I don’t want to spoil anyone just scrolling by, so I’ll just say that I’m doing a chair dance as I write this. And singing “Texas, Our Texas!” That could be anyone, right? (Except for the traitor who left for Chicago. Ooops, spoiler?)
Our final two are given their last challenge: create a four-course tasting menu for 100 guests plus the judges. They’ll be provided with sous chefs. Now, go back to the hotel and sleep. (They’re going to need it. )
A group of oustered chefs from throughout the season show up, including three who never even made it into the competition. (Remember that jackhole Tyler who couldn’t butcher and Tom rolled up on him with a boot in his keister before the challenge was even over? Yeah, he’s there.) Also in the mix are two pro chefs and Top Chef Masters, Barbara Lynch of No. 9 Park in Boston and Marco Camora of Heath in NYC. Nice!
They’ll all be competing to be sous chefs – in 45 minutes, they’ll create a single dish to be presented to the finalists, no names attached to the dish. The finalists will taste and pick four people to assist them in the finale. They all start busting ass, and Tyler Stone (no relation) starts bragging on himself straight away. Fool? You didn’t even make the cut, what are you talking about?
Paul and Sarah show up, see old friends, master chefs, and three people they don’t recognize (because they didn’t make the cut). Paul gets to pick first, and they flip flop back and forth until each picks up four chefs:
Paul: Barbara! (Nice work, Paul.) Ty-Lör (the umlat is back!), Sgt. Handsome, and Chef Chef (Keith.)
Sarah: Neyesha! (Oh, Neyesha, I would have loved to see you go further.) Heather (eh), TYLER STONE (hahahaha), and Grayson (aw, sweet, mouthy Grayson). Sarah thought that Tyler’s dish was code from Heather, that’s why she picked him. BURN.
They’ll have 1.5 hours to shop, 6 hours today to prep, and then tomorrow brings 3 hours before service for 100 guests. Get to it!
Paul worries for a moment (as did I) that Barbara might try and push things her way, seeing as she has years of experience, her own place, etc., but she’s a good team player it turns out. I think she gets that this is about Paul and she wants to have a hand in making a Top Chef. (That would be how I would play it if I’d been her.) Sarah initiates Operation Keep Tyler Busy so he thinks he’s involved. Smart move, Sarah. He’s weeds.
And I want to put out there right now that they are setting it up to look like Sarah is going to come out on top, that her team is the most rocking (even with Tyler), and Paul is all nerves and palm sweat. Mm hm. After they all get their prep done, the two finalists are invited to join Emeril and Tom for a product placement, I mean, a wine tasting to pair with their food.
Can I just say that they offer some really mediocre wines? And I know Terlatto Wines owns the show or whatever, but I’m really unimpressed with their vino. (And the Quickfire Wine made for the show? Terrible. Terrible! It tastes like nothing but Super Purple and oak briquettes. I’m a bit of a wine snob, I’ll admit.)
Back to the kitchen for the last push. Barbara is pleased with Paul and thinks he’s really something — aww, that’s so nice! I love when pros are impressed with up and comers, especially when they’re people I want to win. Time to serve, let’s get to the menus.
- First: Clawanmushi, edemame pea shoots and spot prawns
- Second: Grilled Sea Bass with Clam dashi, pickled radishes and mushrooms
- Third: Congee with scrambled eggs, uni, kale and smoked albacore
- Fourth: Coconut ice cream, puffed rice, kumquats, mangosteen, thai chili foam and jasmin geleé
Sarah’s Monte Verde
- First: Squid Ink Tagliatelle with spot prawns and fresh coconut
- Second: Rye-crusted steelhead trout with fennel sauce, pickled beets and gras pasta
- Third: Braised veal cheek with crispy veal sweetbreads
- Fourth: Hazelnut cake with kumquat and toasted white chocolate ganache
The judges are broken up into two tasting groups, Tom leading one, Padma the other. (There are people there like Cat Cora, Mark McEwan, Hugh Atcheson, and Gail Simmons, but we’re focused on the finalists.)
