Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top Chef DC Finale – The Winner Is Revealed And I'm Sick Of Angelo

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 1 - Boneless Chicken Wing With Hot And Sour Broth Tomatoes Fennel Potato And Mushroom; Pennsylvania Lamb, Meyer Lemon-Pistachio Marmalade, Spring Onions

Episode 5 - Blue Crab Chowder with Potato, Celery & Espelette Oil, Frozen Bacon Crumble

Episode 6 - Tuna & Veal with Mediterranean Condiments

Episode 8 - Curried Chicken with Leek & Parsnip Puree, Lentils & Cucumber-Mango Salad; Braised Chicken with Chickpeas, Cucumber-Mint Salad & Yogurt

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.

BTW, why in goodness name does the winner of Big Brother win $500,000 and the winner of Master Chef win $250,000 and the Top Chef “only” gets $125,000? I guess Bravo isn’t Fox or CBS.

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:

Eggplant, Zucchini, and Pepper Terrine, Tomatoes, Jalapeños, and Sweet Soy Reduction with Ginger Oil

Rouget, Cuttlefish Noodles, Pork Belly, Cockles, Slipper Lobster and Cigala

Roasted Duck Breast with Duck Dumpling, Caramelized Bok Choy & Coriander Sauce

Frozen Singapore Sling with Tropical Fruits

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 Sautéed Duck Breast & Foie Gras with Marshmallow, Daikon-Ginger Salad & a Tart Cherry Shooter.

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.


Anonymous said...

We just finished watching it this evening.

I called Angelo a pansy. And my husband and I both wanted to know who the hell was going to want to eat any food that he cooked that day. Regardless of the fact that he was wearing rubber gloves.

Hung should've had somebody help him prep. Even though he is more of a machine than Kenny, it wasn't fair - he did all the work by himself, and the rest shared it.

I think Kevin is probably a fine cook, and he did seem to get better the past few episodes. But. . .is he REALLY better than Ed & Angelo? Or even Tiffany or Kenny? You can kind of overlook one better contestant going home for one bad meal, but when someone who consistently hasn't been better than the other two. . . I know they can't judge based on the past, but I'm not really satisfied with him winning.

Emily said...

Completely agree with you on everything. It definitely would have been unfair if Angelo had won. I'm glad Ed didn't win. He is such a jerk.

I'm glad Kevin won... I liked how shocked he was when the judges announced.

This was my least favorite season of Top Chef. Maybe it's on its way out??

Oh! The editing was really sloppy! I noticed that!

Mary said...

I love to read your posts. You should let go more :-). I found you via the Foodbuzz Project Food Blog competition. I've been browsing through your earlier posts and really have enjoyed my visit. I'll be back. Have a great day. Good luck and blessings...Mary

Tracy said...

I agree with everything you said. I'm glad Kevin won, but I'd rank this season among the ones in which Ilan and Hosea won. Maybe it's because this one followed the season with the boring but brilliant Voltaggio brothers.

Tracy said...

By the way, my husband had the same reaction as Amy's -- NO WAY would he want to eat any of Angelo's food that day.

Sue said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one that thought Angelo was a weakling. I can't believe I didn't even THINK of the whole germ thing. That WOULD have been gross. But there have been so many times when the judges have eaten off each other’s plates that I guess that just comes with the territory.

Hung was actually the superstar of the episode, wasn’t he?

Was Kevin better than Ed or Angelo? Well, Angelo started out really strong and I love his style of cooking, but he lost steam. Ed had some great dishes along the way and really proved himself, EXCEPT in the final cookoff. What do you do then? They always say they judge by the meal in front of them. They had no choice but to give the win to Kevin and it doesn’t sound like there was any doubt or conflict in their minds. I think he got better and better as the season went on, so I think he absolutely deserved to win. Ed had an inexplicable brain freeze in the last challenge and his attitude about dessert was just unacceptable.

I would have been so mad if Angelo had won, even though he was my pick from early on. HUNG did his cooking.

I agree it was a less exciting season of Top Chef. No, I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon. They’ll have to beat it into the ground first. When we have a season of sextuplet little people who tap dance their way into the kitchen, THEN we could say it jumped the shark.

Thank you Mary,
I appreciate it.

You’re right, the Voltaggio brothers did elevate last season.

I’m SO impressed that your husband, and Amy’s, actually watched in the first place AND that they were way smarter than I was about noticing the Asian flu that Angelo was spreading around.

Anonymous said...

Somebody posted in the comments to Tom's blog that perhaps in the future they should award the chefs points - like a point for winning a quickfire, and then two points for winning the elimination challenge. Then, at the final cook-off, whoever has the most points gets some kind of advantage, or they add the total points from the season to the points awarded at the finale (I don't know if they even score based on points, so maybe they'd have to change how they score). That way - winning the elimination challenges means something more than not going home (I think getting immunity in the quickfire win is enough for that). Because I agree that really, what can you do if Kevin cooked the best that day, he wins. But when he has what was probably the best cooking of the whole season at the finale, it just isn't as satisfying.