Real Time Web Analytics Foodie Gossip: March 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Top Chef Seattle Episode 17 Recap: "Finale Part 2."

On the final week of Top Chef Season 10 in Seattle LA...

Not Chairman Kaga

Here we go! Finale time!!  So exci....


Wait a minute. What’s going on? This is Top Chef right? Or am I watching Iron Chef America? Because that looks like Kitchen Stadium to me. 

No. That’s Padma alright. So what’s going on??

Ok so apparently Bravo’s decided to throw us for a loop and introduce a new format. There are a ton of live studio audience members, and Padma’s introducing the two remaining chefs in a “Let’s Get Ready To Rumble” fashion.

“Fighting her way back from Last Chance Kitchen, after a controversial elimination challenge - Kristen Kish!”

Controversial? Did I miss an episode here? What was the controversy?

Hey look. There’s a table with ALL of the past winners! Hm. They look rowdy already. Read: Drunk.

“And the chef with the most challenge wins this season - Brooke Williamson!”

Michael Voltaggio looks thrilled. *Sarcasm. He looks bored to death.* I bet he’d rather be in his kitchen, cooking.

Brooke and Kristen appear in front of an assembled team and we’re told they need to prepare 5 dishes for the judges and 160 people tonight.

After a brief season sum up montage of the entire season, we roll back to 3 hours earlier.

Kitchen Stadium
Kristen and Brooke enter “Kitchen Stadium,” as surprised as we are. They’re looking around in disbelief. 

Tom says, “Ok chefs. You have your teams, you know the challenge, you have three hours. Your time starts now.”

Um...somebody wanna fill us in on the challenge?

Somebody must have felt the same way during editing. Because here comes Padma with a post-show voice over obviously recorded later explaining what’s going on.

So apparently in an off-screen procedure the two finalists selected their sous chefs. They will go head to head with a 5 course dinner where each dish will be judged on the spot. The first chef with 3 winning dishes will be crowned Top Chef.

Um. Wrong Show.
Man. What’s going on? Make 5 dishes and some of them might not even get tasted? Why 5 then? Why not 3? Hell, why not just make one bite and put it on the spoon! Oh wait...we already have a terrible show like that.

Sigh. Well we’ve been here all season long, might as well stick it out. 

Brooke’s assembled Team LA. She’s got CJ, Stefan, and Kuniko. Three very solid choices. 

On Kristen’s side she’s got Lizzie, Sheldon, and Josh. What, was Josie busy or something?

The teams are actually pretty evenly matched. Stefan might be slightly better than Josh, but Lizzie and Sheldon combined makes up the difference.

Um. Right show?
More details of the challenge are slowly narrated to us by the chefs. Apparently they both have to use scallops for the second round and snapper for the fourth round. 

The judges for the finale are Tom, Emeril, Hugh, Gail, and Padma. I guess Culinary Legend Wolfgang Puck only signed a 5 episode deal. (yes I went back and counted ‘em up.)

Alright let’s get to the cooking.

First Course:

Chicken Liver Mousse with Frisee’, Mustard, Prune, Hazelnuts & Pumpernickel.

Her mousse with perfectly seasoned. Light and diary and still well-balanced. The only knock from Gail was that the greens and hazelnuts piled on top made the mousse hard to find. 

Six minute eggs are amazing.

Crispy Pig Ear & Chicory Salad, Six-Minute Egg, Apricot Jam & Candied Kumquats.

Emeril’s pig ears were a little burnt. The problem is Emeril saw and commented earlier that the ears were looked burnt. So already Brooke’s behind the eight ball. However, everyone else liked the dish. 

So with this new format each judge will decide which dish they liked better. The dish with 3 nods wins the round, and first chef to 3 rounds wins Top Chef.

Hugh, Gail, and Emeril preferred Kristen’s plate. Tom and Padma’s opinions apparently don’t matter anymore. And just like that Brooke’s down 1 nil.

Ok we’re 10 minutes into the show. At this rate Bravo Andy’s gonna be doing a LOT of shotskis. 
I'm ready!

Brooke has this expression on her face like somebody snuck up behind her and smacked her over the head. Yes Brooke we feel the same way.

Round 2. This round they both have to use scallops. Don’t ask me why because no one really explained anything so far. Seems like they just arbitrarily decided a lot of things.

Kristen’s gonna do a raw preparation and Brooke’s gonna try to sear them. I dunno. perfectly searing 160 scallops is going to be a feat.

Here comes a montage of Brooke’s Road to the Finals. Guess Bravo Andy decided that he couldn’t handle an hour and a half of doing shotskis. Filler time.

After a trip down this season’s memory lane, Gail interviews Brooke’s family in kitchen stadium. Her son, Hudson is passed out, from boredom no doubt. We don’t blame you kid. We’re struggling to stay awake as well.

Michael Voltaggio says he wants to be down there cooking. I’d bet right now, he can go down there by himself and kick both Brooke and Kristen’s asses. Yup even while wearing a blazer with the leather elbow pads.

Second Course:
Top Scallop

Seared Scallops with Salt Cod Puree, Speck, Black Currant & Mustard Seed Vinaigrette. 

There’s not a single complaint. Emeril really digs the flavor of salt cod. Both Tom and Hugh thought the dish was perfectly balanced. Brooke’s looking good so far.

Citrus & Lavender Cured Scallops with Bitter Orange, Meyer Lemon & Apple.

Well, she somehow manages to elevate raw scallops into something amazing. Just like Padma said, “There’s no where to hide on this dish and you did these scallops really proud.” 

