Part Two – Dinner Is Served
Sardine, German Butterball Potato, Panko Bread Crumbs, Fennel Cucumber Linguini
Michael - “Broccoli Reinvented”
Cream Of Dehydrated Broccoli, Spot Prawn, Fried Broccoli
Kevin - “Chicken & Fixings”
Fried Chicken Skin, Tomatoes, Liquid Squash Casserole
Sous Vide Rockfish, Diced Matsutake, Meyer Lemon Jam
Michael - Mystery Box
Butter Poached Rockfish, Tomato-Kombu Sauce, Sweet & Sour Salad
Kevin - Mystery Box
Rockfish In Duck Fat, Roasted Matsutake, Roasted Crab Broth
Michael – Chef’s Choice
Fennel-Scented Squab Pistachio Cassoulet, Textures Of Mushrooms
Kevin – Chef’s Choice
Slow Cooked Pork Belly, Roasted Broccoli & Brussels Sprouts, Caramelized Ham Jus
Venison Saddle, Brussels Sprouts, Sunchokes, Maple-Glazed Carrots
Michael – Dessert
Chocolate Caramel Coulant, Butternut Squash Ice Cream
Kevin – Dessert
Roasted Banana, Chocolate Bacon Mousse, Peanut Bacon Brittle
Sheep’s Milk & White Chocolate “Dulce De Leche” Cheesecake, Dry Caramel, Fig Sorbet, Poached Pear
The three chefs go into the dining room and are surprised to see their two moms sitting there. The moms been invited to taste and comment on the first courses. Padma makes sure to tell them not to take any of the judges’ comments personally.
Bryan and Michael’s mother tells Tom that she lives in Vegas and knows where to find him. Hardy har har. She may not be laughing, if her boys mess up.
The other judges are a rich panoply of restaurateurs, who are obviously there to make the chefs think they may have a new mentor in their lives. The judges are Tom, Gail and Toby. Others at the table are Cyrus chef, Douglas Keane, Bill Terlato, Donatella Arpaia, Stephen Starr, Drew Nieporent and Sam Nazarian.
Kevin’s mom tastes his and says, “Oh! Delicious, son.” Everyone around the table giggles.
Michael tells the table that because he was such a picky eater, his mother promised him a trophy at the end of the month that said Champion Eater. He earned it. Too cute. Who IS this Michael this week and where was he all season?
The judges discuss the dishes IN FRONT of the moms. AWKWARD! Tom says he keeps going back to Kevin’s squash, because he keeps finding different flavors in it. Kevin’s mom says she’s never had one of his dishes that she didn’t like. Toby loves the combination of sardines and breadcrumbs in
Various folks say
Michael’s prawn also gets criticized. Mom has daggers in her eyes. Ah, but Drew Nieporent DID like it and says undercooking a prawn a bit is not a problem. Donatella LOVED his story and his broccoli. Mom loved the broccoli element. She says Michael really didn’t like ANYTHING when he was a kid.
Padma asks the brothers’ mom which dish she preferred. She pleads the fifth and the moms are excused to give their sons a hug…just what they need, when they’re in a time crunch in the kitchen.
1st course, I would have to say goes to Kevin.
2nd courses are served. Donatella says that Kevin’s broth is the star, but THEN she bites into the mushroom. But Drew says, “Fantastic”. Tom: “He didn’t nail the Matsutake”. Bill Terlato: “It looked like I needed a hatchet to cut it.” (The mushroom?)
Michael’s 2nd course: Tom thinks the Meyer lemon and the squash combo is amazing. He also loves his crispy Matsutake.
2nd course goes to Michael. Would you agree?
Michael’s 3rd course: Drew: “Excellent.” Sam liked the “different complexities of all the different textures”. Gail didn’t like the mushroom purée molded into the shape of a mushroom. Donatella: “It’s a gimmick and we don’t need gimmicks…not at this level.” Uh-oh.
Kevin’s 3rd course. Stephen didn’t think his pork belly was cooked long enough. Sam: ”I loved the richness of the sauce.”
I would say
Oh, problem in the kitchen! Eli filled the little cake molds of Michael’s too high and they are going to look messy AND Michael overcooked them. Well, that may just give
Kevin’s Dessert: Stephen Starr doesn’t like pork in his dessert. Okie Dokie, that does it. I think Kevin is out.
But which brother will it be? I gotta say
Tom doesn’t think Kevin’s roasted banana was enough for a dish like this. He would have liked to have seen bananas done several different ways. It’s definitely
Oh, they go to Michael’s first. Stephen loves the pumpkin seeds - “the little buggers”.
