In which John Foster and Nicholas Jacquemard tackle the general tease that this week’s episode was.
John Foster 1st:
Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat – you can’t just watch the season finale of Top Chef. One must prepare. For this particular edition, I got motivated with a gourmet dinner of fish sticks and creamed corn with my 9 year-old. I do a double baked move to crisp up the fish and cook the corn in a larger sauce pan so it all heats up evenly. It’s the little things that separate those of us with professional cooking experience from the pack. I also unwrapped a giant milk chocolate bar from IKEA (massively underrated as possibly the best block of joy available for around a buck. Is it the fact that I only buy them twice a year that makes them so special? Nah, I see Gail Simmons on TV every week and she is still special to me.) Now that my qualifications are out of the way, on with the show!
I have this as Mike Isabella’s crown to lose. Richard seems exhausted and Antonia unsure and one-dimensional. Topless Mike comes in as five times the chef he was on his first season. He has even stopped the nervous eating (or the editors finally took pity on him after he had an ice cream cone at every sketch session at the house.)
Watching the end of the last episode again, I am reminded that Tiffany had to be eliminated in order for me to like her again. Unfortunate, but true.
Wolfgang Puck’s fake teeth look odd. Blais makes back to back mistakes in assigning twists in the quickfire and perfects that “who farted” face of his that I love. (Can someone do a meme with Richard Blais looking unsure off in the distance in the background of famous scenes? And hurry up about it.) Isabella takes the challenge by default. Blais pours a huge glass of insecurity for himself.
The cooking last suppers challenge seems daunting, until all the chefs give them homey rustic assignments (though preparing anything for Morimoto would make me wet my undies.) Antonia struggles trying to make it the way they want it while Mike excels making it the way they didn’t and Richard finds a tasty middle ground to advance.
It turns out the finale isn’t the finale (bullshit – BUT I am happy to have another episode on tap.) Antonia gets a huge reprieve and she is sent back with Mike to produce a final magic bite for the right to watch Richard fret beside you for another night. The jury splits with Wolfgang Puck left to decide which would appeal more to weary airport travelers. The cousin that moves on is… Mikey!!!
See you next week when it looks like the battle brings back the more annoying eliminated contestants and elevates the food to new heights. Can’t wait!
then NICHOLAS’ VERSION:
Watching Marcel’s Nuclear Fusion Reaction Catering Challenge on SyFy should be a mandatory appetizer for all Top Chef viewers from now on. The man has boiled down all of the unsavory elements of Top Chef to a rancid paste – the snide dressings-down, the pretentious foodie-speak, liquid nitrogen – and he serves it without the competitive context that makes the whole affair palatable. The man has elevated the mundane chores of being a dick to such high art that the Louvre would be wise to snatch up all excess B-roll of him and run it on a video loop next to the Mona Lisa. Viewers will flock back to Top Chef in hordes, begging for more Padmacakes and Tom Colliflower. Begging.
Despite my aversion (allergy?) to liquid nitrogen, I’m a Dicky Blaze man in my heart of hearts, and I have been pulling for him to un-funk himself ever since he lost his mojo on Lord-of-the-Flies Isle. Watching Shirtless Mike grow flabbier and more powerful by gulping down a big ol’ schadenfreude sandwich every time Blaze loses a round has set me on edge for the past couple of weeks, and I flipped on Bravo this evening with the intent of watching Blaze reconfigure the everloving shit out of Mike’s fatocules. There is also a third “competitor,” Strong-Sad-With-a-Hair-Bun, but she is clearly on Andy Cohen’s payroll to provide an undulating soundtrack of periodic whining and teary blubber throughout the episode. In this task, she succeeded.
The Quickfire Challenge was the sort of Top Chef retrospective smorgasbord that one would expect this late in the All Star season (Hall-Of-Fame Quick Fires! Hall-Of-Fame Twists!). It was enjoyable enough to watch Blaze go townward on some hotdogs and Strong Sad get aproned up with Our-Lady-Of-The-BugEyed, but two things got under my skin: 1. The brief clip from the DC Season reminded me that Amanda is a person who exists, and 2. Mike’s continued gorging on the spoiled fruits of modest victory.
This episode’s main challenge – cook the deathwish meal of an internationally know chef – was laughable in it’s imbalance. Sweaty Mike cooks “his version” of fried chicken, a dish that my 8 year old cousin could cook using only salt and a tuning fork. DB cooks “his version” of Austrian Meat+Carbohydrates. And Strong Sad gets stuck with making a highly demanding and precision-requiring Japanese dish for a world-renowned Japanese master. Strong Sad is, at best, 1/5 Eastern Italian v. 4/5 Pasta, and that’s about as close as she gets to Oriental food.
In the kitchen, Mike continues to loom ignominiously, making an empanada when he should be making a biscuit (OK – his food looks good, but if I ask for a biscuit for my last meal, give me a damn biscuit), Blaze continues his perpetual descent into The Shining type madness, and the Hairbun looks characteristically overgreased and sad. Each of the contestants says things that he or she will surely regret. If Richard Blaze brings up the fact that he has won more challenges than anyone else, I will give one single, loud clap for Mike Isabella and my soul will die on the spot. He makes up for it and wins me back in the minisode by coining the phrase “slippin on these gizzards.” If Andy Cohen doesn’t get his robots to auto-tune that into a B-Side of “Tardy for the Party,” I have lost faith in the Bravo entertainment machine.
In the elimination deliberations, Samurai Murimoto faults StrongBun for not being a master of Japanese regional cuisine, and nobody faults Sweatstacks for completely ignoring the challenge. Blaze walks away with an easy win here (AS PREDICTED BY ME, JOHN FOSTER) because his streuditzle is powerful enough to reanimate the soul of Wolfgang Puck’s mother, who promptly ventures back to this earthly realm to inhabit the body of Wolfgang thereby making him Super-Austrian. Seriously, his voice gets like three octaves more Austrian when he talks about DB’s dish.
Looks like either Pepperoni Isabella or Depression-as-a-Hairdo is going home. But wait. There’s a twist. And it bites.
Sausage Casing and Prozac Needed have to prepare a one bite dish treat in a radically attenuated timeframe to determine who’s actually going home. Cousin v. Cousin. Italian v. Supertalian. Both contestants manage to combine more ingredients in than I could name in 45 minutes to create very tasty looking dishes. In a racy conclusion, the Supreme Court of Top Chef
handed down a hotly controversial 3-4 decision in the case of Flab v. Bun. Justice OddFuture Puck (always a swing vote, that OddFuture) determined that, accounting for the dryness of Strong Sad’s curry, and the pop of Mike’s twin-sauce attack, Mike Tubularbella would go on to cook another day. Fortunately, though, it seems that his supply of schadenfreude sandwiches has finally run slim.
Watch Marcel next week before you watch this. For real. It makes it much better.