Thursday, September 16, 2010

Top Chef: Season 7, Finale

Call Him the Singapore Gun Slinger

Previously: The final four went from D.C. to Singapore for the first international finale for Top Chef, where Padma wants to know what’s wrong with Kevin. Me too. The cheftestants shed blood, sweat and tears, literally, but it’s Kelly who sheds the most (I mean, it really was her blood) so she’s sent home one stage short of the final.

It’s the finale – finally – to one of the most boring seasons of Top Chef. Who’s your favorite? I thought so. Just to rub salt into the wound more, Padma reminds us about our final three:

Angelo from New York who believes Top Chef is his destiny.

Kevin from New Jersey who is supposedly the Salvador Dali of presentation.

Ed from New York, who is a tornado. Watch out Aunty Em.

Hey, Padma didn’t say “Hail to the chef.” She chooses the last show to finally get rid of that cheesy line. D.C., we hardly knew ya.

They pick up from where Kelly is giving everyone hugs as she’s eliminated. The final three guys seem pretty happy with themselves until Padma comes in looking super serious and asking them to all return to judges’ table.

The cheftestants walk in and there’s a knife block in the center of the room, so they know there’s a twist coming. Padma says they want them to have the most time to plan their meals so they’re telling them the elimination challenge now, which is to compete head to head in a four-course meal “of the most amazing food you’ve ever done in your lives” as opposed to the suck-worthy food they made so far this season.

The judges spell out the four courses as follows:

Course 1: Vegetable

Course 2: Fish

Course 3: Meat

Course 4: Dessert

Tom says he and Eric Ripert will go shopping tomorrow for their protein, and jokes about monkey being in season. Padma tells them they flew in extra help and in walks former Top Chef winners Michael Voltaggio, Ilan Hall and Hung Nguyen. Kevin supposedly worked with Voltaggio before, so he wants him, but so does Ed. Angelo, predictably, wants Hung because he’s his Asian brother.

They draw knives, and Ed gets Ilan, Kevin gets Michael, and Hung joins Angelo. Ed says he doesn’t really know Ilan, but since he won Top Chef, he must be a decent chef. Oh wait, his exact back-handed compliment was “I have no reason not to respect him.” Please stop the sweet talk, Ed, you’re embarrassing yourself.

That local food writer, Seetoh, is still around and Padma gives him the last say. And I’m sorry, but his accent was a bit heavy when he tells the cheftestants to “sock it to me” because really it sounded like “suck it to me.” Oh my.

The cheftestants head back to the hotel with their sous chefs to bond, but Angelo says he feels like garbage. Someone suggests some ginger tea, but instead he goes to bed early.

The next morning, Angelo isn’t at breakfast. He’s still in bed breathing heavy and talking about stabbing pain in his stomach. But it’s funny how he’s supposedly so sick but he still can talk on and on about what he’s feeling with the cameraman. If I were sick, I’d just be in bed moaning or something.

The doctor arrives to check out Angelo and prescribes “lots of fluids and rest.” He gives him 20 percent. To live!?@ What the … oh, he meant 20 percent chance of cooking. Whew.

Commercials. AT&T, you’re such a slut. Thought you were exclusive with the iPhone. Now you’re going with Blackberry. Slut.

The cheftestants arrive at the kitchen with Tom and Eric, but Angelo is not there. Tom says Hung will have to be on phone with Angelo and tell him what’s happening and what he needs to prep. Ed says that “Whatever’s going on with you, just tell your body, fuck you, and get out of bed.” Ed is apparently mean to his body. I like my body so I never tell it FU. I want to be in my body for a very long time.

Tom and Ripert show the cheftestants what they bought and I have to say they are the most boring ingredients for a Top Chef challenge. Basically they give them red mullet (a tiny fish), cuttlefish, those dang cockles again, and slipper lobster. Also, pork belly (um, everyone’s making pork belly in the Bay Area so I don’t need to go to Singapore to try it) and duck. Tom says they all have to make a course with the red mullet and the duck and use the other protein any other way they want.

They shop at some store called Vivomart, and Michael V. (I think he’s the best Top Chef winner to date) grabs a dragon fruit. Ilan is giving Ed a lot of his opinion, and I mean a lot. In fact, at one point Ed asks, “you are my sous chef, right?”

Angelo talks to Hung on the phone and he tells him he wants to make foie gras with some kind of marshmallow. It wasn’t a very long conversation, but I’m thinking they didn’t need to show that much because it was BORING.

Everyone (except Angelo) is in the prep kitchen and start talking about their menus. Hung is prepping like crazy and I don’t even know how he’s supposed to know what Angelo wants. So basically Hung is just making his dishes from his season. He grabs the foie gras and doesn’t share, and everyone curses Hung out. Hung sure drinks a lot when he’s working.