The chefs come out into the dining room and are applauded by the diners. Bryan and Kevin feel pretty good about their food. Michael is worried because his worse dish was the last thing they ate.
At Judges’ Table, Toby didn’t think
Hold on, Nelly! Are we being set up for a win by Michael?
On to Kevin, they liked his first dish. Toby says his pork belly was NOT a knock-out as he expected it would have been. Tom says if he had a roasted piece of pork along with the belly, it would have been a more complete dish.
I AM JUST LOVING THIS. I LOVE talking about food as if it’s the most important thing in the world and that lives will change as a result of different handling of a garnish or a more perfect roasting of a piece of meat. It’s so fantastically entertaining.
Kevin is not buying anything that Tom says.
On to Michael: Toby says he nailed the Matsutake with its crisp texture. He loved his pickled tomato and said it was like “a flavor bomb that detonated in your mouth”. He liked the “boldness” of that choice.
Oy, here we go again with the mantra that Michael is bold,
Michael says he “wanted to do that today”. He “wanted the food to surprise” the judges. Tom says what he liked about the Michael’s mystery box dish was that it kept revealing different layers of flavor.
OMG! Tom completely got what Michael intended.
Michael said he wanted to reveal something more with each additional bite of the dish. And that is exactly what Tom just said.
I really appreciated Michael’s intention and I’m blown away by Tom. He’s not just a pretty face. His remark to Michael shows us why he is the master of culinary nuance. I think he (Tom) may be my new hero.
Michael admits that he “cooked the crap” out of his dessert. They all agreed that the cake was dry, but that the idea was phenomenal.
Are they really going to give Michael a pass for his dessert mistake? I really can’t tell where they’re going here. I still think
Padma asks each one why they should be Top Chef:
Michael says, with great seriousness, “I just don’t want
He continues, “Food..It’s me. It’s how I express myself. My emotion is in it. I didn’t get good grades in high school. I cooked after school. I’ve never gotten a paycheck for anything else. This is all I’ve ever done my whole life. It’s all I know how to do and all I’ll ever do.”
Heck, why didn’t you just put it that way 13 weeks ago and I would have rooted for you all along?!!
Gail looks teary. Tom nods in complete recognition of what he’s saying.
Poor Kevin has to follow that. Kevin is definitely not winning. I think the tide has turned to Michael.
But Kevin’s statement is good too. “I love food. I love that it has this ability to comfort people and bring people together.” He hopes that he cooks food that is “soulful and speaks to the person” that he is.
In the judges’ discussion without the chefs, they go back and forth with each course. It seems clear that Kevin only triumphed in the very first course. The other two seem so close. I think it might be back to
They dismiss Kevin first, telling him he’s NOT Top Chef. That’s kind of mean. WHY can’t he be in the room when they announce the winner?
It’s going to be Bryan….No, Michael…No
And the winner is…Michael! Okay, that is a surprise, isn’t it? Kind of? Michael tells us that both of them making it to the end was a really proud moment for each of them.
Mom comes in and hugs her boy, Michael, and then Bryan. Michael cries and says, “There’s the emotion you’ve been waiting for, Padma.” Hmmm, could it be true what folks are saying? Read the comments to this post.
Well? What do you think? Is this just another case of bad behavior being rewarded or did Michael deserve to win?
I can’t help comparing the brothers to two kindergarteners, sitting at a table, coloring.
Bryan listens to instructions, doesn’t pull the little girls’ pigtails and does a gorgeous job, coloring inside the lines.
Michael, on the other hand, hasn’t had his wildly creative streak socialized out of him (maybe one explanation of why he is so darned socially inept). He may be incapable of standing still on the line to the lunchroom, but he can take his crayons and produce something wholly original, even if he does color outside the lines.
In fact for him, the lines are probably just suggestions, not road marks. That may be why the judges apparently gave him a pass for his overcooked little cakes.
That may not be entirely fair to
I really believe that great cooking happens first in the mind or in one’s imagination. It doesn’t just happen at the stove.
Creating that perfect mouthful may start as a tiny thought about a particular ingredient or maybe a technique the chef wants to use. The path to the final product on the plate is often a cerebral one, just as much as it is a matter of chopping and sautéing.
Michael is amazingly impressive as a culinary thinker. He imagines incredible things and then finds a way to accomplish them.
The fact that Tom was so in tune with what Michael was doing was a little scary, actually. I think that Tom proved that, out of all of them, HE really is the Top Chef.