The two chef’s different styles couldn’t be more highlighted than this. Stylistic minimalism versus enriched boldness. 

Zen Scallop
Unlike last round which went 3-0, this round actually required a tie breaker. Emeril and Gail liked Brooke’s while Tom and Padma preferred Kristen’s. Now once again I don’t know why this round was left to Hugh but it is, and he picked Brooke. 

It’s now tied. Brooke breaths a literal sigh of relief.

I dunno. The fact that the judge knows that he’s the tiebreaker seems to cloud the decision. I think they should have all logged in their decision before going down the line, one by one. Somehow this format seem...odd and arbitrary. Well, that’s been the theme of this finale.

Round 3 is players’ choice. Anything in the world to wow the judges.

Kristen’s gonna switch gears and now wants to pack as many flavor profiles as she can. She’s going with crispy bone marrow. Ok that ought to be interesting.

Brooke wants to redeem herself by making...chicken wings?!?!

That sounds like a terrible decision. I don’t care how good them chicken wings are. I mean David Chang himself could come down make some fried chicken wings and probably wont win this round because it’s just chicken wings!
Grounded wings

Well, Brooke acknowledges the risk of this dish. She’s going with it anyway. We’ll see.

It’s time for Kristen’s Road to the Finale. Fill fill.

Round 3:

Vadouvan Fried Chicken with Sumac Yogurt-Tahini & Pickled Kohlrabi Fattoush.

Yup. As expected. Tom gets why she’s doing chicken wings but he still doesn’t “get” why she’s doing chicken wings. With that said as a dish, the side salad seems disconnected to the wings. As ballsy as this decision was, she might end up paying for it.

You'd pick this over chicken wings too.
Celery Root Puree with Bone Marrow, Mushrooms, Bitter Greens & Radishes.

A few questions and marks from the judges on this dish. Tom wanted to know why the mushrooms were stewed instead of roasted (i.e. lacking in texture.) Kristen says she wanted to the crispy bone marrow to take care of that and the mushroom was just an undertone. Tom seems to be satisfied with that answer. 

Only problem, Padma’s plate wasn’t hot. Damn.

Emeril’s turn to start. Guess they were rotating from left to right. Would have been nice if that was explained to us!

Chicken wing goes down in flames. It was a 3-0 decision. Tom said, “At this point of the competition it’s just much more interesting dish.” 

Kristen only needs to win one more round to take it all. Brooke admits the wing decision was a wrong one.

Red Snapper round. Both chefs needs to utilize red snapper as their main protein.

During the interlude previous winners gives silly advices. Everything from “don’t fumble the football” (Richard Blais) to “Do what you do you, well” (Hosea Rosenberg) to “Keep your adrenaline in check” (Harold Dieterle.) Then Elan Hall proceeds to break the table’s lamp. Kevin Sbraga shakes his head in embarrassment. Hilarity all around. 
17 Restaurants. 

While the chefs are cooking their snapper, how about more filler! This time let’s take a what all of the past Top Chef winners have accomplished!

Actually, all of the past winners have gone on to doing really great things. While some are more active than others in publicizing them, most all have opened great restaurants and earned well deserved accolades. Kudos to all.

Round 4:

Surf and Turf
Braised Pork Cheek & Red Snapper with Collard Green Slaw & Sorrel Puree.

A surf n turf. She certainly packed a lot of layers into this dish. Fish is perfectly cooked, sorel brings some pop, and pomegranate provides the crunch and some juice to the whole plate. No complaints here. 

Red Snapper with Leeks, Little Gem Lettuce, Tarragon, Uni & Shellfish Nage.

Another beautifully composed dish. Everybody loved the uni pairing. The little gem lettuce provided some texture. Shellfish broth was delicious.
$125,000 Dish?

It’s going to be tough to decide.

Actually not really. I hope they weren’t trying to build suspense with this new format because it’s not working. With about 8 minutes left at this point everyone watching at home knows there isn’t going to be a fifth course.

I don’t know how Brooke knows this as well but her expression says it all. I’ve never seen her standing in front of the judges table looking this defeated. Thinking back at her earlier expression, it’s almost like she knew this was going to happen. 

Gail starts now. Wait. I thought they were taking turns? Ah whatever. *waves hand*

As if it was planned. It’s up to Tom to cast the final winning vote. And the winner is....


Brooke’s not surprised. We’re not surprised (we can read the clock. 2:00 Left.) Hell, even the camera operator wasn’t surprised (camera was on Kristen’s family for the winning reaction.) 

There you have it! The second female Top Chef!

Congrats Kristen!
Always smiling. What a sweetheart.

As happy as I am for Kristen, I do feel for Brooke. Poor thing battled her heart out all season long, winning challenges after challenge and jumping through hoops to get to the finale only to face Kristen. Who knows? Had the third course not been chicken wings, it might have came down to desserts! 

Also the horrific format of the finale. What a sour way to end an otherwise great season.  It literally changed the entire heart and soul of Top Chef and replaced it with something artificial and arbitrary. We saw too much fillers and montages and too little cooking or discussions/debates between the judges about the food. 

I think the audiences who’ve turned in for the finale knows how these two got here, they could have used that time (and the random close ups of various sponsors) to focus more about the food. 

Well, at least Tom agrees and the good news is we probably wont see that format again.

Hey peeps it’s been a fun season and it was awesome doing the recap/commentary for all of you. Thank you all so much for following along. It was really a pleasure and an honor.

Until next time how about a follow on Twitter @ChezWu and check out as well!