No blow by blow this week. So many weeks I tell myself that and then I always go back to chronicling the entire episode. For once, I want to post this in a timely fashion.
Kevin was proclaimed the winner of Top Chef last night. I was happy with that. I admit that I was rooting for Kevin at the beginning because he was a local boy, but he also did a great job...most of the time.
I think of him as a working chef. His parents had a pastry shop, his wife is a pastry chef, he has worked in restaurants a long time. (AND he’s only 31!)
I also like that Kevin’s a regular kind of guy, not flashy, who turns his plates into works of art. Remember his Roasted Halibut? And Frank Bruni saying he should paint? If you look back at his food, it had a delicacy in taste and presentation. Here are a few of his past dishes:
Episode 6 - Tuna & Veal with Mediterranean Condiments
When we left the chefs last week, they didn’t know why they were being called back in front of the judges. It was to tell them that three former Top Chefs were going to be their sous chefs. By the draw of knives, Kevin was paired with Michael Voltaggio, with whom he had worked previously. Angelo was very happy about getting Hung and Ed got Ilan, about whom he knew nothing except that he had been a Top Chef.
I didn’t feel as if we saw that much cooking during the episode or even the thought process behind what they cooked. Their instruction was to cook the best 4 course meal of their lives. And they had to cook the same courses, using the same proteins, which I thought was a good idea. They had to make a vegetable first course, a fish course, a meat course and DESSERT. Gail made the point that they HAD to make dessert. (Kevin had no issue with that. Ed did.)
Tom made kind of a big deal of the fact that he and Eric were going to the market SUPER early to pick out their proteins for them. Whoop-dee-doo.
The episode was supposed to take on tons of drama when Angelo got sick and there was some question about whether he would be able to compete. THAT’S why we saw so little cooking. We had to waste all this time watching Angelo thrash around in bed with his arm draped dramatically over his head.
When the doctor - straight out of central casting - came in and said, “And you are?” it really was too much. Do I think they make the whole thing up and Angelo wasn’t really sick? Honestly, it kind of felt that way.
The only part that seemed authentic was when Angelo looked up at the doctor and said, rather pathetically, “So I can’t cook tomorrow?” It actually seemed as if he were using his “illness” as a way to weasel out of having to cook in the finale.
He just seemed so wimpy and whiney. I’m sorry, but get a grip. Even though Ed was acting kind of jerky throughout, he wasn’t wrong when he said for that $125,000, he would get out of his sick bed.
It was so irritating to have to watch ailing Angelo, instead of seeing Kevin sous-vide his duck or Ed stuff his duck neck. (I’m not being rude. He PREPARED a duck neck which he stuffed with forcemeat.) Meanwhile, Angelo was allowed to communicate with Hung by cellphone and have him do all his shopping and prep.
Angelo recovered just in time, which made the whole thing look even more fake and he got into the kitchen to finish cooking what Hung started. Because they took all this time with sick-bed drama, we saw no real putting-together of the recipes.
IF Angelo had even come close to winning, that would have been 100% unfair to Ed and Kevin, because Hung appeared to be an equal partner, if not even more, in the preparation of the dishes.
I’m really over Angelo, I’m sorry to say. I thought he was awesome (as a chef) early in the season, but whether his illness was real or not, in this episode he just seemed like a lily-livered weakling. Oy, maybe I’m tough, but really!
The whole episode also seemed rushed and poorly edited. The best example of this was when the whole meal had been served and the chefs were back at the judge’s table. It seemed like the judges didn’t want to bother going through ALL the dishes in ALL the courses.
They hurried through asking each chef about only one or two of his dishes. It was weird and they skipped all over the menu. They asked Angelo about his fish and meat course. They mentioned Ed’s meat course and dessert and they only questioned Kevin on three of his courses. Why? It was as if they’d been told to keep this part down to 4 minutes.
Plus the guest diners, various food experts, including Susan Feniger and David Chang, seemed more invested in the dishes than the actual judges. After tasting Kevin’s dessert, one said, “He just created our national dessert.”
This is what Kevin cooked to win:
There were a few noteworthy remarks from the Judges’ Table. I liked the discussion of Angelo’s cherry purée with the meat course. He made .
Padma asked Angelo why he called the cherry purée a palate cleanser, “because it coated every corner of my mouth”. He says she should have gone back to the salad which would have then been “crisp and refreshing” and THEN she should have worked her “way back again”. Tom offers, “I don’t think dishes should come with so much instruction.”
I also liked it when Tom gave Ed a hard time about his basically couldn’t-be-bothered-to-make-a-decent-one dessert. Tom said he could get a dessert like that at home. In fact, ED didn’t even make it, his sous chef, Ilan, did. One of the guest diners described it as an “f___ you" dessert. Even though, Ed’s cooking was okay this week (what they left time to show), he's been such a jackass the past couple of weeks that I can’t be too sorry that he didn’t win.
The part that was very quick, BUT was okay, was when they announced the winner. The three chefs came back in and they have a brief wrap-up of what a great season it was. Then Padma says, "Kevin..." leaving him and us to think he was being dismissed. THEN she says suddenly, "YOU ARE TOP CHEF". He was so taken aback that he said, "I AM?!!"
I don’t think Kevin won just by chance or by accident. He clearly cooked the best meal that night, which I’ve never liked as the sole criterion of a win. But I think he kept getting better and better and then he picked exactly the right time to peak. Plus I like the fact that he seems like an absolutely, stand-up, nice guy.
Each week Kevin got more confident showing the judges what he could do. He’s not flashy, but he has really solid cooking experience and I’m interested to see what he’ll do next.