Mixing Old Fashioneds
Top Chef Finale Recap: In Sickness and In Health
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Tonight Angelo with his Asian inside, Kevin with his anger hopefully still inside, and Ed with his Angelo antagonism on the outiside, are all back to duke it out for the last time and see who comes out as Top Chef 7. Personally, Iím rooting for a Kelly return and upset, but that seems unlikely given the previews.
The ghosts of Top Chefs past.
After Kellyís departure last week, Padma called all three remaining chefs back before the Judgesí Table and thatís where we rejoin our finalist. There, before the Judgesí Table, is a block of choosing knives and Padma tells them their final challenge will be a four course head to head challenge. The courses are vegetable, fish, meat, and dessertóno whimping out, they must do a dessert. Eric and Tom will chose the proteins for the second and third courses, which theyíll all have to use. And, as a final twist, they each get to pick from past winners, Hung, Michael V., and Ilan, as sous chefs. They draw knives; Ed draws Ilan, Kevin draws Michael, and that leaves Angelo with Hung. Kevin and Michael already know each other, Angelo is psyched to get Hung, and Ed is meh on Ilan, as anyone in their right mind would be. Seetoh sends them off with advice from the 60sóďsock it to me.Ē
Back at the hotel, the all guys hang out and Angelo starts feeling ill so he goes to bed. The past winners dish out some advice on the final challenge, like not trying anything new and staying with what they know. Ed and Kevin both want to make their families proud and take the title. All this yammering about family is a bit too Lifetime, Magical Elves! The next morning, Angelo is seriously sickóheís got the stomach stabby pains, which Iíve had and are not pleasant. A doctor arrives to check on Angelo; he gives Angelo a 20% chance to actually compete the next day which Iím sure made Angelo feel so, so much better. At this point, I donít think heís faking it and pulling a Ben from Hellís Kitchen trying to make a save after a loss is telegraphed. Heís been too strong throughout the competition to do that.
Ed and Kevin arrive with their sous in the hotel kitchen the next day. Tom and Eric are there where Tom tells Hung that heíll be in touch with Angelo via phone for directions on prep. Tom and Eric break out the proteins theyíve chosen: red mullet, cuttlefish, cockles, and slipper lobsters, pork belly, a whole duck. The second course is the red mullet and the third is the duck, but the other proteins need to be incorporated in the dish. Kevin thinks this is a fair challenge and will bring out his creativity. Kevinís getting the positive-vibe edit so far, which makes me suspicious. Suspicious of what, I donít know.
The chefs go to the market and shop with their sous chefs; Ed is losing his patience with Ilan and is going to ignore most of what Ilan says, which is probably a good idea. Hung does Angeloís shopping and gets what Angelo asks for; after being portrayed as something of a prick in his season, heís totally being a team player now. Back in the kitchen, the chefs and their sous have three hours to prep. Kevinís a bit bummed that Angelo isnít competing because he wants to compete against the best. Hung takes all the foie gras, which annoys the hell out of Ed who planned on using it too. After last week, kudos to Hung for playing Ed.
Kevin is working on his first course of eggplant, zucchini and roasted pepper terrine and second course of pan-seared red mullet with cuttlefish ďnoodlesĒ. His third course is roasted duck with duck dumplings and his dessert course is a ďSingapore SlingĒ with coconut panna cotta.
Hung is working his butt off seemingly cooking all the food already. Ilan is still having a hard time taking directions from Ed especially for his first course of chilled summer corn veloute. Edís second course is bacon-wrapped slipper lobster and char-grilled cuttlefish and his third course is a duo of duck with roasted breast and stuffed neck. His dessert course is a sticky toffee date cake, which heís going to let Ilan do (and that sounds like doom to me).
The doctor returns to visit Angelo and give him an antibiotic shot that maybe will have a 3% chance of working. Meanwhile, Hung tries to call Angelo, but Angeloís phone is on vibrate and he misses the call. Cue the scary music score, folks!
Iím a germophobe, get me out of here!
On the day of the final challenge, Kevin and Ed are groggy and the doctor checks Angelo again. Finding no fever, he clears Angelo to cook. Angelo is happy and knows Ed isnít thrilled heís back in the competition. As someone who avoids buffets like they carry ebola, washes her hands like an OCD person, and goes through half a bottle of soap doing food prep, I would not eat Angeloís food unless I closely watched him prep it. Stabby stomach pains, I donít want to know you ever again.
