Thursday, June 12, 2008

Top Chef – And The Winner Is…

What’s going on here? I’m not supposed to be watching this. Oh, who am I fooling? I can’t help myself…

We have to relive Antonia’s leaving and Lisa’s hissy fit at her fellow chefs for not congratulating her. Everything bad anyone has ever said about Lisa is true.

Richard says he can’t believe that Lisa is still here. HELLO!!! You don’t need to tell that to us Dale-lovers, who can’t believe it either. THAT was such a mistake and it’s getting me all riled up all over again.

They seem cordial at the beginning. Richard gives us the new-house-wife-baby-on-the-way story as to why he has to win. No one told you told you to go buy a new house, Rich…Sorry, I’m just being ornery. Why don’t I watch the last 5 minutes and then post 30 seconds after the show is over? Oh, but what fun would that be?

Tom and Padma are there with 3 other chefs – April Bloomfield from The Spotted Pig, Dan Barber from New York’s Blue Hill, and Le Bernadin’s chef/owner, Eric Ripert.

Their challenge is to create a four course meal, starting with fish, going to poultry, red meat and “Yes, you do need to do a dessert.” Why did Tom say that? Was there some finalist who blew off dessert in a previous season?

Sorry to get off topic, but why does Tom look scruffy? This is the finale, for goodness sake! I like him all smooth and shiny, not rough and scruffy. You don’t see Padma at the finale with hairs in unusual places. Double standard!

Stephanie is surprised at the dessert requirement. Get over it. Dale wouldn’t have complained. Oh, alright, we all know that Dale would have complained at every little thing, including the angle of Tom’s soul patch (I didn’t like it on Michael and I don’t like it on him).

Eric, Dan and April are going to be their sous chefs! Wow!!! Did they do that in previous seasons? That is awesome. Can you imagine having Eric Ripert work for YOU??? That is way cool.

The REAL chefs each have different proteins for the contestants to work with.

Eric has, among other things, clams, sea urchins, hamachi, caviar, bacon and lamb. Dan’s haul includes scallops, squid, abalone, guinea hen, venison and foie gras. April has organic chicken, jumbo shrimp, lump crab and Wagyu steak.

They WERE going to let the chef with the most elimination wins pick first, but Richard and Stephanie are tied, so they pick a number from a knife block. Richard lets Stephanie go first and she pulls number one. She’s gotta pick Eric or she’s crazy…OF COURSE, she picks Chef Ripert.

I’m thinking Lisa’s going to end up with April’s swag; the others have more selection. OF COURSE, Richard takes Dan and Lisa is left with April. Lisa says she’s happy about working with the one woman. Sorry to repeat myself, but Tom does not look good.

Their final task is to prepare a black tie dinner for 9 diners. They only have 7 hours to prepare – 3 today and 4 tomorrow. I guess that should be ok, since they each have a rather qualified sous chef.

Lisa is amazingly relaxed. She’s decided on an Asian menu, and, even though April has no experience with that, she’s really happy to work with her.

Richard admits he doesn’t really know what he’s doing and he’s hoping for a strike of inspiration. (Isn’t that usually when it’s LEAST likely to hit?)

Richard is SO not winning. I’m thinking that something will go wrong with Stephanie’s meal and Lisa will win by default. Of course, Stephanie SHOULD win, but it REALLY should have been Dale…so I’m going to take the dark horse at this very early hour and say it’s…LISA. Boy, do I hope I’m wrong.

Oh, this is funny, Eric is asking Stephanie something in his VERY, VERY, VERY heavy Frennnnncccsssshhh accent. What if she misunderstands him? He might say shall I skim the duck? (for example) and he’s really said SKIN the duck. This should be good. Wait a sec, I have to put the closed captioning on, I can’t understand a word he’s saying.

Stephanie checks to make sure he’s really getting ALL the skin off the fish and she says (we don’t see it) that he got a little huffy.