Paul’s results: The first group was apoplectic over how crazy delicious the food was. The flavors were sublime, the textures and contrasts were divine, everything was aromatic and interesting. The second group had the misfortune of getting over-cooked Clawanmushis, however, so the textures were funky. Shoot, that doesn’t seem like it will bode well for Paul. They also all go bananas for his broth, and Bill Terlatto is almost slobbering over the contrasts in textures. Hugh thinks the congee is outstanding.
(In between service, he’s asked to go to a table and it’s his mother, father, and girlfriend! Aww, they’re all so cute and emotional, just like Paul! His dad gets choked up, which gets Paul tearing up, and it’s the cutest thing ever.)
I would eat everything on Paul’s menu about nine times. Damn, it looks amazing.
Sarah’s results: The squid ink pasta and tar-tare of prawns is deemed genius and innovative, the trout is stellar (even though someone – her fiance – found some bones in his, whoops!) the cheeks are “luscious” and the dessert is something Hugh says everyone will be stealing for years to come. But. The sweetbreads are over cooked and the beets are almost inedible because they’re raw. The polenta is chunky and even Sarah isn’t pleased with it. She pulls it off between service and blends it with cream. Also, it’s made of buckwheat, so the patrons think it’s like a breakfast porridge. I can’t tell if that’s good or bad. The second group thinks the fish is under seasoned (well, Tom does) and the veal, while rich and tasty, needs a crunchy element.
I would eat everything on Sarah’s menu nine times. Damn it—wait, I already said that. But seriously, they’re both finalists for a reason.
Tom says this is hands down the best food in a finale they’ve ever had. (In your face, Brothers Volt! Now come here and let me hold you through your sorrows, Mike-n-Brian. And it’ll be easier if you take your shirts off…) Paul tries to not cry and just says he’s happy to be here, it’s an honor just to be nominated, and looks at his feet, while Sarah tells everyone that she should be Top Chef because she had a single mother who raised her to be strong and blah blah. Uh, Paul has former drug-dealing immigrant on his dance card, do you really want to pull the “I’m a minority” card? Didn’t think so.
They send the two back to drink shots of rum while they go back and forth and not reveal their hand. It looks like Sarah won the first course, Paul the second, and the next two are a toss up. Paul didn’t really stretch himself out of his comfort zone (does he need to when he executes so flawlessly?) and Sarah took some risks (pasta and polenta? Sure, she made buckwheat polenta and persimmon sauce – god, that sounds so Betty Crocker 1972, right? Like those avocado green and washed orange colors? Not appealing to me at all, even if her food looks nice, ultimately).
Ultimately the judges have to split hairs, which is the sign of a good finish. I would have liked some greased-up wrestling with Padma and Gail, but that’s just me. And Hugh. (You know that kinky mo-fo would have been down with that. If Anthony Bourdain had been there? He would TOTALLY back me up.)
The finalists come back to Judges Table with all of their family and the former chefs there giving them a standing (because they’re standing) ovation. Aw, that’s nice. They’re both winners. For now. Tom tells them both that they should be proud of themselves but only one can really be proud in the end.
Padma says, Paul? YOU ARE TOP CHEF. And the crowd goes wild! Who cares that Sarah is softly sobbing, forced to celebrate her betters? Paul, the lovely lovely Paul has won and his father bursts into tears and it’s maybe the sweetest thing ever, especially as Paul has worried his whole life about disappointing the man. Aw! They all hug and kiss and it’s just lovely.
Sarah is on the floor in the corner trying to think of a new and amazing pasta made from risotto and spam, but it’s too late, Sarah! IT’S TOO LATE. (Aw, she turned out to be a good egg in the end, but Paul was just slightly better.)
That was an awesome season, gang. Amazing food, even if there were some stupid challenges. In the end there was beautiful food executed well. And recipes can be found at Bravo TV.com.