Thursday, March 2, 2017

Top Chef 3/2/17--"Comida Final" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: a Quickfire with habaneros, which Brooke won, because clearly she's the favorite. Poor Sheldon bought a tamale thinking it was cheese, so that's how the day went for him. The Elimination challenge was cooking with “traditional Mayan ingredients and techniques”. That means over an open fire with just your knives and a mortar and pestle, and without a lot of ingredients everyone wants to use like garlic and onions. Brooke got really flustered and threw a lot of stuff at her dish, exactly the problem she was having when she was eliminated the first time. Sheldon saw his competitors cooking fish wrapped in leaves and decided they just decided to for whatever reason, so didn't use leaves and his fish stuck to the grill. Shirley did not make mistakes and won, and then the judges sent Sheldon home because clearly this whole season has been a way for Brooke to win because someone is mad she got screwed by that one weird finale set up. I like Brooke but it's so clearly obvious that I don't see why I should watch anymore. Let's hope there's a twist. But I doubt it. (click for more)

See, the “season recap” for Shirley just talked about how well she's done this season. In contrast, Brooke's recap mentions her last season, how she lost, then how she was eliminated, then she came back. Whatever.

The chyron says “Finale, Day 1”. Shirley and Brooke eat breakfast as Brooke interviews about how she lost last time and it was horrible and she hated herself. Shirley does not get to talk. The two of them go outside to talk to Padma and Tom. The final challenge is to cook “a progressive four course meal” for a full dining room. “Progressive” like you serve one course and then everyone moves to another location? To me this is what “progressive” means but in this case it appears “progressive” means nothing. Then all the eliminated contestants come out to “help”. I think it's everyone. You get three people. Shirley takes Casey (just to keep her from her friend Brooke) and Katsuji (speaks Spanish and works quickly). Brooke picks Sheldon (she claims not to want Casey but Sheldon is awesome) and Sam (positive attitude). Then Tom says he and Padma are going to assign the third sous chef. Two more guys come down the stairs and it's Brooke and Shirley's sous chefs from their own restaurant. They're both really excited to see their sous chefs which is nice.

Brainstorming and menus. Of course Shirley and Brooke already have ideas. You know they've been thinking about this ever since they knew they were going to Mexico. Shirley has dishes from her childhood or to honor her dad or whatever. Brooke says her theme is local ingredients, and then admits that when she doesn't have directions she freaks out. Oh that is for sure. Also she's making flan which I lump in with panna cotta. Don't do it. Shopping. They're both in a small market somewhere, where Shirley's yelling overtakes the whole place.

Back at the kitchen they're cooking in (or doing all the prep in? It's not clear) Brooke discovers she never ordered pork belly. They were supposed to order proteins from the hotel. How are you making “pork and beans” and you never ordered pork? Dumb. Anyway, she knows Shirley ordered some and so she goes to beg for some. Shirley admits in confessional that she ordered pork belly as her backup, but she doesn't want to give it away. They strike a deal that Brooke can use whatever Shirley's not using, which is better than she deserves. How do you forget to order the main component of one of your dishes when you only have four dishes in the first place? I'm not entertaining the idea of a conspiracy where she did order it and then they left it out to screw her over and then somehow forced her to say in confessional that she forgot to order it. We'll be here all night thinking of twists like that and besides, if she's supposed to win then why would they sabotage her. Also I'm glad Shirley told her no.

The girls go back to the hotel suite and I notice they're both wearing white sleeveless tops and black leggings. Weird. Shirley asks Brooke if she's got everything she needs, and Brooke says she does, if she can use the pork belly. Shirley says OK, but just so you know, if my piglet doesn't work I'm using the pork belly myself. Fair. They sort of joke about it, but there seems to be a lot of tension. I can't tell if it's Brooke resenting Shirley for not handing over her ingredients, or if it's Shirley resenting Brooke for asking and making her look bad. Then Brooke admits she has short ribs as a backup so it's not like she's going to serve empty plates. I say no pork belly for you. She interviews that she needs to put out perfect dishes and that perfect dish is pork belly. Well then you should have ordered it.

Now it's time for dinner, where they both discover their husbands and Brooke's son. Aww. They all hang out and talk about how great their competitors are and so forth. Props to Brooke, though, because I can see her son is maybe 7 years old and he's got the same plates as everyone else. In the morning there are more interviews about how they're up against the best or whatever. I'm not writing all this down because it's all the same and you know it.

Prep time. Shirley has a list and gives out orders, while Brooke also has a list but tells her helpers to decide what they're good at. Brooke then complains some more about how she doesn't know if she's getting pork belly, because it's Shirley's backup plan but it's her first choice, and blah blah. I'm already sick of hearing about pork belly and we're not even 20 minutes into this show. Make your damn short ribs and don't depend on your competition helping you out in the championship challenge. You forgot to order something and this is 100% your fault so stop trying to make it looks like Shirley is the bad guy.

Katsuji cuts up the piglet, and drops his knives on the floor several times for some reason. Shirley talks about her first dish and the story behind it, which I'm sure is producer-prompted, but you can hear her all through the kitchen. She's making ramen noodles from scratch, and she says she's putting tapioca flour in there for chewiness. It's just presented in such a way that I feel I'm supposed to take note because it's important. Brooke cooks octopus with a ton of garlic. Shirley breaks the pasta roller.

Also I didn't watch the “Top Chef Live Quickfire Challenge” which was apparently Casey and Sam cooking...something, Lay's potato chips seemed to be involved so it was probably one of those “create a flavor” deals and those combos are terrible.