April and Lisa look like they’re working the best together. I’m telling you that Lisa could pull it out in the end. (Not that I want her to.) We see much cooking going on, but without knowing what they’re making, it’s kind of pointless.

Suddenly out of nowhere, Richard almost barks, “Raw oyster, lemon juice, hot sauce and cream”. And we learn that liquid nitrogen was his special request item. I guess he’s going to liquid nitrogen the ingredients and make a frozen foamed version of a classic appetizer. He’s proud of himself for being one of the few people that can use it. Eric and April are fascinated by his freezing stuff into pearls. (Don’t they ever watch Top Chef? He’s been doing it all season.) Richard is really impressed that he showed Eric something he’s never seen.

Stephanie states that she and Eric are all business and getting stuff done, but that Lisa and April are chitchatting a lot. She sounds jealous…I’m telling you this could go against Stephanie.

At the end of prep time, Richard still has no clear idea of what he’s going to do. That can’t be good. Stephanie has a bit of a laissez faire attitude, but not in a good relaxed way, in a way that says she might be giving up.

The next day, Tom greets them in the kitchen and tells them they won’t be working with the sous chefs today. Well, honestly, who told them they would be? But if those chefs are the judges, won’t they be rooting for the person they were helping? Stephanie looks a bit panicked. Lisa is taking it in stride. I don’t have confidence that Richard will actually have any finished dishes at all. (You know these jerks really dragged me back in, I’m supposed to be watching in a relaxed fashion, cocktail or bowl of cereal in hand…)

Lisa is kind of funny. She says her menu is going to reflect her personality. How is she going to make food taste bitchy? But actually she is accurate…her food is going to be in-your-face, sour, salty, big and bold flavors. Interesting. Please don’t hate me, but she is kind of growing on me.

Stephanie mentions again that she’s not happy she has to make dessert. Tom comes in and basically annoys Richard and Stephanie. Lisa couldn’t be more la-di-dah, everything is under control, it’s all good. Either she’s going to completely blow the other two out of the water, or they’ve edited this to make us think that.

Tom notes the reactions of the 3 chefs with surprise. Richard is nervous. Lisa is fine and Stephanie is concerned about a dessert that she’s only made once before. He’s definitely warning us that that dish could be the one that loses it for Stephanie. Even Lisa tells her to have confidence in herself.

Lisa’s Menu
Grilled Prawns with Chili Basil Sauce & Crab, Homemade Potato Chips
Tom Kha Gai Soup & Dumplings
Wagyu Beef With Chayote & Cucumber Salad, Hot Sauce & Garlic Chips
Black Thai Rice Pudding With Lime & Mango Crème, Taro & Coconut

Richard’s Menu
Scallop with Mango & Pineapple Vinegar
Guinea Hen, Chicken Egg, Foie Gras & Spring Vegetables
Pickled Radishes, Mirin Broth & Pork Belly
Banana “Scallop” & Bacon Ice Cream

Hasn’t he made the banana thing before and aren’t the judges going to wish he never made that atrocious sounding ice cream? Just because he’s technically capable of freezing everything in sight, doesn’t mean he should. He ends up only freezing the ice cream and not anything else. Probably a good decision.

Stephanie’s Menu
Red Snapper, Truffled Clam & Asparagus Broth, Asparagus Salad
Quail Breast Over Lobster Ravioli With Mango Lobster Sauce & Quail Egg
Lamb Medallions With Maitake Mushrooms, Braised Pistachios, Blackberry & Olive Tapenade
Ricotta Poundcake With Tropical Fruit & Banana Crème

The dining room fills up with bedecked guests. We hear a voiceover of Richard puffing himself up - he’s the best chef, blah, blah, blah.

Padma toasts. Those fancy sous chefs ARE sitting at the table. They discuss sous chef-ing. Eric liked it because he just had to do what he was told. Dan was nervous throughout and April said it was “humbling”, because she had to make sure she was doing it Lisa’s way.

