Thursday, February 26, 2009

Part Two - The Finale Of Top Chef Season 5

The guests arrive. Oh, there’s Fabio. I see Rocco and Gail. Ti Martin, “proprietor” of Commander’s Palace is there. Bunches of other people are there. Hosea pretends to know them by reputation - Susan Spicer (Chef/Owner, Bayona); John Besh (Chef/Owner, August): Hubert Keller (Chef/Owner, Fleur de Lys).

Hosea’s appetizer gets passed around:
Blackened Red Fish on Corn Cake with Creole Remoulade & Micro Cilantro

Just kidding. That could be good.
John Besh: He nailed it. Hubert: Great presentation. I loved it.

Stefan’s Appetizer:
Alligator Soup with Celeriac, Parsley Leaves & Puff Pastry

Why do I think they won’t like it? I’m really concerned that Hosea is going to cook decently today and something will go wrong with the others and Hosea will win.

Rocco: This is fantastic. Oh good, I’ve always loved Rocco. Wink, wink. Hubert: the consistency is great. Fabio: Great job. There’s Toby. Yay! Not.

Carla comes out with a big grin and her appetizer:
Shiso Soup with Blue Crab & Chayote Thai Salsa

Susan: Nice concentrated flavor. Tom: Well cooked. Branford MarsalisWhat’s he doing there? I love him. He says you could taste the crab. Tory McPhail ,(Executive Chef, Commander’s Palace: Good dish.
Do you think no one had heard of shiso (either, like me) and that’s why they didn’t appear to go into detail about it?

The chefs come out into the dining room and are introduced to everyone that I just mentioned.

Carla’s First Course
Seared Red Snapper over Saffron Aioli, Braised Fennel, Grilled Clam Over A Crouton

John Besh: Something special. Tom: Carla’s dish I liked. I liked the idea. Branford: It tasted great to me. Ti: It reminded me of the first time I went to France and had fish soup. (Probably from the fennel, Ti, and Carla did say she was concentrating on French sauces.) I LIKE TI!

Hosea’s First Course
Tuna Hamachi & Black Bass Sashimi with Fennel Oil, Citrus & Fried Tempura Bits

Ti: I was dying to love Hosea’s dish, but it didn’t pop. Thank goodness, I can breathe a bit.
Fabio: It was good, but missing seasoning.
How is it fair that Fabio is there, when obviously he wants his buddy to win (not that I'm complaining)? Someone else said a little bit of salt would have gone a long way.

Stefan’s First Course
Smoked Salmon & Halibut Carpaccio with Micro Greens, Citrus Vinaigrette & Caviar

Uh-oh! That frozen fish IS a problem.
Tom says it’s almost watery. Thankfully, Hubert liked his dish. He liked the technique. Toby thought both Stefan’s and Hosea’s were perfectly executed, but both a little bit bland, whereas Carla’s dish had real personality.

Branford says chefs talk just like musicians.

Carla’s Second Course:
Sous Vide New York Strip Steak with Seared Potato Rod with Merlot Sauce

Gail: Is anyone finding Carla’s sirloin as tough as I am? Yikes! I KNEW THE SOUS VIDE WAS A MISTAKE! Casey went home ONCE, WHY did Carla listen to her? Thank goodness for Ti: The lady can make a sauce. Tom: This doesn’t remind me of her. Okay, it’s all the more mysterious as to why she let herself by talked into this by Casey. John Besh: She lost the soul she had in the first dish.

Stefan’s Second Course:
Pan Seared Squab, Braised Red Cabbage & Schupfnudeln, Foie Gras & Grape Jus

John Besh: Very few American chefs that I know can cook a game bird this well. Gail: The squab was cooked beautifully.

Hosea’s Second Course:
Seared Scallop with Foie Gras on Pain Perdu, Apple Preserves & Foie Gras Foam

Gail: I can’t stop eating it. I love the pain perdu. (Pipe down, Gail. Don’t you have a honeymoon to be on?) Tom: It’s well done and I’ve seen this dish before - foie gras and scallops. Rocco: Maybe it’s only me, but I’m tired of eating foie gras. Go Rocco! Gail looks slightly fed up with him and shakes her head.

Back in the kitchen, Carla says her soufflés are a disaster, because she forgot to turn down the oven. Souffles??! I thought you were going with the cheese tarts. OMG! Did you let Casey talk you out of winning this competition? She decides not to serve them, so there’s just a tiny tart looking thing on the plate. Oh, I guess she was planning to make both.

Stefan’s Third Course
Stracciatella Ice Cream, Chocolate Mousse, Vanilla Syrup & Banana Lollipop

Tory McPhail really likes the progression of Stefan’s dishes and says that his dessert was the best of all. Tom says the mousse and ice cream are fine, but “it’s not like a complete thought”. Huh? My complete thought is that Hosea is getting awfully close to winning this. Gail thought the presentation was dated.

