Friday, March 9, 2018

Top Chef 3/8/18--"Finale" summary

Previously on “Top Chef”: the final Quickfire required catching your own fish. The final three all managed to do this, and then we learned you have to cook trout to well done. Joseph won, and his advantage was to pick his sous chef and assign the others for the Elimination. Make a vegetarian dish for a Food and Wine Classic event, cooked on a big cauldron filled with coals. Joseph won again, with baby zucchini and pesto. Hipster Joe went home, for fancy toast (ha). (click for more)

There's a small recap of the season. I like this final two. Tom says cook your hearts out and think about all your experiences. They go back to the hotel. Joseph calls his boss (Tony Mantuano!) to ask advice. This advice is exactly what you would expect. Don't change your dish once you start. You've got what it takes. It's a nice pep talk. But Adrienne doesn't have anyone to call? She interviews about her parents pushing her but doesn't call anyone famous.

For some reason Adrienne and Joseph take a gondola to the top of somewhere to the Aspen Mountain Club. 11,000 feet, so we're still dealing with high altitude. Tom says cook the best meal of your life. Four course, head to head service. They draw knives to determine who picks first, and Adrienne gets to pick sous chefs first. She takes Chris (southern) and Carrie (just fun to work with and positive). Joseph takes Hipster Joe (Italian/pasta) and then Fatima (also Italian). Padma says something about special orders and then leaves. I guess they can get some specialty stuff if they want. Spoiler: this doesn't come up again so it doesn't matter.

Adrienne seems pretty confident and is describing her menu she wrote for a potential restaurant in New York. She's got a new technique cooking a tuile so it looks like a net. Chris thinks Adrienne is just bringing it harder. She's talking octopus, and Cheerwine, and sea urchin. Joseph is doing pasta of course. I'm glad he took Fatima instead of Bruce because boring. He's doing a dessert. Fatima interviews she knows Hipster Joe is in love with Joseph but she loves Joseph the most. At Whole Foods Joseph puts a cart in the aisle to be in the way and then runs off. Heh. He buys a bunch of beef. Adrienne plans a yuzu banana pudding so she doesn't have to bake. Joseph ends up about $50 under budget, so he buys some of Adrienne's stuff for her. Aww.

Two hours to prep today. Joseph is making “tonno vitellato”, which is a play on a classic dish of poached veal with tuna mayonnaise, but sexy. Adrienne plans spoon bread with uni, and octopus with grits. She says she's had squid ink pasta a million times, so why not squid ink grits? These dishes sound interesting. Carrie asks Adrienne a million questions because she's never made grits before. Hipster Joe makes pasta with some kind of fancy flour that's toasted? Called grano arso. So they fire the fields before harvesting the wheat, and somehow don't burn everything but get toasted wheat and the pasta is a deep charcoal color. The Joes nerd out over the color. Adrienne explains Cheerwine to Joseph. She says that if he's got a weakness, it's that he's not a gambler, and she is. Joseph decides against using muffin tins for his cake, because he doesn't want it to be round. He's not making exactly whatever cake he's named in his dish, which could backfire. It's supposed to be lemon and vanilla custard and a pastry base, not a cake. But on the other hand, the name is “Grandmother's cake” which is pretty vague. Adrienne is now showing Chris (and Carrie too) how to make tuiles. Or at least practice, because they're not really working. Fatima's cakes are too bitter so she needs to make another batch. Still a lot of work for tomorrow. Carrie doesn't want to pressure cook the octopus, even though it's still a little chewy. At the last second Joseph remembers he didn't press ricotta for tomorrow and he and Hipster Joe scramble to get it done before time is up. I have the feeling if they'd gone over by a few seconds Adrienne wouldn't have pushed it. It's been that kind of season.

When Joseph and Adrienne get back to the hotel they find Tom and Graham in the kitchen, every surface covered in food. They're making dinner which looks fantastic. Stuffed fish and lamb chops. I like the idea that they're going to chat and just hang out. Tom casually mentions that the fish has bones in it so don't send him home. Hee. He speculates about when he would have tried out for Top Chef had it existed when he was younger. That would have been fun, I think. Sassy!Tom would be a great reality show personality. Graham tries to find out if they're nervous about tomorrow. Duh, Graham. Have fun with it and just cook.

In the morning Adrienne finally gets to call someone, and she calls Eric Ripert. Nice. She gets some advice for the tuile, and Eric tells her how she's doing it wrong, but in his charming French way. She's ready to fight with everything she has to win.

