Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Chef - FINALE 6/11/08

I just read on another blog that Bravo is planning Top Chef Junior, for kids between 12-16. I think that's super cool. Unlike some other spin-offs, I think this is actually a good idea.

The chefs enjoy a breakfast together, and now I want Eggs Benedict. Richard (in confessional) expresses disbelief that Lisa is in the top 3, and I concur.

April Bloomfield, Dan Barber, and Eric Ripart. (probably spelled that wrong) are there, to be sous chefs. The challenge is to create a four course tasting menu - Fish, poultry, red meat, and dessert. They are requiring dessert. Each "sous chef" has different proteins to work with. The chef with the most elimination wins was going to choose first, but Richard and Stephanie are tied, so it's a pull of the knife block, and Stephanie wins. Stephanie chooses Chef Ripart, and Richard chooses Chef Barber, with Lisa left with Chef Bloomfield, and she is thrilled to be working with a woman.

Lisa is planning an Asian menu, and Chef Bloomfield is unfamiliar with cooking Asian. Lisa claims that Chef Bloomfield has a personality similar to hers, so they clicked well. I'm not convinced of that, because Chef Bloomfield seems like a nice person.

The proteins Lisa has to work with are:
Oysters, prawns, crab, mahi-mahi, chicken, squab, pancetta, sweetbreads, beef tongue, wagyu strip steak and ostrich steak.

Richard plans to do a menu based on his journey through the competition, and he plans to throw some "molecular gastronomy" into the mix. His plan is still germinating.

The proteins Richard has to work with are:
Scallops, Halibut, Calamari, Abalone, duck, foie gras, guinea hen, prosciutto, pork belly, venison, and rabbit.

Stephanie wants to be well balanced and to show her skills.

The proteins Stephanie has to work with are:
Snapper, hamachi, caviar, clams, lobster, veal tenderloin, chorizo, rack of lamb, quail, quail eggs, and bacon.

The "sous chefs" are amused being sous chefs, because it's been a while since they've done that kind of busy work in the kitchen.

Richard brought liquid nitrogen with him, and I love him more. He is planning making some Tabasco sauce ice cream to go with oysters. The Master Chefs are impressed and interested. I could see some of his things showing up on Iron Chef.

Maybe Lisa was right when she said that she and Chef April are similar, because Stephanie noted that they seemed to be chatting, and happy with each other, and she was surprised by that, since Lisa hasn't really gotten along with anyone.

Richard leaves prep without any fully formed plans... that's a little nerve wracking, but he seems to be good under pressure.

The next morning, Tom shows up, and the sous chefs are not there. Tom lets them know that they are completely on their own from this point on, saying that the judges wanted to make sure that they "Live and die by their own hand." Good point, and I think good choice.

Lisa's Menu is:
Grilled Prawns
Tom Kha Gai Soup & Dumplings
Waygu Beef
Black Thai Rice Pudding

Richard's Menu is:
Guinea hen, foie gras, eggs
Pork Belly
Banana "scallop" and bacon ice cream

Stephanie's Menu is:
Seared Red Snapper
Quail with Lobster Ravioli and Quail Egg
Lamb Medallions
Ricotta Pound Cake

Tom shows up to check on progress, and Richard looks frazzled and says he is "in the *beep*" without a sous chef. Stephanie is hopeful for her cake to come out right, and Lisa is cool as a cucumber.

Richard's tabasco ice cream didn't work out, so he decided to just use the liquid nitrogen for the bacon ice cream. Stephanie wasn't feeling great about her cake, and Lisa surprisingly was really supportive and told her not to doubt herself.

Did anyone else think that Padma looked like she'd already had a little wine when she walked in for the tasting, clutching her wine glass? Just saying.

(And there was a commercial for Mamma Mia which I am totally geeking about, and then one for the next season of Project Runway! *squeal!!!!!!!* Sometimes I watch commercials)

Joining the permanent judges for the tasting are Alfredo Ayala, Tim Zagat, and the sous chefs from yesterday.

All three chefs did a good job of presenting their menus.

The first courses go out.