Shirley's solution to the pasta roller is to make Katsuji stand there and hold it for her. She also discovers the piglet looks good (I mean, she cut it up and it's not rotten? I guess?) so she gives pork belly to Brooke. Boo. Oh of course Shirley doesn't want to win because someone else screwed up. Sure, but Brooke should also have to suffer consequences for fucking up, right? Also how much pressure did Shirley get from producers and also just from knowledge of how she's on TV and what this looks like? Shirley yells at people they're being sloppy, but her sous chef is really Zen. Brooke has her flan in the oven in ramekins, and they're not cooking. She says the longer they take, the denser they get. The judges come in, and Graham is here. So nice of him to show up. Also Jonathan Waxman. Shirley's got menus. Does Brooke? I'm not sure. The judges only talk about whatever Shirley wrote.

First course. When Shirley comes out she sees her mom and her sisters. No pressure. Brooke's parents are here too, but Brooke's parents didn't disapprove of her being a chef as far as I know. Brooke: warm oyster with grilled Swiss chard & bacon. Shirley: “Let Me Take You to Lijiang”; snapper crudo with chili soy vinegar & crispy shallots. Shirley named all her dishes but Brooke didn't. Brooke's oyster was light and modern. The crudo is very simple, which shows confidence, but Tom whines that there were three pieces of fish and one piece of mint so you can't get everything in one bite. It's true but it also sounds like Tom whining just to whine. Also Tesar says Brooke's dish was soigne. Shut up, Tesar.

Second course. Brooke: charred octopus with orange annatto seafood broth, radish, garlic puree & garlic chips. Shirley: “When I Was Eight”; ramen with egg, kimchi, purslane & rendered pork fat. Padma declares this “finale food”. They love the octopus and how refined it is. Shirley is behind the curve on ramen because as everyone says, you can get ramen anywhere now. Yeah I see how this is going. It's a throwback to when she was eight which was clearly a while ago. Whatever. No one is impressed with the ramen.

Third course. Shirley: “Dear Baba”; braised piglet shank with lentils, wild rice, blanched spinach & habanero onions. Brooke: braised pork belly & beans with charred onion and purslane. “Baba” is “father” in Chinese. Padma loves Shirley's pork shank. They all do, it's flavorful. But they all like Brooke's dish too.

Fourth course. Brooke's flans seem pretty dense. As she's unmolding them, they hit the plates pretty hard. Brooke: aged rum & chamomile flan with candied cashews. Shirley: “Mama Said, 'Always Finish Your Rice'”; rice pudding with tropical fruit and lemon-lime snow. Brooke's flan has a good flavor but is the wrong texture. Tom disagrees and says he can't find the flavor either. Shirley made a dish you couldn't stop eating. Shirley's mom asks her daughter how to say she's proud of Shirley, I guess in English because she doesn't know much English. I'm gonna cry. Look they're both crying! She loves Shirley and Shirley says she's been waiting for this moment since she became a chef. I'm not crying you're crying! Brooke says it's the last meal she'll serve in “Top Chef” which is an interesting statement.

Judges' Table. Tom whines about the distribution of garnishes with Shirley's first course. She says it was on purpose. Graham tells Brooke that her first dish was maybe a little too much, although if the intention was to start off with a smack in the face, then mission accomplished. Shirley made simple ramen, and the flavors were nice, but maybe it wasn't as impressive as everyone wanted. In contrast Tom says he practically licked the plate Brooke's octopus was on. I did not hear any criticisms for Brooke.

Shirley's piglet dish was perfect, Tom was reminded how much he likes wild rice, the heat was the exact right amount. Brooke balanced her pork and beans and the beans were cooked just right. So all praise for that round. Flan time. Tom didn't get any flavors, and the texture was really off. Meanwhile Shirley's rice pudding was Padma's favorite dish of the night. It had great textures and flavors.

Back in the kitchen Brooke mentions to Shirley that she seems pretty calm for Shirley. Shirley doesn't look that calm to me. She looks like she'd like to respond to that statement but won't do it in front of the camera. Meanwhile Padma is saying this is how a finale should be: the two best chefs cooking their hearts out. Don't you have control over who ends up in the finale? If it's not the two best chefs that's your own fault. Gail loved Shirley's first course as a beginning, but Tom of course is still hung up on the garnish thing and votes for Brooke. Gail's favorite dish of the evening was Brooke's octopus. Third course is a tie, but Gail is borderline offended by Brooke's flan. Like, she is shocked Brooke would try to win with that dish. On top of which Shirley's dish was flat-out amazing. Tom insists if they go head-to-head (I guess course by course) he can make a good argument for who he thinks should win. But we aren't going to hear any of it, which immediately is suspicious to me. “I can make a good argument” =/= “My argument makes sense”. If we're not going to hear the argument, then I have to ask if there even is an argument in the first place. Or is it just whatever the producer wants? ALSO let's admit this: if Brooke hadn't been able to get the pork belly, then that dish wouldn't have been as good and Shirley wins a clear two courses to one (first course being a tie). I still think Brooke should have had to face some consequences for that fuckup.

Padma says this was hard, and Tom thanks their parents for raising great people. “We find ourselves through this competition”, blah blah, get on with it Tom. Brooke is the winner. Big fucking surprise. She doesn't even fucking react! No reaction. She kind of smiles and then hugs Shirley and then interviews that she feels validated now. Gail makes a point to get Shirley some booze and tell her she's extraordinary. Thanks Gail. Shirley gets the lion's share of the talking after the announcement because she has to talk about her family. At least that happened and I'm glad. Get your shit together, though, Bravo. No one wants to watch when you make it clear the outcome is already decided.

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