Hung calls Angelo but Angelo doesn’t answer because at that very moment the doctor is giving Angelo a shot in the butt. A shot of antibiotics, that is. He then tells him that it should make him feel better in two to five days, or in the worse case scenario … a week. By then we’d be in the Top Chef Reunion show, doc!

We see scenes of the Singapore market and the skyline, and then the next morning with Ed spiking up his hair with gel. Ed and Kevin are at breakfast again with no Angelo. The doc comes to check on Angelo, who is dressed and sitting in bed, looking pretty normal. Angelo tries to build the drama about him not getting released by the doc to cook, and really, it’s almost like Angelo wants the doc to tell him that he can’t cook. I think Angelo = drama.

But unfortunately for Angelo, the doc tells him he has no fever and his blood pressure is fine, so he can go cook. Angelo says he’s “happy” at the news.

The cheftestants arrive with their sous chefs at the Jim Thompson restaurant kitchen and start cooking. Angelo basically says that he’s going to do the best he can with the cards given to him. OK, so he’s out.

They furiously cook and then start their plating and outside the guests start to arrive and I spot David Chang of New York right away sitting at Padma’s table. Ripert talks about the main ingredients he and Tom bought for the cheftestants and he sounds proud of what they challenged the chefs with. I’m not buying it.

The cheftestants go out and meet the guests, including Dana Cowin who never left Singapore, as well as Paul Bartolotto, Susan Feniger, and a few local chefs and food writers.

First course: Angelo serves up pickled mushrooms with char siu and noodles, Kevin does a terrine with eggplant (all together now – yuck to eggplant!) and Ed does a chilled summer corn veloute (that’s like a soup) with fried cockles.

One guy calls Angelo daring, and his dish is very authentic to the region, but Tom says it needs work. Chef Chang says Kevin has balls for making a terrine as a first course (I’m not a fan of these cold layered terrines) and Vincent Bourdain likes Ed’s veloute. Tom says all the dishes are restrained.

Back in the kitchen, Ed and Angelo are still biting at each other. While they get ready to present the next course, Ed tells Angelo: “I guess you’re not sick anymore.” And Angelo’s comeback is: “I’m sick of your attitude.” Someone give these two a timeout.

Second course: Angelo makes a bouillabaisse, Kevin does pan-seared red mullet with cuttlefish noodles, and Ed did stuffed fish with zucchini pesto.

That Seetoh guy says he needs a user manual to understand what’s happening in Ed’s complicated dish, and Bartolotto says Angelo’s dish is a dish to remember.

Third course: Angelo does sautéed duck breast with foie gras and marshmallow, Kevin did a simple roasted duck with caramelized bok choy, and Ed did a duo of duck, roasted and braised stuffed neck.

Everyone thinks Kevin’s duck is cooked the best, and nobody understands the red shot of stuff Angelo served as a palate cleanser. Ripert says all the dishes have been remarkable so far.

The cheftestants get ready for their final course, which is dessert, and which everyone knows can kill one’s ambitions on Top Chef. Ed doesn’t make dessert so he pretty much left it up to Ilan, who made some kind of cake thing. But Ed feels the plating look boring, and I agree. It kind of looks like meatloaf.

Commercials. What is that movie “Catfish” all about? Supposedly it has some “Sixth Sense” ending or twist that you can’t talk about.

Dessert course: Angelo made coconut cream with vanilla cream and saffron syrup, Kevin made the “Singapore Sling” with tropical fruits in the hollowed out dragon fruit, while Ed serves up Ilan’s sticky toffee pudding, which really looks like cake.

Everyone gets excited about Kevin’s dessert, which is supposedly Singapore’s national dessert. Susan thinks Angelo’s dessert is good but almost borders on savory.

David Chang thinks Ed’s dessert is hilarious because he thinks the dessert is Ed’s “fuck you” to say he doesn’t need to make a fancy dessert to win. Thank you Chef Chang for living up to your potty mouth rep.

In the kitchen, everyone tastes a bit of each other food, and of course they all say it’ll be close but they’re going to win. Voltaggio tells Kevin this was the second best food he’s ever seen on Top Chef. Nice.

It’s night time at Singapore, and Padma tells the other judges that she had a fun dinner. Tom says it was “lights out.” Gail called it a “revelation.” Ribert says his table was entertained. (Why am I not surprised that Ripert’s table had the most fun? I’m sure it’s also the table that emptied out the bottles of wine first.)

The cheftestants come in to face the judges. They start with Angelo and talk about his bouillabaisse, which Ripert liked. But Padma didn’t like the cherry puree as a palate cleanser, which instead stuck to all parts of her mouth. Tom called it “destructive.”

