Welcome to the first part of the big Top Chef Finale! To start, Bravo shows yet another recap of the series to date, to give us a little insight as to why the top 3 were chosen to compete in Vegas. Tiffani is glad that she was able to watch herself on television this season, because it allowed her to gain some insight on her character and how she is perceived by others. For the most part, that perception is not positive. Tiffani says that she comes off as cruel, and overly harsh, but really sheís just passionate about cooking. Does that excuse work? The next time I feel like being nasty toward someone at work, and they think I am being unreasonable, or hotheaded, I am going to tell them that Iím just passionate about my job, and their perception of my nastiness is incorrect. Iím sure that will go over well.
All season long, Host Katie Lee has been touting the awesome prizes; a feature in Food and Wine Magazine, the opportunity to showcase his/ her talents at the Annual Food and Wine Classic, a state of the art kitchen filled with fancy appliances made by a well known company, (frankly, Iím tired of the product placement, and wonít participate in my recap), $100K, and most importantlyÖ the title of Top Chef.
What Happens in VegasÖ is shown in the finale.
Dave is the first of our chefs to arrive at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for the finale. He is shown to a tony Skylounge Penthouse Suite and lets us know that he is ready to win! Iím sure heís also ready to cry and have some sort of emotional breakdown. He says that Vegas is global not only for gambling and assorted debauchery, but for chefs and the culinary arts. Hmmm. I donít know how many people are focusing on food while in Vegas. I know I wasnít. When faced with the choice between debauchery and a fancy pretentious meal, I think most people will pick debauchery every time. Anyway, back to Dave alone in the suite with a bunch of wine and truffles. Heís happy to be alone and relax for a few minutes before the others arrive.
Haroldís next to reach the Grand. I think he had to walk, because we donít see him getting dropped off by a taxi or town car. Harold is also ready to win, and wants to be the best. Heís happy to see Dave, and hugs him before grabbing some wine. I think the fellas want to get a little tipsy in order to dull the pain that is spending time with Tiffani. Dave remarks that maybe theyíll be the only two, and Tiffani wonít show up. No such luck.
Tiffani arrives at the suite, gives Harold a hug and is impressed with the digs. She doesnít have any regrets about her behavior during the season, because if she hadnít been able to watch herself acting like such a schmuck on TV, she never would have received the wakeup call she so badly needed. Oh, and she is also ready to win.
Dave expresses, once again, how unhappy he is that Tiffani made it to the finale over Lee Anne. You and me both, Dave. He says that when he got home after the first part of the show wrapped, his restaurant was closing. Since then, heís been doing some catering here and there, and living off his savings, which are almost gone. He is really hungry to win this competition, if only because heís broke.
Tiffani has been working and dreaming of traveling to Europe so that she can get to know her food on a deeper level. Whatever. Pretentious much, Tiffani? And Harold, man of few words is working on opening a new restaurant. Iím sure the prize money could help any one of them out greatly.
Dave surfs the net for a while, providing some product placement advertising for an internet service I wonít name here, and Tiffani places a little teddy bear on her bed to try and show us sheís human.
Bring on the Quickfire!
Our chefs have had a good nightís sleep in their beautiful suite, and are ready for some fierce competition! Dave is going to try something new, and work on breathing and behaving calmly. I doubt that will last past the first 30 seconds. I donít have much faith in Dave sometimes.
Hi Judges, Hi boring Host. Host Katie Lee introduces the Judges for the millionth time, and Iím pleased to see Chef Hubert Keller is getting in on the finale action too. I hope none of the chefs taste sauce with their fingers, because that will push Chef Hubert over the edge! With a sick kind of smile, Katie Lee announces that there is a twist to this Quickfire Challenge- itís really an Elimination Challenge! Whaa? The chefs look shocked and scared, and I would be more shocked if Bravo hadnít spilled the beans in the promos for this episode.
See Chefs- room service is harder than you thought!
Judge Tom unveils the challenge, and it is a doozy! Our chefs will each have to prepare three different room service carts for three different target audiences. They can use any of the foods available in the kitchen, but only have ten minutes to familiarize themselves with the kitchen. Oh, and they only have thirty minutes to prepare each cart, and one of them will be sent packing at the end of the day. No pressure here!
Tiffani does not look happy about the task, Harold looks shocked, and Dave looks nervous, (surprise). Theyíve grown used to working within a small budget and with limited resources, and now they have almost any type of food they could ever want to cook with at their disposal. We see footage of Kobe beef, caviar, salmon, lobster, musselsÖ the list goes on and on and suddenly I am famished, with nothing available to eat except cereal. Sigh.
Harold is concerned that the choices are too abundant, and knows that room service chefs have to cater to the wants of a lot of different people. This challenge is not his style, and not Daveís style because he doesnít cook well quickly. Tiffani thinks this task is made for her, because she lives and works in Vegas, and knows her people. Arenít most of the people in Vegas hotels from someplace other than Vegas? Iím assuming the locals donít hang out at the MGM Grand on a regular basis, but maybe Iím wrong.