Lisa's is Grilled prawns with chili basil sauce & crab, with homemade potato chips.
Stephanie's is Seared snapper with truffled clam and white asparagus broth, fingerling potatoes and asparagus salad.
Richard's is "barely cooked" scallops with mango & pineapple vinegar.

Richard's goes over really well, but Zagat thought it could be more simplified. Lisa's went over well, but Chef Ayala thought the chili was a bit strong. Stephanie's is called "elegant," and is called the best of the three.

The second courses go out

Lisa's is Tom Kha Gai with dumpling.
Stephanie's is Quail breast over lobster ravioli with mango-lobster sauce and quail egg.
Richard's is "Which came first." Guinea hen, chicken egg, foie gras, and spring vegetables.

The complexity and the earthiness of Richard's is called complex. Lisa's soup got really high marks, and more than one person wanted seconds. Stephanie's goes over well except for the leeks. I'd say second round goes to Lisa.

Third courses go out

Lisa's is Wagyu beef with Chayote & Cucumber salad, hot sauce & garlic chips
Stephanie's is lamb with maitake mushrooms, braised pistachios, and blackberry and olive tapenade.
Richard's is "Be the Bacon," pickled radishes, mirin broth, and pork belly.

Richard's is disappointing, and his pressure cooked pork belly is not crispy. His pickled radishes go over well, but the rest of it is not seasoned well. Lisa's beef is not tender, and the sauce is too sweet, and kind of a repeat of the shrimp, according to one of the tasters. Gayle liked the salad. Stephanie's is innovative, and they loved it even though they didn't expect to. Stephanie is the clear winner in this round.

It's time for desserts.

Lisa's is Black Thai Rice Pudding with Lime & Mango Creme, Taro & coconut
Stephanie's is Ricotta Pound Cake with tropical fruit and banana creme.
Richard's is Banana scallop with bacon ice cream.

Although there are problems with Lisa's "chip issue," mostly everyone really likes Lisa's pudding. Richard's is called playful and fun. Stephanie's is deemed unrefined, slightly heavy, but moist. I think Lisa might have won this round, though it might go to Richard.

Judge's Table

The judge's were overall very pleased with the meal. The Chefs enter, and Lisa looks peaved as usual. Richard's first dish is called under seasoned and a little bland. Lisa's first course is called spicy and she said that was her intention, the be bold. Stephanie's was called lovely, and Padma said it was rich without feeling heavy like clam chowder.

The second course critique begins with Richard, and it was called muddled. Lisa's soup get unanimous praise. The leeks on Stephanie's plate were called uncooked, and she looked stunned.

Richard's non-crispy pork belly was questioned, and he said it would be sacrificing the integrity of the meat to get it crispy, so he didn't do it. Lisa's was called tough and too sweet. Stephanie's was called full of surprises, which is a good thing.

Richard's bacon ice cream and scallop banana was good, though they have seen him do a different variation on the banana scallop earlier. Lisa gets good marks for her dessert, and Stephanie's banana creme is called "unidentifiable" by Tom. Oh, that's no good.

Stephanie admits to second guessing her dessert, but tells the judges that she deserves to win. Lisa also says that she deserves it. Richard says that he thinks he choked. WHAT? I mean, to say that? I don't think he did the best job, but that is just pretty much writing yourself off from the win.

The judges call his admission "revealing," though Tom agrees. The judges take a poll, and the first round seems to go to Stephanie. The second round goes to Lisa. Stephanie's lamb dish takes round three. I think Lisa got the nod on her dessert. The judges want to figure out who had an overall stronger meal. Looks like the deliberation took a really long time, and the birds began to chirp by the time they came to a final decision. I really hope it is Stephanie.

The winner of Top Chef this year is Stephanie!!!! I am so happy for her, I think she deserved it more than Lisa or Richard. She is the first female Top Chef winner. Yay! Lisa is disappointed, but I think it was close. I am sad for Richard, but I don't think it will get him down for long, though he was close to tears at the end. Poor guy. Hope that he has a beautiful baby (he said his wife is expecting), and can continue on doing his thing.

Hurrah for Stephanie!

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