Friday, June 13, 2008

Tippity-Top Chef

Finally! I finally watched the TC finale!

Again, I'm working from memory, so forgive me any lapses in detail...

They start with the contestants learning what their final challege is -- to create a traditional four-course meal progressing, well, traditionally: fish, chicken, red meat, dessert. They each get to choose a sous chef from three world-renowned chefs: Eric Ripert, whom we've seen before, April Bloomfield, and Dan Barber.

The cheftestant with the most elimination challenge wins gets to choose first, BUT since Richard won the elimination challenge in Part 1 of the finale, he tied Stephanie, so they have to draw knives. Richard tells Stephanie to draw and her knife has the number one on it, so she gets to choose first. She chooses Eric Ripert, who seemed like a great match for Richard to me, but he's apparently kind of a demigod in the chef world, so they all probably wanted him. Richard chooses Dan Barber and Lisa gets April Bloomfield (and they seemed to get along really well, so I guess it worked to Lisa's advantage. Hmph.). They all go to the kitchen and work on the menus and prep for the next day.

The next day Tom comes in and tells them, No sous chefs, you're on your own! Y'know, I imagine these curve balls wouldn't seem quite as bad to the contestants if he didn't seem so gleeful when throwing them.

Here are their final menus:

Prawns with Chili Basil Sauce, Crab, Potato Chips, and Pea Tendrils
Tom Ka Soup Dumplings with Organic Chicken, Golden Threads, Toasted Chilies, and Cilantro
Coriander and Soy Glazed Wagyu Strip Steak over Chayote and Cucumber Salad with Garlic Chips and Chili
Black Thai Rice with Carmelized Coconut, Mango Cream, and Crispy Taro

Grilled Scallop with Mango and Pineapple Vinegar
Guinea Hen, Duck, Foie Gras, Chicken Egg with Spring Vegetable
Pork Belly with Pickled Radish and Mirin Broth
Banana Scallop with Bacon Ice Cream and Cilantro Stem

Sauteed Red Snapper Filet with Truffled White Asparagus and Clam Broth
Seared Quail Breast with Butter Poached Lobster Ravioli and Mango
Roasted Lamb Medallions with Maitake Mushrooms, Braised Pistachios and Blackberry
Ricotta Pound Cake with Lime Glaze, Pineapple and Salted Banana Cream

There really wasn't a lot of drama in this episode. I hate to say it, but it was pretty boring.

Competence + Less Loser Screentime = Snooze-a-rama

Richard and Stephanie are not too exciting to watch, though it is interesting at times because Richard tries all kinds of whack-a-doo techniques. He's the technogeek of chefs. Loser is so self-confident it's disgusting, and she STILL has to be a witch. Stephanie is second-guessing her dessert and Loser's all, "You always say that and then you win so don't hand me that. Get some self-confidence." Then she has to say something to the camera about how a chef should be self-confident, whatever, blah blah, YUK. Shouldn't they also be something OTHER than a bitchy black cloud hovering around the kitchen? With more than four dishes that they've cooked thousands of times to present to the judges in a cooking competition?

I was really going to call them all by their correct names, because the nicknames are admittedly kind of lame, but she just brings out the worst in me. I no likee her.

During the meal, they show various judges -- the usual suspects plus the three sous chefs mentioned above, plus a few other chef-world dignitaries such as chefs, a Zagat, and... that may be all. Anyway, they all comment on the dishes and it's making me nervous because a lot of the comments are positive for Lisa. (See, I'm making an effort!)

Richard gets thumbs up and down (bacon ice cream sounds gross even to me, a lover of bacon bacon BACON, but everyone on the show seemed to love it, so. Who knew? Well, all those chefs, obviously, but it's new to me.). Stephanie also gets some positives and negatives, and there are a few negatives for Lisa, but she's getting enough positives that I start to glisten a little. Just a little dew, not sweat. After all, I'm a lady doing lady things, going about my ladylike business. (Oy! That's Little Britain alright.)

Dinner's over, the contestants come in, the diners applaud, Padma thanks them for a wonderful dinner, then they go back to stewage. Then... judges' table!