Room #1: High Rollers
The first room service order comes from a group of high rollers. They want pricey seafood, and they want it hot and cold.
Dave is frantic. How many times have I written that sentence this season? There is a mad scramble from all the chefs to get their ingredients together and start making their dishes. Judge Tom is surprised when no one grabs the caviar, as he thought it was a logical choice for high rollers who requested expensive food. At least no one grabbed fish fingers, because that probably would not have been a good choice.
The chefs finish their carts within the 30 minute time period, and the room service waiters and Chef Hubert roll them off to the high rollersí suite.
And who are the high rollers? Did you really think we could get through the finale without seeing some of our favorite booted contestants? The door to the suite opens and itís revealed that the ďhigh rollersĒ are actually Lee Anne, Miguel and Stephen. Luckily, none of them know which cart was prepared by which chef, because Iím thinking these judges might have a hard time being impartial.
Daveís cart (black napkin); hot fish dish: Cinnamon Nutmeg rubbed Opah, cold fish dish: Crab stack and Prawns with Court Bouillon. The judges start with Daveís cart, and donít have many kind things to say. Stephen doesnít love the fact that he has to peel the shrimp, (he is a high roller, after all. At least, heís playing one on TV), and Miguel proves his classiness by flinging one of the prawns across the table. They like the flavoring, but donít think the cart was especially made for high rollers, and Dave missed the boat.
Tiffaniís cart (burgundy napkin); hot fish dish: Roasted Lobster and Fennel, cold fish dish: Campeche Carpaccio Crudo. The judges are not impressed with the sloppy plating of the carpaccio. They comment that the flavors are good, but not amazing, and seasoning on the lobster was lacking. The food was better than Daveís, but not much.
Haroldís cart (teal napkin); Hot fish dish: Mussel & Smoked Paprika Soup, cold Fish Dish: Snapper Crudo. The HRs like the look of the soup. Lee Anne loves the presentation of both dishes. They like the combination of the dishes, but would have liked a little more acid on the snapper. The soup seemed more like an appetizer than a main dish, but was perfect for a group of high rollers.
Room #2: Poker Players
The Judges announce the second room- a poker room, and they players want fast food platters with four different dishes. Four dishes, eh? Some of the chefs struggled with two dishes for the high rollers, so this should be interesting.
Tiffani is confident she can take the task, because she plays poker, (although not very well), and knows what poker players want to eat. Dave has internal pressure and again does not like to cook in a hurry, and Harold says that heís preparing fried food because he knows what he wants to eat when heís drinking- junk. None of the chefs seem happy with the task- they donít think it showcases their culinary skills. Judge Tom thinks this is still anyoneís game and wonders if the chefs will realize that card players probably donít want to eat food that makes their hands sticky, or require utensils.
The chefs get to work, and itís crazy in the kitchen once again. Dave breaks out a little Fry Daddy, and Harold breaks out some frozen chicken wings. Well, I can certainly get behind this kind of task!
The room service waiters and Judge Gail take the food to a group of poker players, including Champ Poker player, Phil Hellmuth.
Daveís cart: Fried shrimp, egg rolls with an Asian ginger sauce, Salami panini with a sun dried tomato roll, and chocolate dipped strawberries. The players love Daveís food. They think the shrimp is really tasty, but arenít sure why, (I sure hope Dave didnít lace it with opium or something), and the egg rolls are sweet, tangy and delicious. They also really like the bit of sweet at the end with the strawberries.
Tiffaniís cart: Herbed Grissini with Prosciutto, Quince Paste and Goat Cheese Napoleon, three kinds of potato chips and a brie and tomato sandwich with mustard. The poker players are not impressed with the cart, (is this becoming a common theme for Tiffani tonight, or what?). They think they need silverware to eat the food, the chips were sharp and the cheese strong, and one of the players comments that heís just not sophisticated enough to enjoy Tiffaniís food. But, she knows poker players! I guess she really doesnít.
Haroldís cart: Beer battered onion rings, mini pizzas, mini grilled cheese sandwiches and Honey Dijon buffalo wings. The players love Haroldís food and think it is all really well designed for poker players. They especially love the chicken wings, which just goes to show that the crappy, processed food wins out time and time again.
Room 3: Cirque Du Soleil
The third and final room service cart is for performers and cast members of Cirque Du Soleil. They want three large dishes, chock full of protein, carbs and very little fat. Easy, right? No.
There is a rush for the Kobe beef, and all of the chefs grab some for their dishes. Judge Tom is surprised, because Kobe beef has a lot of protein, but also a lot of fat, and he thinks that the chefs donít understand the challenge.
Tiffani certainly understands the challenge, because sheís cooked for athletes before. Harold has not cooked for athletes before, and is not happy that he has to prepare a mean for people with dietary restrictions. He also drops his first F-bomb of the program, although Iím sure it wasnít the first he dropped during the challenge.
