Friday, March 18, 2016

Top Chef 3/17/16--"Finale" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: we had a whole season in California. Jeremy did really well and then screwed up a bunch of times, then the last episode or two he was great again. Amar was fine but was eliminated. He won Last Chance Kitchen and is now in the finale. I like Amar but the fact that Tom didn't want to eliminate him in the first place makes me suspicious. “Project Runway” has ruined reality shows for me because now I'm always assuming there are producer shenanigans. (click for more)

So Padma is presenting this as Jeremy, full of fine dining and techniques, versus Amar, the underdog who impressed people one time. Amar and Jeremy are playing pool when Tom shows up to tell them he's never cooked a meal in the thirteen seasons of the show. But now he's here to make them lunch. Nice. First course (it gets a chyron and everything) is crab and sea urchin with finger limes. Then squab, honey glazed onions, peaches. Potato pasta with leeks and caviar. Wagyu beef, chantrelle mushrooms, and shishito peppers. Tom sits down and says this meal was inspired by some of his favorite ingredients. Tomorrow they'll be doing the same thing. Amar says that Jeremy is a great chef but he fails under pressure. Jeremy doesn't really say anything negative about Amar, but they do both talk about how much they want to win.

When Jeremy and Amar show up to the kitchens all the eliminated chefs are waiting for them. I think it's everyone. The challenge is the usual “make the best meal of your life” challenge, with the twist being that each of the four courses should showcase one ingredient. They each get two eliminated chefs for sous chefs. Amar takes Kwame (so Jeremy can't have him) and Marjorie, Jeremy takes Carl and Angelina. Everyone else at least gets to eat. Then two men walk out and it ends up being Jean-Georges and Charlie Palmer, their mentors. Nice. Jeremy says Jean-Georges gave him his first chance. Amar admits when he left Charlie to open his own place it wasn't the happiest break and he is kind of ashamed. It's too bad because Charlie was like a father to him, and he regrets some stuff he said. The mentors are here to be sous chefs also.

Brainstorming and menu planning. Both Jeremy and Amar are talking to everyone but facing their mentor, I think in an effort to get approval from them. It's some interesting body language. Amar describes his style as homestyle and bold, but always perfectly done. Jeremy's style is “all kinds of crazy techniques”. The teams go shopping and Amar finds it really weird to boss Charlie around.

Jeremy is planning to show a bunch of technique in each dish to show off, I guess. Or to be “aggressive”. He's pushing foie gras through a sieve and rolling acetate tubes and who knows what. Second course is fish cooked in vinaigrette. His third course will have “various gels.” Jean-Georges is skeptical. Yeah, because how many times have they slammed someone for doing fancy things for no reason? Charlie interviews that there's a line between being confident and being an asshole and Amar's crossed the line. Wait in what direction? Did he just say Amar's an asshole? Eventually he says it's good to be there. I guess he is claiming not to hold a grudge and also hoping Amar has matured. I wonder if Amar ever apologized? He seems to regret being a jerk. Jean-Georges is calling Jeremy “bro”. Amar's focusing on tuna, sea urchin risotto, lamb, and coconut.

Tom Time! And Emeril. Jean-Georges says he was last sous chef in 1979. Hee. Tom then asks Amar how much he's thinking about his dad. Right after he passed Amar started spending a lot of time hanging out with Charlie and his family. Aww. I think that's why everyone is so edgy about their falling out. Everyone packs up and gets ready for tomorrow.

It's the last day. Jeremy won the first challenge, which traditionally (but not every single time) means you win the whole thing. Non-celebrity sous chefs are helping produce this last service. Amar is going to be simple. He's making sly digs at Jeremy but Jeremy so far hasn't said anything negative about Amar that I can tell. Jeremy has foie gras mousse in acetate tubes. Blais and Gail are here and all the eliminated contestants. Amar shrugs in confessional that crudos always win so why not make one. Hee. Jeremy: foie gras two ways with chili, passion fruit and marshmallows. The two ways are a hot seared prep, and the tube thing is I guess the dreaded torchon, which is cold. Amar: seared tuna tataki, habanero coconut dressing, compressed pineapple and toasted peanuts. Eventually they see their families are there which is really nice. Both plates look pretty and very fancy. Tom says everyone has failed on the torchon except for Jeremy. It tastes really great and the passion fruit goes well. Amar's dish is spicy but I think they respect that it's very him. He's showing the diners who he is.