Padma introduces the judges to the 3 competing chefs: Chef Alfredo Ayala from Delirio in Puerto Rico (great story here); Tim Zagat (he should be good); Gail, Ted and Tom, with patches of hair growing in different places.

Reactions to Richard’s first course - Dan doesn’t recognize anything he helped Richard with. April: "The sweetness of the mango is delicious." Tim wants it simplified.

Reactions to Lisa’s first course - April likes the texture of the prawns with the potato chip and the red chili sauce. Alfredo:”The chili sauce from Lisa is too strong.” Uh-oh. I might have read the entire situation wrong. Tim: “The heat almost takes me back to China.” Is that bad or good?

Reactions to Stephanie’s first course - Ted: “Very elegant.” Eric: “Zee truffle oil has been infusing overnight in the broth…Very delicate.” Tom, almost yelling: “Yes, it is.” Alfredo proclaims it the best of the three. Tom: “It was good. It was almost REALLY good.”

Reactions to Richard’s 2nd course - Eric: “I like the complexity of the dish. The earthiness of it. But (oh, here it comes…) it’s hard to make a distinction between the ingredients.” WAIT A SEC. He got ripped another time for putting each ingredient in a separate blob. Someone said it was more like a project than a meal. Now he’s got them together and he still can’t win. Tom: “This is him falling in love with the technique.” Eric: “YES!” April likes it.

Reactions to Lisa’s 2nd course - Gail: “Lisa’s soup was absolutely delicious.” April: “I like the lemongrass. I like the creaminess.” Tim: ”Very good. I would have been happy to have seconds.”

Reactions to Stephanie’s 2nd course – Eric: “I like very much the seasoning of the quail.” Ted wishes the sauce had more lobster essence. Alfredo: “Very delicate.” Tom: “No one had an issue with these leeks?”

Richard says his 3rd course is super simple. Does that mean that the judges will think it’s elementary?

Reactions to Richard’s 3rd course – Eric: “I’m surprised by Richard. He doesn’t season the food.” I promise you he is not winning. But then Eric says. “I love the radish. It’s borderline genius.” Alfredo, not happy: “The broth is very underseasoned.”

Reactions to Lisa’s 3rd course - April: “The beef flavor is nice, but it’s not tender.” Oh, for crying out loud. They are trying to confuse us. They like this...they don’t like that. WHAT are we supposed to think? No one likes Lisa’s sauce. They like her salad.

Reactions to Stephanie’s 3rd course – There is general agreement that the addition of BRAISED pistachios was a revelation, as was the green olives. Maybe she will pull it out after all. Oh, wait there’s still that cake that she wasn’t happy with. Eric says this is the first dish where they’ve said “I love”. Tom proclaims Stephanie’s dish the winner of that round.

Reactions to Lisa’s dessert – Gail says, somewhat unpleasantly, as she tastes Lisa’s dish, “What’s her chip issue?” Tom explains kindly that it’s an Asian thing. Dan: “It’s a minor critique in what I think is just a really exciting dessert.” Tim says (again) that he could eat more.

Reactions to Richard’s dessert – Dan: "It works."

Reactions to Stephanie’s dessert: Tim: “Okay, but nothing special.” Eric: “It’s a little bit unrefined and slightly heavy.”

Tom wraps up the whole season. Richard is the intellectual, Lisa is true to herself and Stephanie has a homey spin on things. He points out their very strong contrast of styles and flavors.

If I had to say it now, before they talk to the kids…I guess I would have to say it’s going to be Stephanie, but if she comes off as lackluster and Lisa is super-confident, who knows? I just know I’m ready for a snack. Em, where are those fluffernutter cupcakes when I need them?

The four regulars take their places at the judges' table. Tom says that he thinks they delivered exactly what we expected of them. THAT must mean they’re going to choose Stephanie. I take back everything I said (after my previous taking-back of everything I said); it’s got to be Stephanie. They don’t want some unpleasant (however reformed this week) person promoting their brand…

They rehash the menu. It is clear they thought Richard’s first course was too bland, especially since he said he likes to have strong flavors at the beginning. Try some salt and pepper next time, buddy. Lisa was smart and said she meant to make the first course really spicy. Tom bought it. They loved the delicacy of Stephanie’s dish.