Carla’s Third Course
Apple Tart with Blue Cheese & Walnut Crumble

She admitted that her “blue cheese soufflé didn’t soufflé”. I guess she had to say that, since the plate looked kind of bare. Gail says she’s incredibly disappointed at Carla’s mishap.

Hosea’s Third Course
Pan Roasted Venison, Chestnut & Celery Root Puree with Wild

That looks so dumb next to the dishes of the other two.
Tom liked this dish a lot. (He WOULD…I guess bald guys stick together.) Gail: He played to his strengths.

Even though it hurts him to say it, Fabio says that Hosea closed the meal in a much better way. Yeah, well, it hurts ME to say that I think Hosea is going to win.

Oh wait, Hubert says if someone is going to be given the title Top Chef, he or she should be able to make dessert. Yeah! Even though, it WOULD BE kind of unfair to penalize someone for that when all they were told is to cook the very best three courses that they could. He says the venison was safe way out.

At the end of the meal, Carla thanks Casey. She SHOULD slap her. Hosea thinks he did fine. He going to face the judges with “his head on high”.

The chefs all come in to judges table. Gail loved Carla’s appetizer. Tom enjoyed the flavors. Everyone had a problem with her meat. Toby goes on for a bit about how anemic her second course was and that they wanted something much bolder from her.

Tom asks how much influence Casey had on her. She says Casey suggested the sous vide and, even though, she had never done it, she said okay, I’ll do it. WHY CARLA, WHY? Tom raises his eyebrows, flares his nostrils and sharply inhales.

She tells them she forgot to turn the oven down. Tom says why a soufflé? She says Casey suggested it. Again…WHY, OH, WHY?

“It seems that you let your sous chef talk you out of the food that got you into the finale” says Tom.
He doesn’t understand why. I don’t either.

Toby thought Hosea’s hors d’oeuvres was excellent. Hosea says it was fun to “dole out” the proteins. Tom says, you mean it was fun to stick it to Stefan? Hosea says Stefan would have done exactly the same thing to him. ("MOMMY, Stefan punched me first!" Go to your room, Hosea!)

Toby says his sashimi was very fresh, very light, but he didn’t feel it had enough citrus flavors. Tom and Gail loved the scallop and foie gras dish. Tom thought the apple compote tied it together nicely.

Hosea claims he picked the venison because he wanted to end the meal with something big and robust AND, oh yeah, Hosea, you’re incapable of making dessert! You left out that part. Toby asks if it was bit of a risk not making dessert. Hosea doesn’t give an inch and just says for him a meal doesn’t have to have dessert.

They all liked Stefan’s alligator soup a lot. Gail says his carpacchio tasted watered down. Tom agrees and doesn’t approve of freezing fish to slice it thin. Gail says she really enjoyed his squab. (This is going to be a definite win for Hosea. I’m not looking forward to the end.) Tom on Stefan's squab: Strong dish. Flavorful dish. He thought it was the strongest dish of the night.

Padma asks why they each think they should win Top Chef. Stefan says he thinks he deserves it overall and that he’s been very consistent. I agree. Hosea is like a big puppy begging to be loved. He says he put a piece of himself out there tonight. Wait, I take that back. Puppies are cute. Hosea’s not. Toby grimaces.

Carla says when she cooks HER food, it’s delicious and then she dissolves into tears. Stefan goes to hug her. See? He can be nice. He says, “Don’t cry” in the “stew room”.

Back in with the judges, Padma says I guess we can agree that Carla is out of the running. Tom says decisively, “CARLA would agree that SHE’S out of the running.”

Tom says that Stefan and Hosea come from two different places. Stefan has a more classical background. That’s the understatement of the season. Padma says that, while not as skilled technically as Stefan, there is a thoughtfulness to Hosea’s food. HOLD ON! You said that Stefan is more technically skilled and everyone can agree that his food is great when he’s at the top of this game, so WHY wouldn't that make him a more suitable Top Chef?!!

Toby: Structurally Stefan’s menu was better thought out. Have I mentioned that Toby is a man a great intellect? Maybe Stefan WILL win - they did LOVE his squab after all. But Tom says he can’t get past the dessert. Toby says he didn’t think it was so bad. Have I said lately that I don’t think Toby is so bad?

Tom says the arc of Hosea’s dishes was good. Toby can’t get over Hosea not making dessert.

The others think Stefan doesn’t have soul. Toby, looking a bit disgusted, says if they’re going to give it to the most soulful chef, they should give it to Carla! YEAH! You go, boy!

I’m pretty sure it will be Hosea. Drat! Darn! I SO won’t be happy.

The 3 chefs come back in the room. Tom thanks them all. He says Carla was strong along the way. Hosea put together a nice meal. Stefan had some amazing highs.

Hosea wins!!! I’m soooooooooooo bummed. What a putz. “Who just won Top Chef? Hosea did.” THAT’S Hosea talking. That’s pretty disturbing.

