Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: Top Chef Seattle Episode 16 Recap: "Finale Part 1."

Friday, February 22, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Episode 16 Recap: "Finale Part 1."

On week 16 of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle...

This is it. After 16 weeks of grueling battles and challenges we’re finally down to 2, um no, 3 chefs!

Yeah! Final 2 for now!
Brooke and Sheldon are left wondering who’s gonna crash their finale party. Regardless of who it is, I’m glad that the system worked and the remaining chefs are definitely the most talented and deserving to be here. With that said...I think Brooke and Sheldon are a little annoyed about it.

...and we’re in the finals we’re in the finals... We’re top 2...but it actually technically top 3... ♪” Sheldon sings while strumming his ukulele.

Yeah. And they had no idea about Save-A-Chef. That’s right guys. Last week there were actually 5 of you left!

As per Top Chef tradition, the final cheftestants go home for a few months before returning to the actual finale. We get a chance to visit with them and see how Top Chef fame have changed their lives. (Yes, they film the finale AFTER the season starts to air)

First stop. Maui. 

Bravo's forced to fill, so am I.
It’s been six months since Alaska and Sheldon’s been busy. He tells us during this time he staged at Vintage Cave, THE most high-end restaurant in Hawaii. They have one set tasting menu with the price at 295$. Um yeah. That’s the same price as Per Se. So we’re talking high caliber stuff here.

Sheldon’s definitely a big celebrity now. Star Noodle is bustling and he’s signing t-shirts and posing for pictures. Wait. He doesn’t own Star Noodle? Damn. I hope he got a raise!

Let’s have an family picnic by the beach! What. How else are you going to fill the show? There are only 3 people cooking now! 

Let’s go to LA and check out what Brooke’s been up to.

Equal opportunity filler.
Brooke actually runs two restaurants. Hudson House and The Tripel. Both places looks great. There’s nothing over 20$ on either menus and just looks like the kind of place where you can get good drinks and food. Frankly judging from her food on the show I had thought her place would be more high end. I’m glad it’s more gastropuby though.

To counter the staged picnic, let’s have Brooke go on a date with her husband!

They end up at Roy Choi’s A-Frame, where they run into Brooke’s mentor Sang Yoon, own of Father’s Office, which is not surprisingly, a gastropub.

Hey wait. Wasn’t Roy Choi last week’s guest judge? Isn’t there some conflict of interest or foul play? I kid, I kid.

Funny thing is we don’t see much of her restaurants nor do we see her getting the celebrity treatment. That’s LA I guess. Everyone’s kinda famous so no one cares. Ha.

Alright. Enough filler. Let’s get to it.

Finale. Day 1.

Brooke and Sheldon reunite. In the car ride they discuss who they might face from Last Chance Kitchen. 

Sheldon, “It would definitely be a surprise to see Josh. Who would you be surprised to see?” 

Brooke, auditioning for Mean Girls 2, “Carla and...Josie.”

Way to throw some digs on national TV! Eh. It’s not like they’ll ever see those three redshirts again anyway. So no biggie. 

They arrive at Craft. Fitting since this is where it all began this season. 

There to greet them: Padma, Hugh, and Emeril. 

The first gauntlet.
Padma tells them about Last Chance Kitchen, and for those people with no internet or just didn’t care to watch it on the website the producers are kind enough to provide you with a quick recap montage.

It’s actually a great way to sum up the entire season of Last Chance Kitchen. Here’s the quick version.

CJ set a record by defeating 7 straight opponents before falling to Kristen. Kristen then ran the table the rest of the way until they revealed to her that there’s also Save the Chef. So for the right to get back into the finale, Kristen had to battle not just Josh, but the winner of Save the Chef, Lizzie. Josh made rare venison so he got booted, leaving us to wonder if it’s going to be Kristen or Lizzie. 

The big reveal...

It’s Kristen. 

No big surprise there. 

Nope. Not Josie.
Actually, it’s no surprise these three are the ones left standing. They’re the favored from very early on. It should be an epic battle. 

The Challenge. Devise a three course menu and serve it tonight at Craft with Tom expediting. 