Jeremy is poking his fish because he packed the filets into a pan and the ones in the middle didn't cook. Oops. So he and Carl and going through each piece of fish to see if they're done. Amar has to execute a perfect risotto. Go big or go home. Jeremy: slow-cooked branzini, herbal lime vinaigrette, squash and tomatoes. Amar: sea urchin risotto with butter-poached lobster, finger limes, jicama and shellfish froth. The risotto is amazing and perfect. The tomatoes on Jeremy's dish are a nice addition, but Tom thinks that things like the fish skin being removed are lost under all the sauce. But no one complains about the fish being underdone so I guess they got everything cooked.

The fish problems have put Jeremy slightly behind, and now his duck is raw. He won't have time to rest the duck. See I know I've been pointing out how Tom seems to love Amar and how that may skew things but they wouldn't be able to do anything to Jeremy's fish or duck. You know? Amar tells us his lamb is cooked perfectly, even though Marjorie asks him about it. Amar: harissa-rubbed rack of lamb with braised lamb pastilla, date ginger puree and yogurt emulsion. Pastilla is meat wrapped in phyllo pastry. Jeremy: duck with roasted maitake mushrooms, smoked chili, buttermilk and lemon. The lamb is slightly underdone but Gail loves the harissa yogurt. The flavors seem to be fine. Jeremy's duck is also underdone. Charlie's duck is perfect, but other people at the table can't eat all of it. Tom thinks they're pretty similar dishes, good ideas with failures in execution.

Jeremy knows Amar has dessert experience so he's making a cheese course. With gels and molecular gastronomy and whatever. Of course they're not turning out. Amar's cakes are a little dense. Amar: coconut financier, mango sorbet, passion fruit curd, tropical fruit salad and brulee meringue. Jeremy: ricotta and mozzarella cheese cylinder with spiced fig jam, pumpernickel toast and honey. The honey is in “spheres”. Jeremy I think got too fancy and it backfired. The honey is weird. Emeril calls it “intellectual” and it's not clear if that's an insult or not. Amar had great flavors but they don't like the dense cake. Tom says it's going to be close. Jeremy and Amar get to come out and spend time with their families. Jeremy says his dad always wanted him to go into the family construction business but he knows he's proud of him tonight.

Judges' Table. Everyone loves seeing their mom. Amar tells the judges overall he stands behind what he made. The tuna was delicious, if spicy, and they don't seem to be that upset that he made a crudo. Jeremy gets praise for including marshmallows with his foie gras. Jeremy also had a lot going on with his fish dish but didn't use enough lemon. Tomatoes were an excellent idea though. Gail tells Amar his risotto was the best they've had in many seasons. Tom wished for more jicama. Third course. Tom asks Jeremy if he saw the ducks when they went out. He answers that he did and Tom's like “That's interesting.” Harsh. He was supposed to be highlighting the duck and didn't pay enough attention to it, so it wasn't cooked properly. Gail was the only one at the table who didn't get undercooked lamb from Amar. Once she tells him this, she raves about the flavors. Fourth course. Amar's coconut flavors worked really well but the cake was too dense. I think this one of those times they're pissy because it's not a “financier” so they're saying it's not good. Jeremy's last course was “intellectual” and they still do not explain this. Blais wants to know about the “honey bubble” but it was apparently made with honey water so it didn't taste like honey. It would mean the world to Jeremy to win and make all his sacrifices worth it. Amar wants to win for his mom to make her proud.

They both cooked their hearts out. Jeremy had vision and artistry. Emeril thinks Jeremy's only mistake was undercooked duck. Blais wants more risotto from Amar, that's what he wants to eat again. Gail argues that Amar didn't come through on all the details he should have, whereas Jeremy did. Padma says one is technique-forward and one is flavor-forward. The decision is made without that much arguing, weirdly.

Everyone is great! Your mentors are proud of you! But there is only one winner and that is Jeremy! WOW. I'm not upset, I'm just really shocked. Awesome. I thought he had screwed up too many things but I guess they were more upset about that coconut financier than I thought. Amar is proud of how he showcased himself. Jeremy wishes his daughter was here.

Thanks for reading! See you next season!

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