Now Ed, they tell him stuffed duck neck was a great idea, and Gail says the dessert was just like him but Tom says if this is a close competition (and it is), then the dessert could make or break it and that dessert he could have made at home. Ed asks what he’s supposed to do? He says he could make lemon curd but what if it went wrong?

Then they talk about Kevin and Ripert wanted more salt or spiciness to his vegetable terrine. Everyone loved his duck and Gail tells Kevin that she tried a Singapore Sling from the place that originated it and she says she liked Kevin’s better.

The cheftestants are sent away, and the judges deliberate more. Just from hearing the comments, this is how it seemed, to me, the winner of each course was.

Vegetables: Ed

Seafood: Tie between Kevin and Angelo

Duck: Kevin

Dessert: Kevin

Looks like Kevin has the lead if you go course by course. Padma says we have a clear winner. Well, OK.

Commercials. How can a movie called “Devil” be rated PG-13? I mean, really? Crest toothpaste thought it necessary to show big teeth with gingervitis and they put the word “dramatization” in fine print. No kidding.

They come back and Tom tells them the three gave high-quality experience and he wishes all three could win, but we know only one can, and that one was the chef that took the most risks and cooked the best meal. Padma tells Kevin that he’s Top Chef! Kevin says “I am?” And that, for some reason, cracks Tom up, who says that was the best reaction ever.

I guess it's the year of New Jersey with Jersey Shore and now Kevin taking Top Chef. Angelo and Ed say they’re happy for Kevin, but I don’t buy it. I bet Ed really wanted it. Angelo wanted it too until he decided he wanted to play sick. Kevin is saying he’s all emotional but he doesn’t really cry. He tells us it’s cool to be the first African-American Top Chef. Oh, that’s weird because for some reason I thought he was Latin. See what an impression he made on me this season?

So that wraps up another season of Top Chef. These recaps have been exhausting and long, and a real damper on my dating life because I am in no shape to go on a date on Thursday nights, which apparently is prime dating night when you meet someone for the first time. (It’s the “safe” day of the week for a date, apparently.) I’m looking forward to getting my sleep again so I can be awake for my next date. And if you think I’m going to recap the new Top Chef: Just Desserts, you’re all suffering from brain freezes from having too many Singapore Slings. See ya!

Photos courtesy of the Bravo TV website.


Nate @ House of Annie said...

I could sense how bored you were with this finale and this season in general.

Go to sleep, you.

JulieK said...

Thank you for your recaps-they were the highlight of the season!

Jenster said...

Ben, I've really enjoyed your recaps this season! Thank you. Every week I'd watch the show and then wonder, "When is Ben going to put that #!?!*@ post up?" ;)

I'm really pleased that Kevin won because he was the underdog and everyone underestimated him. He wasn't as consistently good as the other two during the season but he really brought it once he got to Singapore.

Angelo was extremely lucky to have Hung working while he was sick. Hung is a workhorse and very smart. When he hogged all the foie gras right off the bat, I remembered HIS season of Top Chef. It was good to see Hung and his screw-you-I'm-here-to-win attitude back in the kitchen, even as a sous chef. I mean that as a compliment.

I knew Ed was in trouble when he got Ilan, whom everyone (which is basically me) though was a douchebag during his season and was not a better cook than Marcel, who should that won that season. Also, when Ed blew off handling dessert because he was resting on the laurels on his previous challenge's banana fritters, I said goodbye to him because I knew that was the kiss of death.

Why do I remember all these Top Chef details instantly when it takes me forever to recall my lock combination at the Y?

suenjca said...

Go New Jersey!!!

MoHub said...

The next morning, Angelo isn’t at breakfast. He’s still in bed breathing heavy and talking about stabbing pain in his stomach. But it’s funny how he’s supposedly so sick but he still can talk on and on about what he’s feeling with the cameraman. If I were sick, I’d just be in bed moaning or something.

You captured my thoughts exactly. If I'd been sick in bed and that cameraman was trying to film me, I'd have charged the camera, puked all over it, and used my last bit of strength to boot the guy from my room. Angelo was way too articulate for someone who was feeling as if he were at death's door.

And, BTW, I called Kevin as the winner last week. What's my prize?

The Librarian said...

Great recap as always! I've decided that next season I'm not going to watch the show, just read your recaps. Much more entertaining!
And I thought Kevin was Latino also...

Velva said...

I have start watching these chef tv shows-no doubt, I am missing something.

Carolyn Jung said...

In the end, I'm glad Kevin won. His meal definitely seemed to most hit the mark by actually highlighting the ingredients chosen, just as Eric Ripert pointed out.

Hungry Dog said...

This season was a dud. I didn't care who won although I was sort of rooting for Hung since all the current contestants bugged me. I really hated Ed by the end. And when Kevin said he was the first African American to win, the husband and I looked at each other in surprise. Had no idea. I thought he was Latin as well, clearly I was wrong.