The cameramen (-people) got to try out some fancy stuff in this episode; the producers must have realized that it was a snoozer, so they said Knock yourselves out, do whatever you can to jazz up this steaming plate of Valium with a Lunesta gastrique.

So they did. They had some stuttering shots that used fast motion when Richard was chopping, for instance, stuff like that. Then at judges' table, they showed the judges talking, then Padma's all, "Okay, let's bring them out." Cut to the contestants walking toward judges' table down this odd little alley/street/driveway, cut back to judges waiting, back to contestants walking. Are they any closer? It's hard to tell. Back to judges, just staring, waiting. Back to contestants. Closer? Yes! Okay, back to judges, looking all stern and serious. (You can't smile at someone while you judge them? Bless your little hearts, come on down South and we'll show you how!) Back to contesta- Whoa! Hello, chefs! Here you are! They were just yards down the alley, and suddenly there they are. It's like they walked in slow motion at first then sprinted at the end, only they aren't out of breath and sweaty. It's like... magic. So, funny editing. (I told you the show was boring.)

The judges go through each dish with the chefs, telling them good and bad, which the chefs all take pretty well, Lisa in her usual Tough Guy With No Chin stance. Tom surprises Stephanie, telling her that he couldn't figure out the purpose of the leeks on her quail dish, and, besides, they weren't cooked. Stephanie's mouth dropped open -- well, slightly, she's one of the most expressionless chefs I've seen on this show -- and she said, Not cooked? He said, No, they were crunchy. Apparently leeks are supposed to be soggy or something. Not being a cook, I wouldn't know. (Note to self: crunchy leeks = BAD)

The judges finish this Q&A (or Insult & Compliment or Mess With Chefs' Heads, whatever) and Padma asks if any of them have anything to say. They pause and it seems like they will all just stand or fall by their meals, when Stephanie says Dale told her on the last challenge not to second-guess herself and she did on the cake, and she's learned from it and she is top chef material (not exact words, I'm paraphrasing as best I can!). So LOS-- grr, Lisa says they kept telling her to express herself or something and so she did and she cooked herself (if only!) and that's her personality -- she's spicy! (really?) bold! (okay, yeah) sweet! (whah?) sour! (YES) -- and yada and she should be TC yada blah blah yuk. Richard says that he choked and he's done better and he, I don't know, could have done better, wishes he had, something like that, and the judges look faintly surprised but still mostly mask-like.

The contestants head back to stewage, where Lisa promptly starts saying she thinks Stephanie (I think she was talking to Stephanie) nailed dishes one and three but she (Lisa) got two and four, so *shrug* "I don't know." No, you don't, so please SHUT THE FUDGE UP.

The judges finally stop looking like frozen mannequins and discuss the contestants. It is unclear which one they've chosen. Well, of course, gotta keep the suspense going. Oh! In the meantime, Bravo has done a text poll on who should be Top Chef. The results: Stephanie 60%, Richard 36%, leaving Lisa 4%. No love for the Angry Chef. I'm surprised she got that much. It must have been friends or... No, wait. Hmm.

Anyway, the judges call the chefs back in and look all stern and Tom says something about how they all did a great job and the person they chose just had the best overall meal or something... oh hell, I can't remember what he said. Then he looks at Padma and she looks sad, as if it pains her to pass along the news that the next Top Chef is... Stephanie!

Not-Lisa relief courses through my benumbed veins! Though, really, if I hadn't been half asleep throughout the episode, I would have realized it wouldn't be Lisa. They showed too many positive comments for her, which usually means Not the Winner. They try so hard on reality competition shows to not telegraph the winner that they usually end up doing just that. It seemed like the judges really weren't too enthused with Richard's dishes this time, like they just weren't feeling Richard. The vibe was not going his way.

Because they wanted a woman to win? Maybe. I hate to think that may be at least partly why Stephanie won (though they are all, of course, toeing the party line that Of course that's not why she won!). The other guests did seem to really like her dishes as well, not just the judges, so I think she deserved it. So... sisterhood! Whoo!

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