Stefan tells the camera if he had made a different dessert, he would have won. I’m sure he’s right. Stefan says he’s happy for him and he’s not bitter. The other contestants come out.

Hosea says it felt really good to beat Stefan. He’s soooooooooooo insecure. Even his last moment (okay, I get that this is all edited) is devoted to sticking it to Stefan. IT SHOULDN’T BE ABOUT STEFAN! IT SHOULD BE ABOUT YOUR POTENCY (YES, I SAID POTENCY) AS A CHEF!

I'm bummed and dismayed that Hosea won. It was my fear from the first seconds of this episode. He’s a jackass.

Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone being happy that he won.

If you had to describe Hosea's food in a few phrases could you? WELL, could you? NO!

Stefan, you could say, featured well-honed techniques in delicious reworkings of classical favorites (notwithstanding that the judges thought his dessert was fuddy-duddy). Carla did...well, Girl, just good old home cooking with interesting modern ingredients. But Hosea? He likes to cook fish. Whoop-Dee-Doo! I’m not happy at all. Not at all.


DebCarol said...

What a letdown. How many hours did I devote to watching this show .... all season long and then BAM - sucker punched right in the gut. I really didn't understand bringing back the losers of previous seasons. They were LOSERS Carla - why did you listen?? Agreeing with you Sue - even I was rooting for Stefan when I realized Carla was going down. Top Chef ?, Top Whiner Takes All.

Anonymous said...

I was so sad for Carla. I was really hoping she would pull it out. Then I went for Stefan, I totally forgot what a jerk he was. He was right...he's good. I really don't know anyone that was happy Hosea won except Hosea. All he cared about (after editing) was that he wanted to beat Stefan. Personally,I think he had a man-crush that he didn't want to own up to.

I'm bummed, this season really just didn't do it for me. Top Bore is definitely more like it.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I've been looking forward to this recap all week. I'm such a dork eagerly waiting for your humorous take on Top Chef.

I wouldn't want either Stefan or Hosea to win. I was never impressed with Hosea and Stefan was like reverse Jamie for me. I didn't like Jamie in the early episodes, but as time went on, she grew on me to the point where I didn't mind her. In the beginning I didn't mind Stefan, but boy did I come to hate him and his attitude as the season went on.

Bot of those guys just have rotten attitudes. Granted that might just be the editing work of the producers, but it really was like watching a pair of high school girls when those two went at it.

Jen said...

I agree with you all- the show was such a let down after such a great season. As soon as Carla's sous chef suggested a soux vide (which I cannot spell) I knew things were going down hill. I can't believe Hosea won-- he just barely snuck into the final after making pretty medicore food all season and being a whiney jerk.

Patty said...

I didn't care who won as long as it wasn't Stephan so I am happy Hosea won. I have hated Stephan from the first episode.

Sheila said...

I'm bummed too. I was going for Carla, also. But I really didn't think Hosea was going to win. I couldn't root for Stefan. He just bugged me. (Maybe if I tasted his food I'd feel differently!) :-)

I'm totally with you Calm in the Kitchen - I think he definitely had a man crush on Stefan! Explains so much...

Sue said...

We share a brain obviously. The end definitely did not justify all the time we wasted watching this.

I LOVE that - Top Whiner takes all.

It was such a shame for Carla. It’s funny isn’t it, how Stefan really turned into a decent person…And I guess, since this week all his vitriol was aimed at Hosea, I didn’t mind it.

Man crush?! Yup, that explains it and let’s not forget about Stefan’s and Fabio’s bromance.

Hey Rach,
Me too! I couldn’t wait for you to read it!

Stefan definitely was a negative role model, but he could cook! I’m really not sure why he didn’t produce a better meal in the finale. I guess it was his hubris that took him down. But those moments with Carla seemed very genuine and I give him a lot of credit for that.

The sous vide thing was soooooooo obvious, that it’s a wonder she fell for it.

Let’s do this – let’s boycott anything Hosea is involved with. I personally have cancelled my reservations to the Annual Food & Wine Classic in Aspen ;-) AND I’ll ONLY be buying Ziploc and Hefty bags.

Hi Patty,

I definitely disliked Stefan most of the way through, and then something happened. Others became even more unlikable (whiny Hosea, for one) and Stefan’s cooking skills became more and more apparent.

Hey Sheila,
You are not alone in your feelings about Stefan. He did not have an attractive personality, but he grew on me and I would have given Top Chef to Jimmy Dean before Hosea.

Lys said...

Great recap! I just had to scream at the TV :::sigh: Love DebCarol's name for Hosea... he, along with Stefan, was not a fave.

Sue said...

Hi Lys,
Thank you so much. I know it was a REALLY disappoointing ending to an often disappointing season.

DC is great in that department.

Stefan really grew on me. I know it's crazy...