she didn’t have to make one. Smoking bowls are taken out to the dining room. Strawberry lime curd with toasted yogurt, milk crumble, and yogurt-lime ice. It sounds so good. Tom says that Mei was smart to do a dessert so I guess they liked it.

Gregory seems pretty confident. He has a bold menu, more Mexican than Mei. First course: grilled octopus, prickly pear, xoconostile, passion fruit, and cashew milk. Padma says it’s sublime. Next is shrimp broth with green chorizo, pickled nopales, and crispy shrimp heads. It’s almost like gumbo but that’s not a bad thing. There is a little talk about the shells being scratchy. Tom declares that while they all agree Gregory’s first course was better, Mei’s second course was better.

Commercial interlude: the church bells are super loud and not on any discernable schedule. That was lame.

The sauce for round three needs sugar, so there is some minor drama as Gregory fixes it. He puts more sugar, but now it’s too sweet so he adds salt. Striped bass with roasted carrots, radish, pineapple, and tomatillo. It’s way too sweet and everyone seems disappointed. Last course: red mole with short ribs and agave sweet potato. That sounds delicious. Hugh says it’s spectacular. Everyone really loves it.

Mei joins Gregory for high fives and then Padma calls them to Judges’ Table. Gregory says getting sober was easier than Top Chef. He made a “beautiful ode” to Mexico. The octopus was fantastic. Mei’s octopus was sadly a little chewy. Gregory’s soup was a good combo of things, but Padma complains she still feels shrimp heads in her throat. Mei’s congee was great. Gregory made too sweet carrot sauce. Mei made a weird combo of things and Tom is all “it was your weakest dish of the night” all disapproving dad. The mole Gregory made was outstanding. Mei made a modern dessert, and then Tom is like “this is the best dessert on Top Chef ever”.

You’ll notice that there are five judges at Judges’ Table. So as to prevent ties. Gregory had better octopus, while Mei had better soup (congee). Both third courses had some problems, but Tom seems to be arguing about how Gregory’s dish wasn’t about fish? Both of them blew the judges away with the four courses. Each of them had two perfect courses. Blais says Gregory’s menu was more inspirational. Gail doesn’t think it was as successful as Mei’s.

Everyone comes back out and Tom makes a speech about raw young talent and how Mei and Gregory are the future. And the winner is Mei! See I told you. At least it’s not as questionable as last time. She’s almost speechless. Gregory is proud of how he did. I think Padma is crying as she gives Mei a hug. She calls Michael Voltaggio to tell him and she keeps calling him “Chef” and he’s like “stop calling me chef, you’re the chef now.” Hee. I’m glad she won, I just wish I hadn’t spent the show waiting for it to happen.

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