Dave is preparing his food without any oil or fatÖ or taste, I guess. He doesnít know how itís going to turn out, and apparently didnít comprehend that the task was to make three dishes, because he has only prepared two. Tiffani doesnít think you should exclude fat, just look for good fats. Like the kind in Ding Dongs. Thatís the kind she meant, right? Man, I really wouldnít do well on this show!
Judge Tom is the (un)lucky guy who gets to accompany the food to the Cirque Du Soleil performers. Iím going to be upfront here, and say that Cirque Du Soleil creeps me out big-time. Iím not kidding- I do not enjoy it at all, and actually feel sorry for Judge Tom because he has to stand there while the performers creepily slither up to the food. Gah! I would fast forward, but I donít want to miss anything important. Whew, the performers are thankfully acting like humans, and seem excited about the spread.
Haroldís cart: Seared Kobe beef on toasted bread with tomato and cucumber salad, Chicken with gnocchi and wild mushrooms, and Lobster fettuline with orange tomatoes and lobster broth. The performers like the variety of the dishes and think the fish is very good. One performer notes that sheís especially happy with the chicken, because she does not like beef.
Daveís cart: Pasta with kicked up marinara sauce, (but no oil), and Kobe tenderloin with balsamic fig and Grand Marnier sauce. The performers gravitate to Daveís pasta and love the beef. They donít say too much, but nod sagely when Judge Tom points out that Dave only made two dishes and did not follow the instructions.
Tiffaniís cart: Blue crab and caviar salad tossed with olive oil, blood orange and blueberries, Karabuto Pork Milanese with morel mushrooms and Kobe rib eye with tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Again, the performers are not impressed with Tiffaniís cart. They think itís too salty, rubbery and too bloody for their tastes. Yikes. This doesnít sound good for Tiffani. Dare I hope?
Leaving Las Vegas.
The chefs wait nervously in the kitchen for the verdict, and are greeted by the ďhigh rollers,Ē Lee Anne, Miguel and Stephen, who are only too happy to reveal that they were some of the judges. The chefs seem worried, and Lee Anne asks them if they think they did well. Dave tells them someone is going home, and I think all three of the high rollers try not to outright smile in glee. Miguel tells Tiffani in particular they have seen better food in the competition, and Tiffani dismisses him, saying that itís easy to be a critic once youíve stepped, (or been forced) outside the game. I agree, so why donít you go ahead and shut it, Miguel.
The Judges dish about the challenge, and itís revealed that Harold won the high rollers suite, Dave won the poker suite, and one of the three won the Cirque Du Soleil suite. The suspense is killing me! Who is going home??
The chefs are brought before the Judges, and Judge Tom congratulates all of them for a really awesome performance across the board. He starts with the high rollers, and tells them heís shocked none of them prepared caviar of foie gras, or something equally fancy. Tiffani tells him that as she lives and works in Vegas, sheís pretty familiar with what high rollers want. Gail asks her if the ticket asked the chefs to impress, and Tiffani replies ďDid I not?Ē Um no, you did not. Judges Gail and Tom exchange an eye roll and announce that Harold won the room.
Tiffani is disgusted when the Judges announce how much the poker players loved Haroldís chicken wings. Since she plays poker, she is pretty familiar with what poker players want. WaitÖ I have a strange feeling of dťjŗ vu here. The Judges inform Tiffani that she did not prepare food that the poker players wanted, and declare that the Junk Food King, Dave Martin, won the room.
So thatís one for Harold and one for Dave. If Tiffani takes the Cirque Du Soleil room, is it a three way tie? Will they all proceed to the finale? Will they bring Stephen back one more time for me?
Judge Tom asks Dave how he decided on his dishes, and he tells them that he thought the performers would appreciate the carbs from the pasta while theyíre on a f***iní carousel or whatever. Although we might not be able to tell from his chef jacket, Dave works out, and loves to load up pasta for energy. He doesnít care about greens or blueberries, and Tiffani defends her use of the blueberries because theyíre a great source of anti-oxidants. Judge Tom tells Dave that everyone really liked his dishes, but since he only made two, and the task was to make three, he didnít complete the challenge, and Harold took the room with his combo of beef, chicken and seafood.
Harold, you took two out of three rooms, so youíre safe. Tiffani and DaveÖ one of you will be packing your knives and leaving Las Vegas. Tiffani, you missed the mark on all of the rooms, the poker room in particular. Youíre consistently in the middle of the pack, and weíre looking for a Top Chef who can shine. Dave, you took one of the rooms, and probably would have taken another if you had actually listened to the instructions. You performed strongly, but for some reason, we are sending you home and pushing Tiffani through to the finale. Maybe you should have kept your emotions under control.
And, there you have it. Tune in next week for the second part of the finale to see Stephen back again, and Harold turn to the mini-bar to help with the pressures of the task.
I just burned my microwave popcorn yet again, but you can reach me at: SueEllenMishke@fansofrealitytv .com