Four hours until service. Lots of prep but no really frantic working. Joseph hand-makes tortelloni, because when you're only serving nine people you have time to do that. Ripert's advice was exactly what Adrienne needed. Fatima pulls the cake she made and it's terrible. She's trying again and she doesn't want to be the reason Joseph doesn't win. Adrienne is making black-eyed peas, which are usually cooked until mushy. So she's having Chris mash them with a fork to mimic that. The judges arrive and toast the season, and there's a last minute flurry of plating.

Adrienne: spoon bread, sea urchin, buttermilk dashi, ham, caviar, covered in a wheat tuile. The tuile covers the whole dish and is perfectly sized to the bowl, and you have to break it in half to get to the rest of the dish. Joseph: “tonno vitellato”--raw tuna with veal demi aioli, smoked wagyu powder and capers. Everyone is very impressed. Joseph's dish is simple and clean, but Graham says they've seen it before. Adrienne's is more provocative and they haven't seen it before. But both dishes are stunning and could fit at any fine dining restaurant.

Adrienne says Carrie nailed the grits. Joseph: “tortellini en brodo”--grano arso tortellini, pig head, apple, black truffle, and braising liquid broth. He describes them as river rocks. Adrienne: blackened octopus with squid ink grits and fennel chow chow. Tom is just flabbergasted at how good this food is. Joseph's dish is wonderful and everyone raves about it. Tom wants more grits or a sauce or aioli or something for Adrienne's octopus. It's a little dry.

Adrienne: Cheerwine braised short rib, black-eyed peas with ham hock and Cheerwine bone marrow bordelaise. Joseph: “manzo di Colorado”--braised ribeye with asparagus cooked in their own juices and smoked bone marrow sauce. He juiced the asparagus stems and then added that to the roasted asparagus. The beef is overrested but the asparagus is “magic”, Gail says. Adrienne shouldn't have smashed the peas, because this dish is also dry. The ham hock is great, though, and Tom thinks it's close.

Joseph: “torta della nonna”--brown sugar cake, whipped ricotta, blueberry thyme sauce and chocolate shards. Adrienne: banana pudding with yuzu, banana spears and vanilla wafers with a pinch of turmeric. They finally are done! They go back to the kitchen and drink champagne out of plastic tubs. Joseph's cake ended up wonderful, but the ricotta was a little heavy. Adrienne's pudding is beautiful (and the plating is stunning) but maybe not banana-y enough.

Judges' Table. Before that Adrienne and Joseph sit outside and give each other compliments. The food was fantastic. Joseph's first course was better than the original version of that dish, and it was delicious. But Padma tells Adrienne that her first course was the best food she's eaten all season. They tell her put it on a menu now, don't change it, everyone will talk about it forever. Her second dish was a perfect way to reinterpret Southern food, it just needed more fat or sauce or something. They like the creativity though. Joseph's second dish is something Gail says she'll never forget. The pasta was beautiful, even if it looked like rocks, but the broth was rich in flavor and perfectly seasoned.

Adrienne wanted to play up black eyed peas and she's never had them when they weren't falling apart and mushy. Tom mock yells at her that she's a good enough chef to not overcook them. They fall apart because people don't cook them properly. Joseph's asparagus was amazing as was his sauce, but the meat was chewy. Joseph knows his cake wasn't Italian or traditional. It was delicious, but Gail says the ricotta was maybe not great. Adrienne's pudding needed more banana flavor. It looks like she said “banana pudding” so they expected banana, but if she'd said “yuzu pudding” they would have raved.

The first course was amazing from everyone but Adrienne was more creative. Second course, Joseph's pasta was so great I don't think Adrienne can compete with it. Adrienne's ham hock was delicious, but the peas were weird. Joseph's meat was not up to par, but the rest of the dish was perfect. Neither one named their desserts properly. Graham says that Joseph's cake is “the Hoobastank of desserts” which is both nonsensical and hilarious. I guess because it has a dumb name. Joseph's cake wasn't traditional (but it was homey), and Adrienne's pudding had execution flaws and they wanted more banana flavor (but it was striking).

Adrienne and Joseph come back out and all the eliminated contestants are there too, to clap and cheer. Tom starts talking about journeys and finding your voice and how he loved watching their journeys. It's hard to only name one winner. And that winner is Joseph! I'm good with either one, really, because they were both great. “I'm actually standing on top of a mountain and I just won fucking Top Chef”. Heh. Adrienne is disappointed, but I think she'll do well. Gail gives her a bunch of encouragement. Aww. I mean I'd eat at a fine dining Southern restaurant. Joseph calls his wife and says “I just won Top Chef” and she says “Shut up Joe!” Heh.

I don't think there's a reunion (?) so that's it for this season! Thanks for reading!

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