How profound. It’s an elevated version of the very first “amuse” challenge at Craft! Ah where there’s a beginning there’s an end. I feel like grasshopper.

Craft opens in three hours. Go.

It always tough when there are no real guidelines. That kind of freedom usually results in a lot of second guessing and time wasted. You’ve gotta just focus and go. 

Sheldon picked up some spot prawns for appetizer and quail for his main course. Hm. Spot prawns I can understand but quail seems out of character for him. 

Kristen’s doing a chestnut volute to start, tuna for main and some sort of chocolate for dessert.

Brooke’s not quite sure what she’s doing. Or at least that’s what she’s telling the rest of the chefs. That’s smart. I’d play it close to the chest too. There’s a great line from David Mamet’s famous play Glengary Glen Ross, “You never open your mouth till you know what the shot is.” Words to live by.
Always Be COOKING.

Um. Even Sheldon knows the quail’s out of his comfort zone. He admits it’s NOT the food he’s been cooking all season. But he wants to show the judges how much he’s grown. 

I gotta tell ya. I have a feeling staging at the super high-end restaurant did Sheldon more harm than good. The whole reason he’s here in the finale is because judges loved his elevated soulful dishes. A definite misstep from the get go.

The curve ball for all three chefs is going to be the dessert course. I never understood why they are required to make dessert on this show. Most chefs don’t really do dessert because cooking and baking are two very different creatures. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but most restaurants hire pastry chefs that specializes in desserts. I guess to be a TOP Chef you’ll need to know everything. 

Ok times. Up. Tickets are starting to roll in and it’s time for service.

So can you!!
All three of them are scrambling but Tom demands the kitchen to be cleaned up before service. Boom. Just like that the fear of God, should I say the fear of Tom is instilled. 

Since Tom will be expediting, as the judges tasting table we are joined by culinary television legend Martin Yan and New Orleans super chef John Besh. Martin Yan has been hosting cooking shows since 1978. His catch phrase, “If Yan can cook, so can you!” is right up there with Emeril’s “Bam” and Julia’s “Bon Appetite!” 

Rounding out the table is of course, our lovely host Padma, judge provocateur Hugh Acheson, and the Grand Poobah, Emeril Legasse.

Here comes the food. Appetizers.

Really creamy soup.
Sashimi Spot Prawns, Court Bouillon, Radish & Asian Herbs.

Chestnut Veloute, Duck Rillette & Brussels Sprouts.

Crispy Veal Sweetbread Salad with Kumquat, Beets & Mustard.

It’s hard to read the judges here. None of the dishes really jumped out at them. Brooke’s sweetbread could have been cut bigger, Kristen’s Rillette needed some acid, only Sheldon’s prawns escaped without criticism. 

Stop smiling and plate those dish!
Back in the kitchen, Brooke is in trouble. She’s totally falling behind and Tom is getting frustrated. You can see how working for Tom under these circumstances can wilt a seasoned chef like Brooke. 

Brooke isn’t the only one behind. Kristen’s also lagging in sending up dishes. Seems like the only one handling service well is Sheldon.

It’s both amazing and scary to watch Tom expedite. No excuses, no small talk, just do you job and get the food to the pass correctly and quickly. Completely different from the mentor/judge Tom we normally see. 

Main Course.

Sorry Charlie
Seared Ahi Tuna with Veal Mustard Jus & Meyer Lemon Puree.

Braised Short Ribs, Parmesan Sauce, Nettle Puree & Squash Dumpling.

Roasted Quail, Pine Nut Puree, Garam Masala & Tangerine.

First sign of trouble. As we’ve been noticing all along, judges are confused by Sheldon’s dish. In fact, they are confused whether or not it’s Sheldon who cooked this dish. Hugh wants the old Sheldon back. 

Looks like Brooke’s short ribs scored the most points here. Ribs cooked perfectly, sauce goes well with the braising liquid, nettle puree spot on. Damn. how many of you have had nettle? 
Angry Bird


Brown Butter Cake, Whipped Goat Cheese & Blackberry Sauce.