Back in the kitchen, the chefs have three hours to prep for the final meal. Kevinís glad Angelo is backócompetition breeds more competition, he says. Angelo feels heís behind, saved a bit by Hung, and knows his menu could be better but heís still in the competition. Ed has channeled his douche-bag attitude toward Ilan, and thatís just fine by me. Michael ribs Kevin a little over the tables being turned and now Michael is working for him. Luckily the Michael V. camera time is at a minimum, because he annoys me with his constant scowling face; yes, heís a great chef and deserved to win more than Ilan, but lighten up, dude!
Angelo reveals his courses; for the first course heís doing royale mushrooms with noodles, pork belly and watermelon tea. The second course is an Asian-style bouillabaisse over sautťed red mullet and poached cuttlefish and the third course is duck and foie gras with marshmallow and tart cherry shooter. The dessert course is called a ďThai JewelĒ made of shaved ice and coconut milk.
Angelo thinks Ed uses too many components, while Ed thinks Angelo and Kevin are artistic in plating, but their food could taste like crap. Snipe, snipe, snipe. The chefs push out the first course as the time clock ticks down and the guests arrive, including several famous culinary masters. When the first course is served, Angeloís noodles have the right flavor, but Tom thinks it needs work. Kevinís terrine is seen as gutsy but not that great. Eric really enjoyed Edís soup but Tom thinks all the dishes were kind of underwhelming. Maybe theyíre just getting ramped up?
Angelo is feeling the dehydration while plating the second fish course. Kevinís dish is a hit with the crowd; Seeloh thinks Edís dish is complicated but nice; and Angeloís soup is apparently the most memorable. The duck course comes out next; Kevinís duck plate rates high, and Angeloís duck is good too but the cherry shot is strange. Edís dish has layers of flavors and is impressive.
Finally it is time for the dessert course; Edís worried Ilanís cake is a bit lacking in substance and the whipped cream may be too salty. Kevinís Singapore Sling apparently now qualifies as a new national dessert. Angeloís dessert is good but borders on becoming savory. Edís dessert seems like an F-you in a way, but tastes good. For some reason, Tom likes the salty whipped cream but I donít think thatís going to save a simple slab of whatís reads to me as a coffee cake with some whipped cream. Moreover, it looks like a sad coffee cakeÖthe kind you begrudgingly buy because all the muffins are gone at the coffee shop.
And the winner isÖ
The sous take off and the chefs come out for a round of applause from the diners. They then head off to the stew room, where there are a couple of bottles of wineÖwhich might explain Edís later yammering. Back at Judgesí Table Eric, Tom, Gail, and Padma wax poetic about their time in Singapore for a moment before the final three chefs arrive. Starting with Angeloís fish course, Gail finds he embraced the local ingredients and Eric liked the use of the vegetables. As for the duck course, Padma didnít see the cherry shot as a palate cleanser, and Angelo gives some instructions on how to eat the food, which Tom finds too complicated. This calls to mind an exchange about chefs giving direction about eating food, perhaps on Hellís Kitchen, but I canít quite remember. (Anyone got a clue?) Padma liked Edís duck neck dish, as did Tom. As for Edís dessert, Gail thought it represented who he isóit is what it is. Tom disagrees, saying itís something heíd get at home and not up to the level of competition; Ed says he could have taken a risk on a lemon curd but it would have been too easy to screw up. Eric would have had more salt and spicy in Kevinís vegetable couse. Kevinís duck dish is universally praised, however. Gail loved the Singapore Sling, which Eric found refreshing.
The chefs go back to wait, where Ed gripes about the dessert judging, Angelo looks like heís going to pass out and Kevin tells Ed he should have stepped up on the dessert and not get stagnant. Back at the Judgesí Table, Eric sees a lot of local influence and Padma likes that they came up with all sorts of different things with the same ingredients. They then break it down by courses; for the vegetable course, Angeloís dish had too much pork belly to really be a vegetable dish, Gail wasnít excited by Kevinís dish, and Edís corn dish seems to come out on top. As for the second course, Edís plate lacked focus and didnít feature the red mullet. Kevinís dish used all the fish and Tom thought it worked in harmony and Angeloís fish dish was great too. The plate Angelo made for the duck course, however, struck everyone as bizarre. Edís duck had a lot of work but was a bit overcooked. Kevinís duck dish was cooked the best. And as for desserts, Angeloís flavors worked really well together. No one understands Edís weak excuse for his sad cake. Kevinís dessert literally punched Gail in the face and she liked it.
With the final decision made, the chefs return to face the judges one last time. Tom compliments them on the meal and says the Top Chef is the one who cooked well and took the most risk. And, after only a moment of pause, Padma announces Kevin as Top Chef. Really? he says. Yeah, really. The sous and Kelly return and everyone has a glass of champagne.
Congratulations to Kevin! He brought pride to New Jersey, which can only be a drop in the bucket after two seasons of Jersey Shore. At least Snooki didnít make an appearance.
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