Richard seems completely confused by every criticism. When you don’t like his dish, it’s because he (and it) are too smart for you. Pish tosh to that!

EVERYBODY loved Lisa’s soup. Stephanie seems unsure in general. Tom gets a bit heated as he tells her the leeks weren’t cooked. She thought they were.

Uh-oh, here we go again, Richard is snotty as he tells Ted that he wasn’t going to lose the integrity of the meat just to get a bit of crispiness on it. Well, maybe he didn’t lose his integrity, but he’s sure going to lose Top Chef.

No one liked Lisa’s next dish. Ted said Stephanie’s braised pistachios was one of the most creative things all night. Tom said that’s why you should keep an open mind when eating. Okay, they LOVED that dish, we get it, but they hated her dessert.

Richard actually admits that he choked. Go me! So it HAS to be Stephanie. Right? Richard looks like he’s going to throw up.

The chefs leave and the judges go through the courses…I think it COULD go to Lisa. But will it?

Oh, come on! The poll they were running during the whole show said that 60% of viewers chose Stephanie for the win, 36% were for Richard and only 4% voted for Lisa. Let’s be fair. Based on tonight’s meal, it was definitely between Stephanie and Lisa. If they are going to take the totality of their efforts into account, then Lisa should never have made it into the final at all. However, based on that one meal, I think the two women were close.

Without further ado…OMG, Padma has to get a plug in for Glad. Tom keeps saying what a difficult decision it was and how they based it on which meal they’d like to have again. Doesn’t that mean it has to be Lisa? IT IS…STEPHANIE. She pretends to be surprised. She’s so low key that she might have won a coupon to Subway. Richard says losing at the last second really sucks. But he didn’t lose at the last second. He lost the entire day before, with his inability to focus.

They bring out all the contestants. Dale is commiserating with Richard. I have to say this was bit anti-climactic. There’s really nothing to be PO’ed about...except that you-know-who wasn’t in the final…which, obviously, he would have won.


The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

So the big wait is over. We have a winner. I know you lost Dale, but at least console yourself that it wasn't Lisa.

David Dust said...

Excellent recap.

CLICK HERE for DavidDust's Top Chef Chicago recap.


Sue said...

Hey Shortie,
Yeah, we know, but I'm still mad about my man Dale. But I do think that Lisa held her own last night. While I don't think she should have won, I do think her behavior AND her food was a lot better than during the rest of the season.

Stop it right now! You're not allowed to be funnier than I am. Of course, if I used x-rated language, I could be almost as funny.

Emiline said...

Great recap!
I wish I could have sent you some fluffernutter cupcakes to snack on.

I'm happy that Stephanie was a close one. Lisa had some great looking dishes.
What is with the chip thing & Asian food? I was wondering about that.

Sorry Tom was a little scruffy looking. Ha- I didn't notice!

My dad has been watching Top Chef, and he calls Richard, Mr. Dippity Doo (sp?). I thought that was funny. I guess because of the faux hawk.

Catherine Wilkinson said...

I finally saw the last show last night, while I was on a treadmill...I had to slow down when Eric was talking. No, actually I stopped. That man is so gorgeous. Sorry. He just sends me over the moon.
And could Ted be MORE IN LOVE with Tom?? I could practically see him swoon when he looked at him!

Sue said...

You're so lucky to have Dad to watch with you. But does that mean you can't use bad language when you're reacting to Lisa?

The sad thing is that I remember Dippity-do, although I NEVER used it.

Hi Catherine,
Do you think Eric would be half as godlike if he didn't have that Frennnnnsssccchhh accent. I'm not so sure.

Darn! I didn't notice Ted mooning over Tom, but I'm going to see if they interact on the reunion show.