Curry Chocolate with Cashews

White Chocolate Mousse with Apple and Fennel

Ying and Yan 
Brooke killed it on dessert. Great texture without being overly buttery. Blackberry sauce provided a great contrast. Martin actually said, “...give it a Ying and Yan balance. Just perfect.” Way to give your brand a plug Martin! Ha, #ProTip

Kristen’s chocolate with curry got mixed reviews. Hugh thought it was too basic and wasn’t sure about the curry. Padma’s the only one who liked it.

Sheldon problem continues. The big chunk of raw fennel over powered everything else on the plate. 

At this point you’ve gotta wonder if the actual performance during service will have anything to do with who goes home. Because if you’re just keeping score on the dishes, it’s not looking good for Sheldon.

Service is over. Tom emerges from the kitchen and surveys the table. The gracious guests chefs always say they had a great time. Just once I want whoever the guest is to say, “That one dish was the weakest and I think so-and-so should go home.” Oh well, maybe next time when David Chang comes back.

Judgement time.

Sheldon’s up first. Much to be expected. His appetizer of spot prawns was near perfect. The problem, was the quail. Poor thing. He really wanted to show the judges how he “grew” as a chef. He totally out thought himself by trying to be something he’s not. He wanted to give the judges “high end” food. I stand by what I said about him staging at a place like Vintage Cave. Emeril was right. Sheldon was “brain washed.”

The second problem was the raw fennel on the dessert. Tom called it an “incomplete dish.” Not looking good.

Kristen’s turn.

Kristen’s got a lukewarm reception overall as well. Hugh thought her volute was one note and too safe, Tom didn’t like the Myer lemon puree, and the dessert seem like an afterthought.  

Kristen definitely played it too safe. It’s one of those, “let’s do enough to get by” mentality that usually results in an early exit. At this point it’s whether or not Sheldon’s mistakes outweighs Kristen’s mediocrity.
It always ends like this.


The big problem with Brooke tonight was her service. She was clearly in the weeds early on and thankfully she got out of it. Aside from that all of her dishes were great. Her parmesan sauce was so good Padma wanted to use Kristen’s tuna to scrape some more up. 

Tom was oddly critical of Brooke’s dessert. Right after Emeril raved and went to the extent of telling her both John Besh and Martin Yan loved it as well, Tom puts the smack down and tells her it’s not a “restaurant” dessert. 

Laugh now...
I think Brooke knows Tom’s not happy with her service tonight because here comes the “I can do way more than what I showed tonight...and I would just love the chance to actually show that,” spiel. Tom scowls.

The chefs go back to the stew room while the judges decide.

“I know we don’t take past performances into consideration but it’s sometimes hard not to think about what they’ve all been through the season.” Tom confesses.

I’m glad he said that because you can tell that at times past performances does factor in. However, that’s not going to help them this time because all three of the chefs had a great season.  

Back in the stew room, Brooke the math genius explains to us the probability of winning Top Chef at this point.

“It’s a one in three chance.”

Thank you Brooke. Stick to cooking. #ProTip

Time for the verdict...

Early on during prep Emeril talks to Sheldon and gives him kudos for his progress this season, 
“You know, I want to say to you that I really admire where you came from, I don’t think you’ve lost that...just like myself, dishwasher, and just keep working hard.”

Cya Sheldon! Should stuck to them noodles!
Therein lies the irony. Throughout the season Sheldon never lost it. Never lost the heritage behind the flavors, the joy behind his cooking, and the soul behind his food. Today he reached. Today he wasn’t true to himself. Today, Sheldon tried to become a tasting menu chef who charges three hundred dollars for a meal. And for that, today Sheldon will go home.

It’s been great watching him all season long. He really showed the world that you CAN elevate ethnic family food into something special. With this great showing with national exposure, I hope he does manage to find backers and open a restaurant of his own. Be it in Hawaii or else where, I hope to taste his food one day. So long Sheldon and thanks for all the dish(es).

Next week. The battle we’ve been waiting for. All season long I’ve predicted this finale and hopefully it’ll be as epic and we’ve all anticipated.

Thanks for stopping by and as always follow me on twitter @ChezWu!

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